Central and Western Virginia

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Central and Western Virginia - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Monticello

    Thomas Jefferson's home, featured on the back of the U.S. nickel, is well worth the admission and the almost inevitable wait. Arrive early, ideally on a weekday, and allow at least three hours to explore the nuances of Jefferson's life as exemplified by the architecture, inventions, and layout throughout his grand hilltop estate. Monticello (which means "little mountain") is the most famous of Jefferson's homes, constructed from 1769 to 1809. Note the narrow staircases—hidden because he considered them unsightly and a waste of space—and his inventions, such as a seven-day clock and a two-pen contraption that allowed him to make a copy of his correspondence as he wrote it without having to show it to a copyist. On-site are re-created gardens, the plantation street where his slaves lived, and a gift shop.

    931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, Virginia, 22902, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Mar.–Oct. $25; Nov.–Feb. $20, Mar.–Nov., daily 9–5; Dec.–Feb., daily 10–4
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  • 2. National D-Day Memorial

    This site stirs the soul, bringing the sacrifice of D-Day home. When Allied forces landed at Normandy on June 6, 1944, in what would be the decisive military move of World War II, the small town of Bedford lost 19 of its young men, and four more in days to come. The memorial's focal point is a huge granite arch and flag plaza on a hill overlooking the town. There are also granite statues of soldiers in combat and a reflecting pool that periodically shoots up spurts of water, as if struck by bullets. Don't be surprised if you see some D-Day veterans sitting near the memorial.

    3 Overlord Circle, Bedford, Virginia, 24523, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $10; $8 military, Tues.–Sun. 10–5, Closed Mon. Dec.–Feb.
  • 3. O. Winston Link Museum

    You can relive the final days of steam trains at the O. Winston Link Museum, inside a renovated passenger train station. Link spent several years in the late 1950s and early 1960s photographing Norfolk and Western's last steam engines in the railroads of southwest Virginia. The hundreds of stunning black-and-white photographs on display do much more than evoke nostalgia—they also capture day-to-day life: a horse-drawn carriage awaiting an oncoming train, a locomotive rocketing past lovers watching a drive-in movie.

    101 Shenandoah Ave., Roanoke, Virginia, 24016, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $5, Mon.–Sun. 10–5.
  • 4. Roanoke Star

    Even in daylight, the Roanoke skyline is dominated by a star. The 100-foot-tall Mill Mountain Star, constructed in 1949 as a holiday decoration, stands in a city park 1,000 feet above the Roanoke Valley. Normally illuminated in white, on special occasions the star might sport festive colors, like red, white, and blue for July 4. From either of the park's two overlooks, Roanoke, the "Star City of the South," looks like a scale model of a city, framed by wave after wave of Appalachian ridgelines. You can hike or bike the mountain's greenway trail or share your visit on social media via the live "star cam."

    JP Fishburn Pkwy., Roanoke, Virginia, 24011, USA
  • 5. Shenandoah National Park

    Though Shenandoah National Park is only a narrow ribbon on the map, stretching 70 miles along the Blue Ridge but rarely more than 5 miles wide, it is easy to imagine being much deeper in the wilderness as you travel through it or spend a night camping here. Steep wooded ridges with rocky slopes stand out in the foreground of vistas taking in the Shenandoah Valley to the west and the Piedmont to the east. Skyline Drive traverses the park end to end, from Waynesboro to Front Royal, and is the most common way to see the park. But hikers can find beautiful terrain just yards from the drive on some of the park's 500 miles of trails; trout fishers may wade into more than 25 streams, and riders can rent horses for wilderness trail rides. Those who want to know more about the area's flora and fauna may want to take a guided hike, which naturalists lead daily throughout the season. The seasonal activities of the park are outlined in the Shenandoah Overlook, a free newspaper you can pick up on entering the park or on the park's website.

    Luray, Virginia, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $20 car; $10 walk-up or bike; $15 motorcycle, Several free days during year
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  • 6. Skyline Drive

    Alternating between wide-open vistas and forest-hemmed stretches, Skyline Drive offers 105 miles of easily accessible wilderness. Designated as a National Historic Landmark, the winding two-lane scenic byway runs from Front Royal in the north to Waynesboro in the south. On weekends and holidays, in particular, a 35-mph speed limit, rubber-necking leaf-lookers, small overlook pull-offs, and the occasional black bear sighting can cause cars to inch along Skyline Drive. It's best to choose a weekday and give yourself a full day to explore; you may want to spend an hour or two simply savoring the views from a roadside boulder.

