“Liberty, when it begins to take root,
is a plant of rapid growth.”
— George Washington
The personal-finance site WalletHub recently ranked all 50 states on their patriotism. And the winner is: Virginia, where I’ve lived off and on since college.
Virginia is home to Jamestown, the first lasting English settlement in America; Yorktown, site of the decisive battle of the Revolutionary War, and Colonial Williamsburg, a living-history museum recreating the colony’s capital at the time of the Revolution.
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Known as the “Mother of Presidents”, Virginia has provided eight of the nation’s chief executives, including:
- George Washington, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and Father of the Country
- Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence and of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom and Father of the University of Virginia
- James Madison, Father of the Constitution
Virginia is home to an array of historic sites. Here are some of the most interesting:
If you could visit only one historic site in Virginia, I’d recommend Colonial Williamsburg. America’s largest living-history museum takes you back to the time of the American Revolution. You can tour historic buildings, dine at period taverns, and talk with costumed interpreters portraying well-known Virginians like George Washington and lesser-known tradesmen also vital to the cause of independence like, the printer and the armorer. Williamsburg is one point on Virginia’s Historic Triangle, between the York and James Rivers in the Tidewater area. I go several times a year. My favorite hotel is the Williamsburg Inn.
Founded in 1607, Jamestown was the first lasting English settlement after several failures. It served as Virginia’s first colonial capital during 1616-99. Today it’s another point on the Historic Triangle. Visitors can join history and archaeology walking tours, learn about historic people and their trades, and explore what remains of James Fort at Historic Jamestowne. Next door is Jamestown Settlement, a living-history museum that brings 17th-century Virginia to life. You may explore a colonial fort, a Powhatan Indian village, and replicas of three ships that carried settlers across the Atlantic. Hotels within five miles include:
Colonists founded Yorktown in 1691 and named it after the city of York, England. Ninety years later, it became the site of the decisive battle of the Revolutionary War. The battle lasted three weeks, before the British surrendered on October 19, 1781. According to legend, the British army band played the English ballad, “The World Turned Upside Down”. Skirmishes at sea would continue for almost two years, but the War was effectively over.
Today Yorktown is the other point on the Historic Triangle. Visitors may explore Yorktown Battlefield, which is maintained by the National Park Service. Nearby is the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, which features a recreated Revolutionary-era farm and a Continental Army encampment. Hotels within ten miles include:
- Comfort Inn Newport News | Williamsburg East
- Mulberry Inn and Plaza
- Wyndham Garden Williamsburg Busch Gardens Area
Operated by the National Park Service, the George Washington Birthplace National Monument encompasses 551 acres of the former Popes Creek Plantation, where the first President was born. It also features a Colonial Revival farm, a burial ground, several historic structures, a public beach, and picnic grounds. The site is located in Colonial Beach in Westmorland County and is free of charge to explore. Hotels within 15 miles include:
Mount Vernon is the former home and final resting place of George and Martha Washington. It sits on a spectacular spot along the banks of the Potomac River. You may visit the 21-room mansion, a museum, and elaborate gardens. I’m lucky enough to visit Mount Vernon often, as it’s near my condo in Alexandria. Hotels within five miles include:
- Best Western Plus Mount Vernon | Fort Belvoir
- Quality Inn Mount Vernon
- Fairfield Inn & Suites Alexandria
Tuckahoe Plantation was the boyhood home of Thomas Jefferson. He was educated there in a still-standing one-room schoolhouse. The grounds are open for self-guided tours. You may also ride your horse on its trails. The plantation is located in Richmond, Virginia’s third and current capital. Hotels within ten miles include:
- La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Richmond — Midlothian
- Doubletree by Hilton Richmond — Midlothian
- Residence Inn by Marriott Richmond West | Midlothian
Monticello is Thomas Jefferson’s magnificent mountain-top home. You may take a docent-led tour the house and wonder at the third president’s inventions, like the copy machine, the swivel chair, and the dumb waiter. You may also tour the gardens. Monticello is located just outside Charlottesville. I’ve been more than once, and my favorite hotel nearby is the Boar’s Head Resort.
Poplar Forest is Thomas Jefferson’s second plantation, which he inherited upon the death of his father-in-law in 1773. He designed the main house himself. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it became a welcome retreat in more ways than one. In 1781, Jefferson escaped from Monticello to the overseer’s house at Poplar Forest in order to avoid capture by the British; the second post-colonial Governor used the time in hiding productively, writing portions of Notes on the State of Virginia. You may take a docent-led tour of the house and explore the grounds on your own. It is located in Lynchburg. I visited Poplar Forest during my cross-country road trip a few years ago. Hotels within five miles include:
Montpelier was the home of James and Dolley Madison. You may take a docent-led tour of the house. You may also explore the grounds and the gardens and hike its more than eight miles of trails. It is located northeast of Charlottesville. Hotels within 15 miles include:
- Comfort Inn & Suites Orange — Montpelier
- Bluegreen Vacations Shenandoah Crossing
- Holiday Inn & Suites Charlottesville — Ruckersville
The James Monroe Birthplace Home Museum is a replica of the house where America’s fifth President was born. It is open during the summer for docent-led tours and focuses on the lifestyle of a young gentleman in colonial Virginia. The Park and its Commemorative Timeline Walking Trail are open year-round. The Park and Museum are located just outside Colonial Beach. Hotels within ten miles include:
James Monroe lived at Highland plantation off and on during 1799-1826. He bought the land and built the house at the urging of his friend Thomas Jefferson. The plantation is open for tours, and there are trails you may hike. It is near Charlottesville, about 20 minutes by car from the Boar’s Head Resort.
