The Commonwealth of Virginia is many things. It’s cosmopolitan, with dense urban centers like Arlington crowding up against the District of Columbia, the capital of the United States. It’s pastoral and remote, its rolling hills and dense forests stretching from Roanoke into neighboring West Virginia.
The commonwealth is a mix of ideologies as well, demonstrating a diversity of thought that is often seen as an indicator of larger American trends.
It’s colloquially known as the “Mother of Presidents,” as many early national leaders, from George Washington to James Madison, John Tyler to Woodrow Wilson, were born in the state.
Yet, Virginia was also on the front lines of the American Civil War with many of its native sons, from Robert E. Lee to George Pickett, in the Confederate Army.
Virginia is a destination that boasts diverse educational resources for visitors to enjoy learning from. It also has some of the most beautiful natural vistas and outdoor adventures to be seen east of the Mississippi River.
Many of these historical and natural treasures are preserved in Virginia’s impressive State Parks system, and below are some can’t-miss spots when visiting “Old Dominion”:
Bear Creek Lake State Park: This attraction is a uniquely Virginia experience with its setting right in the heart of the state and its creation literally at the hands of the Virginia Department of Agriculture. Toward the end of the Great Depression, in 1938, carpenters, farmers, and unskilled laborers came together to build the lake and two pavilions that stand today simply because they needed the work. Their hard work stands today as one of Virginia’s most popular State Parks with hiking trails, organized campfire gatherings, music and archery programs, and canoeing on Bear Creek Lake. This site in the heart of the commonwealth is a must-see!
Photo Courtesy Virginia State Parks
Sailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park: Though not as commonly known as a significant battle in the Warn Between the States, this relatively small skirmish on the site of what is now Sailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park occurred a scant 72 hours before the surrender of the Confederate Army at Appomattox. On April 6, 1865, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant successfully cut off Gen. Robert E. Lee’s southern army from its dwindling supply chain and captured more than 7,000 troops and eight generals. Sailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park puts on living historical presentations to this day so that visitors can learn a little more about this gripping piece of American military history.
Photo Courtesy Sailor’s Creek Battlefield Historical State Park
James River State Park: The river that has been the lifeblood of what is now central Virginia for centuries awaits adventurers at this park just west of Richmond. The Monacan Indians first lived and thrived on the James River long before white settlers reached its shores and began to develop its fertile floodplain. Over the decades that followed further settlement, the river became a vital hub for industry shipping goods up and down the James. Today, James River State Park remains an outdoor lover’s paradise with its three miles of shoreline nestled within a stunning vista of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. Visitors hike, fish, kayak, fish, and camp in the spot by the thousands every year, making it one of Virginia’s most popular State Parks.
Photo Courtesy James River State Park