PICK A SUNNY SPRING AFTERNOON to wander the streets of Colonial Williamsburg or the pathways of the Frontier Culture Museum. Choose a summer day to climb the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse or descend into the cool labyrinth of Luray. Spend the next cold or rainy day indoors at the Chrysler Museum of Art or Mount Vernon.
Virginia boasts so many rich historical sites that it's often difficult to know where to go. This guide presents the 175 best places--a mix of the famous and obscure, the large and the small--sites well worth visiting. We've made hard choices and left out many fine sites. We chose not to include Virginia's historic courthouses, churches, parks, cemeteries, theaters, mills, jails, libraries, memorials, monuments, or sites where something "once stood." While walking tours and historic downtowns are wonderful, they did not make the cut. Nor did we include cultural centers, children's museums, or any museum not opened regular hours. We recommend that you call or check the websites before heading out.
When you come back from your trip, send us an email about your experiences to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Carlyle House
Located in Old Town Alexandria, Carlyle House was completed in 1753 by a wealthy Scottish merchant for his bride, Sarah Fairfax of Belvoir. It quickly became a center of social and political life and served as General Braddock's headquarters during the French and Indian War. (703) 549-2997 or www.nvrpa.org/parks/carlylehouse/index.php
2. Christ Church
Located in Old Town Alexandria, this beautiful Engfish country-style church was built between 1767-1773. George Washington worshipped here--his pew is marked with a silver plaque--as did Robert E. Lee. (703) 549-1450 or www.historicchristchurch.org
3. Fort Ward Museum
During the Civil War, Washington, DC was the most fortified city in the world. Of the 160 Union forts and batteries that once stood guard, Fort Ward is the best preserved. Visitors learn about Alexandria when it was occupied by Union troops, the town's role as a vital Union Army crossroads, life within the defensive perimeter of Washington, and the day-to-day lives of soldiers and civilians. (703) 838-4848 or oha.alexandriava.gov/fortward
4. Gadsby's Tavern
Enjoy a meal where George Washington used to drink and dine. Before heading home, visit the exhibits next door. The museum consists of a 1785 tavern and the 1792 City Hotel, both operated by Englishman John Gadsby from 1796 to 1808. Other prominent patrons included John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the Marquis de Lafayette. (703) 838-4242 or www.gadsbystavern.org
5. Mount Vernon
The home of the nation's first president, Mount Vernon was the first-and most important--historic housemuseum in the nation. A brand new museum contains 25 galleries with hundreds of artifacts. State of the art theaters and interactive displays, plus a library for researchers and students, provide a memorable experience. The gardens, riverside fields, and four-acre farm with heritage breed animals give a sense of plantation life. Fine restaurants, cafeterias, and shops round out the experience. Don't miss the reconstructed whiskey distillery and gristmill located three miles from the mansion. (703) 780-2000 or www.mountvernon.org
George Washington gave 2,000 acres of his Mount Vernon estate as a wedding gift to Nelly Custis, Martha's granddaughter, and her husband, Lawrence Lewis, Washington's nephew, in 1799. Spacious rooms and formal gardens reflect Virginia plantation life in the early 1800s. (703) 780-4000 or www.woodlawn1805.org
7. Arlington House and National Cemetery & Robert E. Lee Memorial
Built in the early 1800s in the Greek Revival style, the plantation home of General Lee was confiscated by Union troops when its owner chose to fight for the South. …