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The Commonwealth of Virginia is a state in the South of the United States of America with 8½ million inhabitants.

Bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, and the west by the Appalachian mountains, with expanses of farmland in between, Virginia has much to offer history buffs and lovers of scenic landscapes. Virginia's three largest cities are Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake.



Note: "City" is used here in a broad sense. Virginia draws a very sharp distinction between cities and other communities. Since 1871, all communities incorporated as cities are legally separate from counties.

All of the communities listed below are in fact cities under Virginia law, except for Arlington, which is actually a county.

  • 1 Richmond – state capital
  • 2 Arlington – known for its military cemetery
  • 3 Alexandria
  • 4 Bristol
  • 5 Charlottesville
  • 6 Fredericksburg
  • 7 Lynchburg
  • 8 Norfolk
  • 9 Roanoke
  • 10 Virginia Beach
  • 11 Williamsburg

Other destinations

  • Blue Ridge Parkway
  • 1 Shenandoah National Park


"Virginia Is For Lovers" is the enigmatic motto of the Virginia tourism council. What makes Virginia particularly suited for amour remains something of a mystery, but the state does have many great features: beaches, forests, some of the oldest towns in North America, and proximity to the Mid-Atlantic and the deeper South. Here the love includes LGBT travel, with laws that affirm the right to marry and recognize diverse family structures. See Virginia LGBT info.

Virginia was one of the thirteen original colonies, and one of the first states to ratify the Declaration of Independence. It is known as the "Mother of States" as its original territory included West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Tennessee. It is also known as the "Mother of Presidents," as eight U.S. presidents were born in the state: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, and Woodrow Wilson.

Jamestown, Virginia (near Williamsburg) is the site of the first lasting British settlement in the New World, dating to 1607. Native American tribes from Virginia, such as the Powhatan, had some of the richest native cultures in the Colonies.

In colonial times, Virginia was settled mainly along the rivers that empty into the Chesapeake bay. The settlers relied on slave labor to grow cash crops, such as tobacco, and relied on trade from England for basic needs. While settlers primarily from England settled along the Potomac, Rappahannock, and James Rivers, many German and Scots-Irish settlers migrated into Virginia from Pennsylvania along the Shenandoah Valley.

Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861 and has a strong Civil War heritage, as well as a strong sense of Southern pride and feeling of independence that exists in rural parts of the state even today.

Following the Reconstruction after the Civil War, Virginia's economy shifted toward growing food crops in the north of the state, while the southern interior of the state continued to grow tobacco on smaller farms. The major shipyards at Norfolk continued to grow in importance as a major coal port and a naval base.

Following the growth of the US Federal Government during and after World War II, Northern Virginia grew at an astronomical pace as government workers and contractors settled across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. Today, Virginia's economy is dominated by military bases dotted all over the state, government contracting agencies, and residents who commute into Washington, DC. Virginia Beach serves as a popular summer vacation spot and the Appalachian Mountains offer outdoor recreation. Virginia is also a popular destination for history buffs as Virginia was a major player in much of America's history. Although traditionally a conservative state, an influx of liberal suburbanites into the suburbs of Washington D.C. in Northern Virginia in the 21st century transformed it into a safe Democratic state for roughly ten years until 2021 elections saw it return to swing state status.


English is spoken by most residents. The regional dialects in Virginia include the Tidewater dialect in Eastern Virginia, Virginia Piedmont in Central Virginia, and the Central Appalachian dialect in the Western parts of the state. The Virginia Piedmont dialect is also native to Northern Virginia and much of Maryland but is less common in this region today, though it remains the predominant way of speaking in and around the towns of Warrenton and Culpeper, and City of Fredericksburg, which form Northern Virginia’s southernmost boundaries. The local dialects generally do not stop fluent English speakers from understanding the person, but non-native English speakers may experience problems. Most people can deliberately speak in a more standard accent upon request but find it difficult to do so for an extended length of time. As with all places, locals may have nonstandard words to refer to places, actions and people. Locals are understanding of tourists who do not know these words and will clarify upon request.

Get in

By plane

See also: air travel in the US

Virginia has nine airports with commercial service. Northern Virginia (the Washington DC suburbs) is serviced by Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD IATA) and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA IATA). DCA, often referred to simply as "National" or "Reagan National," is the better airport for access to Washington DC due to its proximity and access to the Washington Metro Rail system; however, it is mostly restricted to short- and medium-haul domestic flights. Almost all international service and long-haul flights serve Dulles, a Star Alliance gateway and United hub, and also the more convenient airport to DC's western suburbs.

