Virginia is a well known travel destination for good reason. Virginia Beach brings in more than $1 billion in annual revenue and attracts tourists of all ages to Virginia. Williamsburg along with the other 2/3 of the Colonial Triangle, Jamestown and Yorktown, brings visitors from all over the world to learn about America’s earliest years. And then there’s Shenendoah National Park, the many caverns, hiking, biking, Richmond, Presidential birthplaces and homes, and Civil War sites just to name a few of the many tourist destinations. My goal with this blog is to explore some of the often overlooked aspects of Virginia’s tourism industry and to specifically visit some sites that are classic tourists attractions that may have become less popular over time.
I drive down to Williamsburg probably once a month and I have explored Jamestown, Yorktown, and all of Colonial Williamsburg. I love walking down Duke of Gloucester Street, eating at The Cheese Shop, and stopping in the busy souvenir shops. Then, just a few miles away, is Busch Gardens. This theme alone park attracts millions of people every year. Although these attractions are thriving, many smaller, but equally important historically and culturally, attractions are failing.
After visiting more than a dozen of Virginia’s best offbeat attractions, I now feel I understand the plight of many of these small, family owned stores and tourist attractions. In Natural Bridge, Virginia, I saw many small scale attractions all hoping to gain the attention of tourists. There were small zoos, flea markets, and even a attraction opening this summer called, Dinosaur Land II which promises to be a revival of the 2012 attraction in the same location that featured statues of Union soldiers fighting dinosaurs. Strange, I know. But, the point is that Virginia definitely has its share of weird, offbeat attractions. Having visited many of the most famous roadside attractions on Route 66 myself, I can say that Virginia offers the real deal; quirky, old-fashioned, family friendly sites to stop at during your next road trip.
Admittedly, a warehouse full of parade floats has minimal historical significance when compared to Monticello or the Capitol building, but I still argue it has an important part in contributing to Virginia’s tourism industry.
For example, White Oak Lavender Farm brings thousands of visitors to Rockingham County every year and this helps fuel the businesses surrounding White Oak. It is important to support small local tourist attractions as they are essential to local economies in Virginia. I have always loved visiting the many small towns in Virginia and this experience was no different. Each attraction I have visited has been fun and interesting, but talking to the owners, employees, and fellow visitors has been what has shaped my understanding of this small scale tourism and how important it is to Virginia’s identity and history.