From a scenic railway to a lush 250-acre botanical garden, Virginia is feeling the love — and you will too
Of all the state slogans over the years, “Virginia is for Lovers” is perhaps the most iconic with a 50-year track record (and still going strong) and, in fitting with its sentiment, the most beloved.
While Virginia has always had plenty to offer visitors, it’s upped its game even more with a slew of openings that appeal to a variety of tastes. And this year shows no signs of slowing down with a bounty of exciting endeavors on the horizon throughout the state.
From a scenic railway that calls a modernized 1940s passenger home to a lush 250-acre botanical garden, Virginia is feeling the love — and you will too. Here, we roundup some of our favorite new things to do, see and experience right now and throughout the year.
New Things To Do in Virginia
LEGO lovers and their parents have reason to celebrate with the mid-summer opening of LEGO Discovery Center at Springfield Town Center, the first Virginia location of the iconic brand. The 32,000-square-foot indoor attraction, billed as the ultimate LEGO playground, will feature millions of LEGO bricks as well as multiple attractions.
Spring 2023 on the Alexandria Waterfront is the opening of the Senator John Warner Maritime Heritage Center, Home of Tall Ship Providence. Student STEM programs are offered and adult visitors will experience the floating museum and education center. The replica of the first warship, Providence, authorized by the Continental Congress for the Continental Navy. Tours of the ship should be scheduled, or experience an all-inclusive sail, or charter.
What’s the best way to take in some of Virginia’s prettiest scenery, including the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains? From a beautiful 1940s passenger car of a leisurely rolling train that also includes a modernized ambiance of course! Virginia’s newest tourist rail excursion from Virginia Scenic Railway debuted last fall and quickly became a hit. Departing from the Amtrak Staunton station, the 3-hour round-trip excursion includes a meal, dessert and beverage served in a complimentary souvenir glass. Single tickets are available to groups at this time. A full group package will be available in 2024. All aboard!
The American Revolution has always been felt more deeply to Virginians, whose inspired ancestors brought to a fledgling nation the thoughtful words that helped guide leaders to declare liberty as the right of Americans. To commemorate the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution, the Revolutionary War, and the independence of the United States in the Commonwealth of Virginia, The Virginia American Revolution Commission will host a variety of events starting in 2023 and continuing through 2026, ranging from a 4th of July celebration like no other in Yorktown to an afternoon tea in Dublin to learn about love stories of local Revolutionary War soldiers.
New Activities in Virginia
North America’s first all-indoor straddle coaster makes its debut this year at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. On DarKoaster, riders travel on snowmobiles across 2,454 feet of track in total darkness with King Ludwig’s abandoned fortress looming in the background. A raging storm heightens the experience as do the four accelerating launches on this family-friendly dark ride.
Founded to celebrate the African American journey to freedom, The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington recently marked the grand opening of its new home along Columbia Pike. The new facility provides a focal point exhibit on Arlington’s Freedman’s Village and contributions made by its residents and their descendants to local and national history.
While the lineup had yet to be finalized at press time, the announcement of the dates of the multi-day Something in the Water Festival led by Virginia Beach native Pharrell Williams is still exciting news. To be held April 23-30, the event includes art and cultural experiences in addition to what will be a star-studded mix of musicians. Equally important to its founder is the festival’s focus on uniting the community and celebrating the diversity of the area he called home.
New Attractions in Virginia
Opened in January of this year, Rivers Casino in Portsmouth is a big deal — literally. At 400,000 square feet and with a price tag of $340 million, the complex includes 1,448 slot machines, 57 tables games, 24 poker tables, 10 restaurants, a 25,000-square-foot event center, movie theater, retails stores and a hotel.
After a two-year renovation, the all-new Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Museum re-opened. A new innovative learning environment includes interactives, artifacts and displays that engage visitors in the science and history of drug misuse prevention. With more than 5,000 objects, 40,000 photographs and an online video archive, the Museum’s collection brings the history of drug law enforcement to life.
Ever dream of sitting at a bar with a “water wall” underneath? Head to the revamped Crystal City Water Park when in opens this year to experience that as well as other treats. Located in Arlington, the park will include new restaurant kiosks, full-service restaurant, a stage and plenty of public art installations.
If you still haven’t gotten your fill of water-centric adventures, visit Williamsburg’s Water Country USA, which is debuting Virginia’s first dueling pipeline this summer. Riptide Race water slide pits teams against each other as they take off from the 54-foot tower and race through 520 feet of slide. Low walls ensure you can keep an eye on the competition.
Hanging out in Richmond’s Diamond area recently became a lot more fun with the opening of The Park RVA, new entertainment and food venue. The $8 million project features a 55,000-square-foot entertainment space that includes indoor mini golf, virtual golf, 18 lanes of duckpin bowling, karaoke, a comedy club and a six-restaurant food hall that offers everything from fried chicken sandwiches and street-style tacos to gourmet pizzas.
These are just some of the new things to do in Virginia, but there’s plenty of other reason so visit. If you’d like to get travel ideas for Virginia and other locations, just Subscribe to Leisure Group Travel Magazine for FREE
By Lisa Shames