For Central and Southern Virginia destinations, Richmond International Airport (RIC IATA) offers nonstops to major East Coast cities as well as most of the major domestic hub airports east of the Rockies, plus seasonal service on ultra low-cost carriers to Florida. Charlottesville–Albemarle Airport (CHO IATA) offers regional service to the major East Coast hub airports.

For Eastern Virginia, especially the Virginia Beach/Norfolk/Hampton Roads/Portsmouth area, Norfolk International Airport (ORF IATA) offers flights to and from the major domestic hubs east of the Rockies, plus nonstops to major East Coast cities and ultra low-cost service to Florida. Regional service is also available from Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF IATA).

Southwestern Virginia is served by Roanoke–Blacksburg Regional Airport (ROA IATA), with service to the main East Coast hub airports.

Smaller airports include Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport (SHD IATA) and Lynchburg Regional Airport (LYH IATA), with limited regional service to hubs.

By train

Amtrak offers intercity passenger rail service to many Virginia cities along two main north-south lines, one from Washington DC to Alexandria, Fredericksburg, Richmond, and Petersburg, and the other from Washington to Culpeper, Charlottesville, Lynchburg, and Danville. The Cardinal service to Chicago switches west at Charlottesville. Branch lines connect Williamsburg, Newport News, Norfolk, and Roanoke,

In Northern Virginia, Virginia Railway Express operates two commuter lines, one from Manassas and the other from Fredericksburg, which converge at Alexandria and terminate at Washington DC.

WMATA's Metro Rail service provides rapid transit access to suburban Northern Virginia from Washington DC and Maryland.

By car

Virginia is connected by secondary roads and Interstate highways to the surrounding states.

  • Interstate 81 is the main route from Tennessee and continues through Virginia into Maryland and Pennsylvania, running parallel to the mountain ranges along Virginia's western boundary.
  • Interstate 66 connects I-81 in northwestern Virginia with Washington, DC, and is one of the primary commuter routes through Northern Virginia.
  • Interstate 95 runs north-south through Virginia connecting Washington, DC to Fredericksburg and Richmond, on to North Carolina.
  • Interstate 495 encircles Washington, DC with part of its route going through Northern Virginia. Where I-95 intersects with I-495 at the southernmost end of I-495, Interstate 395 continues northward into DC while I-95 traces the same route as the eastern half of I-495. Thus, if you are to take I-95 from Richmond to Baltimore, MD, you would merge onto I-495 going East and North until I-95 splits off from I-495 on its north side to reach Baltimore.
  • Interstate 64 runs east-west through Virginia, connecting the Hampton Roads area in Eastern Virginia with Richmond and Charlottesville. West of Charlottesville, it joins I-81 at Staunton. The two highways split at Lexington, with I-64 going through the western mountains until entering West Virginia.
  • Interstate 77 briefly passes through Virginia, running north-south through the far western end of the state (joining I-81 for a few miles around Wytheville), connecting the Carolinas with West Virginia and eventually Cleveland.
  • US 29 enters Virginia from Washington DC and forms a scenic alternate route to I-95 to I-85, running to Charlottesville and Lynchburg and eventually terminating in Alabama. A four-lane divided highway through the Shenandoah Valley out the state, it offers a short route to the Southeast avoiding heavy freeway traffic.
  • US 11 runs parallel to Interstate 81 and the mountains, and is a beautiful alternative to freeway travel going through many picturesque towns between Winchester in the north and Bristol in southwestern Virginia.
  • US 15, another north-south route, runs through Leesburg but otherwise bypasses all major cities, for those who enjoy rustic scenery.
  • US 301 enters the state from North Carolina with I-95 and is a popular short route north of Richmond to Chesapeake Bay and Northeast destinations, bypassing the Baltimore-Washington traffic.
  • US 13, originating near Philadelphia, runs north-south down the length of the Delmarva Peninsula, crossing to Norfolk via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge–Tunnel. For those headed to Eastern Virginia or the Outer Banks of North Carolina from the Northeast, this route avoids Baltimore and Washington traffic as well as being much shorter and more scenic than I-95.

Get around

Travel around Virginia is primarily by car but public transportation is also relatively abundant in the Northern Virginia suburbs near Washington, DC.

