The Old Dominion State
The Commonwealth of Virginia is located on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. The statewide average high temperature in July is in the low 80's, while in January, high temperatures in the upper 30's are the norm. Virginia is home to America's Colonial and Civil War history. Historic cities and sites like Shenandoah National Park, Arlington, Jamestown, Richmond, Williamsburg and Yorktown attract thousands of visitors. Monticello (a National Historic Landmark just outside Charlottesville) is home of the former U.S. president Thomas Jefferson. In addition, Virginia's rivers, nearby Atlantic Ocean beaches and mountain scenery are a must see. The Chesapeake Bay region produces some of the best seafood, especially crab and oysters. To travel around the state, you will need to rent a car, book a bus or train ticket. For more information visit virginia.org.
Jump to: Historical Sites & Tourist Attractions | Arts & Culture | Sports & Recreation | Outdoor Activities | Food | Local Festivals | Housing Resources | Transportation | Health & Safety | Help Your Community
Recreation of a seventeenth-century English farmhouse at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton. Photo by peggydavis66.
Add some local history to your cultural exchange experience by visiting a nearby historical site or tourist attraction when living and working in the U.S.
Virginia experienced the most battles of any state during the Civil War, and now visitors can see re-enactments of Civil War and Revolutionary War battles throughout the state.
Colonial Williamsburg is one of the most well-known historical sites in Virginia. The living-history museum has many restored and re-created homes and buildings from the Revolutionary War, allowing visitors to see what life was like in 18th century America.
Jamestown is the site of many historical events, including the first permanent English settlement in the United States and the beginnings of U.S. slavery. Guided tours, archaeology walking tours and living history tours are available through the National Park Service.
Mount Vernon is the former estate of George Washington, the first President of the United States. Visitors can now tour the estate and gardens, which includes a mansion, blacksmith shop, farm, a slave memorial and Washington’s Tomb.
Visit the Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach and take a tour of the US Navy's Master Jet Base, NAS Oceana, and the Aviation Historical Park to see military jets and historical aircraft. Tours available during the summer from June to September.
Wolf Creek Indian Village & Museum is a recreated village of the Eastern Woodland Indians. The museum’s collections include village artifacts and exhibitions about Native American history. Visitors can also walk along the village’s nature trails and enjoy picnics on the site.
Assateague Island National Seashore is located on a barrier island off the coast of Maryland and Virginia. The island is known for its wild Assateague horses and beautiful beaches. On the Virginia side of the island, the horses can graze at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Visitors can also enjoy biking, canoeing and kayaking, shellfishing and swimming during a visit to Assateague Island.
The Blue Ridge Institute and Farm Museum in Ferrum is a center for old and new Virginia folk traditions, including music, food, decorative arts, and crafts.
Busch Gardens is an amusement park in Williamsburg with roller coasters, children’s attractions, shows, animal exhibits and tours.
Frontier Culture Museum focuses on colonial life in the 17th and 18th century. The museum also looks at the lives of German, English, Irish and West African groups before and after they immigrated to America. The museum is located in Staunton, VA.
Virginia Beach is a popular place to be in the summer thanks to the many beaches in the area. Some other popular attractions include:
- Discover the James - Bald Eagle tours
- Captain Dan’s Around the Islands Tour
- Colonial Connections Ghost Tours
- Kayak Nature Tours
- Real Richmond Food Tours
- River City Segs
- Staunton Guided Tours
- Virginia Film Tours
- Winter Wildlife Boat Tour
The United States offers a wide variety of cultural learning opportunities through the arts. Dance, music, theater, opera, art museums and festivals are just some of the options available to international visitors who wish to experience the U.S. and its culture.
The Carter Family Fold is a performance and concert venue dedicated to bluegrass and early country music. Concerts and performances are presented each week and include bluegrass, old-time country music, traditional mountain and folk music, and folk dancing like Appalachian clogging.
Heartwood is a craft and music center offering artisan crafts, local food and wine, and live music as part of the Virginia Heritage Music Trail. Special events like concerts and open mic music nights are also held at Heartwood.
The Virginia Film Festival in November is presented by the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and includes classic films, