First of all, you must decide where to go. I can't make that decision for you, but I can briefly tell you what the state has to offer.
My home area in northern Virginia is the fastest-growing, wealthiest, and most densely populated part of the state -- with horrendous traffic to prove it. Our northern counties once were a suburban bedroom for workers in Washington, D.C., but not anymore. Areas such as Tysons Corner have become de facto cities in their own right, with employment in high-tech service industries outstripping that of the federal government. Just across the Potomac from the nation's capital, Arlington is best known for its national cemetery. The historic Old Town district of Alexandria offers fascinating daytime walks as well as good restaurants. To the south lie the Potomac plantations, including George Washington's Mount Vernon. To the west, I enjoy driving out to Virginia's hilly Hunt Country, where the first major battle of the Civil War was fought at Manassas.
Fredericksburg & the Northern Neck
I always look forward to visiting Fredericksburg, where quaint cobblestone streets and historic houses recall America's first heroes -- George Washington, James Monroe, John Paul Jones -- as does the quiet Northern Neck farmland, where Washington and Robert E. Lee were born. Military buffs love to explore Fredericksburg's Civil War battlefields.
Located in the rolling Piedmont hills known as "Mr. Jefferson's country," Charlottesville boasts President Thomas Jefferson's magnificent estate, Monticello, as well as the University of Virginia, which he designed. Drives south bring you to Poplar Forest, his beloved retreat; Patrick Henry's final home at Red Hill; and Appomattox Court House, where the Civil War ended when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant.
The Shenandoah Valley
Some of Virginia's most striking scenic views are from the Skyline Drive, which follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains through magnificent Shenandoah National Park, where you can explore a host of hiking paths, including part of the Maine-to-Georgia Appalachian Trail. Down below, charming towns like Winchester, Front Royal, Luray, Staunton, and Lexington evoke the Civil War, which flowed over the rolling countryside of the Shenandoah Valley, the South's breadbasket. In another valley high in the Allegheny Mountains to the west lie the famous mineral waters of Warm Springs and Hot Springs.
The Southwest Highlands
Beyond the vibrant railroad city of Roanoke rise the highlands of Virginia's southwestern extremity, a land of forests, waterfalls, and streams seemingly untouched since Daniel Boone led settlers along the Great Wilderness Road into Kentucky. The Blue Ridge Parkway wanders along its eastern border. Here the state's highest point, Mount Rogers, sits surrounded by a national recreation area teeming with trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Down in the Great Valley of Virginia, the quaint town of Abingdon features the famous Barter Theatre, begun during the Great Depression when its company traded tickets for hams.
The state capital has few rivals among U.S. cities for its historic associations, among them St. John's Church, where Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty, or give me death." But it was Richmond's role as the rebel capital during the Civil War that brings visitors to the Museum of the Confederacy and the Richmond and Petersburg battlefields. Fine arts and science museums, cafes, lively concerts, and theater add to Richmond's cosmopolitan ambience, and children can get their kicks at nearby Paramount's Kings Dominion amusement park.
Williamsburg, Yorktown & Jamestown
Coastal Virginia's "Historic Triangle" is one of the country's most visited areas, and with good reason. Jamestown is where America's first permanent English settlers arrived in 1607 (and some of my own ancestors in 1613). Williamsburg immaculately re-creates Virginia's Colonial capital, and Yorktown commemorates the last battle of the American Revolution. Adding to the triangle's allure are theme parks and world-class discount shopping. From here it's an easy excursion to see the recovered gun turret of the USS Monitor at one of the nation's premier maritime museums in the shipbuilding city of Newport News. Historic Hampton may be the country's oldest continuous English-speaking settlement, but it boasts a modern, high-tech air and space museum.
Norfolk, Virginia Beach & the Eastern Shore
The great harbor of Hampton Roads is home to the resurgent cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth. You can play in the surf at Virginia Beach, whose boardwalk and 20 miles of sandy beach are lined with hotels, and commune with nature in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and remote False Cape State Park. Drive across the 17-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to the Eastern Shore, an unspoiled sanctuary noted for the fishing village of Chincoteague and nearby Assateague Island, whose wildlife refuge and national seashore have protected the famous wild ponies and prevented any development on almost 40 miles of pristine beach.
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.