17 Essential Virginia Bucket List Activities & Food

Updated

A National Park, two presidents’ homes, and one of the most famous cemeteries in the country lead the list of locations to visit when you go to Virginia. However, Virginia has a lot more to offer than you could imagine. 

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The Commonwealth of Virginia is geographically diverse, stretching from the Chesapeake Bay (and the Atlantic Ocean) in the east to the Appalachian Mountains in the west. Plus, it played a crucial part in the history of our country. 

Here are some Virginia bucket list activities to consider, starting with the most popular. 

Virginia Bucket List Trip Destinations

Are you new to making a bucket list? In essence, a bucket list compiles things you wish to do, places you want to go, and items you want to accomplish before you kick the bucket. There are many different types of bucket lists. So first, learn the finer points on how to make a bucket list, and then start checking off the items one by one. 

1. Visit Shenandoah National Park

One of the best things to do when visiting a new location is to see if there are any National Parks in the region. National Parks have varying levels of accessibility. So, even if you aren’t an avid outdoors person or in the best of shape, you can still enjoy a drive through the beautiful natural setting.

Shenandoah National Park encompasses part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s a long, narrow park with the Shenandoah River Valley to the west and rolling hills to the east. The main park road, Skyline Drive, traverses the ridgeline of the mountains. 

The highest peak in Shenandoah National Park is Hawksbill Mountain at 4,051 feet. 

2. See George Washington’s home and burial place

George and Martha Washington’s home and burial location can be found at Mount Vernon. The estate is located along the banks of the Potomac River and is a fascinating place to visit. 

Not that you were concerned, but Washington would have had no problem with you walking through his private quarters, including his bedroom where he died. He wrote, “I have no objection to any sober or orderly person’s gratifying their curiosity in viewing the buildings, Gardens, &ca. about Mount Vernon.”

Besides walking through the presidential home, you can also tour the property. A museum on the plantation holds artifacts of the time, including a set of Washington’s false teeth. You can also visit the burial location of the president and his wife.

3. Visit Monticello

Monticello is more than two and half hours southwest of Mount Vernon, but it is worth the drive. Of course, Monticello is the plantation home of America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, himself, designed the house – which can be found on the “tails” side of the nickel. Many of Jefferson’s original possessions can be seen in the home.

Visitors to Monticello say to take time to walk the grounds, as you will be given the opportunity to see his burial site. You might notice something interesting on the epitaph that Jefferson wrote himself. It states his contributions as the “author of the Declaration of American Independence of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom & Father of the University of Virginia.” However, there is no mention of his presidency.

Outdoor Activity, Hike, and Adventure Bucket List Ideas for Virginia

We’ve already mentioned Shenandoah National Park on our list, but there are a lot of other outdoor locations to enjoy when visiting the Commonwealth of Virginia. Here are a few to add to your travel bucket list

4. Go spelunking at Luray Caverns

We’ll begin our “outdoor activity list” with an indoor location – Luray Caverns. The caverns are located west of Luray, Virginia, and are decorated with columns, mudflows, stalactites, stalagmites, and mirrored pools. 

Although there are other caves and caverns to visit in Virginia, this privately owned location was once also the home of the Limair Sanatorium, which has the designation of being the first air-conditioned home in the United States. Of course, the air conditioning was made by sinking a shaft down to a cavern chamber and installing a fan to blow the cool air inside the home. Nevertheless, the residents of Limair Sanatorium enjoyed cool temperatures even in the hottest of Virginia summers. 

5. See the site of the Jamestown landing at First Landing State Park

First Landing State Park is significant because it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a National Natural Landmark. The area gives visitors a place to camp, fish, swim, bike, hike, or relax on a beach. At the same time, it is near the site of the 1607 landing of the colonists who later established Jamestown. 

Don’t get confused if locals refer to the area as Seashore State Park, as this name has been (and still is) used to describe this natural and historic area. 

6. Visit the Natural Bridge State Park

Natural Bridge is a 215-foot-high natural arch that spans 90 feet. It was carved by Cedar Creek, a small tributary of the James River. 

