If you’ve enjoyed reading about some of Virginia’s small towns (parts one and two), these bring the fun on a larger scale. Learn a little more about these Virginia cities to plan your next getaway.
This list is based on census data and is organized from largest to smallest.
— VIRGINIA BEACH —
Where music and food meets beach side views, Virginia Beach is the perfect location for a destination getaway. Home to the Boardwalk Art Show, Neptune Festival, the East Coast Surfing Championship and the Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon, this is one of the most exciting places in the state. Finding locations to hike or bike are easy with Virginia’s most popular state park, First Landing State Park, where visitors can camp, swim, SCUBA, and sail to their hearts content. The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, Cape Henry Lighthouses, the Boardwalk, Back Bay National Refuge, as well as the Ocean Breeze Waterpark all call Virginia Beach home. You’ll find some of the best dining options at the beach with restaurants like Surf Club Ocean Grille and Neptune’s Restaurant offered right on the boardwalk. And only eight miles from the shoreline, Virginia Beach Town Center is the place to be for comedy, dining, shopping, and live music events. Throw the water and sun into the mix and Virginia Beach is the dream destination you’ve been looking for.
— NORFOLK —
Norfolk has it all from regional shopping malls to the Waterside Festival Marketplace with places to dine and enjoy. With the Chrysler Hall, the Virginia Symphony, and Broadway Shows on tour, there is never a dull moment. The Virginia Opera finds its home in Norfolk as well as the Chrysler Museum of Art, considered one of the Top 20 museums in the USA. The National Maritime Center is here and features the USS Wisconsin, the world’s largest battleship. Outdoor lovers here enjoy fishing, boating, and surfing in the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay. As home to the Norfolk Tides AAA Baseball who play at the Harbor Park Stadium, Norfolk understands what excitement you need in your life.
— CHESAPEAKE —
Amber Lantern Restaurant. Chesapeake.
You’re going to be pleasantly surprised when you pay a visit to Chesapeake. It’s an outdoor lovers paradise with water recreation, bird watching, golfing, and hiking opportunities. The Dismal Swamp Canal Trail is your gateway to the treasured Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. For those who are less outdoorsy, fear not. You will find the dining and shopping that you expect.
— ARLINGTON —
Arlington. Image by David Hills.
Near the hustle and bustle of the nation’s capital, with a view of D.C. itself across the Potomac, sits beautiful Arlington. As the location of Arlington National Cemetery, visitors find great access to the history and modern activity of the nation. Home to President John F. Kennedy’s grave and national memorials that surround the area, it provides an amazing view and stories better than any found in a history book. Looking to create your own stories? The W&OD Trail in Arlington is a great place to hike or bike to explore the urban side of Northern Virginia. With many bicycle rentals around D.C., take advantage of the 23-mile self-guided tour of the area that leads bikers through 12 stops to learn about the history of the land. Make sure to stop in one of the many restaurants made famous not only because they have been featured on TV, but because of how amazing the menu is. From great deals to great food, Arlington has you covered.
— RICHMOND —
When we think “must go,” we think RVA. Take a Segway tour of the city to see the history embedded in the modern life and find hidden art along the streets. Stroll down the River District and stop at any of the many restaurants, shops, or even the 17th Street Farmers’ Market to experience the city’s fresh way of living. Stop in the Edgar Allen Poe Museum, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, or one of the many galleries that line the streets. Feel the history in Richmond with the beautiful Jefferson Hotel or Maymont Park, a great place for relaxation or a family picnic. Check out one of the nearly dozen sightseeing tours and take a trip down the James River in a canoe or tube. As the training center for the Washington Redskins, RVA knows the importance of excitement. Voted Best Diner in Virginia in 2014, Galaxy Diner in Carytown is sure to excite those taste buds and inspire some action. As a Top Historical Family Destination and one of the “50 Best Places to Live in America” in 2015, RVA is a dream vacation you’ll make a home.
— NEWPORT NEWS —
Encompassed by the nation’s rich history, Newport News is the perfect location to begin your own adventures. Found by the Hampton Roads harbor, Newport News is a short drive to Williamsburg and Virginia Beach. From here visitors experience history and its relationship with the great outdoors. Come visit Fort Eustis or Christopher Newport University and stay for endless fun at the Virginia Living Museum, Mariners’ Museum, and the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center. The Endview Plantation and Lee Hall Mansion are just some of the sites to thrill the history buff in all. From the landing at Jamestown until today, Newport News is the region for active lovers of history and fun.
— ALEXANDRIA —
Old Town Alexandria. Image by CameronDavidson@CameronDavidson.com.
Historic Alexandria is the place to be with local boutiques and award-winning restaurants around every corner. Within the colonial architecture sits art and culture that can’t be experienced anywhere else. Live like a colonial in George Washington’s hometown and visit Christ Church and Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, or even visit Mount Vernon for a day full of scenic views and storytelling. This Top ArtPlace 2013 is the center of galleries such as the Torpedo Factory Art Center and the famous Birchmere Music Hall. Famous for its boutiques, restaurants, and hotels Old Town Alexandria is the perfect mix of the old and new. Offering tours along the waterfront and through the more spooky places in the city with Ghost & Graveyard Tour, it will be your new favorite vacation spot. Surrounded by waterfront dining and just minutes away from the nation’s capital, Alexandria’s Potomac River cruises, expertise restaurants, and urban shops are nothing if not the perfect getaway.
