Named after ‘the virgin queen’, Queen Elizabeth I, Virginia was one of the 13 colonies of the American Revolution. The Mother of the States, as it is often called, has played an essential role in the creation of the United States. The first English colony of Jamestown was settled in 1607 and, for a time, the state’s capital city.
Virginia is the birthplace of American presidents, as eight presidents were born there, including four of the first five Presidents. The history of the United States is fully rooted in Virginia. The American Revolution and the Civil War both ended within the state. Virginia has further supported the growth and military strength as it is home to the Pentagon, which houses the US Department of Defence headquarters.
Aside from its historical importance, Virginia is a wonder of nature. The Great Dismal Swamp borders North Carolina and is the largest habitat of natural wildlife within the state. The land used to cover more than 1 million acres (405,000 ha) of land. It now acts as a home to many birds, butterflies and wildlife, and the largest natural lake within the state, Lake Drummond. Virginia is such a rich state, both in its history and nature. Here are 20 incredible famous landmarks in Virginia to help you plan your trip to The Mother of the States.
- 21 Virginia Landmarks
- Natural Landmarks in Virginia
- Historical Landmarks in Virginia
21 Virginia Landmarks
Natural Landmarks in Virginia
1- First Landing
First Landing is a 2888 acre park on Cape Henry named after the spot where English Colonialists first landed in America in 1607.
From this point, the settlers headed to Jamestown.
Marking the location where the settlers landed is a stone cross to celebrate the birth of the United States.
First Landing is a diverse landscape dotted with sandy dunes and humid swamps.
There are numerous hiking trails available and streams and lakes to sail on.
First Landing is at 2500 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23451-1415.
2- Luray Caverns
Deep below the Blue Ridge Mountains, Luray Caverns is the most extensive cavern system in Eastern America.
The caverns are gigantic, with some the size of cathedrals, stretching upwards for ten stories.
Within the caves are stone columns naturally formed over time and clear pools of water.
The caverns also feature the worlds only Stalacpipe Organ, manufactured from the stalactites within the caverns.
There’s a ‘Car and Carriage Caravan’ exhibition with more than 100 transportation items, including coaches from the 18th century.
Luray Caverns is at 970 US Highway 211 W, Luray, VA 22835-5260.
3- Natural Bridge
Natural Bridge is a natural limestone gorge created through continuous erosion from Cedar Creek.
The bridge is 215ft (65m) above the river below and a sacred site for the Monacan tribe for centuries until Europeans arrived.
Thomas Jefferson once owned Natural Bridge, who purchased the bridge and the land from King George III.
Today, the parkland surrounding the bridge has been turned into a national park and the bridge.
It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Natural Bridge is at 6477 S Lee Hwy, Natural Bridge, VA 24578-5000.
4- Chincoteague and Assateague Islands
Chincoteague and Assateague Islands are important natural reserve islands and a National Wildlife Refuge, while Assateague is a National Seashore.
These titles offer protection to the wildlife and plant life on the islands.
The islands cover 37 miles (59 kilometres), with 12 of these miles (19 kilometres) in Virginia.
Wildlife in Virginia is offered a higher status of protection than Maryland, whose state lines cover the remaining miles.
With the help of a fence along the state lines, this added protection allows wild horses to roam freely with protections in place.
The island is also a haven for its bird populations, like peregrine falcons, snow geese and snowy egrets rest.
Chincoteague and Assateague Islands is at Chincoteague, VA 23336.
5- Burkes Garden
Burkes Garden is a natural wonder and a must-visit landmark in Virginia.
It’s called ‘God’s Thumbprint’ because the garden is on top of a mountain in a bowl-shaped valley filled with lush green farmland giving it an ancient natural feel.
It’s a popular location for bird watchers, who climb one of the many hiking trails to catch a glimpse at some rare birds.
Burke’s Garden is part of the Appalachian Trail and is at VA 24651.
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6- The New River
The New River flows through three US states: North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
The river is ancient and is the oldest in North America. In world terms, only the Nile is older than the New River.
Through Virginia, the New River winds through wild mountains creating craggy cliffs and spectacular gorges.
