Nestled along the Atlantic coastline, Virginia is a tapestry rich with historical threads, natural beauty, and a cultural heritage that is as deep as the Chesapeake Bay that graces its shores. Known as the “Mother of Presidents,” Virginia has been a silent witness to the birth and growth of American democracy, with eight U.S. presidents calling this state their birthplace.
From the rolling landscapes of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the bustling corridors of its high-tech Northern Virginia suburbs, the Old Dominion offers a unique blend of past and present. Its soil, steeped in the legacy of the Jamestown settlers and the echoes of the Civil War, contrasts with the vibrant diversity of a modern melting pot.
With its famous hams, oysters, and the burgeoning wine industry, Virginia is a heaven for gourmands, while history buffs revel in its museums and landmarks.
As we delve into the myriad facets that Virginia is known for, we find a state that not only shaped the nation but continues to carve out an identity that is as flavorful as its famous peanuts and as resilient as the Appalachian Trail that weaves through its wilderness.
Let’s take a look at all the things Virginia is known for.
What Food is Virginia Known For?
Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay is renowned for its Blue Crabs, a cherished regional delicacy. With a salty-sweet flavor and tender flesh, these crabs are a local favorite and a big part of the state’s seafood culture. Enthusiasts eagerly anticipate the summer crabbing season, while gourmet experiences, from the humble crab shack to exquisite fine-dining feasts, showcase this oceanic bounty. Enjoy freshly-steamed blue crabs with a view of the Chesapeake Bay, a testament to Virginia’s rich maritime heritage.
The Virginia oyster industry is a jewel in its maritime crown, with the state’s oysters widely celebrated for their taste and quality. Whether enjoyed raw on the half shell, roasted, or fried, each bite captures the unique flavor of the Virginia coastline. The Virginia Oyster Trail, traversing the state’s coastal region, offers an immersive experience to savor these sea delicacies while uncovering the rich heritage of oyster farming. Annually, the famous Urbanna Oyster Festival celebrates this delectable mollusk, underscoring its significance in Virginia’s culture and cuisine.
Virginia Country Ham is a culinary treasure, inherently linked with the state’s rich Southern heritage. Crafted through a meticulous process of salting, curing, and smoking, this delicious, intensely flavored delicacy showcases time-honored traditions dating back centuries. Each country ham is aged to perfection, sometimes over a year, imbuing it with a rich, savory taste, making it a sought-after treat. From humble family breakfasts to elegant holiday feasts, Virginia Country Ham is a beloved staple, enjoyed in various dishes or simply served on its own.
Hailing from the county of Brunswick, Virginia’s eponymous stew is a quintessential comfort food. Traditionally slow-cooked in large, iron cauldrons, Brunswick Stew contains slow-simmered, tender meats like chicken, pork, or rabbit, married with an array of vegetables including tomatoes, potatoes, corn, and lima beans. This hearty, well-spiced stew is a culinary emblem of Virginian community gatherings and potlucks. Whether relished on a chilly evening or during a summer get-together, Brunswick Stew is a heartwarming slice of Virginia’s inviting Southern hospitality.
What is Virginia’s Signature Drink?
The Appalachian Manhattan is a spirited nod to Virginia’s mountain heritage, reinventing the classic cocktail with a local twist. This libation swaps traditional rye whiskey for Virginia’s smooth, oak-aged bourbon, reflecting the state’s burgeoning small-batch distillery scene. A dash of sweet vermouth merges with a hint of apple butter syrup—homage to the commonwealth’s apple orchards—and bitters to round out the flavor. Garnished with a cherry and a twist of orange peel, the Appalachian Manhattan is both a tribute to the state’s natural abundance and a testament to its innovative spirit.
In the world of cocktails, Virginia’s most famous export is arguably the Gin Rickey. With its origin traced back to late 19th century Washington D.C., it’s beloved in Virginia for its refreshing simplicity. This drink artfully combines tart lime, the botanical complexity of gin, and the effervescence of club soda to create a crisp, thirst-quenching libation. Unlike many cocktails, there’s no added sugar, making the Gin Rickey a lighter choice. Whether savored on a hot summer day or at a social soiree, the Gin Rickey symbolizes Virginia’s charm and elegance.