— HAMPTON —
Found in the center of fun and culture, Hampton lines the harbor and Chesapeake Bay and is home to the Hampton Coliseum, the Casemate Museum at Fort Monroe, and the Virginia Air and Space Center.
Take a stroll in Downton Hampton and visit the piers and Maritime Center. With harbor torus and a unique dining and shopping experience, visitors come for the Hampton Jazz Festival and stay for the beauty and excitement.
— ROANOKE —
The city of Roanoke combines modern fun with the excitement of outdoor adventure. Experience the Taubman Museum of Art, the market gallery, Elmwood Park, and the History Museum of Western Virginia. Test yourself with the Drumstick Dash and AEP Festival 5K/10K Run. You’ll never have to wonder where you can find something to eat or someplace to shop with the City Market in the center of all the excitement. Roanoke includes attractions such as the Virginia Museum of Transportation and the Mill Mountain Zoo. There is never a dull moment in the year with different events such as the Strawberry Festival, Kite Festival, Salem Fair, and Dickens of a Christmas.
— PORTSMOUTH —
Portsmouth is where relaxation meets the great outdoors. Take a walk on the Path of History self-Guided tour or visit some of the many historical locations including Fort Nelson and Trinity Church. The Commodore Theatre is a favorite and the kids will love the Railroad Museum, Lightship Portsmouth Museum, and Art and Cultural Center. And don’t forget the boating and golfing around the city parks.
— SUFFOLK —
The city of Suffolk boasts real small town charm with a Main Street dotted with shopping and dining options like The Plaid Turnip. Harper’s Table, and various specialty boutiques. Constant’s Wharf is the site of a summer music concert series and walkway overlooking the Nansemond River. To get your dose of area history, visit Riddick’s Folly House Museum, an 1837 Greek Revival mansion found on numerous historic lists. Want to taste the local flavor? Two farmers markets offer fresh produce, breads, and homemade condiments alongside beautiful blooms and crafts.
— LYNCHBURG —
Lynchburg is known for its universities and as being a center of cultural activities such as concerts, plays, and art shows. Experience history first hand as Lynchburg is the launch site for the Batteaux Festival where every summer period characters navigate their bateaux down the James River. With chances to visit the Academy of Fine Arts and the Appomattox Co. Historical Museum Lynchburg provides historical excitement. Take a moment to relax at the Peaks of Otter Winery, Opera on the James, White Rock Vineyard and Winery, or one of the Turn of the Century and Civil War Trails. Learning about the state’s history is easy with access to Patrick Henry’s Red Hill Estate and the Legacy Museum of African-American History.
— HARRISONBURG —
Court Square in Downtown Harrisonburg
Found surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, Harrisonburg is the place to be for outdoor lovers. With the Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive, and minutes from Massanutten Four Season Resort and Allegheny Mountains within the George Washington National Forest, there is no end to the beauty of the city. Home to Civil War history sites and specialty shops you will keep coming back. Start your travels in the historic district at the Hardesty-Higgins House Visitor Center and Main Street. Explore More Discovery Museum, Harrisonburg Fire Department Museum, or the Virginia Quilt Museum. Visit local vineyards like CrossKeys Vineyards or the new Bluestone Vineyard for a new taste of life.
— CHARLOTTESVILLE —
While in Charlottesville, visitors and locals alike admire the remarkable views around the city. The many rivers and lakes are perfect for sailing, swimming, fishing, kayaking, and even tubing. The landscape comes to perfection on the golf courses and never cease to amaze through many parks for picnics and sport events. Known for its boutiques, bookshops, local wineries, and antique shops, Charlottesville has a surprise around every corner. For a more historical edge, explore the Ash Lawn-Highland, Historic Court Square and Michie Tavern. Stop by the University of Virginia and even the historic Monticello. With tours and special events all through the year, Charlottesville vibrates with history and excitement.
Charlottesville is home to nearly two dozen Vineyards and Breweries to choose from and many including tours, so bring along your friends and taste the best of Virginia.
— DANVILLE —
Found in the heart of Southern Virginia, Danville is the city with small-town charm. This is where excitement meets relaxation. With a majestic view of the Dan River and outdoor activities, you can never become bored. Listen to what’s new in the amphitheater, stroll down the Riverwalk Trail, or experience any of the many museums and you’ll see how much there is to discover.
— PETERSBURG —
Petersburg is home to not only the beauty of the James and Appomattox rivers, but the history of the nation. Fields to battles of the Revolutionary and Civil wars can be found here. The area is full of events year round and knows the importance of the outdoors. Have fun and take the opportunity to get away golfing, biking, and fishing.
— FREDERICKSBURG —
Finding things to do is easy in Fredericksburg where adventures in history and the outdoors are waiting. Battlefields, museums, and hiking trails are just a few of the opportunities. Make sure to stop by Ferry Farm, the once home of George Washington, and one of the several parks in the area. Historic Downtown Fredericksburg also offers a variety of shops to eat, shop, and experience.
About the Author: Kemry Johnakin is an English Major at Brigham Young University-Idaho, hopes to write the next great American novel, and is greatly unsettled by the lack of oxford commas used in government paperwork.