Amtrak trains run from Norfolk/Newport News to Richmond and out to the western panhandle. Trains also run north and south between Richmond and the Northern Virginia/DC area. A third major line runs from the western panhandle, north through Charlottesville, and up to Northern Virginia.

Virginia Railway Express (VRE), a commuter rail line, serves Washington, DC from points as far away as Fredericksburg and Manassas.

The Washington Metro has several rail stations in Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax County.

Hitchhiking is slow-going in Virginia. Rides are hard to come by and the Virginia State Police are notorious for hassling travelers (hitchers and motorists alike). Your best bet is either to stick to the state roads in the mountains, or to stick to rest stops on the major highways.

The speed limit is 55 generally mph on highways in urban areas, 65 mph in suburban areas, and 70 mph in most rural areas, though there are exceptions. Additionally, speed limits will often briefly change to 60 mph in between a 65 mph zone and a 55 mph zone. On surface streets, speed limits range from 25 mph in residential neighborhoods and school zones to 45 mph on major roads outside residential neighborhoods.

Under no circumstances should you exceed the speed limit by more than 20 mph or drive greater than 80 mph, regardless of the speed limit. This is considered reckless driving and is punished very harshly in Virginia, as a Class 1 misdemeanor. This means that it could go on your criminal record and you could face a suspended license, heavy fines, or even jail time. This includes driving 81 mph, even if the speed limit is 70 mph. Other Class 1 misdemeanors include domestic assault and animal cruelty, so it is clear how harshly Virginia views these offenses. Several traffic offenses punished by fines in other states are also considered reckless driving in Virginia, including failure to properly use a turn signal and failure to yield when required to do so. You are less likely to receive a reckless driving citation for those, and are more likely to succeed if you fight it in court, but you will incur heavy legal expenses to do so. In short, obey all traffic laws and follow, or at least stay close to, the posted speed limit.


  • Crabtree Falls in Nelson County
  • Natural Bridge in Rockbridge County
  • Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Lexington
  • Peaks of Otter in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Popular spot for hiking and fishing. Home of the famous Peaks of Otter Lodge.
  • D-Day Memorial in Bedford
  • Virginia is absolutely full of educational Civil War battlegrounds. One famous one is the battlefield at Bull Run.
  • The National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is an absolutely amazing and very educational place. They have so many old airplanes hanging from the ceilings. They've got some from so many wars, including both World Wars, they have crazy things that people built in an attempt to fly, they have a spaceship, they have so much NASA equipment, they have a Cessna plane you can sit in, and my absolute favorite, an old World War 2 Curtiss-Wright P-40E Warhawk, otherwise known as the shark-faced plane.

As one of the original thirteen colonies Virginia offers numerous opportunities for those interested in history:

  • Mt. Vernon (George Washington's residence)
  • Monticello, Poplar Forest, and the University of Virginia (all dealing with Thomas Jefferson)
  • Appomattox Court House (Site of Civil War Surrender)
  • Berkeley Plantation (Home of Benjamin Harrison and others). 
  • Agecroft Hall. Castle in 17th-century style. 
  • Maggie Walker Historical Site (Home to Maggie Walker)
  • The Historical Triangle (Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown)
  • The College of William and Mary. Thomas Jefferson's alma mater. 


Visitors might choose to go to Theatre IV for some great authentic plays. In Richmond the Byrd Theatre is always the place to see old and modern movies at rates not topping $4. Or take a stroll down to Carytown, the "Georgetown of Virginia".

Virginia is also home to two popular amusement parks that regularly draw in many tourists, such as Kings Dominion, located just north of Richmond. Near the coast, European-themed Busch Gardens offers a bewildering assortment of attractions representative of different European countries such as Italy, Germany, and England. It is also conveniently close to both the Colonial Williamsburg historical district as well as Water Country USA, a water park, making it an ideal destination for the entire family.


Virginia is a beautiful place for hiking. The Appalachian Trail goes through the state and includes three great hikes collectively known as the "Triple Crown of Virginia": Dragon's Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs. Virginia is also home to Shenandoah National Park.


From the Atlantic Ocean to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia golf promises great beauty and geographic diversity. A mild climate, year-round golf and a variety of package plans adds to the allure of golfing in Virginia.

Throw in some of the best resort courses in the nation and new daily fee courses designed by some of the most noted golf course designers, and you've got the winning combination for an enjoyable golf getaway. Six resorts rank among America’s top 100. Dozens of its courses, crafted by world-famous designers, are part of every list of the country’s finest places to play.


