Virginia - Cultural Destinations | Travel | Smithsonian

Virginia - Cultural Destinations

Virginia - Cultural Destinations

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Alexandria
This city just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. is a key destination for anyone remotely interested in colonial and Revolutionary history. Among the sites not to miss are Christ Church, which George Washington and Robert E. Lee attended, and Gadsby's Tavern, where George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette all supped. The Lyceum offers exhibits on Alexandria and northern Virginia history, including a wide range of artifacts from the colonial and Civil War eras. At the Alexandria Archaeology Museum, see archaeologists at work, uncovering the area's history. And the Alexandria Black History Museum offers exhibitions, lectures and special events throughout the year. The town also offers charming boutiques, cafés and restaurants.

African-American History Tour of (Alexandria) See the journey of African-Americans from slavery to leadership in historic Alexandria. On the tour, you’ll see Market Square, where slaves were bought and sold. Nearby is the site of an abolitionist Quaker's shop where the first sit-in against discrimination occurred. Other stops include Alexandria's Black History Resource Center, Franklin & Armfield Slave office and the African-American Heritage Park.

Anne Spencer House and Garden
See the Lynchburg house and museum of internationally acclaimed poet Anne Spencer, who was part of the Harlem Renaissance.

Courthouse and National Historical Park (Appomattox)
Stand on the spot where General Robert E. Lee surrendered, ending the Civil War. Also in Courthouse Square is the Appomattox County Historical Museum, which houses a turn-of-the-century one-room school, a doctor's office and a jail cell.

National Cemetery (Arlington)
The final resting place of some 250,000 people, from the American Revolution to the current conflict in Iraq, the 612-acre cemetery was formally established during the Civil War on land originally owned by George Washington Parke Custis, the first President's adopted grandson. Presidents William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy are buried here, as are Supreme Court Chief Justices Earl Warren, Warren Burger, and William Rehnquist.

Ball-Sellers House
Don't miss Arlington's oldest house, built in 1742. It's a rare example of a working-class home. William Carlin, who was George Washington's tailor, lived here.

Belmont Farm Distillery
Check out this legal moonshine distillery in Culpeper. Master distiller Chuck Miller got the idea from his grandfather, who made illegal moonshine, and opened this still in the late 1980s. The massive copper tank is quite impressive.

Ben Lomond Historic Site and Old Rose Garden
Used as a hospital for injured Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, the site maintains the signatures on the walls, scribbled by soldiers recuperating there. The 5,200 square-foot garden of old roses (one of the largest public gardens devoted to old roses in the U.S.) has some 160 separate cultivars and 200 individual rose shrubs.

Berkeley Plantation
Berkeley, in Charles City, is Virginia's most historic plantation. Visit the site of the first official Thanksgiving. See the birthplace of Benjamin Harrison, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and President William Henry Harrison, our nation's ninth president, whose grandson Benjamin became the 23rd president. Envision Lincoln reviewing 140,000 Union troops. And hear "Taps" (composed here in 1862). The elegant 1726 Georgian mansion is furnished with rare period antiques. Five terraces of restored boxwood and flower gardens offer breathtaking vistas of the James River.

Blandford Church
This 18th-century parish church in Petersburg is a memorial to the Southern soldiers who died during the Civil War. In honor of the Confederate dead, states each contributed a stained glass window designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. The weathered tombstones of Blandford Cemetery date to the early 1700s, and are surrounded by locally made ornamental ironwork. Some 30,000 Confederate soldiers are buried here where the first Memorial Day was observed in June 1866.

Bob Cage Sculpture Farm
This local artist has created an open-field display that combines his sculpture with the llama, burros, and goats that graze there. Located in South Boston.

Booker T. Washington National Monument
Visit the birthplace of African-American educator, orator, and presidential advisor. Washington's ideas about education, race and labor were shaped on this tobacco plantation in Hardy. The park is one of the few places where one can see how slavery and the plantation system worked on a smaller scale. Interpretive programs are offered daily.

Charlottesville Historic District
Visit the city that Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe called home. Explore the campus of the University of Virginia, founded by Jefferson and built on land bought from Monroe. Tucked among the historic sites and buildings you'll find a lively array of cafés, shops and galleries.

Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society
This Clifton Forge museum has one of the largest collections of a single railroad, preserving and interpreting the rich history of the C & O.

Chimborazo Medical Museum
Chimborazo was the largest of five general hospitals built in Richmond during the Civil War. The museum houses a collection of the tools used by doctors and nurses on their Confederate soldier patients.

Chrysler Museum of Art
One of Norfolk's gems, this fine-art museum houses an encyclopedic collection of more than 30,000 objects spanning 4,000 years.

Civil War Adventure Camp
Live like a Civil War soldier at this participatory camp in Petersburg. Recruits dress in Union or Confederate uniforms, sleep in recreated encampments, and eat Civil War era meals. As privates in the Army, recruits drill with muskets, decode signals, march into skirmishes, participate in medical demonstrations and picket duty, fire mortars and more.

Colonial National Historical Park
This park encompasses two of Virginia's most important historic sites: Jamestown, the 1607 site of the first permanent English settlement in North America, and Yorktown Battlefield, where the last major battle of the American Revolution was fought in 1781. A 23-mile scenic byway connects the two sites. Nearby Historic Jamestowne interprets those earliest colonial days and includes working artisans who demonstrate glassblowing and other crafts.

Colonial Williamsburg
This famous interpretive museum encompasses 301 acres and provides total immersion in the colonial experience. Wander the streets and narrow lanes of the colonial city, dine on 18th-century-style cuisine and learn about life in colonial times. Williamsburg is not to be missed.

Museum of Fine Arts & History (Danville)
This 1857 Italian Villa house is best known as the Last Capitol of The Confederacy. Jefferson Davis resided in this home during the final week of the Civil War. It was here that Davis and his Confederate government received word that Lee had surrendered at nearby Appomattox. Currently, the home offers historical displays and revolving art exhibits.

Emanuel A.M.E. Church
Dating to 1857, this Portsmouth church contains benches built by slaves and black freedmen

Fort Monroe
Completed in 1834 and named in honor of President James Monroe, Fort Monroe in Hampton is recognized as the largest stone fort ever built in the United States. Nicknamed "Freedom's Fortress," this Union-held fortification provided a safe haven for hundreds of runaway slaves during the Civil War. It was also the site where the Army of the Potomac landed before beginning the march toward Richmond during the Peninsula Campaign. Today, the installation is the headquarters of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command. The prison cell of Confederate President Jefferson Davis is in the Fort's museum.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Pope-Leighey House
This Alexandria house is a classic example of Wright's "Usonian" architecture.

Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania Military Park
Approximately 110,000 casualties occurred during the four major Civil War battles fought in the vicinity of Fredericksburg, making it the bloodiest ground on the North American continent. Today, the 8,000-acre park includes the historic structures of Chatham, Ellwood, Salem Church, and the "Stonewall" Jackson Shrine.

Gallery 108, LLC
At this Roanoke gallery, see works in all media by regional artists and guest artists from around the world. Most items are available for purchase.

Graffiti House and Brandy Station
The Battle of Brandy Station, June 9, 1863, was one of history's greatest cavalry engagements with over 20,000 troops, including 17,000 cavalry, engaged in battle. The Graffiti House served as a field hospital for both the North and the South during this and other local battles during the war. Soldiers from both sides made drawings and signed their names and units on the walls. Rediscovered in 1993 and recently renovated, much has been preserved.

Naval Museum (Hampton Roads)
One of ten museums operated by the U.S. Navy, the Hampton Roads Naval Museum in Norfolk covers more than 225 years of naval activity. Over fifty exhibits cover historic U.S. Naval events such as the Battle Off the Virginia Capes, the battle of the ironclads Monitor and Merrimac, the Atlantic Navy in World War II and much more. The museum's trademark artifact, the USS Wisconsin gives visitors a close look at what it was like to be a sailor aboard an Iowa-class battleship.

Harpers Ferry
The town today is charming and peaceful, but Harper's Ferry, at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, has had a dramatic past. It is the site of John Brown's famous 1859 raid to arm a slave rebellion. And during the Civil War, control of the city by Confederate or Union forces changed eight times. The Appalachian Trail passes right through town. This is a favorite destination for history buffs, or for those seeking a quiet vacation or some fun canoeing or tubing in the river.

Plantations (James River)
Tour four historic landmark plantations: Westover, c. 1730, Edgewood, c. 1847, North Bend, c. 1819 and Piney Grove, c. 1790. All are located along the Virginia Route 5 Scenic Byway, between Williamsburg and Richmond. Westover features expansive views of the James River, Piney Grove offers informal gardens and a nature trail, Edgewood features a formal garden, and North Bend is set amidst cultivated fields.

Jefferson Vineyards
This winery is located on the site of Thomas Jefferson's original 1774 vineyard in Charlottesville and produces wine of national recognition.

Legacy Museum of African-American History
The Legacy Museum in Lynchburg offers rotating exhibitions and programs on all aspects of local African -American history and culture, from the first arrival of Africans in Central Virginia until the present day.

Michie Tavern Museum
Experience 18th-century tavern life at this restaurant and museum in Charlottesville.

Monacan Indian Living History Village at Natural Bridge
Journey back 300 years at this recreated Monacan Indian Village. Relive day-to-day life in a traditional Native American Woodland culture. Learn about shelter construction, hide tanning, mat and rope weaving, tool-making, gardening, harvesting, preparing meals, making pots, bowls and baskets. The Monacan Indian Nation of Virginia in nearby Amherst includes about 1,000 members.

Monticello
A visit to Virginia just isn't complete without a visit to Monticello. Tour Thomas Jefferson's architectural masterpiece and the beautiful surrounding grounds. A number of intact work buildings such as wash houses, a joinery and a nail factory are on the grounds, as is the cabin on Mulberry Row in the slave's quarters where Sally Hemmings lived.

Montpelier
The home of James and Dolly Madison, in Montpelier Station, is a 2,750-acre estate that includes farmlands, racecourses, a formal garden, a National Landmark forest and an active archaeological site.

Moses Myers House
Moses Myers was one of the U.S.'s first millionaires and was Norfolk's first permanent Jewish settler. His 1792 home is now a museum filled with period furniture and exhibits about the traditions of early Jewish immigrants.

Mount Vernon
Discover the home and farm of the first U.S. President. George Washington's family estate overlooks the Potomac River and offers a weekend's worth of sites and activities. The most famous dentures in the world are on permanent display, along with three life-size models of Washington created from a forensic studies of what he looked like at different times of his life. The grounds feature the restored Mansion, original outbuildings, the tomb where the Washingtons are buried, slave quarters, beautiful gardens and heritage breed animals who work at a four-acre farm site near the river. George Washington's Whiskey Distillery is now open, and is located adjacent to the Gristmill.

National Firearms Museum
Housed at the National Rifle Association headquarters in Fairfax, the firearms museum has more than 2,000 firearms on display, spanning 600 years. Among the items, a rifle belonging to sharpshooter Annie Oakley.

Pamplin Historical Park & The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier
At this Petersburg landmark, you'll find four museums, three antebellum houses, costumed living history and hands-on experiences across a 442-acre campus. Be sure to visit what is considered one of the finest Civil War attractions in the country.

Pamunkey Indian Museum
Located on the Pamunkey Indian Reservation in King William County, this museum exhibits tools, pottery and more, representing the Ice Age to the present. Pottery made by Pamunkey women in the traditional manner is available for purchase.

The Pentagon
You've seen it on T.V. and in countless movies, now see it for yourself. A tour of the Pentagon, the headquarters for the U.S. Department of Defense (and the world's largest office building), is an experience you'll remember for a lifetime. The Pentagon is located in Arlington, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

Poplar Forest
Make like Thomas Jefferson and escape to Poplar Forest, his retreat near the Blue Ridge Mountains, featuring an octagonal house and gardens designed by Jefferson.

Riddick's Folly House Museum
Built in 1837, this Greek-Revival mansion served as Civil War headquarters for the Union and features graffiti left by Union soldiers.

Robert Russa Moton Museum
Discover a corner of civil rights history. In April 1951, students at the Moton High School staged a strike that led to Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, one of the federal cases considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in the historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education.

Sage Moon Gallery
In the heart of Charlottesville, this gallery showcases original fine art from local, national, and international artists.

Stonewall Jackson House
Visit the only house ever owned by Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. He lived in this Lexington house while teaching at Virginia Military Institute before the Civil War. The gardens contain many heritage species of vegetables, fruit trees and roses. The graves of Jackson and his family are also located in Lexington.

Torpedo Factory Art Center
Artists work, display and sell their work at this world-renowned center housed in a former Torpedo Factory. Don't miss one of Alexandria's premier attractions.

Tuckahoe Plantation
Thomas Jefferson's boyhood home is also considered to be the finest example of an early 18th-century plantation in America. Set on a bluff overlooking the James River, the grounds still include outbuildings such as the schoolhouse where Jefferson attended classes.

University of Virginia Art Museum
This fine-arts museum maintains a permanent collection of some 9,000 pieces and features an ongoing schedule of changing exhibitions from all over the world.

Holocaust Museum
This Richmond museum illustrates the Holocaust through the experiences of the Ipp family, who survived the genocide by hiding for nine months under a potato field.

Museum of Fine Arts
The collection spans ancient times to the present and includes the Mellon collections of Sporting Art, French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism; the Lewis collections of Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts, Art Deco and Modern decorative arts, Modern and Contemporary art; Russian imperial Easter eggs by Fabergé; Ancient, Classical and Egyptian art; and one of the world's leading collections of the art of India, Nepal and Tibet. Located in Richmond.

Quilt Museum
Discover the art and heritage of quilting at the Commonwealth's official quilt museum in Harrisonburg.

Wine and Hunt Country
Middleburg is the heart of Virginia's horse culture, where polo and fox hunting are the preferred sports. It's also in the heart of the state's burgeoning wine industry. Dozens of wineries and vineyards can be found along the rolling hills, almost all of which are open for tastings.

Washington and Lee University
Tour the beautiful school and campus that George Washington endowed and Robert E. Lee led after the Civil War. Washington and Lee is also home to the nation's first journalism program.

Wolf Creek Indian Village and Museum
Experience a re-created village from around the year 1215 A.D. Interpretive guides lead you in hands-on exploration of ancient living skills, the wigwams and palisade. The museum includes native artifacts from the site and throughout North America. Located in Bastian in the Blue Ridge Highlands.

Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library
See the President's Staunton birthplace and learn about the era he helped shape, from the eve of the Civil War to the dawn of modern America.

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