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What Is Virginia Known for & Famous For?

Virginia is one of the oldest states in the United States. Moreover, it has a rich history, wildlife, and nature and offers exquisite attractions. But what makes Virginia such a sought-after tourist destination?

Virginia is a place of abundant natural beauty and forms part of the breathtaking Appalachian Trail. The state also boasts a rich and colorful history as the first colonized state in the USA. Virginia offers fine local cuisine and is also the birthplace of over 8 of our US presidents.   

This article explores facts about the state of Virginia and what makes it famous. So, keep reading to learn more!

1. Capital of the Confederacy

Virginia’s capital, Richmond, is renowned for being the Capital of the Confederacy from 1861 to 1865. Richmond attained this honor after Virginia’s secession from the Union to join the Confederate States of America following the Battle of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861.

The Confederacy’s government sought to move its Capital from Montomegery to the City of Richmond due to its economic viability since it was Virginia’s industrial city.

And Virginia had the highest industrial output compared to the other states in the Confederacy. Moreover, the Confederacy thought that Virginia’s strategic location would enable them to control the state entirely.

2. Nicknames: The Old Dominion & Mother of Presidents

The Commonwealth State of Virginia has earned several nicknames throughout its existence. But the most famous ones are ‘The Old Dominion’ and the ‘Mother of Presidents.’

So, why do people use these nicknames to refer to Virginia?

To start with, Virginia earned the name ‘The Old Dominion‘ because it was the first American state that the English empire conquered. Also, as a British colony, Virginia was loyal to King Charles II of England, who gave it a domain status.

Virginia is also renowned as the ‘Mother of Presidents’ since it has produced eight Presidents of the United States of America.

Among them are four out of the first five American Presidents, including:

  • George Washington (1789-1797)
  • Thomas Jefferson (1801-1805)
  • James Madison (1809-1812)
  • James Monroe (1817-1825).

The other four are the ninth, tenth, twelfth, and twenty-eighth Presidents, who included:

  • William Henry Harrison (1841)
  • John Tyler (1841-1845)
  • Zachary Taylor (1849-1850)
  • Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921).

3. The Birthplace of a Nation

History enthusiasts appreciate Virginia; many fondly refer to it as the ‘Birthplace of a Nation.’ The state has rightfully attained the title since it was the first American state to become a British colony. English colonists had heard of the “New World” and wanted to explore and conquer it.

The colonists traveled from England under the sponsorship of the Virginia Company of London, which had obtained a charter from King James I. And upon landing in the New World, the travelers, under the leadership of Captain Christopher Newport, identified an unoccupied site on the northeastern bank of the James (Powhatan) River.

So, they built their first permanent settlement on this site, referring to it as Jamestown, after King James. During its existence, the Jamestown colony (present-day Williamsburg, Virginia) also had other names, including James Forte, James Cittie, and James Towne.

Jamestown remained the colonialists’ seat of governance until 1699. Following a fire incident, the government shifted the colony’s capital to Middle Plantation (Williamsburg). 

Although the island is no longer a town, Jamestown remains a historical icon. Furthermore, the National Park Service and Preservation Virginia have preserved the site to educate visitors about America’s fascinating history.

4. Presidential Homes

Apart from being the birthplace of America’s eight Presidents, Virginia is famous for these Presidents’ residences. Hence, if you’ve been dreaming of visiting a historic presidential estate, Virginia is the place to be.

The two well-known presidential homes in Virginia, which we will discuss in detail below,  include:

Here are other presidential homes and plantations that some people might not know of:

  • Berkeley Plantation. William Henry Harrison’s ancestral home. Comprising an exquisite brick mansion on a 1,000-acre (405 hectares) estate, Berkeley Plantation lies on the banks of the James River. History has it that ten American Presidents visited this estate.
  • Montpelier. This beautiful Georgian-style mansion belonged to John Madison (America’s fourth President). The grounds also offer several trails that visitors can explore and learn about the Civil War and the Gilmore Farm.
  • Ash Lawn-Highland. Located on Carter’s mountain and belonged to James Monroe (America’s 5th President). It’s a white, wooden farmhouse on a 550-acre estate, a few miles from Jefferson’s Monticello. It provides incredible views of the boxwood garden, Monroe’s marble statue, and restored plantation outbuildings.
  • Sherwood Forest Plantation. It is situated in Charles City and was John Tyler’s home while President. It takes pride as the most extended frame house, covering 300 feet (91 meters) (the size of a football pitch). And it’s a private residence since Tyler’s grandson lives there, limiting visitations to appointments-only.
  • Pine Knot. You will find this historical site in the woods of Albemarle County. The simplistic cabin was a country retreat for President Theodore Roosevelt and Edith Roosevelt. The Edith and Theodore Roosevelt Foundation owns this landmark and opens the place to visitations upon appointments.

5. Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon is an 18th-century building where George Washington (America’s first President) lived and died. The 21-roomed iconic mansion sits on an expansive estate that overlooks the Potomac River, a few miles from Washington DC.

Mount Vernon became America’s first historical tourist attraction after George Washington’s death, a series of successions, and the final ownership by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union.

6. Monticello

Monticello is a mountain top estate towering over Charlottesville and the University of Virginia. It belonged to Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, who designed it in his mid-twenties.

The picturesque home portrays a Neo-classic design comprising octagonal domes, sand-painted columns, and grand entrances. In its compound lies Jefferson’s expansive gardens and the Mulberry Row outbuildings.

Monticello is one of the most visited presidential homes and is the only American private home named a United Nations World Heritage Site. You will find the house’s image is engraved on the back of the nickel, and it tells the fascinating life and character of one of America’s phenomenal Presidents.

7. The Pentagon

Although many people think The Pentagon is in Washington DC, it’s in Virginia where this enormous office building sits. It’s located in Arlington County (a few miles from DC) and is the US Ministry of Defense’s headquarters.

The Pentagon is the world’s largest office building, comprising five concentric rings and ten spoke-like corridors. The building, built in 1941 – 43 during President Franklin Roosevelt’s tenure, occupies 29 acres (12 hectares).

8. Mother of States

Virginia is a ‘mother’ of many, and this great state remains one of the most renowned states in American history. It gained the title ‘Mother of States’ since it birthed other American states, including:

But some people also refer to Virginia as the Mother of States since it was the first settlement for the British colonists.

9. Historic Triangle

Virginia is an American historical trove. Hence, if you’re keen on American history, you might have come across the title ‘Historic Triangle.”

The Historic Triangle refers to Virginia’s popular towns; Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg. The trio are colonial communities, forming a triangle on the Virginian Peninsula.

Jamestown was where the British first settled, while Yorktown was where the British General Cornwallis conceded defeat to George Washington after the last war of the American Revolution.

And colonial Williamsburg is a historic area, offering America’s oldest and most interactive live history experience.

10. “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”

America has had exquisite spokesmen who triggered action through their words. And Virginia takes pride in producing Patrick Henry, a great politician and orator,  who served as a lawyer and governor.

Henry is famous for his speech during the Second Virginia Convention in 1775, which recommended amendments to a document about the British actions. And the phrase, “Give me liberty or give me death,” summarized his narration.

Henry’s speech was phenomenal since it helped rally support for the American Revolution.

11. Manassas National Battlefield

Located in Prince William County, Virginia, the plains of Manassas are a historic site that attracts thousands of visitors annually. The Confederate and Union armies at Manassas fought during the First and Second Battles of Bull Run (1861 – 1862).

The Confederate army emerged victorious, and its leader General Thomas Jackson got the nickname ‘Stonewall.’

Currently, Manassas National Battlefield is part of the National Park Service.

12. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Serving as a symbol of service, sacrifice, mourning, and memory, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is the most renowned memorial within Arlington Cemetery. It receives millions of visitors yearly who visit the tomb for various reasons.

Many participate in the annual wreath-laying ceremony to pay their tributes to the nation’s veterans. And others travel to behold this iconic monument that honors unidentified soldiers who died while serving their country.

13. The Arlington National Cemetery

Receiving approximately 3 million visitors every year, The Arlington National Cemetery is one of the most popular attraction sites in Virginia. The hallowed grounds are the official resting place for the nation’s veterans who died while fighting for the United States during the:

  • World War I
  • World War II
  • Civil War
  • Cold War
  • Vietnam War.

The Arlington Cemetery also houses the graves of two American Presidents, John F Kennedy and William H Taft.

14. USS Wisconsin

USS Wisconsin (BB-64) is a majestic battleship built in Philadelphia under the sponsorship of Margaret Goodland (wife to Governor Goodland of Wisconsin). The Iowa-class ship is one of the largest and most well-known vessels built by the US Navy and acquired five battle stars in World War II.

The National Register of Historic Places lists USS Wisconsin as a museum ship, and you can find the ship docked in Norfolk, Virginia.

15. Virginia Witch Trials

Salem (in colonial Massachusetts) isn’t the only state that has gone down in history for hosting witch trials. Virginia also experienced a series of prosecutions against witches after the arrival of the British settlers.

The English men were devout Christians who believed that the natives in the New World possessed ‘dark forces.’ The Grace Sherwood case is the most famous witch trial in Virginia, while the last one was in 1730, involving a woman named Mary.

16. Richmond, VA

Richmond is Virginia’s capital, located at the fall line of River James in the east-central region of the Commonwealth. It’s a metropolitan area comprising the counties of Chesterfield, Henrico, and Hanover.

