Sightseeing in Virginia: What To Do On Your Days Off

After your current assignment comes to an end, it will be time to pack your bags for your next adventure. Where will you be headed next?

If it’s to the east coast, then you’re in luck! The birthplace of eight U.S. Presidents, Virginia has a rich history and many well-preserved historical sites. With its mountain ranges, deep forests, and proximity to the nation’s capital, this state is filled with unusual corners and memorable experiences. It can be overwhelming to plan out what to explore, so to help you out, here are a few fascinating places to visit in Virginia.

Luray Caverns
Considered one of the most beautiful places in Virginia, the Luray Caverns is the largest commercial cave system in the eastern United States. After being discovered by four men in 1878, the now National Natural Landmark is situated 164 feet below ground and stays at 54 degrees fahrenheit year-round. This natural wonder creates an out-of-this-world experience with its limestone crystals and breathtaking calcite, stalagmite, and stalactite formations.

Among the highlights are Titania’s Veil, the giant Double Column, interior lakes, and a one-of-a-kind musical instrument called the Great Stalacpipe Organ, the biggest musical instrument in the world. This all-natural stone lithophone creates music using the stalactites themselves.

Shenandoah National Park
In the center of the state, Shenandoah National Park covers much of the famous mountains of Virginia, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Piedmont, all in one. With 500 miles of hiking trails, including 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail, there is so much to enjoy. Along the way, you’ll see cascading waterfalls with beautiful views of natural Virginia and a multitude of wild creatures, including black bears, beavers, foxes, and deer, and over 200 species of birds, including wild turkeys and barred owls.

Restaurants, camping spots, and lodges are scattered across the park to add some extra flair to your visit.

Mcafee Knob
McAfee Knob is one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail as it winds its way through Virginia. Located atop Catawba Mountain, the knob hangs at an elevation of 3,197 feet and is one of the highlights of the Appalachian Trail. It takes around eight miles to reach the top, but the stunning 270-degree panoramic views of the surrounding valley and mountains will definitely be worth it.

McAfee Knob is one of the most popular hikes on the East Coast, so it is on the bucket list for hikers worldwide. Try hiking on a weekday rather than the weekends to avoid larger crowds.

Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center
The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center provides a wide range of exhibits and activities for the entire family and is one of the most popular family attractions in Virginia Beach. This vast establishment houses over 700 different species of animals with a total of more than 12,000 individual animals of all kinds living across various habitats and an 800,000-gallon aquarium.

The aquarium residents include Loggerhead sea turtles, sandbar sharks, water-dwelling reptiles like Komodo dragons, and entertaining mammals, including harbor seals and otters. There’s also a variety of educational exhibits and activities for all ages and a six-story theater, which regularly shows 3-D nature films.

If you want a more interactive experience with nature, there are great outdoor recreation options. Take a spin at the six-acre zipline adventure park (ages five and up), and enjoy one of the center’s various boat excursions where you can spot wildlife, including bottlenose dolphins, various whales, and many types of sea birds.

St. Albans Sanatorium
For a more paranormal experience, the St. Albans Sanatorium is claimed to be the most haunted spot in the eastern U.S. The abandoned asylum allegedly has a dark, eerie air to it, making any visitor aware of its dark past sullied by decades of horrors. Originally a Lutheran boys school, St. Albans reopened in 1916 as a psychiatric infirmary after the school shut its doors.

Ill-equipped to deal with its thousands of patients, the sanatorium’s staff-to-patient ratio was 48 to 6,509. The desperately small staff and inhumane living conditions led to the building’s steady decline, and it finally closed in the 1990s. Broken toys litter the floor while old wheelchairs rust in corners beneath the grimy walls of this once stately building. According to paranormal investigators and curious visitors, people have reported seeing bodily apparitions, shadowy figures, and levitating objects while exploring the abandoned building. Others claim to hear voices or even feel fleeting physical contact with unseen beings.

Are you brave enough to visit? This location is one that you will never forget!

You will never experience a dull moment in Virginia—from visiting the favorite spots of previous presidents to indulging in all of the natural treasures the state has to offer. If you can’t wait to get started, take a look at our job board for your next adventure.

See you soon!

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