Moon Virginia

With Washington DC


By Michaela Riva Gaaserud

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From metropolitan cities and misty mountains to colorful coastline and charming small towns, journey through the Old Dominion state with Moon Virginia. Inside you’ll find:
  • Flexible itineraries, such as five days visiting Virginia’s battlefields and breweries and ten days exploring the whole state, with detailed coverage of Washington DC
  • The best road trips in Virginia, including the scenic Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Strategic advice for history buffs, foodies, outdoor adventurers, families, and more
  • Can’t-miss sights and unique experiences: Visit Revolutionary War battlefields and hear the stories behind Civil War landmarks or immerse yourself in history in Colonial Williamsburg. Stroll the Virginia Beach boardwalk or ride the coasters at Busch Gardens. See world-class museums and monuments in the nation’s capital, pop into indie boutiques in Richmond, or visit the homes of former presidents like Jefferson and Washington. Hike sections of the Appalachian Trail, explore underground caves, or kayak on the Potomac River. Sample authentic Virginia ham, kick back at a local brewery, and discover the best spots for a romantic getaway
  • Expert advice from Virginia local Michaela Riva Gaaserud on when to go, what to pack, and where to stay, from campgrounds to historic inns
  • Thorough background on the culture, weather, wildlife, and history
With Moon’s practical tips and local know-how, you can experience the best of Virginia.

Headed to the Smokies? Check out Moon Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Exploring more of the South? Try Moon North Carolina or Moon Charleston & Savannah.


Natural Bridge State Park

downtown Lexington



Planning Your Trip

The Best of Virginia


Battles and Brews


Virginia is for Lovers


Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park.

Virginia embodies history like few other states in the Union. From the first permanent English settlement in the New World at Jamestown and the heady days of the Founding Fathers in Williamsburg, through the end of the American Revolution at Yorktown and the tragedy and heroism of the Civil War, many of the major events that shaped this country happened in the Old Dominion. Most of the buildings, battlefields, and artifacts involved are now preserved and on display in a host of world-class parks, museums, and historic homes such as George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

Virginia not only connects the storied past and thriving present—it’s also a bridge between the mountains and the sea. Home to one of the most scenic roads in the country, Shenandoah abounds with spectacular ridgeline vistas, lush forests, and otherworldly caverns. On the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia Beach is one of the East Coast’s premier resort destinations, with a bustling boardwalk and a bevy of great seafood restaurants. Detached from the rest of the state, the Eastern Shore is a time-warped land of unspoiled marshes, fishing towns, and the famous ponies of Chincoteague. Virginia offers the best of the many worlds it bridges—and then some.

Ridge Trail, Old Rag Mountain

Mabry Mill


1 Hit the Trail: The area along the Blue Ridge Parkway offers ample hiking opportunities along with some of the best scenery on the east coast.

2 Go Back in Time in Colonial Williamsburg: Immerse yourself in colonial life at the largest living history museum in the world.

3 Take a Road Trip on Skyline Drive: This stunning 105-mile route runs along the mountain ridges of Shenandoah National Park.

4 Visit Presidential Homes: Get unique insights into the lives of the founding fathers at George Washington’s Mount Vernon (pictured) and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

5 Tour Historic Battlefields: More major battles in the Civil War took place in Virginia than in any other state. Today, history buffs can walk in the footprints of the soldiers who fought there.

6 Feast on Local Cuisine: No trip would be complete without sampling the local crustacean cuisine or enjoying authentic Virginia country ham.

7 Explore the National Mall: The two-mile stretch from the Lincoln Memorial (pictured) to the U.S. Capitol has some of the country’s most iconic monuments, including the Washington Monument and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, as well as 11 Smithsonian museums and galleries.

Planning Your Trip

Where to Go
Washington DC

Washington DC is nestled between Virginia and Maryland on the banks of the Potomac River. Best known for politics, government, and monuments and museums, the city is also home to universities, nightlife, art, theater, and sports. One of the largest (and cleanest) cities in the country, Washington DC offers trendy neighborhoods, upscale shopping, the National Cathedral, the National Zoo, and professional sports arenas. The nation’s capital is easy to navigate, especially with the help of landmarks such as the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol.

Northern Virginia

From the busy halls of the Pentagon in Arlington and the trendy streets of historic Old Town Alexandria to the quaint alleyways of Middleburg, Northern Virginia is a cornucopia of culture, history, business, outdoor recreation, culinary delights, and shopping. It is a central corridor for the technology industry, yet houses key attractions such as Mount Vernon, the plantation home of George Washington. Northern Virginia’s residents make up roughly one-third of the entire state population.

