Learn about the history of Virginia and find fun and interesting things to do and see all across Virginia. We've also found the best books, guides, websites, and other resources to make your study of Virginia fun and educational.
Things to See & Do in Virginia
Colonial National Historical Park
Colonial National Historical Park (NHP) administers two of the most historically significant sites in English North America. Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America in 1607, is administered jointly with the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, and Yorktown Battlefield, the final major battle of the American Revolutionary War in 1781. These two sites represent the beginning and end of English colonial America. Situated on the Virginia Peninsula, these sites are connected by the 23 mile scenic Colonial Parkway. Colonial NHP also includes Green Spring, the 17th century plantation home of Virginia's colonial governor, Sir William Berkeley, and the Cape Henry Memorial, which marks the approximate site of the first landing of the Jamestown colonists in April of 1607. Colonial NHP has a variety of natural resources including extensive wetlands, forest, fields, shorelines and streams, as well as rare, threatened and endangered plants and animals.
Manassas National Battlefield Park
Manassas National Battlefield park was established in 1940 to preserve the scene of two major Civil War battles. Located a few miles north of the prized railroad junction of Manassas, Virginia, the peaceful Virginia countryside bore witness to clashes between the armies of the North and South in 1861 and 1862. Today the battlefield park provides the opportunity for visitors to explore the historic terrain where men fought and died for their beliefs a century ago.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
Throughout the ages, poets, songwriters, novelists, journal writers, historians and artists have captured the grandeur of the Cumberland Gap. Thanks to the vision of Congress, who in 1940 authorized Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, visitors today can still bask in its beauty and immerse themselves in its rich history. The story of the first doorway to the west is commemorated at the national park, located where the borders of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia meet. Carved by wind and water, Cumberland Gap forms a major break in the formidable Appalachian Mountain chain. First used by large game animals in their migratory journeys, followed by Native Americans, the Cumberland Gap was the first and best avenue for the settlement of the interior of this nation. From 1775 to 1810, the Gap's heyday, between 200,000 and 300,000 men, women, and children from all walks of life, crossed the Gap into "Kentuckee."
Cedar Creek & Belle Grove National Historical Park
The park encompasses approximately 3,500 acres across 3 counties and includes the key partner sites of Belle Grove Plantation, Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation lands and Visitor Center, Shenandoah Valley Battlefield Foundation lands, and a developing Shenandoah County Park.
Yorktown National Cemetery
In August, 1862, David Judd of the 33rd New York Infantry wrote upon passing through Yorktown: "Near to the fortifications [Confederate] was a Union Cemetery, containing the graves of 300 Union soldiers, each of which was adorned by a neat head-board, designating the name and regiment of the soldier." By the end of the Civil War in 1865, the total of Union soldiers buried in the "Union Cemetery" exceeded 600. The following year, the cemetery formally became a National Cemetery and Union dead from 50 sites within a 50 mile radius of Yorktown were re-interred in the newly landscaped cemetery. Today, the Yorktown National Cemetery, which is closed to burials, contains the remains of 2,183 soldiers, ten of which are Confederate. Only 747 of the dead are identified. Many of the dead are from the 1862 Peninsula Campaign and other battles around Richmond, though some died during the period Yorktown served as a Union garrison from 1862-1864.
Claude Moore Colonial Farm
Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McLean is a living history site that demonstrates the life of a poor farm family living on a small farm in northern Virginia just prior to the American Revolutionary War. Today, agricultural and household activities seen on the Farm represent an earlier era when small farms were dispersed throughout the countryside; and, most Americans engaged in activities of an agricultural nature.
Poplar Grove National Cemetery
In July 1862, Congress passed legislation giving the President of the United States the authority to purchase land for the establishment of cemeteries "for the soldiers who shall die in the service of their country." This legislation effectively began the National Cemetery system. With more than 6,000 graves, Poplar Grove National Cemetery reflects the tragedy that befell the United States during the Civil War. Each simple headstone is a poignant reminder of the human cost of war. In 1933 responsibility of the cemetery was transferred from the War Department to the National Park Service (NPS). It is closed for burials but visitors are invited to walk the grounds, which are open daily.
Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail
The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail (OVNHT) commemorates the campaign leading to the battle of Kings Mountain by following the Revolutionary War route of Patriot militia men from Virginia, today's eastern Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina to the battle site at Kings Mountain National Military Park in South Carolina. Although the Trail is still being fully developed visitors may access approximately 30 miles of the route at various points along the 330 mile long corridor. A parallel Commemorative Motor Route may also be driven. The Motor Route uses existing state highways and, in some stretches, actually travels over the old historic roadway.