History, Culture and Other Things Virginia is Known For
Virginia is For Lovers
“Virginia is for Lovers” is more than a slogan, it’s the heart and soul of the state. Launched in 1969, this iconic tourism campaign highlights the wide array of experiences Virginia offers to those who seek romance, adventure, and culture. Whether it’s the tranquil beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the unmistakable melodies of Appalachian folk music, the rich tapestry of historical sites, or the delectable culinary delights, Virginia embraces all with a warmth unique to the Old Dominion. Truly, Virginia’s diversity of attractions continues to affirm its status as a destination for all kinds of lovers.
Mother of Presidents
Virginia’s rich political heritage has earned it the title of “Mother of Presidents.” With eight U.S. Presidents born within its borders—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, and Woodrow Wilson—Virginia’s legacy is deeply intertwined with the country’s history. These leaders made lasting contributions that shaped the nation in its formative years and beyond. Today, the various birthplaces, homes, and libraries located throughout the state offer intimate glimpses into the lives and times of these influential figures, highlighting Virginia’s central role in American presidential history.
First Permanent English Settlement
Jamestown, established in 1607 by the Virginia Company of London, holds the honor of being the first permanent English settlement in North America. Courageous settlers battled harsh conditions and hostile relations with indigenous tribes, ultimately prevailing to carve out a new existence in the New World. Jamestown’s history shaped colonial America and laid the framework for the future United States. Today, visitors can explore Historic Jamestowne and Jamestown Settlement to learn about the early settlers, their struggles, and their triumphs, marking a significant chapter in Virginia’s— and America’s—fascinating history.
Named After the Queen
Virginia owes its name to England’s “Virgin Queen,” Elizabeth I. When English explorers first set eyes upon the land in the late 16th century, they named it “Virginia” in honor of the queen, who never married or bore children. Spanning originally from modern-day Maine to South Carolina, the territory eventually narrowed to its current state. Today, Virginia’s name serves as a testament to the state’s rich historical origins and its enduring connection to its English roots, forever etching Queen Elizabeth I’s influence into the fabric of the Old Dominion.
Virginia’s awe-inspiring mountain ranges are one of its most captivating features. The Blue Ridge Mountains, a portion of the larger Appalachian Mountain Range, rises majestically with its undulating peaks draped in hues of profound blues and purples. These rugged highlands are replete with picturesque hiking trails, breathtaking panoramas, and an abundant wildlife. Shenandoah National Park, home to the iconic Skyline Drive, is an adventurer’s haven nested in these mountains. From dawn-lit summits to fiery sunsets, Virginia’s mountains embody the state’s sublime natural beauty and offer a serene retreat to nature lovers.
Virginia plays host to the Pentagon, the bastion of U.S. military prowess. Situated in Arlington County, this architectural marvel is recognized as the world’s largest office building. It’s the operational hub for the Department of Defense, commanding the armed forces and safeguarding the nation’s security. Its iconic five-sided structure serves as an emblem of American defense strategy and a tribute to the nation’s commitment to peace and stability. The Pentagon’s presence in Virginia not only reflects the state’s strategic importance but also its integral role in shaping and executing U.S. defense policy.
Famous Places and Cities in Virginia
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park, a crown jewel in Virginia’s natural splendor, extends along the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. Its 200,000 acres of protected lands, blanketed in lush forests, house diverse flora and native wildlife. The park’s hallmark, Skyline Drive, offers captivating panoramas and more than 500 miles of scenic hiking trails, including a portion of the Appalachian Trail. Whether it’s witnessing the vibrant foliage in autumn or stargazing on a clear night, Shenandoah National Park enchants visitors with its serene beauty and moments of tranquil solitude, showcasing the best of Virginia’s great outdoors.
