Wanderlust is defined as a strong desire to travel, but here in Virginia, we call that feeling WanderLove. As we begin to travel again, planning an epic road trip is a safe way to explore Virginia’s endless beauty, from its pristine beaches to the scenic curves of its storied mountains.
Summer in Virginia is an ideal time for a road trip – whether you’re soaking up the sun on one of our sandy beaches, hiking the world-famous Appalachian Trail, or shopping just across the Potomac River from our nation’s capital. And if you’re looking to cross some iconic Virginia items off your bucket list this summer, we’ve compiled a checklist of “must-see” destinations across the Commonwealth.
Visit one of Virginia’s Beautiful Beaches
Virginia Beach Oceanfront
You’ll find plenty of activities to keep your vacation exciting along the shores of Virginia. Head to Virginia Beach and rent bicycles for a trip down the Boardwalk for scenic views of the Atlantic Ocean. If you want to make the most of your trip, set aside a day and take the 23-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel over to the Eastern Shore. Cruise up the shore and stop at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge to see the park’s most famous inhabitants, the wild ponies.
- Virginia Beach Boardwalk
- Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
- Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
Take a Presidential Tour
Mount Vernon on the Potomac River
Eight U.S. Presidents called Virginia home, leaving behind important historical legacies throughout the Commonwealth– and we’ve got the ultimate Presidential Road Trip planned for you. Your first stop will be Mount Vernon, George Washington’s expansive estate along the Potomac River. Next, your journey takes you to James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange, which is about two and a half hours from Mount Vernon.
Drive about 45 minutes southwest to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home, and take a detour to the city of Charlottesville to see Jefferson’s beloved University of Virginia. Only about 10 minutes down the road is James Monroe’s Highland. Need more? Add additional Presidential destinations to your Virginia historical road trip.
- Mount Vernon
- James Monroe’s Highland
Make Music History along the Crooked Road
Floyd Country Music Store, Photo Credit: Brian Camp, IG account: @brian_k_camp
Explore Virginia’s rich musical heritage on the Crooked Road, a 300-mile route with destinations that highlight the state’s important contributions to country music. Coming from the East? Start your trip in Franklin County at the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum, and head west to the Floyd Country Store.
Birthplace of Country Music Museum
Driving further west, you’ll reach Bristol, known as the Birthplace of Country Music. If you fly into the Tri-Cities Regional Airport, begin at the western part of the Crooked Road and head east towards the Ralph Stanley Museum in Clintwood and the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons. Although you could probably drive all 300 miles in one day, plan this trip over at least two to three days to spend some time at each of the important detours off the Crooked Road. If heading west to east, consider staying at the luxurious Primland Resort in Meadows of Dan, or book a room at the Martha, an historic hotel in Abingdon if you are driving west from Roanoke.
- Floyd Country Store
- Ralph Stanley Museum
- Blue Ridge Institute & Museum
- Carter Family Fold
- Bristol, the Birthplace of Country Music
Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park
Views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from Skyline Drive, Photo Credit: Cameron Davidson
One of the most famous breathtaking routes in America winds through Virginia, showcasing the Blue Ridge Mountains and the state’s natural beauty. Start your route from Roanoke and head north toward Peaks of Otter, about 34 miles from the city of Roanoke. The trio of mountain peaks that make up the Peaks of Otter have a total of 12 miles of hiking trails if you are looking for outdoor experiences. Your drive continues north on the Blue Ridge Parkway, continuing another 78 miles through the mountains and across the James River to Humpback Rock. Hike to the top of this two mile trail for views of the Shenandoah Valley.
Shortly after leaving Humpback Rock, you’ll reach the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, which leads into Shenandoah National Park. 73 miles into your trip is Stony Man Trail, known as one of the most scenic trails off of Skyline Drive. The 2.3 mile trails takes a little over two hours to get to the summit, and you’ll get the best view if you plan to reach the top near sunset.
