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Introduction to Virginia Bucketlist: Unique Activities and Experiences
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Virginia is home to some of the most beautiful attractions in the country, and it’s time you see them for yourself. Virginia has a variety of natural landscapes that will leave you speechless. Whether you like ocean views, mountain ranges, or lush farmland, Virginia has something for everyone! We’ve compiled a list of unique activities and experiences that are worth checking out during your next Virginia vacation. Get inspired with this Virginia Bucketlist!!
Why Should You Visit Virginia?
Virginia is a great place to visit for those who appreciate natural beauty and unique attractions. Virginia has something to offer everyone, from mountain ranges and ocean views to captivating history museums. The State of Virginia is home to some of the most well-known attractions, including Virginia Beach and Busch Gardens Amusement Park. There are plenty of campgrounds and camping sites available for those who genuinely want to experience nature during their next vacation.
When Is The Best Time of Year To Visit Virginia?
Virginia is a year-round destination, and it’s one of the few states in which you can enjoy winter activities during Christmas time. Virginia Beach has an average temperature of 53 degrees Fahrenheit from December to March, making it an excellent place for beachgoers who want warm water without the intense heat. The summers are hot but not too humid where visitors will feel uncomfortable. Virginia has something to offer for everyone all year round!
Where Are The Airports Located In Virginia?
There are a variety of Virginia airports located throughout the state. Virginia is accessible by air from major cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, and New York City. The Virginia International Airport is only twelve miles away from Downtown Norfolk. Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA) is thirty-six miles outside of Central Alexandria, Virginia; Dulles International Airport (IAD) is thirty-three miles outside of Virginia. There is also an international airport in the city of Richmond, Virginia. Virginia is easily accessible by plane from anywhere in the country!
Do You Need A Car To Get Around Virginia?
While you can get around Virginia without a car, it’s recommended that visitors rent one to enjoy their vacation to its fullest extent. Virginia has an excellent road system equipped with signs and highways for easy navigation across the state. The State of Virginia is a very walkable state, and there are plenty of trails for those who enjoy hiking. Virginia also has an excellent public transportation system that covers the entire state!
What Is Something That You Can Only Get in The State of Virginia?
Virginia is home to some of the most unique attractions in the United States, including Virginia Beach, Virginia’s Oceanfront. There are so many things to do in this state that it is hard to narrow down the list of activities and experiences. Here are some unique activities and experiences you don’t want to miss!
Virginia Bucketlist Activities: What To Do When You Visit
See The Wild Ponies of Chincoteague
Recommended by Pamela of The Directionally Challenged Traveler
One of the most unique experiences in Virginia is seeing beautiful horses in the wild. The best place to do this is on Chincoteague and Assateague Island. While these islands are home to breathtaking beaches, mom-and-pop shops, and delicious restaurants, the area’s highlight is the Assateague Ponies.
The ponies of Chincoteague were made famous by the book “Misty of Chincoteague” and have been beloved residents of the area for almost 250 years. The legend states that the horses are descendants of a Spanish galleon that sank off the coast. Others believe the stock was released so their owners could avoid livestock laws and taxes. Either way, the horses live peacefully on the island.
The Chincoteague Fire Department takes care of the herd throughout the year, including veterinary care. During the last full week in July, you can attend the Pony Swim. An annual event where the herd swims across the Assateague Channel. A few ponies are auctioned off as well to raise money for the herd (it also helps keep the population manageable for the environment).
Since the ponies are wild, it is up to nature whether or not you see them. However, there are plenty of things to do in Chincoteague when you visit, so you won’t be bored if the ponies are shy. There are also plenty of souvenirs, memorabilia, and even street art dedicated to the ponies!
Kayak or Hike the Great Falls National Park
Recommended by Terri Markle
Less than 15 miles from Washington DC lies a dense forest and green oasis—Great Falls National Park is located less than 15 miles from Washington DC, yet a world away. Hikers, runners, walkers all flock like birds to explore its dense forest and green oasis. This 800-acre park is a favorite for people living in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia Area).
This fantastic park can be found in McLean, Virginia. It is part of the historic George Washington Memorial Parkway. The 76-feet waterfalls are “great” in more ways than one. Thundering down steep rocks and boulders, the Potomac River creates a series of waterfalls.
Down below, kayakers attempt to tame the falls by riding (or drifting) around the basin. The river then meanders through the Mather Gorge. Plan to start or end your visit at Great Falls by visiting one of the three overlooks, which offer panoramic views of the Great Falls. (Overlooks 2 and 3 are handicapped and stroller accessible.)
Besides walking to see the falls, athletic-minded visitors can hike through the forest, climb cliffs at Mather Gorge above the Potomac, bicycle, or go horseback riding.
Choose among 15 miles of hiking trails, including Old Carriage Road or Difficult Run. History buffs can explore the remnants of old homes on the site.
