Between trash mountains, natural caverns, and its very own Stonehenge, Virginia is full of unusual attractions sure to delight and surprise. Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or another stop on a cross-country road trip, these 15 spots are surefire destinations for an unforgettable experience.
Mt. Trashmore Park, or, as the locals call simply call it, Mt. Trashmore, opened as a city park in 1974. The 165-acre site began life as an abandoned landfill and was created by “compacting layers of solid waste and clean soil.” It is now world-famous for its conservation contribution, and boasts two man-made mountains, two lakes, two playgrounds, paths, a fresh-water fishing lake, and skate park.
While Mt. Trashmore is a man-made marvel, the Luray Caverns have drawn millions of visitors for their natural splendor. The 1.5-mile trek snakes through stalactites, stalagmites, natural columns, flowstone, and mirrored pools. The Great Stalacpipe Organ, an instrument made of the natural musical quality to the reverberations in the cavern, is the main attraction.
Can’t make it to Stonehenge? Foamhenge is the next best thing! Bask in the glory of this man-made wonder and consider the original as you peruse the accurate replica. Originally in Natural Bridge, Virginia, Foamhenge’s new home will be on a farm near Centrevile, Virginia. The creator, artist Mark Cline, has called it his “greatest achievement.”
Mark Cline’s second greatest achievement must be Dinosaur Land, an off-beat attraction featuring over 50 dinosaurs. Unlike “Jurassic Park,” Dinosaur Land doesn’t have any live dinos, but these fiberglass monsters have stood the test of time. Many of the original sculptures have stood for over 50 years. Make sure to stop by the gift shop for retro postcards with pictures of a time gone by.
Edgar Allan Poe, writer of such macabre fare as “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” has a shrine devoted to him in his old University of Virginia dorm room. Preserved by an elite group of students called the Raven Society, the room is still in use for midnight society ceremonies. A glass door separates visitors from the authentic writing desk and stuffed raven, but if one listens closely they might hear the ghost of Poe on the haunt.
One of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World,” this National Historic Landmark has attracted tourists for centuries. The Bridge is at the center of Monacan Indian legend as well as early-American folklore: The “GW” carved into the site of the bridge allegedly belongs to a certain George Washington. Thomas Jefferson eventually purchased the bridge and began developing a hotel, whereby the community of Natural Bridge, Virginia, sprouted up and continues to flourish today.
Think your house is spooky? Try living in one literally made of tombstones. Built in 1934, the structure is comprised of 2,200 tombstones taken from Union soldiers. Two stories exist about its origin, but the most likely one is that money-savvy cemetery workers needed to cut costs during the Great Depression and so cut the stones in half, selling them off to Oswald Young to build his new palace. Dare you to spend a Halloween inside.
The final resting place of Stonewall Jackson’s limb, this 1863 grave marks the spot where his amputated left arm was laid to rest. During a Civil War battle, Jackson took three bullets to the arm and had it amputated. Eight days later, Jackson died from pneumonia. The rest of his body is buried in Lexington, but the arm was wrapped in a blanket and taken to his family cemetery for a good Christian burial.
Tombstone homes not your style? How about dairy bottle buildings? The Richmond Dairy Company building “remains of Richmond’s best examples of the creativity and eccentricity of respected Richmond architecture firm Carneal & Johnston.” While the building no longer houses a dairy company, you can now live inside one of the rentable apartments.
“The father of holistic medicine” Edgar Cayce has the esteemed honor of being the most documented psychic of the 1900s. Cayce founded the Association for Research and Enlightenment, or A.R.E., in 1931 “for the purpose of helping people transform their lives for the better-body, mind, and spirit.” Today it continues its mission of awakening visitors’ latent psychic abilities through events such as “Awakening the Inner Shaman” and “Experiencing Your Psychic Ability.”
One might wish to make a stop here before heading to the Raven Room or Tombstone House to ensure one can fully commune with the spirits.
Remember that scene in “A Walk to Remember” (spoilers!) when Mandy Moore’s character wants nothing more than to stand in two places at once? Bristol would’ve been perfect. The Tennessee/Virginia dividing line runs down a single city street in Bristol, cutting off one half of the town from the other. Each side has its own government, school systems, and claim to be the “Birthplace of Country Music.”
While the Westmoreland Berry Farm prides itself on its wonderful berries, they may be better known for the infamous “Goat Walk.” “For generations, visitors have flocked from all over the state of Virginia (and beyond) to visit the farm and see our playful, energetic and loving goats! They are a must-see for any visit to the farm, including the ‘Goat Walk,’ or their journey across a ramp that transverses the road leading into the farm.” You read that right. High above the air, goats walk across a bridge to greet you as you come into the farm. We can think of no better welcome.
Congress declared Bristol the “Birthplace of Country Music” in 1998, but it’s a little unclear if they meant the Tennessee side, or the Virginia side. The Birthplace of Country Music Museum celebrates this rich legacy through preserving and retelling “the story of the 1927 Bristol Session recordings.” The Bristol Session recordings, aka the “big Bang” of country music, saw the commercial debut of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, majorly influential figures in country music. The museum features permanent and traveling exhibits celebrating this achievement.
Known as “Baby Mine,” or Pocahontas Mine No. 1, is the oldest inactive mine attraction in the country. The original coal mine opened in 1882 but closed in 1955. Now the museum and exhibition stands as a living memory of the 44,000,000 tons of coal removed from it during its 73-year lifespan, and all the miners who worked it.
The Safari Park is a drive-through park that houses over 1,000 exotic animals. The 180-acre drive-through zoo has zebras, rhinos, tigers, kangaroos, and more. What makes it special is the lack of restraints on the animals: You drive, slowly, through the path and watch as they walk up next to your car. Just make sure to keep the windows down, or risk a giraffe neck getting caught in the fray. Wagon rides and village walk-throughs are offered, too.