The Virginia Department of Agriculture lists producers on its Virginia Grown website, and there are dozens of seasonal food and drink festivals across the state. Quality processed foods made in Virginia are promoted through the Virginia's Finest program.

Most of the signature dishes of the state are common to Southern/American cuisine. Country ham is a cured specialty frequently served at holiday meals and breakfast with the largest producers based around Surry county, with perhaps the best known being based in Smithfield. In the Southeast is the county of Brunswick, one of several locations that claims itself to be the birthplace of Brunswick Stew . The Highland County Maple Festival celebrates local maple syrup producers high up in the Blue Ridge mountains, the lines for the Ruritan's pancake breakfast's are super long, though with a friendly atmosphere, and can be avoided by dining in an area restaurant/inn. Do try the maple doughnuts made with nutmeg and fresh maple syrup.

The Chesapeake Bay region produces some of the nation's best seafood, especially crab and oysters.


Tap water is safe to drink.

Virginia law requires you to be 21 to buy alcohol or consume alcohol. Photo ID will be required to prove age.

Beer, cider, and other alcoholic drinks are available from most restaurants and bars, with purchase prohibited between 2 and 6AM. Variety of what is available differs from restaurant to restaurant and when in doubt people should check menu or with a waiter to see what is available.

Beer, wine, cider, and malternatives/alcopops are sold at most grocery and convenience stores, but cannot be purchased between midnight and 6AM. Certain counties in Virginia prohibit Sunday sale of alcohol, mainly the south west counties. When in doubt, check with local county police department or simply ask store owner.

Hard Liquor is only allowed to be sold by Virginia ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) stores. More information about these stores and other alcohol related information can be found at their website.

Cheerwine, a regional cherry flavored soda, can be purchased in convenience stores in the more southern parts of the state.


Virginia is home to over 130 wineries, spanning from the Eastern Shore to the Heart of Appalachia. Wherever you are in Virginia, there's a winery nearby. Virginia’s many wine trails across the state make visiting wineries easy and fun! Wine events statewide offer wine tasting, food, music, art, shopping and activities, such as grape stomping and hot air balloon rides.

  • Virginia Wine Travel. 
  • Virginia Wine Festivals. 


Virginia is well known for apples, and cideries have followed to enjoy the bounty that the state offers. Spread across the state, many cideries are located in the mountainous areas (Bold Rock Hard Cider, Potter's Craft Cider, Albemarle Ciderworks), and are expanding to major urban markets (Buskey Cider in Richmond, Lost Boy Cider in Alexandria, Sly Clyde Cider in Hampton). Events continuously run around the state at the cideries, with Virginia Cider Week happening the second week of November as the culminating week of celebration of local cider.

Stay safe

Certain cities in Virginia have crime problems, in particular, the cities of Richmond and Norfolk. However, most places in Virginia, like the rest of US, are safe. Check with locals to determine what areas you should avoid. Standard safety rules apply: Stay in groups as much as possible, trust your instincts and do not flash around cash or large value items. If you need urgent medical, fire, or police assistance, all areas participate in the 911 program.


The northwestern part of Virginia, mainly the Shenandoah Valley, is inside the National Radio Quiet Zone, a huge area of land where radio transmissions are strongly restricted to protect the Green Bank Observatory. The result is that cell phone service is mostly nonexistent. Radio stations are limited, too, with just the Allegheny Mountain Radio network operating a handful of low-power FM rebroadcasting stations.

Go next

  • Maryland - Located along Virginia's northeast border, Maryland offers "America in Miniature" with everything from history to nature to modern cities.
  • Washington, D.C. - The nation's capital is a must-see for most visitors, with a wealth of sites including the Capitol, the White House, the Smithsonian Museum, and a vast array of other monuments and attractions.
  • North Carolina - The state's southern neighbor is home to the Appalachian culture and incredible scenery of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well as the stunning beaches of the Outer Banks and Cape Hatteras.
  • Tennessee - Virginia's southwestern neighbor is home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the music city of Nashville and Elvis' home in Memphis.
  • Kentucky - Virginia's western neighbor is the Bluegrass State, home to the Kentucky Derby, Mammoth Cave National Park and the Corvette Museum.
  • West Virginia - Virginia's northwestern neighbor is the only state in the USA to lie completely within a mountain range (in this case, the Appalachians).

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