The Chesapeake Bay, North America’s largest estuary, stretches across Virginia’s eastern coast. Teeming with diverse wildlife, the bay boasts over 200 species of fish and countless bird species. It’s also a vital contributor to Virginia’s economy through its thriving seafood industry, known particularly for blue crabs and oysters. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, an engineering marvel, serves as a critical part of the region’s transport network. Simultaneously, its picturesque landscapes and recreation options — from boating to birdwatching — make the Chesapeake Bay an irresistible attraction for nature enthusiasts and leisure seekers.
Virginia Beach, Virginia’s most populous city, is a prime coastal destination renowned for its sprawling sandy beaches and vibrant boardwalk. Known as the longest “pleasure beach” in the world, it hosts numerous events throughout the year, from music festivals to surfing championships. Beyond the shore, the city offers a rich maritime history, diverse dining experiences, and access to beautiful natural wildlife reserves. Whether it’s soaking up the sun, exploring the Oceanfront, or enjoying homegrown music at Neptune’s Park, Virginia Beach delivers a unique blend of relaxation and entertainment, making it a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
Arlington, Virginia, sitting directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., is steeped in national significance. This urban county is home to the Pentagon, the hub of U.S. military operations, and Arlington National Cemetery, final resting place for thousands of American soldiers and notable figures. In addition to its revered memorials, Arlington boasts a vibrant community with bustling neighborhoods like Ballston and Clarendon, offering lively entertainment, dining, and shopping. With its blend of solemn history and contemporary urban flair, Arlington serves as a unique cross-section of American life and heritage.
Alexandria, a charming city nestled beside the Potomac River in Virginia, is a historical gem boasting well-preserved 18th and 19th century architecture. The city’s Old Town district, with its cobblestone streets and colonial buildings, exudes a distinct yesteryear vibe. The dazzling waterfront, excellent museums, and bustling King Street — Alexandria’s main thoroughfare — make the city a favorite among locals and tourists alike. Known for both its rich history, dating back to George Washington, and its vibrant present, with renowned dining and shopping options, Alexandria offers a uniquely captivating fusion of past and present.
Richmond, Virginia’s capital, is steeped in American history, serving both as a critical economic hub and a focal point during the Civil War. Today, the city masterfully combines its storied past with an invigorating present. Iconic landmarks, like the Virginia State Capitol and the American Civil War Museum, exist alongside a thriving arts scene, progressive urban developments, and the vibrant James River Park. Richmond’s eclectic neighborhoods — each with its unique character — showcase world-class dining, craft breweries, and diverse shopping options. A city at the crossroads of history and modernity, Richmond offers visitors a multifaceted experience.
Williamsburg, nestled in Virginia’s historic triangle alongside Jamestown and Yorktown, is a living tribute to America’s colonial era. The city’s centerpiece, Colonial Williamsburg, is a meticulously preserved 18th-century district where history comes alive through re-enactments, period buildings, and costumed interpreters. Beyond history, Williamsburg is home to Busch Gardens, a European-themed amusement park known for its roller coasters and lively entertainment. With attractions ranging from the College of William & Mary — America’s second-oldest college — to attractive retail outlets, Williamsburg enthralls visitors with its unique blend of education, history, and entertainment.
Norfolk, located in the heart of Coastal Virginia, flourishes as a lively waterfront city marked by its deep naval heritage. Home to the world’s largest naval base, Naval Station Norfolk, the city is a key center for maritime operations. Norfolk’s vibrant downtown buzzes with rich culture, offering robust arts and culinary scenes. Its top-tier attractions, such as the Virginia Zoo, Nauticus maritime museum, and stunning Norfolk Botanical Garden, complement its bustling port activities. With its blend of naval history, multicultural festivities, and natural beauty, Norfolk creates a dynamic visitor experience.
Charlottesville, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, is a city imbued with historical significance and vibrant culture. It’s home to Monticello, residence of President Thomas Jefferson, and the University of Virginia, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Known for its picturesque landscapes, Charlottesville also delights with extensive vineyards and wineries, popular hiking trails, and a busy downtown mall teeming with restaurants, boutiques, and music venues. A bustling college town with a historical backdrop, Charlottesville seamlessly marries the charm of yesteryear with contemporary vitality.
