Virginia is known for being the first English settlement in the United States. It is also known as the State that gave the U.S. eight Presidents! Among other things, it is called the ‘Mother of Presidents’ and the ‘Mother of States’.
Virginia is also known for the Appalachian Trail, Oysters, Presidential homes, the Arlington National Cemetery, Dirty Dancing, Wild Ponies, Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, and the Brunswick Stew. Virginia is known for Shenandoah National Park and numerous lakes it houses within its borders. Did you also know that the first-ever Thanksgiving was held at James River, and not at Plymouth as commonly believed?
Here are 30 things Virginia is known for. Read on and see how many you can tick off the ‘Oh, I knew this!” list.
1. The Mother of Presidents
Four out of the first five Presidents were from Virginia: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe. In total, Virginia has given the U.S. eight Presidents. Others include William Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, and Woodrow Wilson. Naturally, this has earned the State the monicker, ‘Mother of Presidents’.
2. Historic triangle
Knowns as America’s Historic Triangle, Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown are a treasure trove of history. Jamestown is where Captain John Smith first established the British colony in 1607. The Yorktown battlefield is where the last war of American Revolution was fought, where British General Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington. In Colonial Williamsburg, you can step back into history — literally. Specifically, 18th century. This living museum stays in character 24 hours a day. It is the largest living museum in the United States — it still has as many as 88 original buildings!
3. The Pentagon
The headquarter building of the US Department of Defense is often mistaken to be situated at Washington. The fact is it is situated close to Washington but in Virginia. Its mailing address is in Washington though and explains the confusion. The Pentagon is huge with 6,500,000 square feet of office space building! Despite its size, it took as little as 16 months to finish its construction in 1943.
4. Virginia ham
Virginia ham is a culinary icon today, accorded a status like no other in Virginia. When the British colonists first landed in America, three pigs set foot on the land too. Soon, they multiplied and helped keep year-round supply of meat. The deliciousness of Virginia ham can be understood from the fact that Thomas Jefferson had dozens of this meat shipped to him when he stayed in France! The most iconic Virginia Ham comes from Smithfield, which is called the ‘ham capital of the world’.
5. Blue Ridge Parkway
A 469-mile long ribbon of road, this Parkway stretches from the Central-Southern Appalachian in Virginia to North Carolina. Offering stunning sceneries along the way, the road also weaves through wonderfully diverse traditions across regions. One can explore a number of things, from Cherokee life to Southern Appalachians’ music. Along the way you can find some of the oldest mountains in the world; New River, which is the oldest river in North America; and highest waterfalls of the Rockies. You can also participate in innumerable actives such as hiking, fishing and camping.
6. Mother of States
Virginia is known as the Mother of States because, little surprise, it was the first State that was made home by the colonists. But also probably because Kentucky and West Virginia were carved out from this State.
7. “Virginia is for lovers” slogan
‘Virginia is for lovers’ is a travel and tourism slogan used in Virginia since 1969. During this period, Eric Sehgal’s Love Story was extremely popular. As was Jacqueline Susann’s The Love Machine. It seemed only natural that the marketing of the State uses something that was contemporary and bold for the time. The initial phrase was to be used with a modifier: for instance, ‘Virginia is for beach lovers’ or ‘Virginia is for mountain lovers’. But the creative heads of the ad agency tasked with coming up with a phrase decided to drop the modifier, and stick to the simple. Today, it is still a popular phrase.
8. Dirty Dancing
Dirty Dancing is an iconic film that captured the imagination of viewers in the 1980s. But did you know that this was almost exclusively filmed in Virginia? The fictional Kellerman’s Resort featured in the film is, in fact, the Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke! The hotel today offers Dirty Dancing package, complete with Dirty Dancing themed activities, dance parties, dance classes and more.
Initially, Virginia was envisaged as a State that would cultivate silk. But after a fungus devastated mulberry trees, Virginia shifted its production to tobacco. It was a major cash crop during colonial British rule.
10. Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery is the State’s military cemetery that serves as the final resting place for those who sacrificed their lives to fighting for the cause of their country. It has tombs of those who lost their lives in World War I, World War II, Vietnam War, Cold War and Civil War. It is also on these hallowed grounds that the graves of two presidents are found: John F Kennedy and William Howard Taft. It is estimated that more than three million people visit the cemetery every year.
11. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Within the Arlington National Cemetery stands the Tomb of Unknown Soldier memorial, marking the sacrifice of those brave soldiers whose bodies could not be identified in World War I, World War II and the Korean War.
12. Virginia Natural Bridge
This geological formation is situation within a gorge by the Cedar creek, which is James River’s tributary. Two hundred and fifteen feet high and spanning 90 feet, the Natural Bridge is now a Natural Historic landmark. Its imposing structure inspired the Monacan Indians to worship it and Thomas Jefferson to buy it.
13. Manassas National Battlefield
This is a 5,000 acre park that witnessed two major civil war conflicts — the Union and the Confederates faced each other off in 1861 and 1862. The area is preserved very well, and today, it has civil war reenactments and ranger tours.