Richmond replaced Williamsburg as Virginia’s capital, having proved significant to the Powhatan Confederacy.

The present-day Richmond is a tourist attraction with seven destinations, offering a blend of fantastic experiences. Richmond is worth exploring, from the excitement of the busy city and nightlife to the charm and quietness of the small towns and the thrill of the James River.

Moreover, National Geographic listed it as one of the best places to travel for food.

17. Norfolk, VA

The third-most populous city in Virginia, Norfolk, is one of the tourists’ favorite destinations. It is also one of the oldest, making it a historical and cultural center.

Norfolk houses the most extensive naval base and is the Northern American headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Its bustling harbor is also home to the USS Wisconsin (as we’ve noted earlier).

Norfolk is also well-known for the:

  • Virginia Opera
  • Norfolk Botanical Garden
  • Virginia Stage Company
  • Virginia Arts Festival
  • Chrysler Hall and the Chrysler Museum of Art
  • Virginia Symphony
  • General Douglas McArthur Memorial
  • Nauticus.

18. Tobacco Industry

Introduced to the Virginia colony by John Rolfe, tobacco has been the essential cash crop since the colonial period. It became the backbone of Virginia’s economy since it fetched high returns in the England market.

Although Virginia has been known for tobacco cultivation for decades, the Commonwealth isn’t the leading producer of this cash crop. North Carolina takes the lead, producing more than 330 pounds of tobacco from 2017 to 2021.

19. Appalachian Trail

Virginia is popular among outdoor enthusiasts for being home to a large section of 876543q, the famous Appalachian Trail. So, if you’re into hiking, camping, and mountain biking, this should be on your bucket list.

The Appalachian Trail comprises an extensive footpath covering over 2180 miles (3508km) in the Appalachian mountains. The renowned trail provides a scenic view of the wooded lands, the mountain ranges, and several plant species.

20. Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

Launched in 1964, Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (CBBT) is the world’s largest tunnel-bridge complex. It comprises 17.6 miles (28.3km) with bridges and underwater tunnels.

CBBT offers travel convenience and a tourist attraction, as more than 140 million cars have crossed the bridge tunnel. Besides connecting Virginia’s mainland to the beach, CBBT provides a picturesque view of the surrounding scenery. It also connects tourists to other attractions, including:

  • Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge
  • Kiptopeke State Park
  • Fisherman Island National Wildlife Refuge
  • Assateague Island National Seashore.

21. Blue Ridge Parkway

Fondly referred to as ‘America’s favorite driveway,’ Blue Ridge Parkway is a unique landscaped highway stretching for 469 miles (765km). It traverses through the Appalachian mountains, providing an exquisite landscape view.

Blue Ridge Parkway’s biodiversity is one factor that makes Virginia famous. Hence, motorists can savor close-up views of the mountains and expansive range habitats.

Here’s what you expect to see on a slow-paced drive along the Parkway:

  • New River
  • Mount Mitchell
  • Whitewater Falls
  • Linville Gorge.

22. Virginia Natural Bridge

A National Historic Landmark, Virginia Natural Bridge is a fascinating geological formation. It comprises a 215 feet (66m) high natural arch spanning 90 feet (27m).

The bridge is a remnant of a cave’s (or tunnel’s) roof, carved out of a gorge by one of James River’s tributaries—the Cedar Creek.

And it has been a tourist attraction site since the 18th century.

23. Assateague Island

Virginia is home to one-third of Assateague Island, a renowned barrier island overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Assateague Island is a fascinating landform with more than 37 miles (60km) of pristine beach.

It’s also famous for the following:

  • Herds of feral ponies
  • Dunes
  • Wetlands and marsh areas
  • Fun activities include fishing, crabbing, bird watching, sightseeing cruises, kayak tours, and hunting.

24. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is a wildlife preserve occupying a 14,000 (57 km2) portion on Virginia’s section of Assateague Island. It conserves the island’s biodiversity by protecting and regulating wild animals, birds, and plants.

The Chincoteague ponies (Assateague horses) are the most significant attraction to this wildlife refuge.

25. Chincoteague Pony Swim

The Chincoteague ponies, having featured in a renowned novel, “Misty of Chincoteague,” and the film “Misty,” are a national treasure. Since 1925, Chincoteague Island’s tradition has been to hold an annual pony swim.

Initially aiming to raise funds to purchase fire equipment, the event attracts over 40,000 visitors who watch the ponies swim across the Assateague Channel during a low tide. Moreover, the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department conducts an action before the ponies swim back.

