15 Fun Facts About Virginia

You don’t get to be the oldest state in the nation without inheriting a few quirks along the way. Virginia is known as the “Birthplace of the Nation.” It’s home to the legendary Jamestown, the first and founding British Colony. It’s birthed the most U.S. presidents and housed the capital of the Confederacy. Let’s keep these fun facts rolling!

1. Silicon Anchor

Everyone knows about Silicon Valley, the Californian technology powerhouse (and hilarious HBO show), but fewer know that Norfolk, Virginia, is called Silicon Anchor. Named for the retired Battleship Wisconsin that sits in the Norfolk waterfront, the city of Norfolk has recently heavily invested in technology infrastructure to entice new start-ups to move in. The government aims to make Norfolk a Millennial mecca, and with ADP, one of the largest payroll firms in the world, moving offices to the area, the investment seems to be paying off.

2. Assateague ponies

Wild ponies roamed freely on Assateague Island for centuries. “Folklore describes the Assateague horses as survivors of a shipwreck off the Virginia Coast.” While this origin story is wonderfully dramatic, the truth is likely that they were brought to the island to avoid livestock taxation. The island is one of the few places in the country where wild horses can be seen.

3. Famous Virginia natives

Fellow television aficionados may still be mourning the end of AMC’s hit drama “Breaking Bad,” but did you know that the creator, Vince Gilligan, is a Virginia native? Born in Richmond, Virginia, Gilligan occasionally nods to his home state through his characters, referring to places like Portsmouth, Virginia in “Breaking Bad.” 

4. Shires

Virginia once had “shires” (much like a favorite hobbit). English tradition followed the original settlers to the colony, which led to the creation of Accomac, Charles City, Charles River, Elizabeth City, Henrico, James City, Warwick River, and Warrosquyoake shires in 1634. The shires are now known as “counties.”

5. State motto

The state motto, “Sic semper tyrannis,” is a shortened version of the Latin phrase “Sic semper evello mortem,” or “Thus always I bring death to tyrants.” George Mason recommended the phrase at the Virginia Convention of 1776 and, given the political climate of the day, it serves as a not-so-subtle swipe at King George III.

6. Haunted state

Virginia is known as one of the most haunted states in the country. Having played host to many important battles of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, as well as skirmishes with the Native Americans or even against each other, the dead pile high in the “Old Dominion.” The Exchange Hotel in Gordonsville, Virginia treated over 70,000 wounded soldiers. Rumor has it that many of the deceased still walk the grounds.

7. Internet Capital of the World

Virginia is the Internet Capital of the world. A 2014 Washington Post story said “there is already more than five million square-feet of data center space in Loudon Country, the equivalent of almost 86 football fields.” Anywhere from 50 to 70 percent of all Internet traffic flows through these data centers.

8. Greek Life

American Greek Life started in Virginia with the founding of Phi Beta Kappa at the College of William and Mary in 1776. This means you can thank Virginia for comedy classic “Animal House” and the average annual $7 million given to charities and 850,000 hours of community service central to fraternity-sorority culture.

9. Thanksgiving

The first Thanksgiving was actually held on Dec. 4 in Virginia, not Plymouth, Massachusetts, a full two years before the pilgrims broke bread. It’s important to note, however, that the first Thanksgiving filled the participants with prayer instead of turkey, and so we can still thank our New England neighbors for our annual feast.

10. Used to be bigger

Virginia used to be big. Like, three states big. That is until Kentucky and West Virginia decided to go their separate ways. West Virginia famously said good-bye during the Civil War over divisive regional issues: i.e., slavery. West Virginia didn’t rely on the slave economy, so they said adios and joined the Union. 

11. Important role in war

Virginian locations were where two of American’s greatest wars ended. The Revolutionary War ended on Oct. 19, 1781 at the Battle of Yorktown in Virginia. The Civil War ended on May 9, 1865 at the Appomattox Court House.

12. Calendars

The school calendar is determined by amusement parks. In 1986, the tourism lobby successfully passed a law to prevent Virginia schools from opening before Labor Day, which extended the summer season for theme parks like Busch Gardens, Water Country, and Kings Dominion. A bill to overthrow this law passed the state House in 2014, but failed in the Senate.

13. Virginia: Not for ticklers!

Virginia may be for lovers, but is absolutely not for ticklers. That’s right. In Virginia, it’s illegal to tickle women. Ladies, let that one sink in, and start looking for a tickling lawyer. You might have a class action lawsuit on your hands. 

14. State flower and state tree

Virginia is the only state to have the same state flower and state tree: the Flowering Dogwood. Thomas Jefferson grew Dogwoods on his Monticello estate, and so in 1918 legislatures chose it so that it might “stimulate an interest in the history and traditions of the Commonwealth.” Color me stimulated.

15. Dirty Dancing

Dirty Dancers the world-over head to Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, Virginia, to see where the 1980s film Dirty Dancing was filmed. Fans from all over the world make the pilgrimage to see where Patrick Swayze once swayed Jennifer Grey. 

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