Virginia Festivities to Capture the Spirit of ’76

Activities, Virginia Group Tour Guide

Virginia is taking center stage as America prepares for its big birthday bash in 2026, a series of patriotic events honoring the country’s 250th anniversary

Communities throughout the nation are gearing up to celebrate America250, a series of special events and exhibitions heralding the 250th anniversary, or semiquincentennial, of our country’s birth in 1776.

It’s no surprise that Virginia, the first, largest and most prosperous of the British colonies in America, is playing a key role in the observation of this milestone. The Virginia American Revolution 250 Commission (VA250) has been busy coordinating plans since 2020. Its national honorary chairperson is prominent Virginian and renowned business leader Carly Fiorina.

“Virginia has played this incredibly central, pivotal role in the founding of our nation and everything that’s happened since,” said Fiorina, board chair of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “It makes sense for Virginia to take the lead on this commemoration. After all, Virginia’s history is America’s story.”

The commission has released an extensive calendar of events leading up to July 4, 2026, the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

2024 Events in Fredericksburg and Yorktown

Multiple towns and historical attractions this fall will observe the Lafayette Grand Tour 200th Anniversary, which commemorates the 1824-1825 U.S. tour made by France’s Major General Marquis de Lafayette on his return to the country for which he helped gain independence. He was feted in 24 states with parades, balls and other festivities. Lafayette bicentennial events will take place in Fredericksburg, Yorktown, Loudoun County, Charlottesville (Monticello), Fairfax County (Mount Vernon) and other locations. The Fredericksburg Area Museum just unveiled the exhibition Lafayette’s World: Revolutionary Ideals and the Limits of Freedom.

The Yorktown Tea Party was Virginia’s counterpart of the Boston Tea Party. (Photo credit: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

The Yorktown Tea Party was Virginia’s counterpart of the Boston Tea Party. (Photo credit: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

From November 7-10, 2024 in Yorktown, historical reenactments, ship tours, a maritime market, concerts and other events will commemorate the Yorktown Tea Party, a less famous cousin of the Boston Tea Party but equally “steeped” in history. On November 7, 1774, rebellious colonists stormed the waterfront, climbed aboard the ship Virginia and emptied two half chests of tea into the York River. Similar protests against British taxation and lack of colonial representation in Parliament occurred in other colonies.

“It’s crucial to remember that the Boston Tea Party was not an isolated incident,” said Michael Steen, director of education of the Watermen’s Museum and chair of the Yorktown Tea Party 250th Anniversary Planning Committee.

As one of the three points in Virginia’s Historic Triangle, Yorktown—along with Williamsburg and Jamestown—promises to be a focus of VA250 celebrations for the next two years. Perennially popular with group tours, it is home to the highly regarded American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown Settlement, two other premier living history museums, also will appear in many Virginia itineraries, as will Historic Jamestowne museum and archaeological excavation site and Yorktown Battlefield, a National Park Service unit.  

American Revolution Museum at Yorktown

American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. (Photo credit: Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation)

Norfolk and Richmond Have Big Plans for VA250

With Norfolk as host city, a national signature event will be Sail250. For seven days in mid-June 2026, communities in the Hampton Roads and Chesapeake Bay region will welcome 4,000 officers, cadets and crew from an international fleet of 55 tall ships and military vessels.

Another national signature event in Norfolk will be the Virginia International Tattoo at Scope Arena in April of 2025 and 2026. The 2025 spectacle, featuring military and civilian bands, bagpipers, fife and drum corps and drill teams from seven nations, will salute the 250th anniversary of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. The Tattoo in 2026 will be a rousing, emotion-filled celebration of freedom in tribute to the 250th anniversary of our nation’s independence.

A signature VA250 exhibition will run from March 22, 2025 to January 4, 2026 at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture in Richmond, the state capital. Titled Give Me Liberty: Virginia and the Forging of a Nation, it intends to inspire appreciation for the actions of iconic and ordinary individuals who brought about a model of democratic government that would change the world. The opening coincides with the 250th anniversary of Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech. The spellbinder, to be reenacted at St. John’s Church on March 23, 2025, galvanized the revolutionary spirit.

Other upcoming exhibitions at the museum include Free Black People in Virginia (June 14, 2025 to July 5, 2026), a look at how free black Virginians achieved their freedom, fought for civil rights and persevered within a legal system that recognized them as free but not equal. We the People (March 14, 2026 to January 3, 2027) will spotlight those who have made Virginia the place it is and the impact of the immigrant experience throughout the Commonwealth’s history.

For more information on VA250 programs, visit

Suggested group itineraries can be found at

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By Randy Mink

Lead photo courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

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