Inn at Little Washington, Photo Credit: Inn at Little Washington
About 20 miles north of the trailhead is the Inn at Little Washington, one of America’s finest restaurants and country inns. Simply reverse your itinerary if you’re coming from the north and take Interstate 66 west to the north end of Shenandoah National Park.
- Skyline Drive Scenic Outlooks
- Shenandoah National Park
- Peaks of Otter
- Humpback Rock
- Stony Man Trail
Sip Exceptional Virginia Wines
Horseback riding through the vines on the Monticello Wine Trail, Photo Credit: Gabby Beckford, IG account: @packslight
There is more than one region that produces excellent wine in Virginia. In fact, almost every single part of the state has a collection of outstanding vineyards. The Monticello Wine Trail has over 30 wineries, all within easy access of Charlottesville. A few can’t-miss vineyards include King Family Vineyards, where you can attend a polo match on Sundays, Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, a popular spot for weddings because of the incredible hilltop view, and Veritas Vineyards & Winery, which has a Virginia LOVEworks installation made out of used corks hanging from the ceiling.
Boar’s Head Resort, Photo Credit: Jack Looney
After sampling the wines and touring the countryside outside of Charlottesville, head back to the city and book a room at Boar’s Head. If you have some time to kill, walk around the historic University of Virginia campus. For dinner, try Public Fish & Oyster for a selection of fresh Virginia oysters, or grab a burger at Citizen Burger Bar, known for their mouthwatering burger selection.
- Monticello Wine Trail
- Veritas LOVEworks
- University of Virginia Campus
Get Out on Virginia’s Many Waterways
Paddleboarding on the New River, Photo Credit: Sam Dean, IG account: sdeanphotos
Like wines, Virginia has many great spots to get out on the water and kayak with your partner, plan an overnight canoe trip, or even try something new with stand up paddleboarding. For a trip that combines water sports, scenery, and abundant Virginia wildlife, head over to Roanoke and plan a paddling trip down the New River. Book a trip with Tangent Outfitters at either of their locations along the New River (Pembroke and Radford). The company has canoe, paddleboard, kayak, and even tube rentals available for you to use on the river.
If you get tired of traversing the river, Cascades National Recreation Trail is less than a mile away. Hike through the shaded mountain trail a total of four miles to reach a 66-foot waterfall.
- The New River
- Cascades National Recreation Trail
Attend a Multi-Day Music Festival
Lockn’ Festival, Photo Credit: Joshua Timmermans
Virginia’s music scene gets more impressive each year, and whether you are looking for bluegrass or want to spot your favorite jam-band in action, you’ll find your festival within the Commonwealth. Head on over to Floyd for the annual Floydfest, a five day celebration of music, food, and arts from around the world.
Another big music festival in Virginia is Lockn’, held in Nelson County, which is a short drive from Charlottesville. The festival lasts four days and outdoor activities such as mountain biking, yoga, and hiking are available for patrons during breaks in the music.
If Floydfest and Lockn’ aren’t quite your style, you may consider attending the Richmond Jazz Festival.
- Richmond Jazz Festival
Find More Virginia Music Festivals
Go Back in Time in the Historic Triangle
Colonial Williamsburg, Photo Credit: Traveling Newlyweds, IG account: @traveling_newlyweds
Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown are the three sites that make up the Historic Triangle in Virginia. For your first stop, visit Yorktown Battlefield Park, the location of the last major battle of the American Revolution. The park’s Victory Center chronicles the struggle for independence in America, offering a detailed timeline that explains how the United States gained its freedom from England.
Following your tour of Yorktown, head west on the Colonial Parkway to Jamestown, where you’ll learn about the first permanent English colonies in North America that were formed in 1607 and their interactions with the Native Americans upon arrival. See recreations of the three ships that crossed the Atlantic and even visit the site where Pocahontas and John Rolfe married in 1614.