    Luray, Virginia, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Closed during inclement weather in winter
  • 7. Anne Spencer House and Gardens

    Step into "Edankraal," the studio of Anne Spencer, a late poet of the Harlem Renaissance, and where she penned her most significant works. Hers is the only work of a Virginian to appear in the Norton Anthology of Modern American and English Poetry. A librarian at one of Lynchburg's segregated black schools, Spencer (1882–1975) penned most of her work in this back-garden sanctuary, which has been left completely intact along with her writing desk, bookcases, mementos, and walls, tacked with photos and news clippings.

    1313 Pierce St., Lynchburg, Virginia, 22504, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $15, Tours by appointment, Museums closed Nov.--Mar., Garden free
  • 8. Appomattox Court House

    To many history buffs, the Civil War lives on, but history books say it ended here, 25 miles east of Lynchburg, on April 9, 1865, when Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant, leader of pursuing Union forces. There are 27 structures in the national historical park, restored to its 1865 appearance, and most can still be accessed. A highlight is the reconstructed McLean House, where the articles of surrender were signed.

    111 National Park Dr., Lynchburg, Virginia, 24522, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Daily 8:30–5, Visitor parking on Rt. 24
  • 9. Ash Lawn–Highland

    Standing in contrast to the grandiose Monticello is the modest home of James Monroe, who held more major political offices than any other U.S. president. He intentionally kept it a simple farmhouse, building the home in 1799, two miles from his friend Jefferson's estate. A later owner added on a more prominent two-story section where two of the original Monroe rooms burned down. Though it definitely has a more common feel than Monticello, the small rooms in Ash Lawn–Highland are similarly crowded, with gifts from notables and souvenirs from Monroe's time as envoy to France. Allow a couple of hours to visit Monroe's estate, a perfect way to complete a day that begins at Monticello.

    2050 James Monroe Pkwy., Charlottesville, Virginia, 22902, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $14, Apr.–Oct., daily 9–6; Nov.–Mar., daily 11–5
  • 10. Barboursville Vineyards


    Barboursville Vineyards. This vineyard between Charlottesville and Orange was the first in the state to grow only vinifera (old-world) grapes. The grapes were planted in 1976 on the former plantation of James Barbour, governor from 1812 to 1814. His house, designed by Thomas Jefferson, was gutted by fire in 1884; the ruins remain are open to visitors for self-guided tours. 17655 Winery Rd., near intersection of Rtes. 20 and 23, Barboursville, VA, 22923. 540/832–3824. www.barboursvillewine.com. Tours free; tastings $5. Tastings Mon.–Sat. 10–5, Sun. 11–5.

    17655 Winery Rd., near intersection of Rtes. 20 and 23, Barboursville, Virginia, 22923, United States

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Tours free; tastings $5, Tastings Mon.–Sat. 10–5, Sun. 11–5
  • 11. Belle Grove

    Both an elegant farmhouse and 100-acre working farm, Belle Grove is a monument to the rural and the refined, two qualities that exist in harmony in the architecture here and throughout the region. Constructed in 1797 out of limestone quarried on the property, the building reflects the influence of Thomas Jefferson, said to have been a consultant. Originally built for Major Isaac Hite and his wife Nelly (President James Madison's sister), this was the headquarters of the Union general Philip Sheridan during the Battle of Cedar Creek (1864), a crucial defeat for the Confederacy. Part of the battle was fought on the farm.

    336 Belle Grove Rd., Middletown, Virginia, 22645, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $12, Apr.–Oct., Mon.–Sat. 10–3:15, Sun. 1–4:15; Nov., Sat. 10–4, Sun. noon–5, Closed Dec. 31–Mar. 17
  • 12. Blue Ridge Parkway

    The Blue Ridge Parkway takes up where Skyline Drive leaves off at Waynesboro, weaving south for 469 miles to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. The parkway goes up to higher elevations than the drive, up to 4,200 feet at Apple Orchard Mountain, and even higher in North Carolina. In Virginia the parkway is especially scenic between Waynesboro and Roanoke, winding through the George Washington National Forest, visiting numerous ridgetop overlooks that provide views of crumpled-looking mountains and patchwork valleys. Milepost 0 is at Rockfish Gap. There are no gas stations on the parkway, so you'll have to exit if you need to refuel, and be prepared for a leisurely drive as the speed limit is 45 mph. Go to the Visitor Center at Explore Park, open 9–5 daily year-round, 1.5 miles north of milepost 115 near Roanoke, or call the National Park Service's office in Vinton (540/857–2490) for information on Virginia's section of the parkway.

