10 Lesser-Known Things to Do In Virginia Across the Seasons
Virginia is for lovers. But not in the way you might be thinking. Virginia is for lovers of music, history, wine, family fun, luxury getaways, nature, golf, and a whole lot more! Once you learn about the state, you might fall in love with all the things to do in Virginia, too.
Did you know the state of Virginia is within a day’s drive (or less) for 60% of Americans and much of Southeastern Canada? So if you’re one of the millions of people not comfortable flying right now or looking to avoid costly vacation flights, Virginia might be the destination you’re looking for.
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While you might know about top tourist destinations like Mount Vernon, Monticello, Virginia Beach, and Arlington National Cemetery, there are many things to do in Virginia across its 42,000 miles. Take it from someone born and raised in the state that’s there a lot to explore and enjoy in spring, summer, winter, and fall.
Visit One of America’s Stunning National Parks
Seventy-five miles from Washington D.C. lies Shenandoah National Park in Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains. So if you’re looking to enjoy both an epic road trip and to cross another U.S. National Park off your list, you can do both in Virginia’s first national park. That’s because its undeveloped acres are easily experienced on a 105 mile road day trip along Skyline Drive, a National Scenic Byway that cuts right through Shenandoah National Park.
It includes 75 overlooks, all the major park Visitor Centers, a majority of the trailhead entrances, and picnic areas. So whether you have travel companions with mobility challenges, little ones who often fall asleep in the car, or want to access hiking routes, this National Park quickly has not just stunning scenery but a lot of conveniences. If you love fall foliage, there is no better time to visit and drive Skyline Drive.
However, it’s also the most visited time of year. If you’re looking for a Spring Break destination or avoiding the Fall and Summer vacation crowds, spring is equally beautiful, with wildflowers in bloom showing off all their glory.
Stay at the Ultimate All-Season Resort
Massanutten Resort is around the bend from the Swift Run Gap entrance of Shenandoah National Park.
The mid-Atlantic’s premier all-season resort’s award list is almost as long as its extensive list of on-site amenities. From the top family-friendly ski resort in the Southeast to one of the top mountain resorts in the world to the best indoor water park, there are over 100 daily activities across their 6,000-acre property.
Spend your stay mountain biking, flying down the ski slopes, crushing two challenging golf courses, relaxing at the spa, conquering the adventure park, or splashing around their indoor and outdoor water parks or various pools. At the end of your day, you can relax and spread out in their accommodations that range from hotel rooms, condos, townhouses, cabins or private gated homes that can sleep 2 to 14 people.
Experience Wine Country Without Flying to the West Coast
Did you know that Virginia’s Loudoun County is also Wine Country? In 1984 the area’s first vineyard, Willowcroft Farm Vineyards, opened, and almost 40 years later, there are 40-plus wineries in the area. Just like California and Washinton state’s vineyards, you can enjoy hand-crafted wines while taking in river-filled valleys, rolling hills, and mountain vistas.
If you are more of a beer or spirits lover, it’s another thing to do in Virginia that might surprise you. London County includes the LoCo Ale Trail with over 30 breweries and cideries and two distilleries producing award-winning rye, gin, and absinthe.
After a day of enjoying local libations, stay local for a weekend getaway and avoid an irresponsible drive home. For history buffs, stay at America’s oldest, continuously run inn, Red Fox Inn & Tavern in Middleburg. Built in 1728, George Washington, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, and The Kennedys are a few notable guests who have stayed in this boutique, family-owned inn.
Charlottesville, Virginia has incredible wineries as well. Located near the Blue Ridge Mountains, it's an especially gorgeous destination during spring, summer, and fall.
Splurge on a Special Virginia Getaway
If you’re looking for a luxurious stay, take a look at The Salamander Resort, also in Wine Country. It’s one of the D.C. area’s Forbes 5-star rated hotels. Opened nine years ago, it’s on 340 acres of stunning Virginia countryside, yet only 35 minutes from Dulles International Airport.
With a 23,000 square foot spa, it’s the perfect spot for a couple's getaway. If you’re looking for a smaller boutique experience, The Inn at Little Washington, with only 23 rooms, has been long-lauded as one the best hotels in America and also one of the best meals one can experience.
It’s the first and only 3-Star Michelin restaurant in the Washington DC metropolitan area and the longest-tenured Forbes 5-Star and AAA Five Diamond restaurant globally.
For urbanites, book a stay at Richmond’s historic Jefferson Hotel, dubbed the city’s crowned jewel. This iconic and historic hotel has been knocking guests’ socks off with their Southern-style hospitality mixed with elegance for a century.
Lastly, if you can’t make it to France, book a stay at the L’Auberge Provençale that transports you to a French country inn and Provençale style restaurants less than an hour from Dulles airport.
