What is Virginia known for?

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While loading up three ships bound for the New World, the English imagined the incredible profits to come from the resources across the Atlantic. Little did they know, that those brave souls on board would lay the foundations for a nation that would become the most powerful in the world, and those first steps would be taken in Virginia. After years of struggle, and help from the Powhatan natives, the first settlement of Jamestown began to flourish, successfully growing large crops of tobacco. During the first Thanksgiving, the settlers got their first taste of what would become known as Virginia ham, a delicacy queens would later request on their dinner table.

As more ships arrived, so did the slaves, bringing another prize-winning crop for the state’s rich soil, peanuts. The capital moved to Williamsburg, and the dreams of a new world started to become a reality. The British rejoiced in the spoils of their venture, by implementing higher taxes and stricter rules, that would one day push George Washington to leave his plantation and lead a nation to independence. Following his brave steps, Virginia became the ‘Mother of Presidents’ by sending another seven of its own to the highest office in the nation. When Lincoln became president, he arrived with plans of freedom for all people.

His ideas divided the nation, and Virginia stood in the middle of the Civil War, bearing witness to unrivalled bloodshed, even in the Appalachian Mountains. Now we remember the past and pay respects to the fallen soldiers in places like Arlington Cemetery, and Shenandoah National Park. The military in the U.S. still runs deep, especially in the Pentagon and Virginia Beach. From humble beginnings to a world leader in only two centuries, Virginia led the way in the birth of a nation. Now let’s learn more about what Virginia is known for.

What is Virginia known for?

Top Tours

1- ‘Mother of Presidents’

George Washington House Mount Vernon
The title “Mother of Presidents” is what Virginia is famous for.

As the birthplace of eight U.S. presidents, Virginia sent more of its leaders to the White House than any other state in the country, earning the title of ‘Mother of Presidents’.

After the U.S. became a sovereign nation, four of the first five presidents came from Virginia, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe.

Many of these founding fathers’ homes and plantations still exist in Virginia, drawing thousands of tourists each year to learn more about America’s presidential roots.


The most impressive estates to visit are George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and James Madison’s Montpelier, each with extensive grounds to wander through.

For those seeking to avoid the crowds, James Monroe’s Highland, William Harrison’s Berkeley, and Woodrow Wilson’s Presidential Library and Museum each shed light on the latter parts of American history.

All eight presidents who hailed from Virginia have at least one home still standing there, even the lesser-known leaders such as Zachary Taylor, and John Tyler.

2- George Washington

Often referred to as the ‘Father of a Nation’, George Washington served as the first president of the United States, the commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, and president of the Constitutional Convention.

From simple roots as a plantation farmer, Washington learned to become a gentleman of Virginia, while learning about military arts and westward expansion.

At 22, his military career took hold as a lieutenant at the beginning of the French and Indian Wars.

As his discontent with British rule over the colonies rose, so did his aspirations to fight against them.

For eight long years, he battled for independence as the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and became a national hero when the war ended.

In 1787, he was asked to join the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, where the delegates were so impressed with with leadership skills, they pushed him to run for election where he won unanimously, becoming the first U.S. president in history.

Recommended tour: Visit Mount Vernon by Bike: Self-guided Ride with Optional Boat Cruise Return

3- Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is what Virginia is known for.

In the northwestern portion of Virginia, the Shenandoah National Park boasts some of the most impressive natural beauty in the Appalachian Mountain range and played a crucial role during the American Civil War.

Inside the 80,000-ha national park are wetlands, waterfalls, and hundreds of stunning vistas. On 800 km of hiking trails, including 160 km of the Appalachian Trail, hikers can discover the best parts of Virginia’s prized gem.

Adjacent to the trail, Skyline Drive guides motorists on a three-hour tour of the northern portion of Shenandoah, straddling the mountain ridgelines and peaks.

In the southern section of the park, Blue Ridge Parkway offers another great alternative for stunning scenery from several roadside viewpoints.

The most impressive views of the forests and peaks in Shenandoah can be found after an easy hike to the Blackrock Summit, where hikers are likely to encounter black bears, deer, and songbirds.

4- The Appalachian Mountains

New River Gorge National Park And Preserve In The Appalachian Mountains
The Appalachian Mountains is what Virginia is known for.

Running diagonally on Virginia’s western border, the Appalachian Mountain Range contains some of the state’s most pristine wilderness, and 875 km of the legendary Appalachian Trail, more than any other U.S. state.

Virginia’s portion of the mountain range also includes the most photographed spot on the Appalachian Trail at McAfee’s Knob, where hikers can enjoy 270° incredible panoramic views from 1,600 feet above the valley floor.

Formed by a collision of continents between 300 to 500 million years ago, the Appalachians stretch from Newfoundland to central Alabama, and before the glaciers and erosion took their toll, their peaks were comparable to the Himalayas.

