Virginia has been welcoming visitors for centuries, but only in the past hundred years or so could we finally begin documenting these travelers with photography. Check out seven of Virginia’s most visited destinations in contrasting images that span several decades and plan your trip to celebrate National Travel & Tourism Week!
THEN: Kings Dominion—Doswell
The Eiffel Tower still stands where it was first built upon the park’s opening in 1975, but many other aspects of King’s Dominion have changed over the years. The Virginia theme park has continued to renovate and expand, adding epic coasters like the Dominator, Hypersonic XLC, Delirium, the Intimidator 305, and Volcano. In the fall, the park hosts Halloween Haunt during evening hours, a Halloween-themed event with special musical performances, terrifying haunted houses, and scary characters wandering the grounds. This year, they will add WinterFest and transform the park into a winter wonderland during the holiday season.
Designed by Thomas Jefferson, Virginia’s State Capitol in Richmond has been hosting Virginia’s General Assembly since 1788. While they still meet there occasionally today, the buildings underwent multimillion-dollar restorations and expansions from 2004-2007, reopening with a gift shop, exhibit space, café, meeting rooms, and public restrooms. The Capitol is open daily for tours to the general public.
THEN: George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate—Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon, George and Martha Washington’s historic home outside of Alexandria, has been carefully preserved in the centuries since the first president occupied the home. But the estate was once much larger, and the property’s preservation society has since worked to restore previous outlying buildings. In 2007, Mount Vernon restored George Washington’s Distillery & Gristmill on the original grounds, welcoming guests to tour both the historically accurate distillery, where you can sample the resulting whiskey, and the functioning gristmill, which produces flour and cornmeal.
Not much has changed along Skyline Drive, the National Scenic Byway that runs through Shenandoah National Park. The 105-mile roadway along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains has been carefully preserved and maintained as one of Virginia’s most stunning natural treasures. Stop along one of the 75 overlooks for impressive views of the mountains and valleys that border Skyline Drive.
Busch Gardens has been entertaining Virginians and travelers to the Commonwealth since 1975. Although the Big Bad Wolf, the coaster shown in the THEN picture, closed in 2009 after 25 years of thrilling rides, the park replaced it in 2012 with Verbolten, a steel roller coaster that is designed to reflect the Authobahn roadways of Germany. Many other new rides and attractions have been added to Busch Gardens, including Apollo’s Chariot, Mäch Tower, Griffon, InvadR, and Tempesto (shown). During the month leading up to Halloween, the park transforms at night into Howl-O-Scream, and from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day, the park is fully decorated for Christmas Town.
A living history museum, Jamestown Settlement tells the story of the first colonists in America with films, gallery exhibits, and living history experiences. The museum expanded significantly in the early 21st century as part of the 400 year anniversary of neighboring Historic Jamestowne, the original site of the settlement. New permanent exhibits and a new introductory film were presented to highlight the history of Jamestown and the experiences of America’s first Colonial residents.
THEN: Luray Caverns—Luray
Like Skyline Drive, not much has changed at Luray Caverns in the past few decades (although thankfully fashion has improved). Discovered in 1878, the caverns are a U.S. Natural Landmark, open to visitors to explore the vast chambers decorated by nature with stalactites and stalagmites throughout. Make sure you stop by the Stalacpipe Organ, the world’s only organ that uses the natural stone formations of the caverns to create symphonic melodies. In 2010, the Luray Valley Museum opened just down the road from the caverns, with exhibits that celebrate the Shenandoah Valley’s culture and history.