The Patowmack Canal was the first U.S. canal to raise and lower boats through locks. Matildaville Trail is named after the Patowmack Company’s headquarters and construction site. The river community was a working gristmill, sawmill, and foundry before its demise. Explore partial remains of the settlement.
One important tip? No swimming or wading is permitted. Each year an average of seven people drown by ignoring the National Park Services signs. The park charges a $20 vehicle pass. Save money by purchasing an annual park-specific pass ($35).
Go Birdwatching at First Landing State Park
Recommended by Alex of Wander With Alex
First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach is considered Virginia’s most visited park. It is also the landing spot for the first English settlers! This family-friendly park is known for hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, boating, fishing, and camping. Another popular outdoor activity that comes highly recommended at First Landing? Birdwatching!
Over 200 Species Sighted
With over 200 species sighted, birdwatching is an everyday activity at First Landing State Park. Birdwatching habitats include a beach, dunes, an upland forest, a rare maritime forest, a cypress swamp, and a tidal marsh. First Landing State Park has 20 miles of trails for you to birdwatch along.
According to ebird.org, some of the top bird observations include red-breasted Merganser, Ruddy Duck, American Crow, Sandwich Tern, Golden-crowned Knighlet, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Brown Pelican, Canada Goose, Sanderling, Caspian Tern, Osprey, and Bald Eagles.
How to Get There
The main entrance to First Landing State Park is located at 2500 Shore Dr, Virginia Beach, VA 23451. There is a secondary entrance at 64th Street and Atlantic Avenue with a boat and kayak launch. This area is referred to as “the Narrows.” Parking fees vary depending on the month and day of the week but generally range between $7 and $10 dollars.
Hike to the Great Channels of Virginia
Recommended by Erin of Go Hike Virginia
In Southwest Virginia, the Great Channels of Virginia at Channels Natural Area Preserve is worthy of a place on any outdoor adventurer’s bucket list. A 6.6-mile out-and-back hike along the Brumley Mountain Trail allows intrepid visitors to explore this breathtaking 20-acre maze of sandstone slot canyons.
There’s no need to rush on your way to the curious slot canyons. In fact, you may miss out on spectacular views from Middle Knob, one of the highest points in Virginia at an elevation of 4,147 feet. A hidden overlook is tucked away just behind brush and rocks. Step out onto gigantic boulders to savor the wide-open views of Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain.
Continue on, walking under a gigantic fire tower. The path picks up on the other side of the fire tower, leading you ever closer to the remarkable slot canyons. Prepare yourself to squeeze, crawl, squeeze, climb and scamper with wide-eyed curiosity as you explore every surface of this sand-floored labyrinth atop rugged Clinch Mountain. This unique sandstone maze was purportedly carved by permafrost and ice wedging some 10,000 years ago, much to the wonder of today’s explorers.
A word of caution. It’s surprisingly easy to get turned around inside the slot canyons. Every wall and corridor quickly looks the same. Leave a backpack or water bottle at the entrance to serve as a marker to help guide you out when you’re ready to return to your vehicle. Also, plan to arrive early for this hike. There are just ten parking spaces, and they get snatched up quickly.
Hiking Shenandoah National Park
Recommended by Julia Williams of The Cure For Curiosity
One of the most unique destinations in Virginia is, hands down, Shenandoah National Park. This beautiful national park is situated in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains and is a mecca of outdoor adventure. From over 75 scenic overlooks along Skyline Drive to epic hiking trails, you’ll find plenty of awesome things to do in Shenandoah National Park.
Being in the mountains, Shenandoah offers hikes that take you up to stunning viewpoints, like Hawksbill Mountain trail, and past thundering waterfalls, like Dark Hollow Falls trail, but one of the most unique trails is Old Rag Mountain Loop. This hike is often rated one of the best in the United States and should not be missed when visiting Shenandoah!
The popularity of Old Rag comes from its unique terrain featuring over a mile of uphill boulder scrambling to reach the summit, not to mention the summit offers 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains. The infamous boulder scramble is not for the faint of heart as it requires crawling under boulders, squeezing through tight spaces, and lifting your whole body weight up from one rock to another.
While no special climbing equipment is required, except for the proper hiking clothing, you’ll want to plan your hike for Old Rag carefully. Plan to arrive early in the morning to find parking, as the lots do fill up quickly and take plenty of water and a few snacks to tackle this challenging 9.5-mile hike. With almost 2,700 feet of elevation gain and places that require you to use your upper body strength to pull yourself over boulders, you’ll remember Old Rag for years to come.
While the typical Old Rag Mountain Loop is the most popular route, there are other trails, like the Weakley Hollow Fire Road Route and the Berry Hollow trail, that summit Old Rag but avoid the boulder scramble. However, you would be missing out on what makes this hike so unique!