Some of the most famous battles during the Civil War occurred in the Appalachian Mountains and they also hindered east-west travel for many centuries.

During the Industrial Revolution, the mountains were a significant source of natural resources such as timber, coal, and iron ore which helped boost the nation’s economy.

5- Jamestown

Statue To Captain John Smith Unveiled In 1909 In Jamestown
Jamestown is a place Virginia is famous for.

After crossing the Atlantic, 104 brave men and boys built England’s first permanent settlement in America in 1607.

Named after King James I, the location was chosen to satisfy the standards put forth by the Virginia Company, which funded the site.

Surrounded by water on three sides, and far inland from the coast, the site was easily defendable from Spanish attacks.

The English were able to moor their boats in the deep water just off the shore, and no natives were living there at the time.

Jamestown’s early years were riddled with troubles.

Various diseases, wars and famines killed between 80-90% of the first settlers.

If it were not for Powhatan Indians who helped them with gifts of food and supplies, the settlement would have failed.

In 1610, Jamestown received more help from settlers who escaped a shipwreck in Bermuda and soon after, Lord Delaware’s fleet arrived.

Jamestown became the first capital of the colony in 1616. Visit the Jamestown Settlement American Revolution Museum with this 7-Day Ticket.

6- First Thanksgiving

Many believe the first Thanksgiving in America occurred in 1621, when pilgrims and Native Americans met in Plymouth, Massachusetts to celebrate a successful harvest, with three days of bountiful meals.

However, many historians believe the first Thanksgiving took place three years earlier, outside the first English settlement in Jamestown, founded 13 years earlier.

On December 4, 1619, Captain John Woodlief and 35 men landed on what would become the Berkeley Plantation and by orders from London, proclaimed: “We ordain that the day of our ship’s arrival, at the place assigned for plantation, in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God”.

Unfortunately, two years later, the Powhatan tribe attacked the plantation, forcing those living there to abandon the settlement, and the tradition.

As time passed, the Thanksgiving held in Plymouth became known as the original celebration, instead of the one which occurred in Jamestown.

7- Virginia Ham

Country Ham Detail
Virginia ham is what Virginia is known for in the food area.

Known for its sweet and slightly smoked flavour, Virginia ham originated in colonial times in Jamestown, over four centuries ago.

When explorers ventured across the Atlantic, they brought pigs aboard the ship to raise when they arrived.

Without refrigeration, the colonists needed a way to preserve it for longer periods.

Rather than cooking, Virginia hams were made through a careful process of curing and ageing.

To create sweet and savoury flavours, the meat is cut from razorback hogs that are fed a diet of primarily peanuts and peaches.

After being dry rubbed with a mix of salt, sugar, and other spices, the hams are then smoked over an apple and hickory wood fire before ageing in a smokehouse between six months to a year.

The popularity of this ‘country ham’ grew so quickly, that it became a delicacy shipped to Thomas Jefferson while living in France, and a staple of Queen Victoria’s diet in England.

8- Civil War

Cannon From The Civil War
Civil War history is what Virginia is known for.

Just weeks after Abraham Lincoln became president, Virginia and 10 other states succeeded from the Union in 1861, in fear that he would put an end to slavery.

The Confederates set up their new capital in Richmond, 160 km from the Union capitol of Washington, placing Virginia right in the centre of the American Civil War.

More than half of the battles of the war were fought on Virginia’s soil, including three of the bloodiest.

In 1863, the Union counties in the northwestern part of the state succeeded from Virginia, creating the new state of West Virginia.

For two more years, the battles raged on, and much of Virgina’s landscape was destroyed, including parts of the precious Shenandoah Valley.

Richmond fell to Union forces on April 2, 1865, and a week later, General Lee met with General Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse to sign the surrender, finally ending the war.

9- Williamsburg

Wren Hall At William And Mary College
Williamsburg is a city Virginia is known for.

As fires and disease ravaged Virginia’s first settlement, Jamestown, the capital was moved to Williamsburg in 1699.

Originally named ‘Middle Plantation’ the location of the new capital was chosen for its rich and fertile area to grow crops, situated directly between the York and James Rivers.

As one of America’s first planned cities, it was meant to be a ‘new and well-ordered city’ and a very suitable place for population growth, with new legislative buildings to be constructed.

Today, Colonial Williamsburg visitors are granted the unique opportunity to relive America’s past, with year-round reenactments of early colonial life similar to the 1700s.

In the 18th-century district, visitors can explore the restored buildings, and speak with live actor guides who remain in costume 24/7, showcasing their trades or participating in musket firings.

Williamsburg is also the home to the prestigious William and Mary College, the original planners of the city and the second-oldest college in the country.

10- Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington Cemetery Graves
The Arlington Cemetery is what Virginia is known for.