Landmarks and Attractions Virginia is Known For
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
George Washington’s Mount Vernon is a historical estate that was the residence of America’s first president. Overlooking the Potomac River in Virginia, this sprawling plantation offers a peek into 18th-century plantation life and Washington’s multifaceted legacy. The meticulously restored mansion and gardens, along with a museum and education center, provide insights into his personal life, leadership, and pioneering agricultural practices. The site honors not only Washington’s role in shaping the United States but also acknowledges the enslaved people who lived and worked on the estate, offering a comprehensive view of this pivotal period in American history.
Monticello, located in Charlottesville, Virginia, was the primary plantation of Thomas Jefferson, the third U.S. President and main writer of the Declaration of Independence. This UNESCO World Heritage site, nestled on a picturesque mountaintop, is an architectural masterpiece designed and redesigned by Jefferson himself. Over the 5,000-acre estate, visitors can explore the main house, slave quarters, gardens, and Jefferson’s grave. Monticello presents a compelling portrait of the complexities of Jefferson’s legacy — as a champion of liberty and a slave owner — offering invaluable context to understand America’s foundational years.
First Landing State Park
Enveloped in a mystical aura, First Landing State Park marks the spot where English colonists first reached American shores in 1607. Located in Virginia Beach, this 2,888-acre park is a nature lover’s paradise, featuring diverse habitats from wide sandy beaches to freshwater marshes. The park offers outdoor enthusiasts ample opportunity for hiking, biking, camping, and swimming. Its well-preserved natural beauty and historic significance make First Landing State Park a captivating destination for both recreational and educational outings.
Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center
The Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center serves as the gateway to the historic area, offering an insightful introduction to the world’s largest living history museum. As the starting point for exploration, the center provides maps, tickets, and personal planning assistance to optimize the Williamsburg experience. Engaging orientation films and educational exhibits set the scene, transporting visitors back to the 18th century. Beyond logistics, the center also features a gift shop filled with colonial-inspired wares, making it both an informative hub and a spot for unique memorabilia.
Luray Caverns, nestled in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, boasts awe-inspiring subterranean wonders. Discovered in 1878, these ancient caverns hold spectacular formations, such as towering stalactites, intricate stalagmites, and mirrored pools that create an almost ethereal realm below the Earth’s surface. Visitors can marvel at the Great Stalacpipe Organ, the world’s largest musical instrument, which resonates through the caverns. The designated National Natural Landmark offers guided tours that reveal the caverns’ natural history and geological beauty, making Luray a captivating experience for nature enthusiasts and families alike.
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by U.S. military members and their families. Established during the Civil War, the cemetery stretches across 600 acres, commemorating lives lost over centuries of conflict. It houses iconic sights such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and President John F. Kennedy’s eternal flame. The Changing of the Guard ceremony captures visitors with its precision and solemnity. A visit to Arlington National Cemetery offers a moving experience intertwining honor, grief, and national memory, all set against a backdrop of tranquility and reverence.
Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia offers a scenic journey through the heart of the Appalachian Highlands. Celebrated as “America’s Favorite Drive,” it meanders 469 miles, connecting the Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains. With its panoramic vistas, abundant wildlife, and blooming rhododendrons, the Parkway invites travelers to embrace the serene beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Numerous overlooks, picnic areas, and trails dot the route, encouraging explorations of the surrounding natural splendor and Appalachian culture. This roadway is a testament to the majestic and enduring allure of the American landscape.
Famous People from Virginia
Ella Fitzgerald, hailed as the “First Lady of Song,” graced the world with her remarkable voice, emerging from humble beginnings in Newport News, Virginia. Born in 1917, Fitzgerald’s Virginia roots grounded her as she rose to jazz royalty. Her pure, pitch-perfect tones and innovative scat singing propelled her to international stardom, earning her 13 Grammy Awards and countless other honors. Virginia’s rich musical heritage is deeply enriched by Fitzgerald’s legacy, inspiring generations of artists who continue to admire her timeless talent and contribution to the art of jazz.
