3 Places to Take Your Outdoors-Loving Friend Visiting Virginia for the First Time

Photo courtesy of Mount Vernon

By Dogwood Staff

October 14, 2022

If you really want to impress, take them outside and let Mother Nature do her thing.

Virginia has a little something for any outdoorsy visitor, from spectacular state parks and hiking trails. And, of course, we’ve got tons of historic areas worth exploring.

If you happen to have a friend coming to the commonwealth for the first time, here are a few suggestions for where to take them for a mini adventure. That is, of course, if they don’t absolute detest being outside.

Mount Vernon, Fairfax County

Mount Vernon served as a plantation and home to the country’s first president, George Washington. The site overlooks the Potomac River, just under 10 miles from Alexandria. The large grounds offer a historic way to get outside and learn something new about one of our founding fathers. 

This historical visit is a great way to get outside but leave your hiking boots at home. The grounds include Washington’s house, sprawling gardens, a functioning distillery, and gristmill (a mill that grinds flour and grains). Visiting the grounds includes quite a bit of walking, although it’s certainly not a hike. 

Take a peek inside Washington’s mansion (and learn why the walls are painted such an ungodly color). The grounds also include tombs where Washington and his wife Martha are buried, and a working farm. 

Mount Vernon is every 365 days a year, typically from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets for adults cost $28, $15 for children ages 6-11, and little ones have free admission. Buy tickets online, here

Good to know: You can save $2 on admission tickets when you book three days in advance. There are also military, first responder, and medical professional discounts available. 

Shenandoah National Park

3 Places to Take Your Outdoors-Loving Friend Visiting Virginia for the First Time
Photo via NPSgov

This majestic national park is so large there are multiple entrances in separate towns in Virginia. Shenandoah National Park is just 75 miles from Washington, DC, and offers great hiking trails, wildlife, and a total of 200,000 acres of protected lands. 

Officially dedicated in July 1936, Shenandoah National Park encompasses part of the Blue Ridge Mountains and today offers a number of ways to get out into the fresh air. Visitors can explore the park by foot through its hiking trails, by horse, or simply drive through it via Skyline Drive. 

The park is beautiful year-round but it draws special attention in the fall for leaf peeping! The colors really start to pop in late September and continue to the beginning of November, depending on weather. (Learn more here.) 

Good to know before you go: You can bring your dog on hikes in the park; Shenandoah National Park is one of the few national parks that allows you to do so. (Click here to learn more.)

Click here to find out more about the park’s operating days and hours. Tickets range from $15 for a walk-up visitor for $30 for a single vehicle. Passes are good for seven days beginning on the day of purchase. 

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Henrico County

3 Places to Take Your Outdoors-Loving Friend Visiting Virginia for the First Time
Photo via PT Hamilton Shutterstock

These 50 acres of garden offers beauty year-round. Visitors can walk the grounds, admire the plethora of plant collections and check out the unique domed conservatory. You can also explore Lewis Ginter’s rose garden, children’s garden, cherry tree walk, and Asian Valley, according to their website. 

The gardens are open year-round, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. Advance tickets are available online, but are not required. Tickets for adults are $17, children ages 3 to 12 are $8, seniors and military members are $14, and children under 3 are free. Learn more about visiting here

Good to Know: One of the garden’s most popular events returns Nov. 21 through Jan. 8: The Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights will feature more than a half-million twinkling lights, holiday trees decorated by Henrico County Public Schools students, and more. 

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