Established as a burial ground for the military during the Civil War, Arlington National Cemetery receives over three million visitors each year to pay their respects to the fallen soldiers from conflicts dating back to the Revolutionary War.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier draws the most attention from visitors.

As the grave of three unidentified service members, it pays tribute to unidentified fallen soldiers who served in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.

Since 1937, the monument has been guarded by an elite group of army soldiers, 24/7, with no exceptions.

The meticulous changing of the guard ceremony exemplifies the deep respect of the military towards the fallen soldiers.

Around 400,000 veterans are buried in Arlington Cemetery including President Kennedy, who was laid to rest here after his tragic assignation.

After his death, an eternal flame was built to honour his memory and all who lost their lives during battle.

11- Peanuts

Unsalted Shelled Peanuts
What food is Virginia known for? Peanuts is the top crop.

Thanks to Virginia’s rich terrain and climate, peanuts became a major crop in America and served as a good source of food, oil, and cocoa substitute in early colonial times.

How peanuts ended up in America is an even more interesting story.

They were brought to Africa from Spain in the 15th century and cultivated in southern parts of the continent.

The natives believed peanuts were one of the very few plants to contain a soul.

A century later when the slaves were taken to the colonies, they taught the colonists how to grow them in the plantations.

Due to the sandy and loamy soil, Virginia peanuts grow to a much rounder and larger size, boasting a superior gourmet flavour.

Today, Virginia produces 15% of the total U.S. peanut crop annually, mainly because of early innovations in harvesting methods such as the peanut picker which was also invented in the state.

12- Blue Ridge Parkway

Sights On The Blue Ridge Parkway In Virgina
The Blue Ridge Parkway is what Virginia is known for.

Designed as one of the first rural parkways in the country for leisure driving, the Blue Ridge Parkway features a 755 km scenic route with no stop signs or red lights from start to finish, enhancing the road trip experience through the wilderness

Winding through the lower part of the Appalachian Mountain Range in Virginia, the parkway runs from Shenandoah National Park to the North Carolina border.

The Blue Ridge Mountains earned its name from the bluish-grey colours seen from a distance.

The trees in the mountains release isoprene into the air, creating a bluish haze that rises off the hillsides.

At one point the Blue Ridge Parkway passes over the New River, and despite its name, it’s the oldest River in the state.

In the autumn, the parkway comes alive with the radiant fall foliage colours of gold, orange and red, creating a spectacular canopy to enjoy while driving down the route.

13- Pentagon

911 Memorial Victims Pentagon Attack
The Pentagon is what Virginia is famous for.

Serving as the headquarters for the Department of Defense and a symbol of U.S. military power, the Pentagon contains an impressive 604 thousand square metres of office space.

For 80 years, the structure reigned as the largest office building in the world until the construction of the Surat Diamond Bourse in 2023.

Many believe that the Pentagon is part of Washington, DC, however, it’s located on the other side of the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia.

Constructed during WWII, workers built the Pentagon rapidly in 15 months due to concerns of invasion, and when it was completed in 1943, it featured a five-sided design that accommodated roads on each side.

Concerned it would obstruct the view of D.C. from Arlington Cemetery, President Roosevelt moved the site of the Pentagon closer to the Hoover Airport, but decided to keep the attractive and imposing five-sided architectural design.

14- Virginia Beach

Sunrise At Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach is what Virginia is known for.

Located at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, Virginia Beach welcomes over 10 million visitors each year to enjoy the long sandy beaches and loads of entertainment.

With a population of nearly 450,000 spread out over 1,286 square km, Virginia Beach is the largest city in both population and size.

The coastline stretches for 61 km and is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest pleasure beach in the world, packed with loads of family-friendly activities and watersports like stand-up paddleboarding.

Tastefully decorated with monuments and statues, the lively 4.8 km boardwalk attracts large crowds of people ready to enjoy the many seafood restaurants, live music shows, sporting events, and surfing contests.

Just south of Virginia Beach, nature thrives in several wildlife reserves, including the Back Bay and Princess Anne, known for a diverse range of marshland animals.

Around the city are several bases from all branches of the military, which support the highest concentration of active duty personnel outside of the Pentagon.

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Grant Doremus
Grant Doremus is a freelance writer from the United States, eager to share his travel experiences and knowledge about some of the best destinations in the world. He grew up in a small town in New Hampshire, and after a successful career in finance, he decided to chase his dreams of becoming a digital nomad. As an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast he went on a road trip across the U.S. visiting 26 states, exploring most of the country's national parks, and climbing some of the highest peaks in the country. After a year on the road, he headed to Europe where he backpacked through 10 countries before finally settling in Spain. Grant loves to write about Spanish culture, its rich history, and traditions. His favourite destination so far is Mallorca, but he hasn’t finished his travels just yet!