Next, finish your historic triad trip at Colonial Williamsburg, the Capitol of England’s first permanent colony in the New World. Here, you can find restored and reconstructed buildings from the Colonial era, where period actors explain what life was like during the early days in America.
For a little luxury after spending the day reliving simpler times, get a room at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg. The resort sits on the banks of the James River and has a 36-hole golf course, full-service spa, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis center, and four restaurants on site.
- Yorktown Battlefield Park
- Colonial Williamsburg
Add More Virginia History to Your Itinerary
Taste Virginia’s World-Class Oysters
Pleasure House Gives an Oyster Farm Tour
Virginia has eight distinct oyster regions that produce the finest examples of Virginia seafood. In 2015, Governor Terry McAuliffe christened this chain of locations the “Virginia Oyster Trail”. In addition to eating fresh local oysters at restaurants like Merroir, you can learn about the culture and history of the watermen on the Chesapeake Bay. Then, take a tour of an oyster farm to get a more in-depth look at the cultivation of Virginia oysters.
The Tides Inn, Photo Credit: Tides Inn
Whether you prefer briny or mild, every oyster lover will find exceptional flavor when touring Virginia’s oyster regions. For an overnight stay in the heart of oyster country, stay the Tides Inn in Irvington, where you’ll have views of the Chesapeake Bay from the hotel. The resort even offers sailing classes for guests looking to learn a new skill during their stay.
- Eight Unique Oyster Regions
- Oyster Farm Tours
See Virginia’s Natural Wonders
Stalacpipe Organ in Luray Caverns
There are eight natural wonders of Virginia, and while it may take you at least a week to see them all, you need to add this trip to your agenda. You can start just about anywhere in Virginia, but no matter where you begin, you need to see all eight. The pitch black, glassy waters of Lake Drummond in the Great Dismal Swamp are eerily beautiful. Burke’s Garden, known as “God’s Thumbprint”, is a bowl-shaped valley that offers natural landscape, hiking trails, and scenic overlooks from the ridge.
Natural Bridge State Park
At Natural Bridge State Park, you can walk under a daunting rock arch that was once surveyed by a young George Washington and even belonged to Thomas Jefferson. Explore Virginia’s underground scene at Luray Caverns, where you’ll see towering caverns and quiet, clear pools. Each of these eight wonders provides a unique look at Virginia’s breathtaking natural beauty.
All Eight Wonders:
- Burke’s Garden
- The Great Dismal Swamp
- Natural Bridge
- Luray Caverns
- Natural Tunnel State Park
- Westmoreland State Park
- Breaks Interstate Park
- Great Falls Park
Discover Natural Beauty at Virginia’s National Parks
Virginia has many special attributes and landmarks that make it a unique travel destination. Use these itineraries or create your own custom route for a fun-filled Virginia vacation for you and your family this year.
Get out to Smith Mountain Lake and also visit Smith Mountain Lake Farm Alpaca Tours! They are 90 mins educational tours. Call 540-719-0281 for reservations or visit http://www.SmithMountainLakeFarm.com See you at the farm!
Excellent, though I was disappointed the the state’s rich Civil War resources were not included. Fredericksburg, Appomattox, Bull Run, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, etc.
This is a keeper Trisha, as are all of your posts ❗
You forgot the Woodrow Wilson presidential birthplace and Library in Staunton, Va.
We ate planning a visit next April and we are really looking forward to our time in Virginia!
Merle Jean Shell
Enjoyed the pictures. Beautiful places to visit, wish I could.
I cannot agree more with all of your highlighted places! If you visit the beaches, First Landing State Park is a must. I wish I had known about the Floyd County Store while I attended Virginia Tech. Oh well, another reason to visit soon 🙂 The parkway is an absolute must during the change into fall when the leaves are the most beautiful. And if only I could enjoy oysters every day. We spoiled Virginians!
And, lest we forget, Skyline Caverns in Front Royal, the NORTHERN ENTRANCE to the SKYLINE DRIVE !!!!!