Besides viewing the arch, visitors can also enjoy a short hike to view the 30-foot Lace Falls. 

Interestingly, the park property is still private land. After the state park closes for the day, visitors can pay to watch the “Drama of Creation” light show.

Spring and Summer Virginia Bucket List Ideas

Are you visiting Virginia during the spring or summer? Here are some things to do on your visit. 

7. Visit Virginia during cherry blossom season

Washington, D.C. isn’t the only location that boasts beautiful cherry blossoms each spring. Consider visiting Virginia – particularly the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna. The gardens offer beautiful displays throughout the spring and summer, including magnolias and cherry trees. 

8. Enjoy a day at the beach

Virginia Beach is popular for both visitors and locals. The area offers all water and beach activities, as well as many shops and restaurants. Walk along the boardwalk, which runs three miles along the shoreline.

If you are looking for a beach experience that is less commercialized and crowded, check out Sandbridge Beach. 

9. Visit the Cape Henry Lighthouse

Get a view of where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean when you climb to the top of the Cape Henry Lighthouse. It is located on the Fort Story Military Base. It was the first federally funded public works project of the U.S. government, which means that George Washington authorized the construction.

Fall and Winter Virginia Bucket List Ideas

Perhaps you’ll be in Virginia during the fall or winter. Here are some places to visit during the cooler weather. 

10. Watch the changing of the guards at Arlington

While you might enjoy visiting Arlington National Cemetery on a day with moderate temperatures, it is worth noting, however, that the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are at their post during inclement weather. 

This 639-acre cemetery was established during the Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, the home of the wife of Robert E. Lee. The grounds are on the National Register of Historic Places, and the cemetery is moving to visit in person.

11. Enjoy marine life at Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center

If the weather doesn’t allow you to enjoy sea life in its natural habitat, the next best place to visit is the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. It is located in Virginia Beach, and the exhibits focus on life in the Virginia rivers, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Atlantic.  

12. See history come alive at Colonial Williamsburg

While it would be best to visit this site on a day with moderate weather, we wanted to make sure to include this Virginia attraction on our list. 

Colonial Williamsburg is a living-history museum and historic area that includes several hundred restored or recreated buildings from the 18th century. Costumed employees work, dress, and speak as people did in the era. The area includes a tavern, a courthouse, church, and governor’s palace. 

Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in Virginia

Are you looking for a Virginia food bucket list? Sorry, but this section only scratches the surface. We’ve decided to focus on historic restaurants in the state. So you’ll have to search elsewhere for a list of iconic Virginia foods. 

13. Red Fox Inn

The Red Fox Inn has a long and complex history. It was established in 1728 and was thought to be frequented by George Washington. It was ​​used as a hospital for confederate soldiers during the Civil War. 

14. Michie Tavern 

If you are visiting Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, you might want to reserve a table at nearby Michie Tavern. The restaurant has been open since 1784 and gives visitors the feel of an 18th-century establishment.

15. The Virginia Diner

Not every restaurant in Virginia can be traced back to the 1700s. The Virginia Diner is new on the scene, as it opened in 1929. This isn’t the place to go if your loved one has a peanut allergy, as the diner offers many peanut-related items and is referred to as “a legend in a nutshell.”

Virginia Beach, Virginia Bucket List Ideas

Are you headed to Virginia Beach? Of course, you’ll spend time walking on the famous boardwalk and building sandcastles. Here are some other bucket list items to do when visiting the area. 

16. Take a stroll along Virginia Legends Walk

Take a self-guided tour to learn about famous Virginians. Those honored include Edgar Allen Poe, Ella Fitzgerald, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Pearl Bailey, Booker T. Washington, Arthur Ashe, Patsy Cline, Thomas Jefferson, and Captain John Smith. 

17. Get your art on at MOCA

The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) features painting, sculpture, photography, glass, and other visual media. In addition, each year on Father’s Day weekend, MOCA hosts the Boardwalk Art Show.

Virginia Has Something for Everyone!

Are there Virginia locations on your travel bucket list? It’s time to check them off – as well as a few more that you might have learned about from our list. 

Happy traveling!

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