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The Wonders of Virginia

Virginia Wonders

Virginia, birthplace of eight presidents, is located between Chesapeake Bay and the Blue Ridge Mountains, capitol is Richmond and referred to as Old Dominion or Mother of Presidents. One of the original 13 colonies to become the United States, the colony was founded in 1607 and was the first permanent settlement in the New World.
Over 5000 years ago, humans located to the area for hunting and fishing. Around 900 A.D., the residents started farming on the rich fertile soil and about 1500, the Algonquins started towns in the tidewater areas by the coast. The Siouan set up camp in the western part of the state and the Iroquois to the north and south. During the later part of 1570, Chief Powhatan grouped all the Algonquin tribes together under his leadership to ensure safety from the other tribes. They numbered somewhere between 13,000 to 14,000 and lived in over 150 settlements.
Queen Elizabeth I gave Sir Walter Raleigh a charter to search and start a settlement above the territory of Florida. The next year he sent an exploratory party to the Atlantic coast and the name of Virginia was given to the area from Maine to South Carolina. Since the queen was referred to as the "Virgin Queen", it is believed that this may have contributed to the naming of the area. In May, 1607, Captains Christopher Newport and John Smith founded the settlement of Jamestown after King James I, but many died during 1609 because they lacked the necessary staples to survive.

The House of Burgesses became the governing body in 1619, and in 1624 the colony changed ownership from the bankrupt London Company to the crown. Also during 1619, slaves were imported to help with the growth and building of the plantations, towns and infrastructure. The headright system brought more immigrants to the new land. This system stated that settlers coming over would receive land for any indentured servants they brought with them. All the while, the natives were forced from their lands any way the white people could do so. The Treaty of 1677, even made them tributary states. William and Mary College was founded in Williamsburg in 1693 and in 1699 it became the capitol. In 1769, the Royal governor dissolved the House of Burgesses, when Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee gave speeches about the taxation without representation of the English. These 2 men started a committee of correspondence in 1773 and sent a delegation the next year to the Continental Congress. The Virginia Convention declared independence from England in 1776 and adopted George Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights; this important paper led to the Declaration of Independence.
Governor Thomas Jefferson urged relocation of the capitol to Richmond so the English couldn't attack it as easily as Williamsburg. Then in 1781, the army under George Washington and the naval French and continental forces isolated Cornwallis on the peninsula of Yorktown; where they were defeated and surrendered.

This historical state has been involved in many major decisions throughout its many years as a colony and state, or commonwealth as it is known. Many of its early statesmen were a big part of the creation of the United States Constitution. In 1787, James Madison was involved in the drafting of the Virginia plan and in 1789, the Bill of Rights. The commonwealth ratified the Constitution on June 25, 1788 and since it was such a large territory at the time had almost three fifths majority in the House of Representatives. When Washington D.C. was in the works, both Maryland and Virginia donated land for the capitol. But in 1847, the land Virginia gave was retroceded.
The state's thriving economy was mainly agriculture, mining, shipbuilding and other industries; with slave laborers doing the majority of work. In 1860, almost a third of the population of Virginia was slave and was part of the reason for the civil war.
In 1861, after the attack on Fort Sumter, Virginia seceded from the Union and in June of that year the capitol of the Confederate States became Richmond. Then in 1863, the northwest part of the state seceded from Virginia and became West Virginia. This state had more battles fought in it than any other during the Civil War; including, Chancellorville, Bull Run, the Seven Days Battles and the last at Appomattox Courthouse. It returned to the Union in 1870.
During the early 1900s the state's economy began to diverse, especially in 1926, when Dr. Goodwin, rector of the Williamsburg's Bruton Parish Church started renovation on the colonial buildings in the older areas of Williamsburg. The works progressed quickly with the financial help of John D. Rockefeller Jr. Eventually the completion of Colonial Williamsburg was accomplished and it became a centerpiece for the tourism trade. With WWII and the subsequent Cold War, the federal government expanded into the state, with the Pentagon and other federal offices.


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Virginia Tours

 Virginia Tours

Touring Virginia can be a marvelous experience with options available for just about any mode of travel. There are experienced and knowledgeable guides, or maps that help you guide yourself through this wonderful state. With bicycle tours, bus tours, train tours and walking tours; Virginia becomes the place for lovers. A very unique bicycle tour can be acquired from the Old Dominion, which is a 10 day tour on the back roads with layovers at historical inns and hotels. What a fantastic way to enjoy the scenic sights and sounds of this beautiful state. In Arlington, you can take a self-guided tour with 12 stops along a 23 mile route. While in Arlington, don't forget the Arlington Historical Museum. There are bus tours in almost every city in Virginia allowing you to indulge in great homes, authentic old neighborhoods, grand churches and gorgeous scenery. These bus tours should be reserved in advance and usually run about an hour.

In Richmond, a bus tour takes you to historic cemeteries where the discussion runs to the layouts, artwork, symbolism and possible uses as parks. Suffolk takes visitors to many notable homes, neighborhoods, churches and Civil War trails.  Take a very unique train tour at the Northwest River Park that takes you through the haunted areas of the park and woods. You will need a reservation though, since this is a favorite among many tourists. Although these modes of transportation are worthwhile and take you through many enjoyable areas, the very best way to tour this state is by car. Visit the Blue Ridge Highlands or the Virginia triangle, going at your own pace to visit; the famous and truly colonial village of Williamsburg, then Jamestown and Yorktown. All well known historical places that will bring a chill to your spine.