Biking Arlington, Virginia
Recommended by Susan Decoteau-Ferrier of GenX Traveler
While Washington DC, with all its monuments and being the center of government, gets all the attention, Arlington, Virginia, on the other side of the Potomac, deserves some love. And a bike ride through the city is an amazing way to take in the sites, including views, memorials, and monuments.
If you are not traveling by bike, you can always grab a bike share from Capital Bike Share. You will find locations throughout the city. Download the app, and you’ll be on your way.
This 10-mile ride starting in downtown Arlington will take you along the Potomac River, past Roosevelt Island, and the Navy Merchant Marine Memorial. You’ll pedal through Gravelly Point and Airport Park, where you can stop and watch planes taking off and landing.
Then head through Crystal City, where the new Amazon headquarters is being built. While in Crystal City, you might want to make a stop at Commonwealth Joe for a coffee break.
After a rest, make your way past the Fashion Center and Pentagon Row on your way to the Air Force Memorial. This is one of two places along the ride where you will need to climb. Otherwise, the ride is mostly flat. But the trip up the hill is worth it.
From here, descend past the Pentagon and the 9/11 Memorial. As you make your way, the Pentagon complex will be to your right and Arlington Cemetery on your left. While you can not ride in Arlington Cemetery, you can make your way up the drive. Stop at the Seabees Memorial. Ahead of you will be the new Women in Military Service Memorial.
Finally, before making your way back into downtown Arlington, head toward the Netherlands’ Carillon. Here is that second hill, but from the bell tower, you will get a spectacular view of Washington DC. Also at the top of the hill is US Marine Corps War Memorial.
This entire ride should take about 1-1/2 hours. This allows time for breaks and photos.
Other Virginia Bucketlist Items/ Sites in Virginia That You Shouldn’t Miss: Virginia Bucket list
Virginia’s most significant natural bridge, the Natural Bridge, is an amazing Virginia landmark. The trail to the top of this sandstone arch has been a Virginia bucket list favorite for years!
Blue Ridge Mountains/ Blue Ridge Parkway:
These mountains are not just beautiful but offer some great hiking trails if you want to stretch your legs after exploring Virginia Beach or Richmond. With over 100 miles of trails, you can’t go wrong with a Virginia hike.
George Washington Birthplace National Monument:
This is the birthplace of our first president and one of Virginia’s most visited attractions! You’ll find 52 acres home to George Washington’s original 17th-century estate, where he was born in 1732. This historic site is the perfect Virginia bucket list stop for history buffs!
Virginia Beach Boardwalk:
The Virginia Beach boardwalk is a great place for people watching and enjoying the beach. You’ll find amusement rides, restaurants, shops, concerts on certain nights of the week. And it’s less than an hour’s drive from DC, making this another Virginia vacation must.
The Virginia Safari Park:
If you enjoy animals, this Virginia bucket list item is a must! You’ll have the opportunity to see lions and tigers up close at Virginia’s only drive-through safari park. It doesn’t get much more unique than that in Virginia!!
The Virginia bucket list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning this Virginia vacation must-do! This restored 18th-century village is home to dozens of historic sites and buildings where you can see Virginia’s history come alive. You’ll enjoy visiting the taverns, churches, shops, and houses that still boast their original period furnishings. A visit here will be sure to make the Virginia bucket list!
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello:
This Virginia landmark is home to Thomas Jefferson’s primary plantation in Virginia. It was built in 1772 and featured a neoclassical design that you won’t want to miss on your Virginia bucket list!!!
Smithsonian National Zoo:
One of Washington DC’s biggest attractions, Virginia’s Smithsonian National Zoo, is a must-do on your Virginia bucket list!
The Virginia State Capitol:
Built in 1788 and designed by Thomas Jefferson himself, the Virginia capitol building is worth checking out. Visitors can tour the historic building even when it’s not open to the public. They’ll leave with a new appreciation for Virginia’s rich history.
The Luray Caverns:
Visiting Luray Caverns in Virginia is a Virginia bucket list must-see. The caverns have been around for millions of years and were once used by Native Americans. You’ll enjoy walking through the cathedral room, which features stunning stalagmites and stalactites throughout!
Savage Neck Dunes:
The Virginia bucket list wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Savage Neck Dunes. This coastline gem is perfect for picnicking, hiking, beachcombing, and bird watching! It’s not Virginia if you haven’t been here!!
Arlington National Cemetary:
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Arlington National Cemetery. This Virginia landmark is home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and more than 300,000 gravesites that pay tribute to our fallen heroes. It’s a Virginia bucket list must-do if you’re in Virginia!!
Conclusion To Virginia Bucketlist: Unique Activities and Experiences
Virginia is a state that offers so much for everyone to experience. From the beautiful coastline and mountains to the rich history in Richmond’s museums, there are many things you won’t want to miss when visiting this fantastic place! So what have been some of your favorite experiences while exploring our great state? Share them with us on social media or below in the comments section!
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