As singular in its place in American history as any state, Virginia is a story within a story.
The birthplace of the “traitors to the Crown”, who would later be rebranded as patriots (and some as presidents, cabinet members, statesmen, and diplomats) to a young, upstart nation. The story of America is one that cannot be told without telling the story of the Old Dominion, the birthplace of presidents, the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Nestled in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains and snuggled up to the shores of the Chesapeake Bay with pivotal battlefields hallowed ancient grounds populating its lush landscape, few states in the continental U.S. can rival Virginia for natural beauty and historical significance.
Some of the most special pieces in the patchwork fabric of the American past are located within its borders and the state contains more than a few highly trafficked bucket list National Parks.
Below are a few must-see locations for anyone visiting the Commonwealth:
Great Falls Park: Few sights are as visually arresting as Great Falls, located near McLean, VA. Here, the mighty Potomac River builds up steam and speed and spews over the jagged, steep rocks jutting out and over into Mather Gorge. Visitors can walk along the river, take in the majestic falls and learn more historical facts about the area like the Patowmack Canal, which was an early engineering feat that served as a precursor to more modern modes of transportation and shipping like railroads and highways. All of this natural and historical wonder can be found just 15 – 20 minutes outside the nation’s capital!
Shenandoah National Park: Just a few more miles outside of Washington, D.C. one can find one of the defining natural landmarks of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Shenandoah National Park. Teeming with life and nature, this National Park protects some of the most pristine and pastoral 200,000 acres in the continental United States. With its rivers and streams, meadows of wildflowers, towering vistas of the surrounding Blue Ridge mountains and plentiful wildlife such as black bears, deer, and local birds, Shenandoah National Park is an adventure lover’s dream and has a little bit of something for nature addicts of all stripes. Run, don’t walk to this National Park!
Yorktown Battlefield National Historical Park: Here is where one conflict ended and another began. On this hallowed ground, now preserved into eternity at this historical park, British forces under General Charles Lord Cornwallis surrendered in the fall of 1781 and as that great war finally ended after so many long, hard-fought years, the true fight for forming and sustaining a new country began at the same time. Visitors can take a step back into the pages of history and learn a little more about what life and struggle were like during the final days of the American Revolutionary War. Walk the battlefields, visit the museums or nearby plantations or simply take a solemn moment of remembrance for the great sacrifices given at this National Park…there is something for everyone!
Historic Jamestowne National Historical Park: Stop in at this National Historical Park for a look into the early days of life in colonial North America. Disney lovers may recognize the name as the site of Pocahontas and Captain James Smith, but this early colony contained a wealth of historical and cultural significance, in addition to a love story or two. Established around 1607, this nascent colony thrived despite early hardships and represented a foothold in the New World for European powers, to the detriment of the native tribes. Its complex history is still made more complicated by its sight of the first African slaves brought to the New World in 1619. As much as any National Park or historic site on the eastern seaboard, Jamestowne offers unvarnished history and unfiltered beauty like few other places.