26. Luray Caverns

Located near Luray, Virginia, Luray Caverns is the largest and the most renowned cavern system in the eastern United States. This fantastic geological formation, discovered in 1878, contains breathtaking features, including:

  • Stalactites
  • Speleothems (columns and mud flows)
  • Mirrored pools
  • Stalagmites
  • Flowstone.

Due to its uniqueness and being home to the world’s largest lithophone (the Great Stalacpipe Organ), Luray Caverns is an incredible tourist attraction.

27. Virginia Mountains

Virginia did receive a generous share from Mother Nature, and its mountains are clear proof. It’s an attraction to mountain lovers who love the visual appeal of the mountains and the unforgettable experience in the mountain towns.

Virginia boasts of eight mountain ranges, including:

  • Blue Ridge Mountains
  • Ridge-and-valley Appalachians
  • Broken Hills
  • Southwest Mountains
  • Bull Run Mountains
  • Massanutten Mountains
  • Catoctin Mountains
  • Piedmont Monadnocks.

It also comprises five peaks over 5000 feet (1524 meters) high, which include:

  • Mount Rogers (the highest mountain)
  • Whitetop Mountain
  • Pine Mountain
  • Haw Orchard Mountain
  • Buzzard Rock

28. Celebrities

Apart from the eight Presidents born in Virginia, the Commonwealth is the birthplace of famous people, including movie stars, musicians, and film producers.

Here’s a list of some celebrities born in Virginia:

  • Sandra Bullock – actress, producer, and philanthropist
  • Pharrell Williams – actor, composer, and pop singer
  • Missy Elliot – rapper
  • Chris Brown – RnB singer
  • Will Yun Lee – actor
  • Trey Songz – RnB singer
  • Allen Iverson – Basketball player
  • Rebecca Zamolo – YouTube star
  • Tatyana Joseph – TikTok star.

29. “Virginia is for Lovers” Slogan

“Virginia is for Lovers” is a well-known travel and tourism slogan that the Virginia Tourism Corporation uses to market the state’s attractions. A team of advertising executives coined the iconic motto 53 years ago after discarding previous slogans that appeared too limiting.

Since then, ‘Virginia for Lovers’ has been on everyone’s lips and made it to the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame list in 2009.

30. Theme Parks

Virginia is a family-friendly destination with exciting theme parks. The amusement and water parks are attractive to thousands of visitors who create incredible memories visiting them every year.

Here are some of some renowned theme parks in Virginia:

  • Water Country USA. The largest family water park comprises twisting flumes, plunging water slides, waterfalls, water caves, free-floating rivers, lagoons, and a surfer’s bay.
  • Kings Dominion. A famous theme park with 12 world-class roller coasters and other attractions.
  • Busch Gardens Williamsburg. It’s also referred to as the ‘World’s Favorite Theme Park.” It offers six coasters, rides, and the experience of other cultures, including France, England, and Italy.
  • Massanutten Water Park. This indoor water park offers exciting attractions, including water slides, waterfalls, a tipping bucket, and a unique, interactive fortress. 

31. Brunswick Stew

Virginia is a food destination, offering finger-licking delicacies. Hence, the state is famous for Brunswick stew. This hearty meat and vegetable stew is from Brunswick County, Virginia. It’s a typical dish during cold winter and fall days and a staple at numerous events.

32. Virginia Ham 

Virginia is famous for its cured country ham and is home to Smithfield hams, the world’s iconic hams. The ham comes from razorback hogs fed on peaches and peanuts to give their meat a delectable sweetness. Virginians cure the meat by smoking over hickory and apple wood for its distinctive and mouthwatering flavors. 

33. Peanuts

Virginia is one of the largest peanut producers in the United States and is renowned for its plump variety. The characteristic crunch and perfect snacking size have given these peanuts the name “Ballpark Peanuts” because they are an iconic part of baseball game culture. Also, the Virginia Diner is famous for packaging and exporting peanuts worldwide.

34. Oysters

These are one of Virginia’s oldest delicacies and come from state eight harvesting regions with differently-flavored oysters. These oysters are known for their creamy, salty flavors and characteristic sweetness. Virginians traditionally serve these oysters with grapes growing in the same watershed.

35. Blue crabs 

These crabs, called the Callinectes sapidus, are among Virginia’s most popular coastal delicacies, with a subtle sweetness and delicate flesh. You can eat these unique offerings in the soft shell variety where you can enjoy the meat shell and all. 

You will find them all along the waterfronts, where locals serve them steamed or in accompaniments such as cakes and sandwiches.

Final Thoughts

Whether you love the outdoors or are a history buff, there is something to suit all traveler’s tastes in Virginia. With its distinct seasons, Virginia offers outstanding natural beauty and a rich culture of southern hospitality. Don’t forget to try their delicious oysters and blue crab when you visit this iconic destination.