The unofficial start to summer, Memorial Day weekend offers time to remember the military veterans who gave up their lives in service to the country. From fireworks and military parades to family-friendly festivals, these brave individuals are celebrated throughout the state of Virginia during the extended weekend. As for accommodations, Virginia vacation rentals range from trendy condos in bustling cities to comfy cottages boasting views of the mountains or the ocean. Check out the top cities and towns in Virginia perfect for a getaway over Memorial Day weekend.

1. Virginia Beach

Source: Flickr/Ole Bendik Kvisberg

Shake off the winter with a condo close to the shore in Virginia Beach. The boardwalk before the beach stretches for three miles; rent bikes from Ocean Rentals Ltd and traverse the full distance. Get up on Saturday morning and head over to Citrus for pancakes while the adults enjoy sipping on bloody marys. Take advantage of the warmer weather with a day of hiking at the False Cape State Park. When you get hot, make your way to the beach and cool off in the water.

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2. Richmond

Source: Flickr/Ron Cogswell

Richmond is a vibrant city with a rich history. Kings Dominion, a nearby amusement park, opens its doors for the season over the Memorial Day weekend. Older kids enjoy riding the thrill rides, including the Intimidator 305 and the classic Grizzly, while little ones beg to hit the kiddie rides. Visit the American Civil War Museum to learn more about this war that pitted brothers against brothers, or view masterpieces from around the world at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The readers in your family can spend hours in the Edgar Allen Poe Museum, looking over its photos and dedicated Raven Room, while younger kids can enjoy learning through play at the Children’s Museum of Richmond.

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3. Williamsburg

Source: Flickr/Joe Ross.

Learn more about life in Colonial America with a vacation rental in Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg provides an unforgettable living history experience; see the interpreters and tradespeople in period clothing, and experience daily life in the 18th-century in Virginia’s colonial capital. Stop by the Governor’s Palace for a tour of the home of the British rulers of the colony, or learn about colonial law at the Courthouse or the Capitol. Speed up the pace on a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, or slow things down with a stroll through Colonial Williamsburg’s fascinating museums and verdant gardens. After dining on 18th century cuisine in one of Colonial Williamsburg’s taverns, such as the King’s Arms or Shields Tavern, take a ghost walk to learn about the spirits who still haunt the historic area. With pools opening over the Memorial Day weekend, take the kids to Water Country USA to splash the day away. Ride together as a family on the Aquazoid or the Colossal Curl.

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4. Troutville

Source: Flickr/pmoroni

Breathe in the fresh air in the small town of Troutville, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Don your hiking boots and explore this 11-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail that runs along the edge of town. Take older family members on a tour of the Flying Mouse Brewery and sip on some samples before buying some to take back to your vacation rental. Dine at the Pomegranate Restaurant and Gathering Place and enjoy the live band on the weekends.

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5. Norfolk

Located on the Chesapeake Bay, Norfolk is a great Memorial Day getaway to show off your patriotic side. Honor the military with a tour of the Nauticus, the largest maritime museum. Nauticus includes a tour of a World War II battleship, the USS Wisconsin (BB-64). After your tour, visit the waterfront area to peruse its trendy shops, galleries, cafes, and restaurants. The Norfolk Botanical Garden is in full bloom at the end of May, and this garden includes more than 400 rose varieties.

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6. Occoquan

Source: Flickr/Ron Cogswell

Industrialization first arrived in Virginia in the small town of Occoquan, home to its earliest grist mill. The town sits on the Occoquan River and offers families a laid-back holiday weekend. Get dressed up for a proper afternoon tea at the Pink Bicycle Tea Room, complete with small sandwiches and petit fours. Bring your bikes and store them in the garage of your vacation rental. You can ride them over to Occoquan Regional Park and ride along the trails to enjoy its amazing water views, or simply take an afternoon walk there.

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7. Alexandria

Source: Facebook/Visit Alexandria VA

Alexandria sits just a little south of the nation’s capital on the Potomac River. On your first afternoon, take a walk around Old Town. This area offers stunning architecture and a historic air, with historic sites such as Carlyle House and Gadsby’s Tavern Museum open for visitors. Duck in and out of the shops and satisfy your sweet tooth at Pop’s Old Fashion Ice Cream Co. Head down to the riverfront to visit the artists’ studios and galleries in the Torpedo Factory Art Center. On Saturday morning, take your reusable bags to the Alexandria Farmer’s Market to pick up fresh ingredients for dinner from local farmers. Visit the Jones Point Lighthouse, which dates back to the 1850s, or drive over to Mount Vernon to tour George Washington’s home.

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8. Newport News

Source: Flickr/Tim Evanson

On the James River, Newport News offers many wonderful outdoor activities over the Memorial Day weekend. Pack up the sunscreen for a day at King-Lincoln Park, which includes a beach. If the water is too cold, enjoy walking the paths and watch for scampering squirrels, raccoons, and deer. Stretch your legs at the Virginia Living Museum, with more than 250 species of animals and plants along its nature trails. When your feet grow weary, head inside to learn more about the cosmos at the planetarium.

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9. Charlottesville

Source: Flickr/Clarkcj2

See the college that Thomas Jefferson designed in Charlottesville. The University of Virginia is a great place to take a stroll on your first afternoon to appreciate its architecture or just stretch out on The Lawn. Charlottesville’s downtown area is known for its quirky shops and boutiques; spend a rainy afternoon browsing for used books at Oakley’s Gently Used Books, Daedalus Books, and Read It Again, Sam. Tour Monticello, the plantation home built by America’s third president, and learn more about Jefferson’s life and times. Take in some classic Southern fare with a meal of fried chicken or pulled pork at Michie Tavern. Stop by the tasting rooms at the local wineries, such as First Colony Winery, Blenheim Vineyards, and Jefferson Vineyards, to sample the local wines and find a bottle or two to bring back to your vacation rental.

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