The Virginia stretch of the river is popular for white water rafting and canoeing.
There are also stretches of calmer water that you can sail down at a more leisurely pace past tobacco farms, Indian settlements and spectacular natural landscape.
The New River flows through Virginia from Pearlsburg to the mouth of Wilson.
7- Great Falls
Great Falls, or Great Falls of the Potomac, is a waterfall within Great Falls Park.
The waterfall cascades over 76ft (23m) whilst the river narrows from 1000ft (304m) wide to between 60 and 100ft (18 to 30m).
The narrowing and dropping of the river create several rapids as the water crashes over the jagged rock bed.
Many overlooks across the falls dot the hiking trails surrounding the water, making for a beautiful rest stop.
Great Falls is at 9200 Old Dominion Dr, McLean VA 22102-1019.
8- The Channels
The Channels are a unique natural landmark in Virginia.
The canyon is maze-like in its appearance, creating a geological area of great interest.
The sandstone canyon is millions of years old and was formed during the last ice age when the permafrost melted, carving a natural labyrinth.
The Channels are unique within the USA as they are covered in lush green forest while other slot canyons are surrounded by desert.
The Channels is at Saltville, VA.
9- Natural Chimneys
Known as the Cyclopean Towers during the 19th century, the Natural Chimneys are another of Virginias unique natural geological formations that have become a natural landmark for the state.
Natural Chimneys tower over the surrounding valley at 120ft (36.5m) tall.
The chimneys are formed from limestone and were once part of an ancient seabed when the Shenandoah Valley they sit in was underwater.
The Natural Chimneys were formed when the sea receded, and the limestone was carved by the elements creating their unusual structure.
Natural Chimneys is at 94 Natural Chimneys ln, Mount Solon, VA 22843-2126.
10- Devil’s Bathtub
Devil’s Bathtub is a crystal-clear pool on the Devils Fork Loop Trail.
The Devils Bathtub is surrounded by forest, making for a magical hike leading to this unique natural landmark.
The hike is very natural, with no facilities at its start and very basic parking.
As the trek is purely natural, it creates a lovely preamble to the big event.
The Devils Bathtub is a swimming hole approximately 20ft (6m) long and 12ft (3.6m) deep.
The Devil’s Bathtub is cold despite its name, but it is a great spot to cool down and rest following the scenic hike.
Devil’s Bathtub is at Devils Fork Loop Trail, Duffield, VA 24244.
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Historical Landmarks in Virginia
11- Mount Vernon
Located in Alexandria, Mount Vernon was the home of George Washington and his wife, Martha.
These days, the home today is a museum dedicated to Washington’s life.
It is filled with important historical documents featuring prominent figures who founded America as we know it today.
An unknown architect built the home in 1734 in the Palladian style.
Over its time in the Washington family, the home was added to twice by George Washington.
The property covers 500 acres (200ha) and stretches down to the river.
The gardens, farm and Washington’s grave, are all open to the public to visit.
Mount Vernon is at 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy, Mt Vernon, VA 22121.
12- Edgar Allan Poe Museum
The Edgar Allen Poe Museum is unique in museums dedicated to famous American figures, as the author never actually lived in the building.
Instead, the museum began with Poe himself and a researcher named James Howard Whitty.
Poe, Whitty, and fellow writers wanted to create the first monument to writers within the state.
After a turbulent period and a lack of tourism lead to the monument and building being demolished, Whitty saved the rubble and rebuilt the monument as a memorial to Poe.
Within the museum is an enchanted garden, designed after Poe’s poem ‘To One in Paradise.’
Edgar Allan Poe Museum is at 1914 East Main Street, Richmond, VA 23223.
Monticello is a house, farm and gardens that served as the home of Thomas Jefferson.
Jefferson designed and built the home over 40 years.
The home sits on a hill with spectacular views of the surrounding landscape.
Monticello, which translates from Italian to ‘little mountain’, was unique for buildings of the time, as the bricks were made from local clay rather than imported from England.
During his time at Monticello, Jefferson filled the house with his inventions and collections of books, art and Native American artefacts.
