Text by Laurie Coughlan
Virginia Natural History Sites
Shenandoah National Park The northernmost entrance is off Route 340 (also called Stonewall Jackson Highway) near Front Royal, Virginia. Thornton Gap Entrance is off Highway 211 East (also called Lee Highway) near Luray, Virginia. Swift Run Gap Entrance is off Route 33 (also called Spotswood Trail) and has a physical address of 22591 Spotswood Trail, Elkton, Virginia. The southernmost entrance, Rockfish Gap, is off Highway 250 a few miles east of Waynesboro, Virginia.
Shenandoah National Park includes 300 square miles of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the southern Appalachians. The park rises above the Virginia Piedmont to its east and the Shenandoah Valley to its west. Two peaks, Stony Man and Hawksbill, exceed 4,000 feet. The range of elevation, slopes and aspects, rocks and soils, precipitation, and latitude create a mix of habitats. Tens of thousands of living creatures make their homes in the park, from black bear resting beneath rock overhangs, to tiny aquatic insects darting through cool mountain streams. The park’s many worlds are fascinating to explore. Hikers in the Blue Ridge Mountains enjoy parts of the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia.
Prince William Forest Park 18100 Park Headquarters Road, Triangle, VA 22172-1644. Prince William Forest Park protects the largest piedmont forest in the National Park Service and the largest green-space in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region. This park gives area residents and visitors a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in an abundance of natural features, ecosystems, flora, and fauna.
Virginia Cultural and Historical Sites
Arlington National Cemetery Arlington Mansion and 200 acres of ground immediately surrounding it were designated officially as a military cemetery June 15, 1864, by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. More than 300,000 people are buried at Arlington Cemetery, including veterans from all the nation's wars from the American Revolution through the Iraq and Afghanistan. The Cemetery is open to the public at 8 a.m. 365 days a year. From April 1 to Sept. 30 the cemetery closes at 7 p.m. Ample paid parking is available to visitors, accessible from Memorial Drive. During all hours the cemetery is open, the Arlington Cemetery Metro stop is regularly served by high-speed subway trains. The cemetery is also a stop on most tour guides' itineraries, and is serviced by Tourmobile, the popular tour buses that allow patrons unlimited reboarding for a single daily rate.
Mount Vernon was the plantation home of the first President of the United States, George Washington. The estate with its neoclassical Georgian architectural style mansion, is located on the banks of the Potomac River, just 16 miles south of Washington, D.C. and 8 miles south of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Visitors are invited to tour the mansion house and more than a dozen outbuildings including the slave quarters, kitchen, stables, and greenhouse.
Monticello Pronounced "Mon-ti-chel-lo," the home Thomas Jefferson built over 40 years, from 1769 to 1809, is a highlight of any visit to Virginia. This architectural masterpiece was the first Virginia plantation manse to sit atop a mountain rather than beside a river. March-Oct daily 8am-5pm Off Va. 53, Charlottesville, 434/984-9822 for information.
Colonial Williamsburg Experience life as it was in 18th century America. Explore the homes and buildings where men like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Patrick Henry inspired the fight for independence. See historic trades and sites, interpretations, animals, and entertainment. Williamsburg is midway between Richmond and Norfolk on I-64 (exit 238). Look for the America's Historic Triangle directional signs (blue with red-and-white "ribbon"), with the Colonial Williamsburg logo. The signs will direct you to the Visitor Center (101A Visitor Center Drive (Hwy 132Y). Allow at least a full day.
Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial (Civil War) 120 Chatham Lane, Fredericksburg, Virginia 22405. The December 13, 1862, Battle of Fredericksburg is remembered today as one of the greatest Union defeats of the Civil War. The April-May 1863 battle of Chancellorsville is known as Confederate General Robert E. Lee's greatest victory. The May 5-6, 1864 Battle of the Wilderness began six weeks of violent skirmishes which became the bloodiest campaign in American History. On May 8, 1864 the Union army seized initiative by moving from the Wilderness to Spotsylvania Court House. That shift changed the course of the war as the armies began the road to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House.
Manassas National Battlefield Park (Civil War) 12521 Lee Highway, Manassas, VA 20109-2005. In the summer of 1861, enthusiastic volunteers in colorful uniforms gathered to fight the first major land battle of the war. Both armies, confident that their foes would turn and run, failed to anticipate the smoke, din and death of battle which ensued. Nearly one year later, both sides met again on the same battlefield with the Confederates winning a solid victory bringing them to the height of their power.
Petersburg National Battlefield:5001 Siege Road, Petersburg, Virginia 23803. Petersburg National Battlefield Park is located in south-central Virginia approximately 25 miles south of Richmond, Virginia. The park encompasses a large area with battlefield sites and visitor centers located in Dinwiddie, Hopewell and Prince George Counties. It commemorates the nine and one-half month siege of this city from June 1864 - April 1865. A driving tour of the battlefields outlined on the park map includes 13 separate sites with three visitor centers along a 33 mile route. A fabulous church with 13 spectacular Tiffany windows sits near the entrance of the Petersburg National Cemetery.
Richmond National Battlefield Park 3215 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23223. Richmond's story is not just the tale of one large Civil War battle, nor even one important campaign. Instead, the park's resources include a naval battle site, a key industrial complex, the Confederacy's largest hospital, dozens of miles of elaborate original fortifications, and the evocative spots where determined soldiers stood paces apart and fought with rifles, reaping a staggering human cost.
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Page updated 10:48 AM 2/15/2011