Getting Oriented

West of Richmond, Virginia stretches toward boardering West Virginia and Kentucky, with its most southwestern point more than a 400-mi drive from the state's capital city. Rolling countryside is broken up by the dramatic Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains. One of the largest of the South Atlantic states, Virginia stretches 470 mi from the Eastern Shore to its western extremities.

Charlottesville and the Blue Ridge. Charlottesville, just east of the Blue Ridge, centers around Thomas Jefferson's architectural genius—Monticello and the University of Virginia. To the south, the restored Civil War–era village of Appomattox Court House is a peek back in time. Farther west the Blue Ridge juts suddenly out of the landscape. Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway ride the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Shenandoah Valley. Beyond the Blue Ridge is the famed Shenandoah Valley, a 150-mi stretch of picturesque meadows and farms framed by mountains on either side. Along the western rim of Virginia is Winchester, which changed hands no fewer than 72 times during the Civil War. Farther south is Lexington, known for its ties to Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

Southwest Virginia. In Roanoke, Virginia's largest city west of Richmond, the 81,000-square-foot Taubman Museum of Art has established the city's reputation as a cultural center. In this area you can hike and camp in the George Washington and Jefferson national forests, float along on the New River, and photograph wild ponies near the state's highest mountain. West of these valleys, the country becomes its most rugged, in the Allegheny Mountains along the Virginia-West Virginia border, and the deeply gorged Appalachian Plateau coal country in the state's far southwest tip. Known as the Allegheny Highlands, this region is undergoing a renaissance after years of neglect.

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