Situated between the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Coastline, Virginia is an intense combination of picturesque landscapes and an even richer history. The state’s tourism motto is “Virginia is for lovers,” which is apt since there’s no doubt that you’ll love the beaches, national parks, forests, historic sites, and more. With these non-touristy attractions and the perfect Virginia vacation rental, you’re bound to have an unforgettable getaway.
1. The Great Stalacpipe Organ, Luray
Deep underground in Virginia’s Luray Caverns sits the world’s largest musical instrument, The Great Stalacpipe Organ. Built in 1954 by mathematician and electronic scientist, Leland Sprinkle, the Great Stalacpipe Organ was constructed by shaving stalactites of various shapes and sizes to make the perfect notes. The stalactites used by the organ are spread over 3.5 acres, and the music can be heard around all 64 acres of the caves. You can tour the Luray Caverns to see The Stalacpipe Organ as well as other breathtaking sites like Saracen’s Tent, Giant’s Hall, and Dream Lake.
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2. Bear’s Den Overlook, Bluemont
At 1,350 feet, the Bears Den Rocks provide a panoramic view of the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The overlook has a unique rock formation with a number of outcroppings for sitting and enjoying, so it’s the perfect spot for a picnic or to catch the sunset. The overlook is a short stroll from the Bears Den day-use parking lot, or a half mile hike uphill from the Route 7 Parking Lot. Stay in a vacation rental in nearby Purcellville for tasty dining, several breweries, and a distillery.
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3. The Raven Room, Charlottesville
If you’re a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, you’re going to love this one. The famous American writer, editor, and critic, studied at the University of Virginia for one year in 1826, and his dorm at the University is now a shrine dedicated to his legacy. Commonly known as “The Raven Room,” the dorm room was restored in 1924 and includes a writing desk, a sofa from the original Poe home, and of course, a stuffed ‘raven’ on the window sill. You can view the room from a glass door and listen to audio display about the eminent writer’s life.
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4. Bull Run Mountains Conservancy, Broad Run
The Bull Run Mountains natural area preserves the unique nature and history of the most easterly mountain chain in Piedmont. Unfortunately, the overlook is closed due to erosion, but there are still many miles of hiking trails available. Be sure to check out the dramatic ruins of Chapman’s Mill, one of the tallest stacked stone building in the United States. The mill was gutted by a fire in 1998, but you can still enter the remains and take photos.
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5. Foamhenge, Centreville
If you haven’t had the chance to visit the prehistoric Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, this might be the next best thing. Foamhenge, in Centreville, Virginia, is an exact, full-fledged replica of Stonehenge made entirely of foam. Built by sculptor, Mark Cline of Enchanted Castle Studio, Foamhenge might even be better than the original monument. At least some visitors have claimed it’s more photogenic than Stonehenge.
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6. Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Alexandria
The paved Mount Vernon Trail and riverside Belle Haven Park get a lot of foot traffic, but the nearby Dyke Marsh Trail is a hidden gem begging to be explored. The 0.7-mile dirt trail follows the banks of the Potomac, and offers great views of the marina, Woodrow Wilson Bridge, and National Harbor in the distance. The short stroll ends with a boardwalk and viewing platform over a tidal marsh and across the river. Visit during the winter when there’s no humidity, and wear boots because the trail can get muddy.
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7. Crozet Tunnel, Afton
Crozet Tunnel was originally called the Blue Ridge Tunnel, but was renamed after the chief engineer, Claudius Crozet. Crozet was hired to work on Blue Ridge Mountain railroad project which involved erecting four tunnels, the last of which was the longest and the most challenging. That tunnel was completed in 1858 and is 4,273 feet long. At that time, it was the only one of its kind in the country. The passageway was used until 1944 after which a parallel one was built and is now known as the Blue Ridge Tunnel. The Crozet Tunnel is currently being restored, but will soon reopen to hikers and cyclists. You can also pay a small fee for a scheduled tour.
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8. Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Vienna
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens is a Virginia hidden gem that’s great throughout the year. The garden’s 95 acres of stunning beauty offer a peaceful getaway from everyday life. It’s home to the fascinating Korean Bell Garden, which includes a 3-ton “Bell of Peace and Harmony,” decorated with symbols from Korea and Virginia. Admission is free for children under six, $5 for ages 18-54, and $2.50 for ages 7-17 and over 55. It’s also free during the winter months, and during the holiday season you can visit the Winter Walk of Lights. No matter what time of year you visit Meadowlark Gardens, you’ll find something beautiful to explore.
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9. Kiptopeke’s Concrete Fleet, Cape Charles
If you come to the fishing pier by Kiptopeke State Park at night, the waters look almost haunted by ghost ships. The Kiptopeke Breakwater, also known as the Concrete Fleet, is a convoy of 9 out of the 24 concrete ships that were contracted by the U.S. Maritime Commission for World War II. In 1948, the vessels were brought to the beach to protect the terminal from bad weather. Once in position, the bilge-cocks were opened so water could pour in and the ships could settle at the bottom of the cove. Take a small boat or kayak to explore some of the holes in the ships and their interiors.
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10. Potomac Heritage Trail
The Potomac Heritage Trail (PHT) covers over 800 miles from Washington DC to Pennsylvania, with local segments following the banks of the Potomac River in Virginia. You can travel this historic corridor on foot, bicycle, horse and by boat, for a little bit of history, nature, recreation, and wildlife viewing. The trail frequently follows the banks of the Potomac River through land explored by George Washington, and there are even sections of stone wall from Washington’s days.
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