10 Top-Rated Weekend Getaways in Virginia
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As the saying goes, Virginia is for lovers. Visitors will quickly learn that this love doesn't just apply to affairs of the heart. Virginia is filled with weekend getaways for those who love adventure, the outdoors, history, and the beach.
Virginia has something for everyone, from Colonial Williamsburg and presidential homes for the history buff to Shenandoah National Park and the barrier island of Chincoteague for the nature lover. Plan your adventures and find the top places to visit with this list of the best weekend getaways in Virginia.
1. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach is the perfect spot to have some fun in the sun. This bustling area is home to state parks, many protected beach areas, as well as historic sites. The pristine beaches (they are raked every night) are filled with tourists in the summer, but in the fall months, you can still enjoy all that they have to offer without the crowds, whether you rent a condo or stay at one of the many resorts.
Be sure to take advantage of the water sports, like parasailing at Beach Parasail or taking a sunset cruise. But the beach isn't the only draw here – you can head to the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Center and visit local sea life or to the First Landing State Park, the most visited park in Virginia.
Want to stay on the water? Look to the Comfort Suites Beachfront. Every room is a suite and has a view of the ocean, where you can watch the action on the water.
Accommodation: Best Hotels in Virginia Beach
2. Williamsburg, Virginia
The Colonial Capital of Virginia, Williamsburg is best known for its 18th-century charm at Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum set in the actual buildings used by the founders of the nation. Here, they host many historical and cultural activities centered around this time period. If you're seeking more adventure than an 18th-century colony can provide, head to Busch Gardens Williamsburg to get your thrills on their world-class roller coasters and rides. For another round of history, stop at the Yorktown Battlefield and Jamestown.
There are plenty of places to stay, but for a historic feel, try the Marriott's Manor Club at Ford's Colony Vacation villas, which are great for families offer fully equipped kitchens and washer/dryers are included, while the smaller guest rooms provide kitchenettes. The location is just a short distance to popular attractions.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Williamsburg
3. Old Town Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria is a stone's throw from the bustling metro of Washington D.C., but Old Town Alexandria may as well be a world away. With its charming historic homes dating back to the 1700s, unique shops, and world-class restaurants, this pedestrian-friendly city is a wonderful romantic escape for couples. It is also easily accessible to D.C. via the Metro line.
With everything that Alexandria has to offer, you may never leave Old Town. You can take a walk down to the waterfront and jump on a water taxi or cruise from the Potomac Riverboat Company, or visit one of the many historical sites like the Gadsby Tavern Museum, The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, or the Carlyle House. Make sure not to miss The Torpedo Factory, a converted warehouse filled with artists' studios and galleries.
Old Town is a wonderful walking area. For a stay right in the heart of the district, choose Hotel Indigo Old Town Alexandria. The property represents good value for visitors and is steps to the banks of the Potomac waterfront. Free Wi-Fi and a pet-friendly welcome makes it a favorite with dog lovers on a weekend escape.
4. Chincoteague Island, Virginia
This beautiful barrier island is known for its sandy beaches and its world-famous wild ponies, which have been delighting visitors for centuries. The ponies aren't the only draw to Chincoteague Island, though. Outdoor adventurers will find hiking and biking trails throughout the island. Fishing and boating are also popular activities. Head to Snug Harbor to rent a boat and tour the island.
In addition, visitors can book a tour on the Assateague Explorer, which will take you on a cruise to the hidden Chincoteague, where you might spot ponies, eagles, or dolphins.
The Hampton Inn and Suites Chincoteague-Waterfront Hotel is just 1.5 miles from the wildlife refuge, and comes with free breakfast and an indoor pool.
5. George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, Virginia
Outdoor adventurers will find solace in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. These two natural wonderlands combine to cover one of the largest public land areas in the eastern U.S. This nature-lovers playground is perfect for those who want to rest, recharge, and unplug from the daily grind. Among these parks are seventeen designated wilderness areas, which are filled with babbling brooks, miles of streams, and thousands of miles of hiking trails.
You can take a scenic drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway, which cuts through this lush paradise for one of the most beautiful rides in the country. For skilled hikers, make the trek up to Mount Rogers, Virginia's tallest peak, for 360-degree views or check out the High Knob Fire Lookout Tower. At an elevation of 4,107 feet, you can see for miles and miles.
Continue to recharge with a stay at the Tru by Hilton Roanoke Hollins, less than five miles from the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Large family-sized rooms (kids stay free) have mountain views, and the hot breakfast is included in the budget-friendly rates.
