I never tire of visiting the US; there is always something new to see and exciting places to visit. Virginia, a Southern Atlantic state in the US – a recent discovery for me – is steeped in history and is famous as the birthplace of eight US presidents.
It became a renowned member of the Confederacy during the American Civil War and among the most popular and important places to visit are the historical and cultural attractions that illustrate key moments in this state’s remarkable evolution.
Spread across 301 acres of land, the Historic Area comprises many homes, shops and other buildings dating from the 18th century, reconstructed on their original foundations and authentically refurbished. Visitors can view The Capitol, the centerpiece of the site, and The Governor’s Palace – a substantial Georgian house. The attraction has the original jail and a courthouse, a Presbyterian meeting house, stores, foundries, taverns and theatres.
Guests can visit museums and art galleries, and even eat and drink in places that were patronized by George Washington and other esteemed celebrities of the day.
The newest addition is the Williamsburg Pottery, which has been a destination for shoppers since 1938, and in 2012 it boasts a new half-mile stretch of buildings, including a bakery, restaurant and café.
Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
From land and buildings to the sea and the ocean depths: a visit to the Virginia Aquarium is a unique experience – very educational and fun for adults and children alike. There are hundreds of interactive exhibits, plus a nature trail, outdoor aviary and expansive marshlands to explore.
The underwater habitats are monitored by webcams and there is a giant 3D IMAX screen in the theater. If staying at one of the Virginia Beach hotels, the aquarium will be right on the doorstep, as it’s just one mile south of the main resort area.
Fort Monroe National Monument
Driving out about 30 miles from Virginia Beach to Hampton, you will find Fort Monroe, the biggest stone fort ever constructed in the US. President Obama has just designated it as a national monument.
In 2012 walking tours will be introduced during the summer months. The building has been used as an army post for 150 years and is now part of the National Park system, and being known to runaway slaves as a safe haven during the Civil War, it glories in the nickname of “Freedom’s Fortress.”
After touring Fort Monroe, a trip to the capital city of Virginia in time for lunch is a great idea. Redolent with significant buildings in the history of the Civil War, many people take the opportunity to check out their family tree at the local library, drop into the Civil War Visitor Center or take the Richmond Canal Walk.
Museum of the Confederacy
The Museum and White House of the Confederacy in Richmond has this year expanded its reach to create a new facility in Appomattox, about two hours’ drive east of the city. It is officially opening in Spring 2012. The surrender at Appomattox and the reunification of the country is a key theme of this new exhibit.
Best places to stay
Virginia Beach hotels are usually the preferred choice as there is a wide range to choose from, particularly in the two-star to four-star bracket.
There are hotels on the oceanfront boardwalk, although the north end of the beach tends to be quieter. The town center hotels are close to the restaurants and shops.