George Washington Birthplace National Monument
People have made the pilgrimage to the birthplace of George Washington since 1815. Visitors from all over the world have come to see where the first President of the United States was born. Today this 550-acre park memorializes George Washington and the place of his birth. The park includes: Visitor Center; the brick foundation of the house where he was born; the Washington family cemetery where George’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather are buried; the historical area with the Memorial House, kitchen, and typical plantation surroundings; the picnic grounds with a nature trail; and the Potomac River beach area. Here, in these sublime surroundings, one can sense the character and spirit of the great whole man.
Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial National Memorial
The house that Robert E. Lee called home for 30 years and one uniquely associated with the Washington and Custis families is preserved today as a memorial to General Lee, who gained the respect of Americans in both the North and South. Built by George Washington Parke Custis and his slaves between 1802 and 1818, the house and grounds have served many purposes over the last two hundred years: a family home for the Lees and Custises, a plantation estate and home to 63 slaves, a monument honoring George Washington, a military headquarters, a community for emancipated slaves and a national cemetery.
Richmond National Battlefield Park
The Civil War (1861-1865) remains the central, most defining event in American history. Richmond, Virginia, was at the heart of the conflict. As the industrial and political capital of the Confederacy, Richmond was the physical and psychological prize over which two mighty American armies contended in bloody battle from 1861 to 1865. At stake were some of the founding principles of the United States as the growing nation divided over the existence and expansion of slavery. Only after the new Confederacy fired on a federal fort in Charleston harbor and Lincoln had called for troops to preserve the Union, did Virginia join the Confederacy. As war began, neither side anticipated the brutal clashes and home front destruction that brought death or injury to more than one million Americans and devastation to a broad landscape, much of it in Virginia. Today, the park preserves more than 1400 acres of Civil War resources in nine units plus the main visitor center at the famous Tredegar Iron Works. The Chimborazo Visitor Center houses a medical museum.
Yorktown Battlefield is the site of the final, major battle of the American Revolutionary War and symbolic end of Colonial English America.
Fredericksburg National Cemetery
In July 1865, three months after the restoration of peace between the states, Congress authorized the establishment of a National Cemetery in Fredericksburg to honor the Federal soldiers who died on the battlefields or from disease in camp. The site chosen was on Marye's Heights, the formidable Confederate position which had proven so impregnable to repeated Federal attacks on December 13, 1862. The Cemetery is part of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park.
Jamestown National Historic Site
Jamestown National Historical is a part of Historic Jamestowne, site of the First Permanent English Colony in North America. The National Historic Site consists of 22.5 acres on the western end of Jamestown Island, which includes the original site of the 1607 fort and statehouse site of the late 17th century. Visit Historic Jamestowne and step back into history by walking the same grounds as John Smith and Pocahontas. Visit the Memorial Church, which sits on the very site of the 1617 church. Walk the streets of James City and see the foundations of homes, taverns and industrial complexes. It is from here that the first permanent English settlement laid its roots in 1607. It is from here that the first representative legislative assembly in North America met in 1619. It is from here that three continents came together as Europeans encountered American Indians, and later brought enslaved Africans to this land. As the seat of Virginia government Jamestown became the focal point of Bacon’s rebellion in 1676.
Cape Henry Memorial
After four and a half months crossing storm swept seas 144 weary Englishmen made land-fall in April 1607. They anchored their ships in the protected waters of the bay and landed a small party upon the shore. They built a wooden cross and planted it in the sand naming the place Cape Henry. This is the first landing site of those adventurous Englishmen who, some three weeks later, established the first permanent English Colony in North America at Jamestown. Today this quarter acre of beach front is commemorated with waysides, a granite memorial cross, a statue of Admiral Comte de Grasse and a walkway ramp up the dunes to a magnificant view of where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Chesapeake Bay. Today Cape Henry Memorial is located on Fort Story Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park
Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania—this is the bloodiest landscape in North America. No place more vividly reflects the Civil War’s tragic cost, in all its forms. A city bombarded, bloodied, and looted. Farms large and small ruined. Refugees by the thousands forced to the countryside. More than 85,000 men wounded; 15,000 killed—most now in graves unknown. The fading scars of battle, the homeplaces of bygone families, and the granite tributes to those who fought still mark these lands. These places reveal the trials of a community and nation at war—a roiling cataclysm, a virtuous tragedy that freed four million Americans and reunited a nation. Please click on "In Depth" for information on visiting the park and park programs as well as detailed information on the battles and soldiers who fought in the battles.