Coastal Virginia

Visiting Coastal Virginia is a great way to take a break from everyday stresses and learn about history or relax on the beach. Colonial Williamsburg, a living museum that vividly displays what life in colonial times was like, is one of the most popular historical attractions in the country. Just a short drive away are the resort area of Virginia Beach and the sleepy seaside communities on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The region offers port towns, battleships, and beautiful clean beaches all within a short drive of one another.

Virginia Beach

Shenandoah and Northwestern Virginia

Shenandoah National Park and Northwestern Virginia form a very special part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The area is known for its stunning vistas, and picturesque rivers and streams crisscross the region and loosely connect the towns that sit on the park’s doorstep. Take a scenic drive along Skyline Drive, white-water raft down the Shenandoah River, spend an afternoon underground in mysterious Luray Caverns, or take a hike on the famous Appalachian Trail. Choose adventure or opt to relax—there is no wrong answer.

Central and Southern Virginia

Sprawling Central and Southern Virginia offer some of the most beautiful countryside in America. Awesome mountain vistas, rolling foothills, and enchanting fall foliage can be found in this region, especially along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The site of many colleges and universities including the University of Virginia, the region was also home to famous Americans such as Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. The state capital, Richmond, and historic Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, and Roanoke are key destinations in this vast region.

tree-lined drive at James Monroe’s Highland

When to Go

If you have the luxury of choosing your time to visit, late spring (May and June) and fall (September and October) are usually the best times to explore Virginia. The weather is most pleasant, and there are fewer tourists to compete with. Although summer is the prime tourist season, unless your plans involve some beach time or a stay in a mountain retreat, the humidity can be a bit overwhelming. The fall foliage in the state is some of the most spectacular in the country. A drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains in October can lead to some of the most stunning scenery in the East. If your focus is on historical sites and museums, the winter months (with the exception of the holiday season) can mean short or no wait times for popular attractions. Just be prepared for some sites to be closed or to have shorter hours.

The Best of Virginia

Virginia encompasses a large amount of land. It can take six hours to drive from Washington DC to the southern end of Virginia and six hours to drive from Lexington to the Eastern Shore. A 10-day trip provides the opportunity to hit most of the highlights in the state and to get a good feel for all Virginia has to offer.

Washington DC makes a good starting point for exploration of Virginia. It is conveniently located to Northern Virginia and is easy to get to by air, train, bus, and car. Spend a couple of days at the beginning of your trip exploring this marvelous city. For more suggestions on seeing DC.

Northern Virginia

From Washington DC, drive across the Potomac into Northern Virginia. Stop by Great Falls Park for a picnic near the impressive falls overlook. Continue on to Middleburg and have dinner at The Red Fox Inn and Tavern in the historic downtown area before checking into one of the lovely country inns or the Salamander Resort and Spa for the night.

Great Falls Park

Shenandoah National Park

Drive 45 minutes west to Front Royal, the gateway to Shenandoah National Park. Enter the park on the famed Skyline Drive. Spend the rest of the day meandering down the northern section of Skyline Drive to Luray. Be sure to stop along the way for a short hike and to take in the sights along this stunning section of road. Overnight in Luray.

Luray and Lexington

Start your day by touring the incredible Luray Caverns. Then drive an hour and 40 minutes south on I-81 to historic Lexington and tour the Virginia Military Institute, or take the four-hour scenic route along the southern portion of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Overnight in Lexington.


Drive a little over an hour northeast to scenic Charlottesville. Visit Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home, then tour a neighboring vineyard. Pick a restaurant on the hip downtown mall in Charlottesville for dinner before spending the night at either The Clifton or Keswick Hall.

Virginia Beach

Make the three-hour drive to Virginia Beach early so you can enjoy a day on the Atlantic. Visit the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and walk the famous boardwalk. Enjoy fresh seafood at one of the local restaurants and spend the night in a hotel right on the Atlantic Ocean. Take a rest day the following day and soak in the beach atmosphere. Spend another night in Virginia Beach.


Drive 1.25 hours northwest to Colonial Williamsburg. Lose yourself in U.S. history by dedicating the day to exploring this unique living museum. Visit the historic buildings, shop in the authentic colonial shops, snack on a sweet potato muffin from Raleigh Tavern Bakery, talk to the costumed interpreters, and have a refreshment in a colonial tavern. Dine in Merchants Square and spend the night in one of several hotels run by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.


Drive an hour northwest to the capital city of Richmond. Spend the day touring Capitol Square and the Science Museum of Virginia. For a splurge, overnight in the Jefferson Hotel.