    Virginia, USA
  • 13. Booker T. Washington National Monument

    It would have been hard for Booker T. Washington to imagine the farm on which he was born into slavery hosting a national monument. But this restored tobacco farm 25 miles southeast of Roanoke and 21 miles south of Bedford is a fitting tribute to the humble origins of Washington (1856–1915), who broke through the yoke of oppression to become a remarkable educator and author, advising presidents McKinley, Roosevelt, and Taft and taking tea with Queen Victoria. He also started Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and inspired generations of African-Americans. Covering 224 acres, the farm's restored buildings, tools, crops, animals, and, in summer, interpreters in period costume, all help show what life during slavery was like.

    7254 Booker T. Washington Hwy., Wirtz, Virginia, 24101, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Daily 9–5
  • 14. Carter's Mountain Orchard

    If apple cider is more to your taste, visit Carter's Mountain Orchard for stunning views of Charlottesville and some of the best apples in the state, or pick your own bushel during the season.

    1435 Carters Mountain Trail, Charlottesville, Virginia, 22901, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: pick-your-own April to November
  • 15. Center in the Square

    In a restored warehouse, the Center complex contains the Mill Mountain Theatre and several regional museums covering science, history, and art, and even a pinball museum! An open atrium and a butterfly garden are also included and a combo ticket is offered for all attractions.

    1 Market Sq. SE, Roanoke, Virginia, 24011, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $25 combo ticket all museums, Closed Mon.
  • 16. Crabtree Falls

    A series of cascades fall a distance of 1,200 feet. Combined, Virginia claims this is the highest waterfall east of the Rockies, though no single waterfall within the series would qualify as such. Whatever the superlatives or qualifications, the falls are a wondrous sight. A trail winds up a steep mountainside all the way to the top, but the first overlook is an easy stroll 700 feet from the lower parking lot. The best time to see the waterfalls is winter through spring, when the water is high.

    11581 Crabtree Falls Hwy., Montebello, Virginia, 24464, USA
  • 17. Exchange Hotel Civil War Museum

    During the Civil War, a handsome Greek revival hotel was transformed into a Confederate-receiving hospital for wounded and dying soldiers. In addition to weapons, uniforms, and the personal effects of Union and Confederate soldiers, the museum displays the often crude medical equipment used for amputations, tooth extractions, and bloodletting. One room re-creates a hospital ward; an estimated 70,000 soldiers were treated here between 1862 and 1865. The museum hosts an annual ghost walk every October.

    400 S. Main St., Gordonsville, Virginia, 22942, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $10, Apr.–mid-Nov., Mon.–Sat. 10–4, Sun. 1–4. Closed Wed., Closed Wed. and all major holidays
  • 18. Frontier Culture Museum

    An outdoor living-history museum, the Frontier Culture Museum re-creates agrarian life in America. The four illustrative farmsteads, American, Scotch-Irish, German, and English, were painstakingly moved from their original sites and reassembled on the museum grounds. A West African village and an American Indian village are also among the exhibits. The livestock and plants here resemble the historic breeds and varieties as closely as possible. Special programs and activities, held throughout the year, include soap and broom making, cornhusking bees, and supper and barn dances.

    1290 Richmond Ave., Staunton, Virginia, 22401, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $12, Dec.–Mar., daily 10–4; Apr.–Dec., daily 9–5
  • 19. George C. Marshall Museum

    This museum preserves the memory of the World War II army chief of staff. Exhibits trace his brilliant career, which began when he was aide-de-camp to John "Black Jack" Pershing in World War I and culminated when, as secretary of state, he devised the Marshall Plan, a strategy for reviving postwar Western Europe. Marshall's Nobel Peace Prize is on display; so is the Oscar won by his aide Frank McCarthy, who produced the Academy Award–winning Best Picture of 1970, Patton. An electronically narrated map tells the story of World War II.

    Lexington, Virginia, 24450, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $5, Tues.–Sat. 9–5, Sun. 1–5, Closed Mon., Tues., and Thanksgiving, Blue Star museum: free to active duty military families
  • 20. Harrisonburg–Rockingham Historical Society

    Displays of multimedia folk art reflect the largely German and Scotch-Irish culture of the valley. One Civil War exhibit includes an electric map that traces Stonewall Jackson's famous 1862 Valley Campaign.

    382 High St., Dayton, Virginia, 22821, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $8, Mon.–Sat. 10–5, Closed Sun.

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