Known under several representative names, such as the Mother of Presidents or the Old Dominion, Virginia is a beautiful American state on the East Coast, located on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.
Although it’s one of the smallest states, 37th out of 50, there are many great ideas for day trips in Virginia.
The relief of Virginia is varied, and this is because it stretches between the Atlantic coast in the east and the Appalachian Mountains in the west.
This means that day trips in Va can involve going to the beach, visiting a historic town, or even hiking in the mountains. The complexity of this state is an excellent advantage for those who want the most diverse experiences.
Although the state capital is Richmond, Virginia Beach is the most populated city and probably the most visited, having a very long beach and a lot of possibilities for spending free time.
I have visited Virginia Beach countless times and found something new to do every time. It’s the ideal place to have a nice day trip in Virginia.
Also, you must know that the history of the state of Virginia is closely related to the history of the United States.
In the meantime, before moving on to the most beautiful day trips in Virginia, here are some curiosities about this impressive state:
Some exciting things to know about Virginia:
- it has a population of approximately 8 million people
- it’s also known as The Old Dominion
- One of the most interesting facts about Virginia is that it was the site of the first English colony in North America
- Eight of the US presidents were born in Virginia. For this reason, Virginia is also known as the Mother of Presidents
- the state of Virginia is the largest producer of seafood on the East Coast of the USA
- the largest naval base in the world is in Virginia; more precisely, in Norfolk.
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Day trips in Virginia
The first destination on the list of the most fun Virginia day trips is Virginia Beach, one of the most popular coastal cities in the United States.
Here you will find long beaches with fine sand, restaurants with seafood-based gastronomy, and a 3-mile-long seafront where you can pedal your bike or relax on a walk.
You can visit Virginia Beach all year round, but May to September are the best months to enjoy this city on the Atlantic Ocean. You can also swim then, the temperatures being high, but it’s also the busiest time of the year.
Several annual festivals are held in Virginia Beach. Neptune’s Festival, Virginia Carnival, and Virginia Beach Seafood Festival are the most popular. Incidentally, the statue of Neptune is one of the most Instagrammable places in Virginia Beach.
A super cool activity that you can do in Virginia Beach is to admire the dolphins in the morning. They cross the ocean here almost every morning, so you have to go to enjoy not only the sunrise on the beach but also these adorable creatures.
If the beach in Virginia Beach is too much for you (meaning too crowded), go on a day trip from Virginia Beach to Sandbridge. You can enjoy a more secluded, quieter, and less-known beach there.
Considering how many things you can do and visit in this city, I think it can be not just a day trip but even one of the best Virginia weekend getaways for couples.
Where to stay in Virginia Beach:
- budget: Four Sails Resort – beachfront, swimming pool, Wifi, restaurant, free parking
- mid-range: The Westin Virginia Beach Town Center – breakfast, bar, swimming pool
- luxury: The Cavalier Virginia Beach, Autograph Collection – swimming pool, Wifi, parking, room service, bar, delicious breakfast
Fun things to do in Virginia Beach:
- visit the First Landing State Park, one of the essential places in the history of the United States
- admire the Old Cape Henry lighthouse, built in 1792
- practice water sports, especially surfing
- visit the Museum of Contemporary Art
- don’t miss the Military Aviation Museum
- enjoy a coffee on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk
- participate in the Neptune festival; it has taken place every year since 1973
Colonial Williamsburg | Virginia Day trips
The former capital of Colonial Virginia, Colonial Williamsburg, today hosts the World’s Largest Living History Museum. Williamsburg was the capital of Virginia until 1780, when the capital moved to Richmond.
It’s one of the best day trips from Virginia Beach or Richmond, located about an hour from each, at half the distance between the two cities.
Along with Jamestown and Yorktown, two other nearby cities, Colonial Williamsburg forms Virginia’s Historic Triangle.
All three of these cities must be on your list, especially if you are a history buff or simply curious about the past of the United States.
