Tourist AttractionTravel

Vacation Like a Local in Virginia

Virginia offers a wealth of popular tourism destinations such as Virginia Beach and Shenandoah National Park. While both are incredible places for a holiday, they tend to get booked early during high season. But no worries, Virginia has you covered. All around the state you will find, lesser-known hidden gems perfect for new adventures. Take some advice from the locals and check out these low-key, yet idyllic destinations for your next U.S. holiday.

Craving some water-time fun in the sun? The small beach towns of the Chesapeake Bay are calling your name. Check out Colonial Beach, a quaint, riverside resort town complete with sandy beaches and a variety of marinas. It’s known as a boater’s paradise and often called the Playground of the Potomac.  If you like to soak up both history and sunshine on your beach excursions, consider Fort Monroe. Situated at the mouth of the James River, Fort Monroe has several secluded beach fronts that line the Chesapeake Bay. Nicknamed Freedom’s Fortress, this bayside community was once a former military base, and during a visit you’ll discover just how integral the fort was to American history.  If you’re seeking to really find some peace and quiet, Onancock is right up your alley. Called “the Gem of the Eastern Shore” this small town is chalk full of waterfront excursions, award-winning restaurants, and a diverse arts scene.

Colonial Beach is located at the northern tip of Virginia’s Northern Neck and is one of the few remaining small seaport towns on the Potomac River. Fishing, boating, sailing, swimming and crabbing are just a few of the water activities enjoyed here. It is also the birthplace of George Washington and James Monroe.

In and around the famous Chesapeake Bay there’s plenty to keep you busy. Kiptopeke State Park invites guests to learn about Chesapeake Bay ecology and the natural history of the region while enjoying a variety of outdoor activities including kayaking, fishing, hiking and swimming. If you’re interested in learning about the Chesapeake Bay while also getting out on the water, book a kayak tour with SouthEast Expeditions. They provide several interesting tours for every type of traveler, including kayak trips to great Virginia wines at Chatham Vineyards in Machipongo, a guided paddle through the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge, and an aqua-culture tour where you’ll harvest your own clams for dinner.

Assateague Island National Seashore consists of beach, dunes, forest, marsh, and bay in a wet and wild setting. It is surrounded by the pounding surf of the Atlantic Ocean and shallow expanses of Chincoteague Bay.

Another must-see stop on the Eastern Shore of Virginia is the Assateague Island National Seashore, a protected barrier island off the eastern side of the peninsula complete with miles of pristine white sand beaches, a historic lighthouse, and of course, the beautiful wild ponies made famous in the classic book “Misty of Chincoteague”.  Visitors can also catch a ferry to nearby Tangier Island, a remote island off the coast accessible only by air or sea, which has been called the “Soft-Shell Crab Capital of the World.”

With more than 7,000 miles of shoreline, we’ve barely scratched the surface with our few pointers above.  Check here for more hidden beaches from locals in the know.

Shenandoah National Park has become a legend, with songs, poems, and letters penned by famous authors memorializing the stunning scenery of the landscape. The Park attracts thousands to see the views with their own eyes each year. However, the locals know that the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests also contain impressive scenic beauty that is not to be missed. These national forests combined in 1995 to form a 1,664,110-acre park through the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, running all the way from the Tennessee border in Southwest Virginia to the northwest corner along the West Virginia state line. You can hike or bike the more than 2,200 miles of trails; fish, kayak, or canoe the 2,300 miles of streams; or simply take a drive to admire the wildlife and abundance of native plants untouched by civilization. While in the area, stop by Burke’s Garden in Tazewell, an awe-inspiring mountain-ringed valley known as “God’s Thumbprint’ due to its aerial appearance.

Falling Spring is one of the largest waterfalls in Virginia. It was surveyed by Thomas Jefferson.

South of Shenandoah, on the western edge of the Virginia Mountain region, you’ll find another spot the locals love. The Alleghany Highlands are known for beautiful views, outdoor activities like hiking and mountain biking, and delicious maple syrup that is harvested within the Highlands. It is the perfect destination for those looking to get “off the grid” and unwind with a little peace and quiet. With Highland County referred to as Virginia’s “Little Switzerland”, this mountainous region is a must-see vacation spot in the Commonwealth.

Iconic spots within the Alleghany Highlands include Humpback Bridge, the only covered humpback bridge still standing in America, Falling Spring, a breathtaking 80-foot waterfall in Covington, and the Historic Masonic Theatre, Clifton Forge’s opera house and masonic lodge that dates back to 1905.

Make your way to the Garth Newel Music Center in Hot Springs for live music performances and a taste of the musical heritage of the region. Hike some of the almost 40 miles of trails within Douthat State Park, which are also open to mountain bikers. And before leaving the Alleghany Highlands, stop by Sugar Tree Country Store to pick up a few bottles of premium Highland County Maple Syrup.


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