The land of presidents and the birthplace of the original American colonies, Virginia is a wonderland of history and education hidden behind beautiful groves of antique oak trees, paved in cobblestone streets. Though Richmond could fill a list like this on its own, Virginia, the Mother of States, is too wildly exciting for student trips to limit your group to one city. Check out these top attractions across the Commonwealth of Virginia!
The famed home of President Thomas Jefferson ranks as the number one attraction in the entire state. Home of the nation's third president, Monticello was kept as the primary plantation, designed after Jefferson's own love of architecture evident in several monuments in Washington, D.C. as well. From the iconic style to the lush interiors, historic outbuildings such as the blacksmith shop and outlying slave quarters, and historic gardens, Monticello is a perfectly preserved remains of early America crafting a slice of history around one of the nation's greatest presidents.
2. Colonial Williamsburg
Most people have at least heard of Colonial Williamsburg, the nation's largest and most comprehensive living history museum set in colonial America. Colonial Williamsburg is as popular as it is because of its expansive park and attention to detail. You won't just see a few demonstrations of blacksmithing or glassblowing but be able to eat at one of George Washington's favorite taverns, sampling 18th-century authentic food, tour a medicinal garden with plants used to treat soldiers, explore an old mental health asylum (the first in the country), and much more. We recommend a full day's touring to gain the most out of your visit.
3. Mount Vernon
Like Monticello, Mount Vernon is high on the list for its impressive preservation and historic look into the life and livelihood of our first president. What was originally a modest farmhouse slowly became an iconic mansion of gorgeous proportions, operating as Washington's passionate enterprise as he identified himself as a Virginia gentleman farmer. A tour of Mount Vernon leads you through the mansion to see where George and Martha lived happily, through the grounds and outbuildings including the stables and famous 16-sided barn, the tombs holding both George and Martha, and much more.
4. Historic Jamestowne
Like Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Jamestowne is a living history park famous for its attention to detail. However, unlike Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Jamestowne is set atop a current archaeological dig researching the site of the original Fort James and an even older Native American Powhatan village. Tour the dig site and learn about the archaeological findings from the museum exhibits and working historians, learn about the real Pocahontas and John Smith, and become an archaeologist yourself!
Set on a Gilded Age 100-acre estate, Maymont is a Victorian display of opulence in the time of Vanderbilt and Rockefeller. The mansion, built-in 1893, is Romanesque with bold yet delicate architectural details wrought in tan stone, elegant cupolas, and wrapped porches. Not only is the house worth seeing but the estate as well. You don't want to miss out on the lush, equally opulent gardens which highlight the estate's affluent charm and Gilded Age beauty. Aside from even the gardens, Maymont is home to several hundred animals both wild and domestic from the Children's Farm filled with quirky billy goats to the wildlife exhibits featuring black bears, American bison, and bobcats among others.
6. Busch Gardens
Just for fun, why not spend a day at Busch Gardens Williamsburg? With roller coasters, opulent botanical gardens, and animal exhibits, everyone will find something to enjoy. Celebrating their 40th anniversary, the Williamsburg park is ushering in new and exciting rides like Tempesto, a rocketing roller coaster sure to give you thrilling chills. What sets Busch Gardens apart is their conservation efforts and zoological enclosures in every theme park. Make sure you take an animal tour or visit Highland Stables to see animals of the working Scottish Highlands or the wild canines of Wolf Haven.
7. Virginia Beach Boardwalk
It's no wonder that the Virginia Beach Boardwalk is one of the nation's most famous and most popular boardwalks when you learn of its exciting atmosphere and array of attractions. One of the top senior trip destinations, Virginia Beach offers prime beachfront access, great shopping and dining, and excellent entertainment at an affordable price. Take a picture with the giant statue of King Neptune, spend a day relaxing on the beach, or stroll the boardwalk to see live musical performances, explore the shops, and have fun!
8. Arlington National Cemetery
Though this isn't quite a fun and exciting attraction, the Arlington National Cemetery is certainly an important one. The final resting place for thousands of fallen soldiers, upstanding Americans, and presidents, Arlington is one of the most visited cemeteries in the country. Take a guided tour or walk through the peaceful grounds to pay respects at President Kennedy's grave, see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown, or wander and pay homage to the fallen soldiers who protected our country over the years.
9. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
One of the finest art museums in the country resides in Virginia's capital city of Richmond. Though the museum is certainly not the oldest, the VMFA continuously provides the community of Richmond and the surrounding state with an intensely focused appreciation of the visual arts. As the museum is open 365 days a year, it's easy to make the trip and see the impressive permanent collections holding 33,000 pieces including works by Albrecht Durer, Van Gogh, John Singleton Copley as well as ancient creations, Asian and African artifacts, and even Faberge eggs.
10. Virginia Living Museum
With a motto like "Protect What's Precious," the Virginia Living Museum already stands out among the rest in terms of conservation, interaction with the public, and a general understanding of global environmentalism. Based on conserving and supporting a local understanding of natural science, the Living Museum hosts exhibits featuring animals, plants, geology, and the cosmos. Visit the animal exhibits to interact with American alligators, river otters, and bald eagles or even loggerhead sea turtles. The museum is also a staunch supporter of ecological learning so stop by the geological exhibits to learn more about mining, fossils and gems, dinosaur bones, and caves.