Play Virginia's World-Class Golf Courses
The state’s diverse terrain, mid-Atlantic temperate climate, and 200 days of sunshine a year make it a top golf destination. With over 220 public golf courses, both classic and modern designs, and courses built by the game’s great architects, one of the best things to do in Virginia is spelled f-o-r-e.
Virginia’s Tourism board believes that the state has the most diverse golf course offerings on the East Coast. Golf Week ranks the Cascades course at the historic Omni Hotel as Virginia’s top course. Designed by the iconic designer William S. Flynn and set in the stunning Allegheny Mountains, one visit and you’ll see why it’s been played by presidents and dignitaries for centuries.
Across the state on the Eastern Shore is the Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer designed courses at Bay Creek Resort. Voted to the #12 course by readers of Golf World Magazine, these Chesapeake Bay-front holes have something for players of all levels.
Suppose you’re looking to combine golf and family fun. In that case, Williamsburg is not only a top vacation spot, but Golf Digest thinks it’s the #24 golf destination in the whole world with more than a dozen championship-level courses.
Combine Thrilling Family-Fun and Historical Experiences in One Place
Did you know that America’s largest living history museum, world-class amusement parks, epic resorts, and waterfront towns are all located in one place? Williamsburg and its immediate surrounding cities are worthy of a place on your family vacation bucket list.
You can splash at Yorktown Beach, have thrilling adventures at Busch Gardens Amusement Park, cool off on a hot summer day at regional waterpark favorite Water Country USA, and experience 18th Century America’s largest colony. If you’re looking for a wintry Christmas escape, it especially shines bright in December with special events and holiday magic.
Colonial Williamsburg is quite the experience. Its 600 restored original buildings are staffed not just with workers but with actors. Kids are questioned about the strange device on their wrist, help stomp clay into bricks, and are completely transported back to the 1700s. With 375 hotels in the region, there are many options and budget ranges.
However, if you’re looking for a place that has it all, take a look at Marriott’s Manor Club at Ford’s Colony. Upscale resort villas are set within a private woodland community, yet only 15 minutes from The Strip (Richmond Road). Across the 3,000-acre planned community, you’ll find a bike path, tennis courts, multiple pools, a movie theater, a restaurant, spa, and three championship golf courses. If you’re heading to the area to play golf, the resort’s trio of courses has been dubbed “must-visits” by all the major golf publications.
Take a Music Road Trip
While Nashville is the capital of country music, Virginia is the birthplace of country music. So make a playlist of your favorite hits and hit The Crooked Road, the state’s Heritage Music Trail.
You’ll cover 300 miles in the southwest part of the state, across 19 counties and nearly 60 towns and cities with a special love of music. Along the way, look for Heritage Trail placard signs stop at major historical and current musical venues at your leisure.
Enjoy the Franklin County Funfest, The Blue Ridge Folklife Festival at the Blue Ridge Institute & Farm Museum, or the annual FloydFest, one of the best music festivals in the state. Don’t forget to stop in Bristol to see the actual birthplace of country music and catch the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion if you time your trip just right.
Explore a Smithsonian Museum Without Traveling to D.C.
Located right next to the runways at Virginia’s Dulles Airport is a museum so massive in scale that it often takes people’s breath away. The National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center consists of two airplane hangers with hundreds of aircraft, space crafts, and over 60,000 artifacts, including pieces from the Apollo 11 mission. So if you are an airplane or space lover, put this museum on the top of your things to do in Virginia list.
Step into the Scenes of Your Favorite TV Shows and Movies
The state’s varied landscapes and historical sites not only make for enjoyable vacations but as the backdrop for beloved series and movies. So if you’re a fan of “Homeland,” “Mercy Street,” or “The Walking Dead,” you can follow the footsteps of your favorite stars by visiting the places where they filmed episodes.
If you’re looking to have the time of your life, you can check into the Virginia resort used as Dirty Dancing’s fictitious Catskills resort. Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, Virginia, is the real-life Kellerman’s Mountain House where most of the cult-classic film was shot.
Be Loud & Proud
When Virginia says it’s for lovers, they don’t put an asterisk at the end of their statement. So whether you visit for a special event or festival, a weekend escape, or a family vacation, you’ll find LGBTQ+ friendly activities, accommodations, businesses, and allies across the state. Norfolk, on Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay, has a vibrant LGBT scene. You can take a Queer Walking Tour of Norfolk, celebrate at Hampton Roads Pride Fest, or enjoy local favorites like N.J.’s Tavern or the WAVE.
Richmond, the state’s centrally located capital and one of the country’s oldest cities, is another option. Time your visit to the city’s VA PrideFest, Black Pride, or Viva RVA! organized by Virginia’s LatinX LGBTQ+ community. Get a full run-down of the city’s activities, well-established Queer bars, and other friendly experiences in the OutRVA guide.
This post originally appeared on Savoteur