If you enjoy old lighthouses and the aura that they give, then the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse in Cape Henry is one for you to see. Built by the feds in 1792, it was the first lighthouse in the state to be authorized and built by the new federal government. Unfortunately, in 1870, it started to crack and a new lighthouse was erected 375 feet away. After some sturdy renovations though the old lighthouse is now open for tours and panoramic views that will thrill you. If you have ever been atop a lighthouse then you know how windy it gets up there and causes some folks to realize that they don't like heights like that; even when surrounded by a metal and wire balcony.
For the real history buff, the Civil War reenactments are a historian's fantasy. The biggest one is in Pamplin at the Pamplin Historical Park. You will hold your ears when the cannons begin their barrage, get excited as you watch the soldiers load and fire the muskets and just get down with the music that starts coming from the fiddles and banjos. There's plenty of exhibits to enjoy, medicines to smell and food to fill the tummy. A great way to spend a warm summer day in Virginia. To enjoy and thrill about the American Revolution, history aficionados will love the reenactments, there as battle cries, booming cannons and clash of swords fill the air. While there, stop by the Yorktown Victory Center, the museum dedicated to the heroes of the Revolution. There are many more areas to stop by and thrill at the spectacles of these dedicated individuals volunteering their time, money and energies to showing other Americans and visitors what it was like in the mid 1800s when this country was divided by philosophies and differences that only a catastrophic event could bring together.


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Things to do in Virginia

 Virginia Things to do

Looking for things to do in this gorgeous state is no problem at all. For the real historian, the natural bridge is a definite stop. This natural rock formation has created a small arched bridge, which was owned by Thomas Jefferson and signed by George Washington; over a 215 foot drop and is 90 feet wide. At night, there is a wonderful light and music show that gives visitors an added thrill for coming to the beautiful natural wonder. Also located here is the Cedar Creek Nature Trail that wind its way through many natural wonders which include a 1500 year old tree called the Ancient Arbor Vitae Tree. To complement these phenomenon is the Saltpeter Cave, Lost River and Lace Falls; which is a magnificent 50 foot waterfall going down the natural bridge. Nearby is the Monacan Indian Village, replicating the life and exploits of the Indians some 300 years ago. The Natural Bridge Wax Museum is another must see, with its surreal exhibits of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and the Confederates midst strange scenes. Two other sights to try are the Haunted Victorian Manor and Professor Cline's Haunted Monster Museum.

What to do, where to go, what to see, are all questions that could rack your brain or motivate you to make some great plans. There are over 90 different attractions in Williamsburg alone and it is probably one place where you would want to enjoy. Busch Gardens is located there, as is the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. Watercountry is open for your relaxation and enjoyment, especially if you have children and need a day off. The Jamestown settlement celebrating the earliest settlement in America. And Jamestowne is another pristine example of colonial era living besides Colonial Williamsburg. In Williamsburg Antique Mall, you have 45,000 square feet of amazing antiques, the Williamsburg Winery, Yankee Candle Company, Bruton Parish Episcopal Church, where 2 famous members embraced Christianity; Washington and Jefferson. Bassett Hall, the elegant home of the John Rockefellers Jr, filled with 18th century furniture, U.S. Army Transportation Museum, Carter's Grove Plantation, King's Arms Tavern, DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, a haunted dinner theater and the Public Hospital Museum. Also located here is the first college in the United States, William and Mary, the Mariner's Museum, The Magazine and Guardhouse, a museum and artillery built in 1715, taverns, lodges, spas, parks, golf courses and trails that are uncountable. Trails for bikes, hikes, nature lovers, bird watchers, and more spread all across the state of Virginia.  There are cruises, boat tours, boat rentals, canoe rentals and tours, kayak rentals, in fact you can rent any kind of transportation mode that you can think of and some that you didn't imagine; like a segway to hit the fantastic trails, or cruise through an old city.  There are theaters that present plays, movies, skits or whatever; relating to the early times right up until the today. 

The Museum and White House of the Confederacy, now a monumental historical museum, and the former home and headquarters of Jefferson Davis, housing the biggest anthology of the Confederacy's antiquities under one roof. Another venue of inspiration and pride is the Monument Avenue statues. Not only are the statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Jeb Stuart visual preponderance, but the avenue is lined with exquisite architectural houses, some finished, others in the process of renovation. Past observers recommend walking the avenue as the homes don't have driveways and street parking is the only solution the residents and occupants have found.

The James River is another avenue for excitement and fun as it meanders through downtown Richmond. With sightseeing tours or rides aplenty, even a paddlewheel steamer can be a thrill. They also have rafts with guides to take you back to the years when Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn rode the rivers; with a multitude of boats, canoes, kayaks, fishing and wading takes on a whole new meaning along the banks of this very historical city.  You can also visit the oldest longest occupied governor's residence in America at the Executive Mansion. Jackson Ward is the biggest National Historic Landmark district in these United States and more than just a cursory glance is needed to enjoy this wonderful area.  And yes, Santa, there is a Virginia.