Rob Lowe, a charismatic actor whose career spans over four decades, was born in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1964. Rising to fame as a teen idol in the ’80s, Lowe became a household name with standout roles in films like “St. Elmo’s Fire” and TV series including “The West Wing.” His Virginian origins precede a versatile journey through Hollywood, where he’s not only admired for his on-screen charm but also for his resilience and reinvention in both acting and producing. Lowe’s continued success cements him as one of Virginia’s illustrious contributions to the entertainment industry.
Pharrell Williams, an influential musician, producer, and fashion mogul, hails from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Born in 1973, Williams’ formative years in Virginia fostered his passion for music. Co-founding the acclaimed production duo The Neptunes and later partnering with Chad Hugo to form N.E.R.D., Williams redefined the sound of modern popular music. As a solo artist, he achieved global success with his uplifting hit “Happy.” Williams’ multifaceted talent and creativity have secured his position as both a musical icon and proud representation of Virginia’s thriving artistic community.
Academy Award-winning actress Sandra Bullock was born in Arlington, Virginia in 1964. Known for her roles in films like “Speed,” “The Blind Side,” and “Gravity,” Bullock’s dynamic performances and box office appeal have made her one of Hollywood’s most respected actresses. Her Virginia roots contributed to her early experiences before she won hearts worldwide with her versatility and charm. From her beginnings to earning critical acclaim, Sandra Bullock remains a pivotal figure in Virginia’s pantheon of entertainment industry luminaries.
George Washington, a cornerstone of American history, had deep ties to Virginia, where he was born in 1732. Washington’s leadership, integrity, and vision for the fledgling nation carved his path from the Virginia frontier to presiding over the Constitutional Convention. As a plantation owner at Mount Vernon and the first President of the United States, his life and legacy are deeply interwoven with Virginia’s landscape. The state’s rich patriotic history is epitomized by Washington’s monumental role as a military leader, statesman, and revered founding father.
What is Virginia Known For Producing?
Tobacco production has been a cornerstone of Virginia’s economy since the colonial era. Introduced by John Rolfe in 1612, the tobacco cultivated in Virginia’s fertile soil quickly became a lucrative cash crop, propelling the colony’s economic growth and shaping its social structures. This legacy continued through the centuries, with Virginia establishing itself as a major player in the global tobacco industry. However, despite its historical significance, tobacco farming has faced evolving challenges, including health concerns and economic shifts, prompting diversification in Virginia’s agricultural practices.
Virginia’s rich, sandy soil provides an ideal environment for peanut cultivation, establishing the state as a key peanut producer. Virginia peanuts, known for their large size and superior flavor, have become a coveted variety worldwide. Introduced to Virginia by African slaves in the early 1700s, peanuts swiftly entered Virginia’s agricultural landscape. In the 19th century, technological advancements, such as the mechanical peanut digger, helped propel the state’s peanut industry. Today, despite the evolving agricultural economy, Virginia remains a significant player in the peanut market, producing about 3% of the US’s total annual peanut crop.
Virginia’s picturesque orchards, particularly in the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains, are prime spots for apple production. With a climate favorable to apple cultivation, the state produces a wide variety of apples, from the crisp Fuji to the tangy Granny Smith. Apples have been a staple in Virginia agriculture since the colonial period, symbolizing the state’s adaptability and innovation in fruit farming. Today, Virginia’s apple industry marries tradition with modern agricultural practices, contributing substantially to local economies and providing consumers with high-quality, fresh produce throughout the year and during fall harvests.
Virginia stands as one of the top turkey-producing states in the United States, with its Shenandoah Valley region being particularly renowned for poultry production. The state’s turkey industry is a vital component of its agricultural economy, contributing significantly to job creation and economic growth. Virginia’s turkey farms range from small family-run operations to large-scale commercial enterprises, and they are known for implementing progressive farming practices. Each year, millions of Virginia turkeys make their way to dinner tables across the country, especially during holiday seasons, showcasing the state’s agricultural prowess.