The James Monroe Museum exhibits the desk on which the fifth president wrote the Doctrine that bears his name, a set of Louis XVI furniture from France, and jewelry belonging to his wife Elizabeth. It is located in Fredericksburg. Hotels within two miles include:
- Courtyard Fredericksburg Historic District
- Hyatt Place Fredericksburg Mary Washington
- Best Western Fredericksburg
Berkeley Plantation is the birthplace of ninth President William Henry Harrison, and of his father Benjamin, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a former governor of Virginia. It was occupied by the Union army under General George McClellan during the Civil War. While there, General Daniel Butterfield wrote “Taps”. The house, gardens, and grounds are open for tours during mid-March to early January. The plantation sits near the James River in Charles City County between Williamsburg and Richmond. Hotels within ten miles include:
- Holiday Inn Express Hopewell — Fort Lee Area
- Hampton Inn Hopewell Fort Lee
- Baymont by Wyndham Prince George at Fort Lee
Sherwood Forest Plantation was the final home of John Tyler. It boasts the longest frame house in America. The former President expanded it to more than 300 feet in 1845 by adding a ballroom suited to the Virginia Reel. You may take a self-guided tour of the grounds. The plantation sits on the James River in Charles City County. Hotels within 20 miles include:
- Greensprings Vacation Resort
- Holiday Inn Express Williamsburg North
- Hampton Inn & Suites Williamsburg — Richmond Road
Scotchtown is the only original still-standing home of Patrick Henry, the first elected Governor of Virginia. It is one of the largest remaining 18th-century homes in America. The “Orator of the Revolution” lived here during some of the most critical years to American independence, from 1771-78. You may take a docent-led tour of the house during March-December. You may also take a self-guided tour of the grounds year-round. It is located in Beaverdam in Hanover County. Hotels within ten miles include:
- Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Doswell (King’s Dominion)
- Hampton Inn Richmond — Ashland
- Quality Inn & Suites Ashland near King’s Dominion
Gunston Hall was home to George Mason, drafter of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was the basis for the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. You may take a docent-led tour of the house and a self-guided tour the grounds and outbuildings, including the kitchen yard, the school house, and a slave dwelling. You may also go on a hike and/or a picnic. Gunston Hall is located on Mason Neck in Fairfax County. Hotels within five miles include:
- Holiday Inn Express Lorton
- Best Western Plus Mount Vernon | Fort Belvoir
- Hampton Inn Potomac Mills | Woodbridge
Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia is the final resting place for more than 400,000 American service members and their families. Important sites include Arlington House, the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I’ve paid respects there several times. My favorite hotel within a short drive is the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City.
The Marine Corps Museum teaches the history, values, commitment, and sacrifice of the U.S. Marine Corps and its service members. Members of the Continental Congress founded the Corps at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia. Since then, Marines have fought in every U.S. war and even helped defeat pirates and slave traders on the high seas. The Museum is free of charge to explore. It is adjacent to the Marine Corps base at Quantico. Hotels within three miles include:
The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial honors all Marine Corps members who died in conflict. It is also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial and depicts the six-man flag-raising event captured in the iconic World War II photo by Joe Rosenthal. It is located in the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington. It is free of charge to visit. I see it frequently. Hotels within walking distance include:
The Army Museum teaches the history, values, commitment, and sacrifice of the U.S. Army and its soldiers. It tells the story of the Army from the colonial period forward. It also offers lots of complementary educational programs both in person and online; I join them often. The Museum is free of charge to explore, but timed-entry tickets are recommended. It is located in Fort Belvoir. Hotels within four miles include:
The U.S. Air Force Memorial honors the heritage of the Air Force and the commitment and sacrifice of its service members. It features three stainless-steel spires that soar 402 feet into the air. It is adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery. It is free of charge to visit. I see it frequently. It is within walking distance of the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City.
The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial honors the 184 victims who died in the five-sided building or aboard American flight #77 when terrorists crashed the plane into its south side on that awful morning in 2001. It is located near the Pentagon in Arlington. It is free of charge to visit, and especially lovely at twilight. I’ve paid respects with my local history group. It is within walking distance of the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City.
“The God who gave us life
gave us liberty at the same time.”
— Thomas Jefferson
For two decades, I worked at political jobs. Then my parents got sick, and I went home to help care for them, and they died, fourteen weeks apart, in their late 60s. And I decided that life is too dear, and too uncertain, to fritter away in political offices. I fought back the sorrow with travel, and started this blog. I believe that passions are more fun when you share them with others, and my hope is to share my passions for travel and culture with you. Welcome! Read more …