Not to mention that the architecture of the buildings will enchant you, and you will feel that you have stepped back in time.
When you arrive in Williamsburg, you can park your car for free at the Visitor’s Center, where you can find out more about the events organized on the day of your visit.
The city’s historic area stretches for about a mile, meaning a day is enough to explore.
If you want to go home with a souvenir or want to go shopping, don’t miss Duke of Gloucester Street. There are several boutique shops with all kinds of exciting products.
The Governor’s Palace must be on your itinerary without any excuse.
Here you will have the opportunity to discover the official residence of the royal governors of the Colony of Virginia, but also the home of the first two governors of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry.
In Colonial Williamsburg, you will also find the College of William and Mary, the second oldest college of higher education in the United States.
Where to stay in Colonial Williamsburg:
- budget: Comfort Inn Williamsburg Gateway – Free Wifi, free parking, breakfast, spacious rooms
- mid-range: Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel – swimming pool, free Wifi, breakfast, pet-friendly, private parking
- luxury: Inn at Warner Hall – bar, breakfast, unique design, excellent location
Fun things to do in Colonial Williamsburg:
- go on a guided historical tour
- participate in a ghost hunt
- visit the Governor’s Palace
- go to the spa
- admire the Capitol building
Busch Gardens | Day trips in Virginia
One of the most fun day trips in Virginia is going to Busch Gardens, a famous amusement park in the United States, and the first one I visited.
It’s the ideal day trip from Norfolk or a day trip from Richmond; both cities are located quite close to this park.
Busch Gardens in Virginia has European cities as its theme, so it’s a good idea to get here if, for one reason or another, either you miss the old continent or are curious to find out how it’s represented on American lands.
The scariest but fun attractions at Busch Gardens Williamsburg are Griffon, Finnegan’s Flyer, Mäch Tower, and Escape From Pompeii. There is a water park, animals, unique decorations, and insane roller coasters for the bravest.
But absolutely all of them are worth trying, although I think one day is a bit short for how much this amusement park offers.
Oktoberfest, the famous German holiday, is celebrated yearly at BuschGardens. So, if you want to visit BuschGardens during that period, you must arrive between September and October. Follow the park’s website for updates and the exact dates.
In addition to high-speed trains and other spectacular rides, the park also organizes shows; there are all kinds of shops, restaurants, and places to relax, but also a sort of zoo.
Busch Gardens is one of the most fun day trips in Virginia and a must-see on the East Coast of the United States.
⇒ Check the ticket price here
Norfolk | Day trips in Va
Norfolk is second only to Virginia Beach, with a population of approximately 250,000 people. Although you don’t usually find it in Virginia day trips recommendations, the fact that I lived here for almost a year and explored and loved it made me add it.
The city is only 30 minutes from Virginia Beach and can be the ideal day trip in Virginia, especially since it has quite a lot to offer regarding museums, outdoor walks, activities, shopping, and culinary experiences.
In Norfolk, you will discover the world’s largest naval base; if you want to learn more, you must visit the USS Wisconsin, a ship that participated in the Second World War.
The Pagoda is a very relaxing place in the city on the banks of the Elizabeth River, surrounded by greenery and a pond with frogs. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a cup of tea, especially in the cold season.
As I said, the city is crossed by the Elizabeth River, so a cruise on board a ship is an excellent option to admire the city skyline. You can cross the river with a steamboat and reach the neighboring city, Portsmouth. There is not much to see there, but it’s worth a short walk.
The city is dotted with many concrete mermaids, colored in various designs. You should not be surprised by this aspect because the mermaid symbolizes the city.
I have two more important recommendations for those who choose Norfolk as a day trip in Virginia: the Chrysler Museum and the gorgeous houses in the Ghent neighborhood. Thank me later!
