Visiting the United States? There are 50 states in all. Virginia, located in the southeast, stretches from the Chesapeake Bay to the Appalachian Mountains, with a long Atlantic Ocean coastline. It’s the oldest of the original 13 Colonies that went on to form the United States, with 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century landmarks that bear witness to U.S. history.

Virginia’s capital city, Richmond, is one of many places where you can tour historic houses and see Colonial- and Civil War-era landmarks. It’s also home to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), where you’ll find collections that include Fabergé eggs, works by Degas, Cézanne and Renoir, and large holdings of African, Indian and Tibetan art.

Northern Virginia, near the U.S. capital, Washington, should be on your itinerary too. The cities of Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax — all within easy driving distance of Washington — have plenty of historic sites, along with art galleries, fine dining and shopping.

Read more about Virginia and check out the other 49 states. If you need a visa to visit, here’s how to get one.

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Going back in time

Roll back the centuries by visiting Virginia’s Historic Triangle, a region featuring three living-history museums: Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the New World, established in 1607; Williamsburg, the capital of Virginia from 1699 to 1780; and Yorktown, site of the last land battle of the American Revolution. Colonial Williamsburg (part of the historic district) is one of the most visited sites in Virginia. Come and engage with re-enactors dressed in colonial attire.

Two men dressed as 18th-century military officers ride their horses down a street in Colonial Williamsburg. (Harvey Barrison/Creative Commons)

Interested in historic houses? Explore the estates of three early U.S. presidents: Mount Vernon, home of George Washington; Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson; and Montpelier, home of James Madison.

Mount Vernon, where George Washington lived with his wife, Martha, offers a glimpse into America’s past. (Ursula Schindler/Creative Commons)

Raise a glass

Did you know that Virginia’s 275 wineries make it a major East Coast destination for wine lovers? As a bonus, wine festivals are held nearly year-round throughout the state; some include live music, hot-air balloon rides and other attractions.

Scenic splendor

In Virginia, enjoying the great outdoors is a given. Shenandoah National Park, encompassing part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is ideal for hiking, camping, horseback riding and picnics. To see autumn foliage at its most vivid, cruise along Skyline Drive — a 175-kilometer road — during October and November.


Shenandoah is also where you’ll find Luray Caverns, a subterranean world of stalactites, stalagmites and mirrored pools. Discovered in 1878, the caverns are known for their fantastic formations, attracting visitors from all over the world.

Want to see a geologic marvel? Come to Luray Caverns in the northern Shenandoah Valley. (David Jones/Creative Commons)

Sand, sea and wild ponies

If you want a unique seaside experience, go to Virginia’s Chincoteague Island to witness a ritual that dates back almost 100 years.

Every July, thousands gather to watch a team known as the Saltwater Cowboys round up a herd of wild ponies from nearby Assateague Island. The ponies are paraded down Main Street and checked by veterinarians before the foals are auctioned off. The foal auction keeps the herd from growing too big, and it raises funds for the local Volunteer Fire Company.

The annual roundup of wild ponies on Chincoteague Island is a summertime tradition. (Bonnie Gruenberg/Creative Commons)

Try it!

Marble cake originated in Virginia in the 19th century. Like marble, it has a streaked or mottled appearance. Different varieties exist, but it’s usually a mixture of vanilla and chocolate cake, which means you get two delicious flavors in one dessert!

A slice of marble cake is the perfect finish to a gourmet meal. (Leberwurscht/Creative Commons)