5 Nice Outside Summer time Locations in Virginia

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Virginia is for the outdoorsy, and boy does our beautiful Commonwealth boast some spectacular sights!

More than 30 National Park Service stops are located in Virginia. It was so hard to pick some of our favorites, but we’ve narrowed it down to our top 5 for summer (look for our top 5 fall picks in a few months)!

  1. Cumberland Gap, Lee County

Cumberland Gap NPSImage: National Park Service

Need to brave the summer heat? Then maybe it’s time to head into the hills – the mountains of West Virginia, that is! The Cumberland Gap, an area where visitors can actually stand in three states at once, offers nature lovers a treasure trove of outdoor activities.

If it’s too hot on the surface, there are subterranean experiences at Gap Cave, located below Pinnacle Overlook. If underground experiences aren’t your forte, history might be! At the Hensley settlement atop Brush Mountain, guests can enter a forge, tour a springhouse, explore a one-room schoolhouse and imagine life from 1903 to 1951 in 35,000 acres of wilderness.

  1. Big cases, McLean

Great Falls Park NPSImage: National Park Service

While Virginia has a number of waterfalls with associated swimming holes, McLean’s Great Falls is not one of them (actually, swimming and wading are both prohibited). But the sight of the Potomac River cascading between the rocks is a sight to behold!

We chose this 800-acre park as a great place for summer recreation not only for the incredible views, but also for the variety of activities available to visitors. Located just 15 miles from Washington DC, the outdoor area offers space for cyclists, hikers, fishermen, rock climbers, bird watchers and horseback riders. Believe it or not, there are boating opportunities there too, but be careful – the rapids vary from Class II (moderately easy) to Class VI (extreme)!

  1. Chesapeake Bay, Tangier Island

Tangier-Chesapeake Bay NPSImage: National Park Service

There’s a bit of everything in the Chesapeake Bay area. From port towns like Hampton Roads and Norfolk to quiet seaside towns like Cape Charles Beach, it’s the perfect spot for a fun-filled summer weekend.

Everything you want on a beach getaway can be found along the Chesapeake Bay. There is shopping, fishing, and several oceanfront restaurants where guests can enjoy fresh seafood. Children ages four to 12 can become Junior Rangers along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, while children ages 18 to 25 can apply to the Chesapeake Conservation Corps Program. The bay is also considered to be the largest estuary in the country!

  1. Fort Monroe, Fort Monroe

Fort Monroe NPSImage: National Park Service

Did you know that the first enslaved Africans arrived in the New World off the Virginia coast? In 1619, some “20 and odd” African men and women landed at Point Comfort, the coastal area now known as Fort Monroe, after being stolen from a slave ship bound for Vera Cruz, Mexico by English privateers.

As of the 1860 census, there were more than 3.9 million enslaved people in the United States. Effective January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declared that enslaved persons were free. Unfortunately, the Confederate States ignored the proclamation, and slavery continued in the South until the end of the Civil War in April 1865.

Now Fort Monroe helps tell the story of the first African arrivals through walking tours, special events, exhibits, a historical marker and more.

  1. Appomattox Courthouse, Appomattox County

Appomattox NPSImage: National Park Service

Summer is a great time to visit the Appomattox Court House in Appomattox, Virginia. While the home of Wilmer McLean, where Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, might be one of the main reasons people seek out the location, there’s a lot more to see than the Surrender Room.

Wetlands are probably something visitors would expect closer to the ocean, but they’re also found in central Virginia—sometimes! In summer, the spring pool is invisible. Why? Because it dries up! The summer months are the only times the land can be seen without standing water, as the cooler months bring the feature to life. There are also several hiking options for outdoor enthusiasts, with eight different trails around the park ranging from under a mile to nearly five miles.

Did your favorite outdoor summer spot in Virginia make the list? Let me know [email protected].