Petersburg National Battlefield
Petersburg, Virginia, became the setting for the longest siege in American history when General Ulysses S. Grant failed to capture Richmond in the spring of 1864. Grant settled in to subdue the Confederacy by surrounding Petersburg and cutting off General Robert E. Lee's supply lines into Petersburg and Richmond. On April 2, 1865, nine-and-one-half months after the siege began, Lee evacuated Petersburg.
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park
Walk the old country lanes where Robert E. Lee, Commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered his men to Ulysses Grant, General-in-Chief of all United States forces, on April 9, 1865. Imagine the events that signaled the end of the Southern States' attempt to create a separate nation. The National Park encompasses approximately 1800 acres of rolling hills in rural central Virginia. The site includes the McLean home (surrender site) and the village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia, the former county seat for Appomattox County. The site also has the home and burial place of Joel Sweeney - the popularizer of the modern five string banjo. There are twenty seven original 19th century structures on the site.
Prince William Forest Park
Prince William Forest Park, located in Prince William County, Virginia, is the largest protected natural area in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region at over 15,000+ acres. Today, the park serves as a window into the past, of what much of the east coast once looked like centuries ago. The park is an example of the increasingly uncommon Piedmont forest and its ecosystems and protects the Quantico Creek watershed. It is a sanctuary for numerous native plant and animals species. The park offers a variety of recreational opportunities, including wildlife viewing, 37 miles of hiking trails and 21 miles of bicycle accessible roads and trails. The park’s cultural resources are also varied. They include the remnants of Joplin and Hickory Ridge, two small communities existing prior to the park’s establishment, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), who built the facilities, roads and lakes during the 1930s and the U.S. Army’s Office of Strategic Services (OSS) who used the land exclusively for training spies and radio operators between 1942 and 1945, just to name a few.
Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site
The Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site commemorates the life of a progressive and talented African American woman. Despite many adversities, she achieved success in the world of business and finance as the first woman in the United States to charter and serve as president of a bank. The site includes her residence of thirty years and a visitor center detailing her life and the Jackson Ward community in which she lived and worked. The house is restored to its 1930's appearance with original Walker family pieces.
Booker T. Washington National Monument
On April 5, 1856, a child who later called himself Booker T. Washington, was born in slavery on this 207-acre tobacco farm. The realities of life as a slave in piedmont Virginia, the quest by African Americans for education and equality, and the post-war struggle over political participation all shaped the options and choices of Booker T. Washington. Washington founded Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1881 and later became an important and controversial leader of his race at a time when increasing racism in the United States made it necessary for African Americans to adjust themselves to a new era of legalized oppression. Visitors are invited to step back in time and experience firsthand the life and landscape of people who lived in an era when slavery was part of the fabric of American life. The park is located in Franklin County, 16 miles northeast of Rocky Mount, 25 miles southeast of Roanoke, and 50 miles southwest of Lynchburg.
Teaching Tips & Ideas
Knowledge Quest offers historical outline maps and timelines designed for the interactive study of world history and geography.
How I Teach a Large Family in a Relaxed, Classical Way: History
A look at teaching history across several grades using the classical method of education and a rotation of history every four years.
As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links on this site.
Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education
Author Douglas Wilson makes the argument that education must have a foundation of religion, which informs worldview. Education is the asking and answering of questions, and learning to read and write is simply the process of acquiring the tools needed to do that.
The Letter Factory Game
Teaches Phonics! The race is on! With two games in one, children play together and learn letter names and sounds with actions and music. Wacky Professor Quigley guides players every step of the way so no reading is required! Games automatically adjust to skill level, to keep children learning at just the right pace! 2 Games in 1: Counting Colors & Letters: Learn letter names and sounds by matching color cards to move around the board. Leaping Letters: Listen to the name or sound and then find th...
Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook
A short, illustrated guide to the use of Montessori classroom materials. Describes how to set up a "children's house" - an environment for learning where children can be their own masters.
Homeschool Bravely: How to Squash Doubt, Trust God, and Teach Your Child with Confidence
It's time to change your perspective to transform the way you plan, teach, and homeschool. This book helps you to see homeschooling as a calling. With this mindset, you'll be able to dismiss the stress of impossible expectations. Find strategies to help you juggle the logistics of homeschooling with different ages, be a good support for a struggling learner, set realistic goals, dismiss the guilt, and weather any criticism. You can be a hopeful homeschooler! God uses all for good and can transfo...
Catholic Home Schooling: A Handbook for Parents
Mary Kay Clark, the director of the accredited and successful Seton Home Study School shows parents why and how to teach their children at home, giving scores of practical examples and setting forth the spiritual, moral and academic advantages. The book includes chapters by several experts and covers Catholic curriculum, textbooks, Catholic family life, legal aspects, discipline, socialization, home management, using computers, children with learning disabilities, single-parent home schooling, t...