Monticello is at 931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902-7148.
14- Jamestown Settlement
As Virginia is considered the Mother of the States, Jamestown Settlement is an important historical landmark to explore.
Jamestown Settlement has preserved life from the 17th century when English colonists arrived in Virginia.
The living museum allows visitors to see places of work such as bakers and blacksmiths and homes of everyday people.
The settlement is filled with re-enactors in period-appropriate costume who tell stories and share histories from America’s first colonies.
Jamestown Settlement is at 2110 Jamestown Road, Williamsburg, VA 23185.
15- Colonial Williamsburg
Another important living museum and historical landmark in Virginia is Colonial Williamsburg.
The museum covers 301 acres (121ha) of the historical area and includes many original and restored 18th-century buildings from when Williamsburg was the state’s capital.
The re-enactors are dressed in period clothing and speak in time-appropriate dialects to add to the historical feel of the town.
The museum regularly holds special events such as the celebration of the founding of the city.
It even has special guests such as General George Washington giving speeches and interacting with the townsfolk.
Colonial Williamsburg is at 101 Visitor Centre Drive, Williamsburg, VA 23185-4565.
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16- Yorktown Battlefield
Adding to Virginia’s seat as Mother of the States is Yorktown Battlefield, where American Independence was won.
The battlefield is where in 1781, British forces surrounded the American and French troops lead by General George Washington.
The battlefield offers ranger lead tours that take visitors across the historical landscape and through the 18th-century town.
The battlefield is covered with fortifications and cannons, and important sites from the battle are marked.
Central to any visit to Yorktown Battlefield is the Yorktown Victory Monument which celebrates the independence won.
Yorktown Battlefield is at 1000 Colonial Parkway, Yorktown, VA 23690.
17- Virginia State Capitol
Thomas Jefferson and Charles-Louis Clerisseau designed the Virginia State Capitol, which was built between 1785 and 1788.
The Capitol holds the oldest elected legislative body within the United States and was the eighth building designed as a statehouse.
Many buildings in colonial times built from wood, so the seven previous were all lost to fire.
The building was designed as a statement of independence by Jefferson.
Instead of following the Georgian style of the time that bore the King’s name, he took inspiration from Maison Carree, a Roman temple in the South of France that he visited whilst stationed as America’s minister to France.
Virginia State Capitol is at 1000 Bank St, Richmond, VA.
18- Lynchburg Monument
Lynchburg Monument was conceived in the 1800s to provide a better pedestrian through-route along a steep hill.
The area was a simple fountain until a fire in 1883 in which five firemen were killed.
Authorities then modified the monument to include a fireman’s statue to honour and remember those who lost their lives.
Further additions to the monument came in the aftermath of WWI because 43 Lynchburg citizens died during the war.
The fireman fountain was removed and was replaced by ‘The Listening Post’, a bronze statue designed by Charles Keck.
The statue depicts a soldier from the war with the names of the 43 etched behind him.
Lynchburg Monument is at 901 Court Street, Lynchburg, VA 24504.
19- Cape Henry Lighthouse
The lighthouse was the first federally-funded project in the United States while it was in its infancy.
George Washington ordered the lighthouse and Alexander Hamilton oversaw the build.
The lighthouse is close to First Landing and was built from American Aquia sandstone.
The lighthouse was damaged during the civil war, and after guiding ships into the Chesapeake Bay for 100 years, it was decommissioned.
A second lighthouse was built next to the original.
Cape Henry Lighthouse is at 583 Atlantic Ave, Virginia Beach, VA 23459.
20- Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery is a cemetery of the US Military covering 639 acres (258ha) of land.
The cemetery holds the dead of many of America’s conflicts beginning with those who died in the Civil War.
Within the cemetery is the Memorial Amphitheatre, which contains the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Originally named Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, following the burial of an unknown soldier from WWI, the tomb was added too with the remains of unknown servicemen from other wars, including the Korean and Vietnam wars.
President John F. Kennedy’s grave is also within the cemetery and is marked with an eternal flame.
Arlington National Cemetery is at 1 Wilson Ave, Fort Myer, VA 22211.
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