A Virginia travel guide – hearty feasts, historic journeys and ponies on the beach

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From 18th-century cobblestone streets and stately mansions to sweeping canyon vistas of wildflowers – memorable moments unfold on a Virginia vacation. Book a Virginia hotel and revel in pleasures past and present.

Get your bearings

Virginia spills south from Washington, D.C., and the Maryland state line into posh Arlington and Alexandria. Just south is Fredericksburg, where quaint cobblestone streets and Civil War battlefields await. Cosmopolitan Richmond lies further south with fine art museums and a lively theater scene. East toward Chesapeake Bay sits the “historic triangle” of Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown, a first-stop for Revolutionary War buffs. To the southeast, hotels line Virginia Beach, the state’s playground. Heading west, the flat plains give way to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the striking countryside of the Shenandoah Valley.

Historic cities

Begin a historic vacation in Virginia in Richmond with Civil War exhibits in the Museum of the Confederacy. In Fredericksburg, servers wearing period dress evoke Colonial America at Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop. Wander among the tombstones of American military heroes at Arlington National Cemetery. No visit to Virginia would be complete without a visit to Monticello, President Jefferson’s grand estate. In Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown, Colonial history unfolds in its many museums, cobblestone streets and restored homes.

Family fun

Shenandoah National Park provides idyllic surroundings for pony rides, day hikes to waterfalls and ranger-led tours of flora and fauna. Looking for surf and sun? Book a Virginia hotel on the white sands of Virginia Beach. If it rains, head to the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center to splash with the harbor seals. Drive to Assateague Island to commune with the ponies grazing on the dunes. Budding equestrians can even ride one during the summer. For a painless lesson in American history, costumed interpreters walk the streets Williamsburg and Jamestown, telling stories and answering questions. 

Dining local

Virginia embraces its roots with hearty cuisine served in Colonial settings. Tuck into chicken roasted over an open fire in an 18th-century rustic tavern, where servers don period garb. Try fresh Chesapeake Bay sea trout or oysters in a candlelit dining room. Virginians are no stranger to barbecue, fork-tender and slathered with sauce. Splurge for a meal of seared scallops and potato terrine at an elegant Williamsburg chef’s table or opt for more traditional chicken-fried steak and corn bread. And don’t forget to try Smithfield ham, stuffed into a steaming hot biscuit – a Virginia specialty. 

Outdoor adventures

Spot migrating snow geese while paddling a canoe through the marshes of the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. On Assateague Island, windswept beaches invite afternoon strolls to watch the famous Assateague ponies. Spend an hour or so driving the Skyline Drive, where a vibrantly colored wildflower carpet unfolds in spring and in the fall, trees burst with reds and oranges. Bike the Virginia Creeper Trail, which takes you past Whitetop Mountain, Virginia’s second highest peak. For a more urban experience, walk the main street of Abingdon, where 18th- century buildings evoke the spirit of Daniel Boone.