Drive an hour north to historic Fredericksburg. Tour the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park and then dine in the historic Old Town area. Spend the night at the lovely Richard Johnston Inn.

Old Town Alexandria
DAY 10

On your final day, drive north about an hour to historic Old Town Alexandria. While away the day shopping and dining in Old Town and enjoying the ambiance of this bustling colonial town. Spend the night in a lovely hotel—Morrison House, The Alexandrian, or Lorien Hotel & Spa—or head back across the Potomac River to Washington DC. For more suggestions on seeing Old Town Alexandria.

Old Town Alexandria

Battles and Brews

Virginia has a colorful history. At 122 conflicts, the most Civil War battles by far were fought in Virginia than in any other state, but the region also has notoriety for its Revolutionary War past, colonial history, and of course, the development of our nation’s government. This five-day itinerary starts in New Market and ends in Yorktown. The 283-mile trip covers some of the most significant historical cities in the state and includes refreshing stops in some of the best local pubs.

Day 1

Start in New Market off I-81 in the northwestern part of the state. Visit the New Market Battlefield, where Union troops were forced out of the Shenandoah Valley. Then head to scenic Luray for dinner and delightful beverages at Moonshadows Restaurant. Spend the night in Luray.

Day 2

Head northeast about one hour and 20 minutes to the Manassas National Battlefield Park and explore the site of two major Civil War battles. Continue on to the old town area of Manassas and have a beer and a cheesesteak at the Philadelphia Tavern. Spend the night in Manassas.

Day 3

Drive one hour south to Fredericksburg and spend the day touring the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. Spend a relaxing evening at the Kenmore Inn and have a drink in the historic pub and bar.

Day 4

Drive 1.5 hours south to Petersburg and visit the Petersburg National Battlefield, where the longest single Civil War military event took place. After your visit, continue driving an hour southeast to Colonial Williamsburg. Have dinner and a brew in a historic colonial tavern and overnight in Williamsburg.

Day 5

End your trip by driving 20 minutes southeast to Yorktown and take in the Yorktown Battlefield, where the last major battle of the Revolutionary War was fought. The battlefield is part of the Colonial National Historical Park. Stop in the Yorktown Pub for a beer, oysters, and hush puppies. Spend the night in Yorktown at the Hornsby House Inn.

Virginia is for Lovers

Virginia’s official slogan is “Virginia Is for Lovers.” What better way to explore the state than to stay in some of the best romantic getaway spots with your special someone. This 261-mile itinerary starts in Middleburg and travels through some of the state’s most beautiful areas, ending in Roanoke.

Day 1

Start off your romantic retreat in Virginia hunt country. Book a room at the beautiful Goodstone Inn & Restaurant in Middleburg. Spend the day exploring the downtown area, then take a stroll around the inn’s property or take advantage of the on-site spa. Dine at the inn’s restaurant.

Day 2

Drive two hours southwest to Charlottesville and stay at the award-winning Keswick Hall. Spend the day visiting Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello or sampling wine at a local vineyard, then return to the Hall for dinner and a relaxing evening on the patio.

Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson

Day 3

Begin the day by driving two hours southwest to the Hot Springs area. Check into The Omni Homestead Resort, soaking in the fabulous amenities at its 2,000-acre high-end, self-contained campus. Play a round of golf, visit the spa, or take a dip in the spring pools—there is plenty to do before settling down to a romantic dinner with your sweetheart at one of the wonderful resort restaurants.

Day 4

The final day begins with a 1.5-hour drive south to Roanoke. Book a room at the historic Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center—the restored Tudor hotel was built in 1882 and has welcomed many famous guests. Spend the day exploring the sites and museums in downtown Roanoke. Dine at the hotel’s on-site Regency Room before turning in for the night. This hotel is the perfect nightcap to four days of romance in beautiful Virginia.


On Sale
Jun 16, 2020
Page Count
372 pages
Moon Travel

Michaela Riva Gaaserud

About the Author

Michaela Riva Gaaserud is a native Virginian and longtime resident of the Washington DC area. Some of her earliest memories are of playing travel guide to visiting relatives as they went to the museums and monuments in Washington DC. Inspired by the enthusiasm she witnessed from first-timers to the city, Michaela began looking for hidden secrets to share with her audience. A particularly inspiring school field trip to the underground depths of the Lincoln Memorial sealed her love for discovering and sharing the marvels of her own backyard.

Michaela has published travel guides on various aspects of the Washington DC region, and her articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines, and international publications such as Canoe & Kayak Magazine and Paddler Magazine. She is also a founding partner at Rainmaker Publishing and an executive producer at Eddyline Media.

Learn more about this author