We discovered the 5 best free things to do in Virginia

Virginia Beach Oceanfront

Photo courtesy of VirginiaBeach.com

By Dogwood Staff

May 10, 2024

Virginia, the state best known as being “the birthplace of a nation,” is full of fun, free treasures just waiting to be discovered. No matter if you’re a history buff or an outdoor enthusiast, there are plenty of free activities to choose from in Virginia. Let’s uncover some of the best free things to do in Virginia that will keep you entertained and engaged without breaking the bank.

Stroll Through History at The Virginia State Capitol

Immerse yourself in the echoes of the past with a visit to The Virginia State Capitol, a landmark that captures America’s enduring spirit of democracy—all while being a completely free historical excursion!

The Virginia State Capitol stands proudly in Richmond, offering visitors a unique opportunity to wander through corridors where decisions have shaped the nation as we know it. Imagine standing in the very halls where legendary figures of American history once walked.

Guided tours are a great experience as the knowledgeable guides bring the history of this magnificent building to life, detailing its role in both Virginia and national history. You’ll learn about the architectural marvel that is the Capitol, designed by Thomas Jefferson in collaboration with French architect Charles-Louis Clérisseau. Its design was inspired by ancient Roman temples, a testament to Jefferson’s vision of the new American republic as the heir to the virtues of classical antiquity.

Visiting The Virginia State Capitol is an invitation to engage with the state’s history, all this is available to you, free of charge, making it an essential stop for anyone eager to uncover the free treasures Virginia has to offer.

Embrace Nature at Shenandoah National Park

Nestled in the heart of Virginia, Shenandoah National Park is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers alike. This sprawling natural oasis boasts over 200,000 acres of protected wilderness. Shenandoah is for anyone looking to connect with the great outdoors without the worry of costs.

Imagine winding your way through lush, green forests on one of the park’s many hiking trails, each leading to breathtaking vistas that promise awe-inspiring views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. These trails range from easy walks to challenging treks, ensuring that everyone, regardless of their experience level, can find a path that feels right for them. Keep your camera ready, as the park’s diverse landscapes provide the perfect backdrop for stunning photography, especially during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset when the mountains seem to come alive with color.

For those who prefer a more leisurely exploration of the park, Skyline Drive runs the entire length of the national park, providing access to numerous overlooks where you can enjoy panoramic views without ever leaving your car. This makes the park accessible to everyone, including families with young children or individuals with mobility concerns. Additionally, numerous picnic areas dot the landscape, allowing you and your loved ones to enjoy a meal surrounded by the tranquility of nature.

Shenandoah National Park is a place where you can rediscover the joy of the outdoors and the peace that comes from simply being in nature. While standard passes generally cost $15-30, the park is open free of charge six days per year, including Juneteenth and Veterans Day.

Dive Into Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) offers an expansive canvas for everyone from the casual observer to the art aficionado to explore. Admission is absolutely free, making it a must-visit destination for anyone searching for free things to do in Virginia.

As you step into the VMFA, prepare to be greeted by an impressive array of art that takes you from the ancient civilizations of Africa, Asia, and the Americas to the cutting-edge frontiers of contemporary art. The museum’s collections are vast and varied, ensuring that no matter your taste or interest, you’ll find something that speaks to you. Marvel at the intricate details of Renaissance paintings, feel the emotional weight of modern sculptures, and uncover the stories behind indigenous art pieces that have traveled through time.

The VMFA hosts a variety of special exhibitions and events that dive deeper into specific themes, artists, and cultural movements throughout the year. These special exhibits often bring artworks and artifacts from around the world to Virginia, offering rare opportunities to view pieces that are not typically accessible. Be sure to check their calendar before your visit to catch any temporary exhibitions that might be on display.

One of the museum’s highlights is its Fabergé collection, one of the largest public collections outside of Russia. This collection features intricately designed Russian decorative arts, including the famed Fabergé eggs, which are a testament to craftsmanship and luxury. It’s a unique experience that dazzles visitors with the beauty and intricacy of these historical pieces.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is also dedicated to fostering a love of art in future generations. With initiatives and programs designed to welcome all visitors, the museum ensures that art is accessible to everyone, regardless of background or ability. This commitment to community and accessibility underlines the museum’s role not just as a place to view art, but as a space where everyone can find connection and inspiration.

Unwind at Virginia Beach’s Oceanfront

Looking for a perfect spot to relax and let your worries drift away with the ocean waves? Virginia Beach’s Oceanfront is your ideal destination. This picturesque stretch of coastline is a favorite for both locals and visitors, offering a tranquil escape into nature’s beauty, coupled with the lively energy of a seaside community—all at no cost to you.

As you step onto the soft, golden sands of Virginia Beach, the refreshing ocean breeze greets you, setting the stage for a day of relaxation or adventure, depending on your mood. The beach stretches as far as the eye can see, offering ample space for everyone to find their own piece of paradise. Whether you’re up for a sunbathing session to achieve that perfect tan, eager to dive into the waves for a refreshing swim, or looking forward to a serene walk along the shoreline, Virginia Beach caters to all your desires without asking for anything in return.

You can also check out Virginia Beach’s famous boardwalk, a three-mile-long promenade that invites you to explore its myriad of attractions. Here, you can witness street performers, visit quaint shops, and indulge in delicious local cuisine, all while enjoying the captivating ocean view. The boardwalk is also a haven for fitness enthusiasts, with a separate bike path and numerous stations for outdoor exercises, making it a dynamic place to stay active in a scenic setting.

Virginia Beach’s Oceanfront is a must-visit location for anyone looking to unwind and enjoy life’s simple pleasures, all without the necessity of opening your wallet.

Walk the Grounds of the University of Virginia

Venture into the heart of Charlottesville for an enriching stroll through the University of Virginia, a campus that blends the grandeur of academia with the serene beauty of its landscapes. Designed by none other than Thomas Jefferson, the university stands as a testament to his vision of education and architecture. This self-guided tour is an educational experience entirely free of charge.

As you meander through the grounds, the iconic Rotunda will undoubtedly capture your attention. This architectural masterpiece, inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, symbolizes the enlightenment and pursuit of knowledge that Jefferson so deeply valued. Its presence commands a sense of awe and invites visitors to delve deeper into the history and significance of the university.

The Academical Village is another highlight, offering a unique glimpse into Jefferson’s innovative ideas about university life. The original pavilions, each with its own distinct architectural style, line the Lawn and offer a visual representation of the varied academic disciplines. These living and learning spaces reflect a community dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, a concept that was revolutionary at the time of the university’s founding.

Strolling further, you’ll discover the serenity of the university’s gardens, hidden behind the pavilions, providing a peaceful retreat for contemplation and relaxation. The whispering trees and blooming flowers in these gardens offer a momentary escape from the bustle of campus life.

Walking the grounds of the University of Virginia is an opportunity to see the environment where history, education, and architectural beauty converge. It’s a chance to walk in the footsteps of countless scholars and visionaries who have passed through these halls, all while experiencing the tangible legacy of Thomas Jefferson’s vision.

READ MORE: Here’s where you can get free books

This story was generated in part by AI and edited by The Dogwood staff.




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