This route takes you to all of Virginia's top attractions: the Shenandoah National Park, the Shenandoah Valley towns of Staunton and Lexington, Charlottesville, Richmond, Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown, Virginia Beach, Fredericksburg, and George Washington's Mount Vernon home near Alexandria's historic Old Town district. You can expand any section of this route into a week's tour of one particular area of Virginia. For instance, you can spend a week in the Shenandoah Valley by staying 2 or more nights in, say, Winchester, Shenandoah National Park, Staunton, or Lexington. Charlottesville-Richmond-Williamsburg is another example.
This tour begins and ends at Washington Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia, the state's major air gateway, and essentially follows Interstates 66, 81, 64, and 95 to make a loop around the northern and central portions of the state. If you're driving to Virginia from the south, start in Williamsburg and work backward.
Days 1 & 2: The Hunt Country
As you leave Dulles airport, first go south on Va. 28 to the National Air and Space Museum's magnificent Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Then head to Leesburg, seeing the sights in town before retiring for the night. The next morning drive to Middleburg, where you can browse its hip main street and have lunch. Spend the afternoon exploring the back roads, sampling the vintages at the nearby vineyards, and crossing the mountains to Winchester.
Day 3: Winchester to Luray
Spend the morning seeing Winchester's sights, especially the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, which provides a fine introduction to the valley. In the afternoon, drive through Strasburg and Front Royal on your way to Luray, where you can go underground at Luray Caverns. Spend the night in Luray or drive on up into the Shenandoah National Park.
Day 4: The Shenandoah National Park
From Luray, drive east on U.S. 211 to the mountaintop entrance to Shenandoah National Park. Go south on the Skyline Drive into the park's Central District, its most scenic and best equipped. Take in the views, hike the trails, or go horseback riding (be sure to call the stables in advance for riding reservations). Spend the night at the park's Big Meadows Lodge or Skyland Lodge.
Day 5: Staunton
The next morning, take the Skyline Drive south to I-64, and then west to Staunton, one of Virginia's best small towns. Spend the afternoon visiting the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library at His Birthplace. See Shakespeare performed at the marvelous Blackfriars Playhouse.
Day 6: Lexington
Charming Lexington has more attractions than any other town in the Shenandoah Valley, so arrive in time to spend at least an afternoon visiting the George C. Marshall Museum and Research Library and Stonewall Jackson's stuffed horse in the Virginia Military Institute Museum.
Day 7: Charlottesville
I-81 and I-64 will speed you to Thomas Jefferson's hometown of Charlottesville, or you can take the slow but much more scenic route via the Blue Ridge Parkway from Buena Vista to Waynesboro, and then I-64 east. Either way, spend the afternoon touring the University of Virginia and other downtown Charlottesville attractions. The next morning, beat the crowds to Jefferson's magnificent Monticello. Have lunch at nearby Michie Tavern then visit President James Monroe's Ash Lawn-Highland home. When finished, take I-64 east to Richmond for the night.
Days 8 & 9: Richmond
You'll have a busy 2 days seeing the sites from Richmond's days as the capital of the Confederacy. Begin at the American Civil War Center Museum, which expertly explains the war's origins from the Northern, Southern, and African-American perspectives. It's next door to the Richmond National Battlefield Park's own museum. Next, head to the Museum and White House of the Confederacy. On the second day take in St. John's Episcopal Church, where Patrick Henry made his "give me liberty, or give me death" speech, and Richmond's host of specialized museums.
Days 10 & 11: Williamsburg, Jamestown & Yorktown
Two days are barely enough to scratch the surface of Virginia's "Historic Triangle." Devote one of them to the lovingly restored Colonial Williamsburg historic district, finishing with dinner at one of the ancient taverns. Jamestown will take up the next morning; Yorktown that afternoon. If you have children, an alternate choice for one of your days here is Busch Gardens Williamsburg. If you have a few days to spare, you can spend them relaxing at Virginia Beach.
Day 12: Fredericksburg
Depart Williamsburg early and drive north via U.S. 17 to Fredericksburg, the boyhood home of George Washington, where you can spend the afternoon exploring his mother's home and the fascinating apothecary of Hugh Mercer, his friend and fellow warrior. Spend the next morning at the Civil War battlefields. Then take I-95 north to Alexandria, with a stop at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in the Triangle.
Days 13 & 14: Alexandria & Mount Vernon
George Washington, Robert E. Lee, and a host of other notables strode the cobblestone streets of Old Town Alexandria, the city's beautifully restored historic district beside the Potomac River. Old Town's sights will take most of a day to explore. Spend the next day south of Alexandria at Washington's home at Mount Vernon. Old Town is a shuttle ride back to Dulles airport.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.