The Commonwealth of Virginia, also called “Old Dominion,” was the earliest of the thirteen American colonies. Straddling both the north and the south of the United States, it saw many pivotal battles during the American Civil War. In Virginia, you can experience the story of the nation’s turbulent birth — and rebirth — in the places where its most significant events occurred.
Set sail for American naval history in the historic shipbuilding city of Newport News, where you can see some of the only remaining parts of the USS Monitor—the first of the Union’s Civil War ironclads—at the Mariners’ Museum. For a wider collection of American military artifacts dating from 1775 to the present day, visit the Virginia War Museum.
In Virginia Beach, relax on one of the world’s largest sandy getaways. Stretch your legs by walking, cycling, or skating along the famous boardwalk, saying hello to King Neptune and stopping for a bite at one of the many beachfront bars and restaurants. While you’re there, visit the Military Aviation Museum to explore one of the largest collections of World War I and World War II aircraft in the world—many of them still in good flying condition.
Image via Flickr by Jason Pratt
Richmond, the capital of Virginia, once also served as the capital of the Confederate States of America. During the American Civil War, the city supplied the Confederate Army with munitions from its foundries and metalworks and served as a railroad hub shipping soldiers and supplies to the far corners of the Confederacy. Visit the American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar to learn more about Richmond’s critical role in the Civil War.
Just minutes from Dulles International Airport, Sterling offers a suburban retreat near the nation’s capital. Enjoy a day of outdoor fun at Algonkian Regional Park on the banks of the Potomac River by renting a paddle boat, hiking the trails, getting in a quick round of golf, or taking the kids to Volcano Island Waterpark. Check around for a good price on a centrally located hotel such as the DoubleTree by Hilton Sterling–Dulles Airport that offers ready access to the airport and a connection to downtown Washington, D.C.
Just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., stay in historic Alexandria, Virginia. While away the hours in the narrow streets of Old Town, preserved to look as they did when George Washington lived in the area. See the Potomac waterfront, then watch local artists at work in the Torpedo Factory Art Center. If you like, walk in the footsteps of history by sitting in the reserved family pews of George Washington and Robert E. Lee at Christ Church.
Image via Flickr by Fotomoe
With Alexandria as your hub, you can take a number of easy day trips to Washington, D.C.; Arlington National Cemetery; Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home; and Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home. By visiting these historic locations and exploring Alexandria, you’ll have a first-hand look at the history of the painful military conflicts that have shaped modern America, mingled with memories of fun in the sun, a hike in the hills, and a literal walk in the footsteps of Washington and Lee.
Cory Hanson is an American travel writer specializing in American and European travel. This is part of a series of American destination posts sponsored by travel search and booking service Hipmunk. Find more Hipmunk posts here, and a full sponsored content disclosure here.