Make the most of your visit to Virginia. This road trip from the slow-rolling rivers of the nation’s capital to the picturesque beauty of the barrier islands includes first-class dining, rich history and the chance to hike, bike and kayak among picture-perfect landscapes. Enjoy monuments, museums, and miles of sand dunes as you plot a course along the unforgettable shores of Old Dominion.
1. Washington D.C.
Home to the Capitol Building, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and so much more, this 2-mile stretch of the National Mall is where the country’s past, present and future meet. There are numerous walking and bus tour operators to guide you as you wander between the iconic landmarks, but a self-guided tour and picnic on the green can be an equally powerful introduction to “America’s front yard.” Don’t skip on visiting the dozen-plus museums, including the Smithsonian collections, which line both sides of the park. While in D.C., take the time to visit Georgetown, home to historic homes and restaurants.
Drive 109 miles • 1 hour, 45 minutes
Richmond is home to a singularly important perspective on American history. Start your visit at the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar, where you’ll have the chance to experience the war from three sides — Union, Confederate and African-American — as you visit the White House of the Confederacy. Learn about military strategy and discover the inner thoughts of critical players in one of our country’s most troubled periods. Thrill-seekers should head straight to the banks of the James River, where you can raft or kayak your way down the country’s only Class IV urban whitewater. On dry land, the James River Park System and the trails of Pocahontas State Park are popular among hikers and mountain bikers.
3. Virginia Beach
Drive 107 miles • 1 hour, 43 minutes
The fun-loving beach town of Virginia Beach is nestled on the shoreline where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. The result? Miles of sandy beaches, watersports and top-notch fishing. Boasting 121 miles of waterways in the surrounding area, there are near endless opportunities to kayak, canoe and boat your days away. Favorites include the Narrows, at the southern end of First Landing State Park, which boasts calm water and little boat traffic, and the reedy, cypress swamps of Back Bay. There are many outfitters downtown that rent gear and organize excursions.
Drive 105 miles • 2 hours, 9 minutes
On the northern edge of the Eastern Shore, the island town of Chincoteague is home to one of the most unique natural wonders you’ll ever see. Each July, a herd of wild ponies is shepherded across the narrow channel between Chincoteague Island and its island neighbor to the north, where the ponies graze each year. Thousands arrive to watch the annual swim, but if you can’t time it right, the Chincoteague Pony Centre offers year-round rides and shows. A favorite among birders, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge offers stunning insights.