14. Chincoteague Pony Swim
Marguerite Henry visited the island of Chincoteague and was inspired to write a novel. Thus was born Misty of Chincoteague which was published in 1947. And it made famous the Chincoteague Pony Swim, which consists of wild ponies of the Assateague Island swimming over to Chincoteague as part of the festival. It doubles up as a fundraiser for the local volunteer fire company. Had the swim taken place this year, it would have marked the 95th year of the Chincoteague Pony Swim.
15. Assateague Island
The Southern third of this island is in Virginia while the Northern two-thirds is in Maryland. There are tons of things to explore here, such as salty marshes, the wild ponies, and of course, beaches. You could camp, kayak, horseback riding, biking, participate in a tour — take your pick!
16. Brunswick Stew, Virginia
As with the cheeseburgers, there are other contenders who claim to have invented the Brunswick Stew, Georgia being the other claimant. Virginia General Assembly, to lend credibility to their claim, declared in 1988 that Brunswick County was ‘The Original Home of Brunswick Stew’. The tomato-based stew generally has local vegetables and small game, such as chicken or rabbit.
17. Birthplace of frats
University life can be wild, and two of the characteristic features of a university is streaking and frats. And it is claimed that Virginia was the birthplace of both! The first ever recorded instance of streaking was apparently in 1804. And Phi Beta Kappa was started way back in 1776 at College of William & Mary.
Peanuts were brought to Southern Unites States by enslaved Africans. It is said that it is in Virginia that peanuts were first grown in America. By 1902, the State had become the largest peanut producer. Today, Virginia peanuts are considered among the best the world.
19. First Thanksgiving
The first Thanksgiving was very very different from how it is thought to have been celebrated, and came two years before the ‘Plymouth Thanksgiving of 1621’, which is considered to be the first Thanksgiving fete. The original Thanksgiving did not have either Native Americans or a feast, let alone a Turkey. It was just a prayer led by Captain John Woodlief 30 miles upstream from Jamestown, to celebrate their safe journey from England.
Virginia is known for its oysters and even has the distinction of being called the Oyster Capital of the East Coast. As many as 40 million oysters have been sold every year since 2016! Virginia oysters are famous because of their diverse taste. From sweet and salty to buttery, they are loaded with flavors. Eight regions harvest oysters, each producing its own unique flavor.
21. Sandra Bullock
Sandra Bullock is a Virginian! The actor, producer and philanthropist is much loved for her roles in Miss Congeniality, The Proposal, Speed and Gravity.
22. Blue crabs
Found in Virginia’s coastal town of Chesapeake Bay and Eastern Shore, blue crabs are delicious seafood that are cooked in different ways in numerous hotels.
23. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
At 17.6 miles, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is the world’s largest bridge-tunnel complex. It crosses over and underwater where Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. It was opened in 1964.
24. Mount Vernon
This is the historic home of the first President of the United States, George Washington and his wife, Martha. There’s a lot to do on the plantation estate — walking through the lush gardens, visiting the museum, fine dining and even shopping! Today, this historical site is wonderfully preserved. But this wasn’t always the case. It almost fell into ruins after the death of the Washingtons, after which it changed hands a couple of times, all the while deteriorating. It was saved in the 1850s by Ann Pamela Cunningham and the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.
Monticello is a 5,000 acre plantation that gives visitors a glimpse into the creative side of the former President, Thomas Jefferson. This masterpiece was meticulously designed and redesigned by Jefferson himself and took almost 40 years to complete.
26. Virginia Mountains
Virginia has eight mountain ranges, with the tallest mountain being Mount Rogers, at 5,729 feet. Five of these peaks stand taller than 5,000 feet. It also boasts of housing one-fourth of the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Shenandoah National Park.
27. “Give me Liberty or Give me Death”
Patrick Henry gave this stirring speech in St John’s Church Richmond during the 1775 Virginia Convention. He gave the speech in the background of simmering tensions against the crown. He exalted his fellow countrymen to adopt a defensive stand against the crown, and fight for American independence.
28. Pharrell Williams
The singer who had the whole world grooving to his feel-good, uplifting song Happy hails from Virginia Beach! The singer, songwriter, entrepreneur is known for Blurred Lines, Freedom, Frontin’ and many others. He has won 13 Grammys.
29. Weird laws
Virginia is also known for its weird, whacky laws. Take these for instance: it’s illegal for children to go trick or treating during Halloween; speed detectors cannot be used here; it is illegal to tickle a woman (although I wouldn’t file this under ‘weird’); one cannot spit on seagulls…
30. Virginia Witch Trials
What, you thought only Salem had witch trials? Nope. Virginia too had its share! Several witchcraft enquiries were investigated between 1626 and 1730. Thirteen women and two men have been known to have been tried for witchcraft. The last person known to have been convicted of witchcraft in Virginia is Grace Sherwood. A midwife by profession, she was accused by her neighbour of turning into a cat, and destroying livestock and crops.
Tell us how many of these factoids you knew? Do you know something else that Virginia is known for? Let us know in the comments below!