6. Mount Vernon, Virginia
Mount Vernon is a must-see when visiting Virginia. This was the plantation house of George Washington, our nation's first president and is on the National Registry of Historic Places. The picturesque estate is located on the banks of the Potomac River near Alexandria. The house dates to the mid-1700s, and on its grounds visitors will find plenty to see and do, from walking through the beautifully manicured gardens to touring the Mansion.
You will meet farm animals as you tour the plantation, and see period skills demonstrated, such as weaving, spinning, blacksmithing and grinding corn in Washington's water-powered gristmill.
Close to Mt. Vernon, you will want to tour two other plantations often visited by the Washingtons. Woodlawn Mansion's plantation began as part of George Washington's large estate, and he had the home built as a wedding gift for his step-granddaughter, Nelly Parke Custis, and her husband Lawrence Lewis. The plantation continued to have an interesting history, and is now the venue for one of the largest needlework shows in the country.
A few miles along the Potomac River from Mount Vernon, Gunston Hall was the home of Washington's friend and fellow patriot, George Mason. At his plantation, you can see the reconstructed kitchen, dairy, and laundry, as well as the gardens and archeological sites.
Those exploring these historic sites with children will appreciate the modestly priced family-sized rooms and complimentary breakfast at the Best Western Mount Vernon/Ft. Belvoir, only 2.6 miles from Mt. Vernon.
7. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
A little over an hour away from Washington D.C., the Shenandoah National Park is the perfect retreat for nature lovers. You can hike the beautiful hiking trails through cascading waterfalls, quiet woods, and some of the most beautiful views in Virginia. Spend a weekend here exploring the 200,000 acres of protected land.
A must visit while you are in Shenandoah National Forest is the Luray Caverns, the largest in the eastern US. You can view impressive stalagmites and stalactites, and you also get access to the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum, Luray Valley Museum, and Toy Town Junction.
8. Monticello and Presidential Homes in Charlottesville
Among America's most beautiful colonial homes, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello was designed by Jefferson himself, after a visit to one of Andrea Palladio's villas in Italy. From 1768 to 1809 Jefferson continued to make changes in its design and decoration, and on a tour you'll learn of his innovations and see some of his inventions.
Jefferson also designed the gardens, through which you can stroll; you can also learn about the lives of the enslaved people who worked on the plantation. The Visitors Center displays artifacts and has hands-on activities designed for children.
Just north of Charlottesville is Montpelier, home of the next in the presidential line, James Madison and his wife, Dolley. Behind-the-scenes tours of their home reveal a lot about the couple and how they lived and entertained friends and political associates.
The 5th President, James Monroe and his wife, Elizabeth Kortright Monroe, made Highland their official residence from 1799 to 1823. You can tour the house, the outbuildings, and the gardens in Charlottesville.
9. Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is filled with history dating back to Colonial and Civil War times. It's also a city filled with modern amenities, which make it a perfect weekend getaway for any traveler. Richmond was once the capital of the Confederacy, so Civil War and history buffs will want to check out the American Civil War Museum and the Hollywood Cemetery.
Everyone will enjoy a walk around the centuries-old architecture and a visit to the beautifully preserved and furnished Maymont, a mansion surrounded by grounds with monumental staircases and Italian and Japanese gardens. Those interested in modern arts and gardens can visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden; for shopping, head for the eclectic boutiques in Carytown.
There are plenty of options for you when staying in Richmond. A special spot is centrally located in the heart of downtown. The elegant Jefferson Hotel has been welcoming guests since 1895. The dramatic architecture and décor speaks to another era. Complimentary transportation insures easy access to the many sites in Richmond.
- Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Richmond
10. Lexington, Virginia
Home to the Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University, this college town is filled with things to do and, like other old towns in Virginia, a ton of history. The campuses are filled with historic buildings, statues, and activities for visitors, including one of America's largest and finest collections of Asian, European, and American ceramics spanning 4,000 years. The historic Lee Chapel is also on the campus.
In the heart of town is the Stonewall Jackson House and at the Boxerwood Nature Center and Woodland Gardens, you can walk among the beautifully landscaped gardens and let your day just melt away.
The historic Col-Alto Mansion was transformed into the Hampton Inn Lexington-Historic District in 1997. Ten of the original rooms have been restored and transport guests to a bygone era, many complete with a fireplace. An additional 76 rooms are in the new building, located on seven acres of beautiful grounds.