Where to stay in Norfolk:
- budget: Hampton Inn Norfolk-Naval Base – swimming pool, free parking, Wifi, pet-friendly, good breakfast
- mid-range: Norfolk Waterside Marriott – swimming pool, restaurant, parking, good breakfast, bar
- luxury: The Inn at Four Eleven York – free parking, free Wifi, excellent location, restaurant
Fun things to do in Norfolk:
- cruise on the Spirit of Norfolk
- visit the botanical garden in Norfolk
- visit the Chrysler Museum
- stroll through the Waterside District
- take a tour of the USS Wisconsin, which participated in World War II
- admire the Pagoda and the Oriental Garden in the center of the city
Oceanview is part of the East Coast of the city of Norfolk and has a beach with an exit to the Chesapeake Bay. It’s a few miles of coastline, with undeveloped beaches, vegetation in some places, and paths with wooden bridges where you can walk and explore the whole area.
The activities loved and practiced in Ocean View are fishing, kayaking, and swimming. If you want to enjoy lunch with a beautiful view, go to the Ocean View Fishing Pier restaurant.
There are not many things to do in Ocean View, but you can spend a relaxing day here, probably one of the most relaxing day trips in Va.
Monticello – Charlottesville | Day trips in Virginia
History enthusiasts must come here! Monticello was the primary residence and plantation of President Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the USA, and among the primary authors of the Declaration of Independence.
For this reason, Charlottesville is also known as Mr. Jefferson’s Town. Visiting Monticello, you will learn a lot about the history of slavery in the USA.
Yes, Thomas Jefferson also had slaves working on the plantations. Currently, Monticello is part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
In addition to the former residence of the president and the surrounding lands, visitors can enjoy boutique shops where they can discover some treasures and bookstores, or they can tour the wineries and vineyards since this is a wine region in total development.
Moreover, recently hot air balloon tours have been organized. I think it’s an experience worth ticking off, although I have only tried it in Cappadocia.
Where to stay in Monticello:
- budget: Fairhaven Guesthouse –Free wifi & parking, perfect location, delicious breakfast
- mid-range: Hampton Inn Charlottesville– swimming pool, pet friendly, fitness center, delicious breakfast
- luxury: Quirk Hotel Charlottesville– excellent location, free Wifi, pet-friendly, bar
Fun things to do in Monticello:
- visit Monticello, the former residence of President Thomas Jefferson
- stroll through the Historic Downtown Mall
- visit the Virginia Discovery Museum
- stroll through Jefferson Vineyards
- try the donuts from Duck Donuts
- take a boat ride on the James River
Luray Caverns | Virginia Day trips
Discovered and opened to the public in 1878, the Luray Caves are one of the state’s most exciting tourist attractions and one of the best day trips in Virginia.
Luray Caverns are some of the largest and most popular caverns in the eastern United States. They are located in the north of the state, about two and a half hours away from the capital Richmond.
Some of the interiors inside the cave reach the height of a 10-story building.
Luray Cave formed millions of years ago, thanks to underground rivers that seeped through the limestone layers. Its name was given by the name of the city located nearby, Luray.
The first column discovered in the cave was named George Washington Column, in honor of the first president of the United States.
It’s truly an impressive and complex cave; some stalagmites and stalactites inside exceed 10 meters long.
It’s no wonder that over half a million people visit these caves every year. Here you can find out more about the schedule and the cost of tickets https://luraycaverns.com/visit-us/
The capital of the United States can be a day trip in Virginia, especially for families. There are plenty of things to do for all ages in Washington D.C.
Even if the capital of the United States is not in Virginia, but in the District of Columbia, on the border between the states of Virginia and Maryland, I decided to include it on the list of day trips in Virginia.
You must also visit the classic attractions, from the White House, the Washington Monument and the Capitol, and the Lincoln Memorial, to the lesser-known ones, although many of them are top museums.
The National Air and Space Museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and the National Gallery of Art are some names you must have on your list.
Enjoy the streets, the people, and the buildings, choosing a walking tour that will offer you valuable information about the city and different perspectives, which you probably wouldn’t have thought of if you had chosen to visit the city yourself.
