12 Iconic Sites for Virginia’s Fall Beauty

by Casey Higgins | Posted: Oct 16, 2014 | Updated: Aug 25, 2016

Comments: 21 Comments

These destinations are stunning in their own right, but couple them with the colors of fall and you have a real winner.


1. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello * Charlottesville

– Thomas Jefferson – third president, author of the Declaration of Independence, self-taught architect
– UNESCO World Heritage Site – the only U.S. presidential and private home on the List
– Saunders-Monticello Trail – four miles; accessible. Includes unique features, like an elevated boardwalk and pond. (MAP)


2. Mount Vernon, George Washington’s Estate and Gardens * Mount Vernon

– George Washington – first president, commander of the Continental Army, gentleman planter
– Originally, the estate was more than 8,000 acres. Presently, an estimated 500 acres have been preserved.
Interactive Map

Mount Vernon

3. James Madison’s Montpelier * Montpelier Station

– James Madison – fourth president, Father of the Constitution, scholar
– 2,650-acre estate includes the 200-acre Landmark Forest, a National Natural Landmark
Google Trails Map

 Montpelier. Photo by Kenton Rowe.Montpelier. Photo by Kenton Rowe.


4. James Monroe’s Highland * Charlottesville

– James Monroe – fifth president, Governor of Virginia, negotiator of the Louisiana Purchase
– See the “witness tree,” a white oak yet standing from Monroe’s time on his Highland plantation.
– Virtual Tour

President James Monroe's Ash Lawn-Highland. A historic house museum open to the public for visitation.

5. Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest * Forest

– Archaeology and restoration is always in progress at Jefferson’s personal retreat.
– UNESCO World Heritage Site Nominee
– Buy Tickets Online

Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest - Candlelight Tours

6. The Lee’s: Stratford Hall * Stratford

– Robert E. Lee’s Birthplace; Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee’s Boyhood Home
– Robert E. Lee – General of the Confederate Army; President and namesake of Washington and Lee University
– Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee – only brothers to sign the Declaration of Independence
– 1900 acres overlooking the Potomac River

Stratford Hall

7. George Washington’s Ferry Farm * Fredericksburg

– Washington’s family moved to Ferry Farm when he was six.
– See the home site along the Rappahannock River.
– Archaeology lab allows visitors to see artifacts discovered on the property.


8. Crab Orchard Museum * Tazewell

– Periods of history include Native American, Pioneer, Revolutionary War and Civil War.
– Fifteen 1800s log cabins and stone structures
– Special tours and a pioneer summer camp are available.

Historic Crab Orchard Museum & Pioneer Park

9. America’s Historic Triangle * Jamestown * Williamsburg * Yorktown

– Jamestown was settled by the English in 1607 as the first permanent English colony in the Americas.
– Colonial Williamsburg is the largest living history museum in the country, and was the first English capitol/seat of government in the Americas.
– Yorktown is where the American Revolutionary War was won. It was October 19, 1781.

10. George Mason’s Gunston Hall * Lorton

– George Mason – Author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, after which the United States Bill of Rights was modeled
– 550 acres on the Potomac River
Download Grounds Map

Gunston Hall Plantation


11. Oatlands Historic House and Gardens * Leesburg

– Federal-style mansion was built over five years, beginning in 1804;  embellished into the 1830s
– Original grounds were 3,408 acres; today the estate is 261 acres.
– English Oak and European Larch are existing from the original 1800s gardens

Oatlands Plantation

12. John Tyler’s Sherwood Forest Plantation * Charles City

– John Tyler – tenth president; America’s first vice president to ascend to the presidency upon the death of the sitting president
– Longest frame house in America; continuously occupied by the Tyler family since 1842
– Home to America’s first Ginkgo tree
– Additional nearby plantations include Shirley (Virginia’s first plantation; 1613) and Berkeley (site of the first official Thanksgiving; 1619)

Sherwood Forest Plantation, ca 1680. Home to our 10th president, John Tyler.


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Have lived in VA over 30 years and still haven’t seen all it has to offer. So much history, beauty, vineyards, seasons, ocean, within hours of NY City. You name it, VA has it. I LOVE VA!. Bonnie

Nothing about the Blue Ridge Parkway?

Several years ago I was privileged to tour Sherwood Forest with my Civil War tour group. Harrison Ruffin Tyler, President Tyler’s grandson conducted the tour. The home is beautiful inside, especially the parlor. Mr. Tyler also had us sit in the parlor while he talked to us about his famous family. It was a wonderful experience.

Jo says:

The drive on 460 between Blacksburg and Pearisburg is breathtaking, especially through Jefferson National Forest and through the Maybrook area between Newport & Pembroke.

David says:

Jamestown, founded in 1607 was the first permanent colony in the New World? Williamsburg was the first capital in the New World? Only if you disregard the fact that the previously century Spain had colonized Mexico and Peru well before Jamestown and founded their respective vice-regal capitals of Mexico City in 1521 and Lima in 1535, not to mention colonizing the islands Hispaniola in 1492 and Puerto Rico in 1493. Anglocentric much?

Casey Higgins says:

Perhaps it should be phrased differently, David. Firsts of the Americas, rather than the New World.

David says:

I’m afraid that would still be inaccurate. Both “The New World” and “the Americas” refer to the whole of North, Central, and South America together which as we know, had colonies with capitals/ seats of governments established before any attempted (much less permanent) English settlement. Don’t get me wrong, I love visiting the Tidewater and taking in the breathtaking beauty with all the history there, but if it’s not presented accurately, visitors are liable to come away with misinformation. Accurate would be stating that Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement and Williamsburg the first colonial English capital in the New World (or the Americas). That one little word, English, makes all the difference!

Casey Higgins says:

Then there we have it! I appreciate your time, David.

Mariah says:

David you are so right…..first permanent English settlement….

Carole says:

I’ve been to all but three of these places! I love Virginia, it’s beauty, and its rich history.

bev wilson says:

I love my home state! I miss it so much. 🙁

Nothing against any of these sites, but someone seems to have forgotten that Virginia has mountains. Or are the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Skyline Drive just taken as givens?

Yes, Kevin ITA, I figured that would be first. It is so beautiful there during the fall.

Casey Higgins says:

Hi Kevin! No, we certainly didn’t forget the Blue Ridge Parkway or Skyline Drive – we’ve mentioned those many times this fall. The purpose of this particular post was to shine a light on the historic properties that are also amazing with foliage this season.

When talking about Mt. Vernon, why do you always forget that Robert E. Lee and his wife Mary Custis Lee also lived there? Mary Custis Lee was the Grand daughter of Martha Washington !!!