A walking tour is also very suitable for exploring Georgetown, probably the most charming neighborhood in D.C.
From my point of view, one of the most beautiful buildings is the National Cathedral in Washington, the third largest church in the country.
It’s gorgeous, combines two Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles, and was built in 1906. But what makes it unique is that here, Martin Luther King gave his last Sunday sermon before he was assassinated in 1968.
We stay in the same sphere and pass from the church to the cemetery. Maybe you are not eager to visit cemeteries, but things are slightly different when discussing the Arlington Cemetery.
Famous personalities, such as John F. Kennedy or Grace Hopper, rest here. Furthermore, Arlington is the only cemetery that “houses” soldiers from every war in the history of the United States.
A visit to Washington D.C. is not only one of the most beautiful day trips from northern Virginia but also an experience not to be missed when visiting the USA.
Washington D.C. was the first city I stopped in and explored when I first stepped on American soil, and I still have great memories from my first visit there, even though many years have passed since then.
Where to stay in Washington D.C.:
- budget: HighRoad Washington DC – free Wifi, terrace, good location
- mid-range: Hotel Lombardy – restaurant, room service, bar, private parking
- luxury: The Hay – Adams – restaurant, room service, exceptional breakfast, perfect location
Fun things to do in Washington D.C.:
- visit the National Mall and all the monuments in that area
- admire the city from aboard a tourist bus, of the Hop On Hop Off type
- visit the Bible Museum
- take a tour of the Capitol building
- see the White House
- take a boat ride on the Potomac River
- go and see Arlington Cemetery
- visit the National History Museum
- if it’s spring, you must do a Cherry Blossom Tour
The Blue Ridge Parkway
As I said at the beginning of the article, Virginia is a state with a beautiful and varied relief. You can enjoy it by making several road trips by car.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic road that starts in Virginia and continues to North Carolina. It’s the longest linear national park in North America; it stretches 469 miles.
The name comes from the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachian chain. The road is lovely in any season, but autumn seems to have the most charm when the forest is colored in the most beautiful shades of copper, yellow, and red.
It’s one of Virginia’s most beautiful day trips because it will treat you to dreamy views, hiking trails of varying degrees of difficulty, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, and much more.
In addition to the fabulous landscapes, you can admire flora and fauna on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Over 1600 plant species and many animal species, such as squirrels, moose, and wild turkeys.
Richmond | Day trips in Va
I had to include the state capital on the list of the most beautiful day trips in Va. Richmond is almost at the center of it, which means you can take a day trip to Richmond from almost anywhere in Virginia.
The city is home to three large universities: the University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Union University, which means that it has a young, modern air and offers many recreational activities at any time of the day.
Richmond is large and airy, with wide boulevards, beautiful outdoor areas, and a promenade along the James River. If you are an adventurous spirit, you can even go kayaking on the James River.
Several museums in Richmond must be visited. Some of these are the American Civil War Museum, the Black History Museum, the Museum District, and the Virginia War Museum.
For a spiritual experience, visit the Hollywood Cemetery, founded in 1847. Here you will find the graves of famous personalities, but especially of two former presidents of the United States, James Monroe and John Tyler.
Take your friends with you and spend an evening at Hardywood Craft Brewery. The city has become famous for its breweries recently.
Also, here you can find out how beer is made, participating in a tour that also involves tasting.
Where to stay in Richmond:
- budget: Hyatt Place Richmond Arboretum – swimming pool, fitness center, pet friendly, good breakfast
- mid-range: Linden Row Inn – free Wifi, restaurant, bar
- luxury: The Westin Richmond – swimming pool, free parking, bar, fitness center, restaurant, excellent location
Fun things to do in Richmond:
- go on a tour with ghosts and dark history
- participate in a food tour
- go hiking at James River Park
- admire paintings and other art objects at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
- explore the canals of Richmond on a cruise
- visit the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
- visit the American Civil War Museum
- you have to get to The Richmond Railroad Museum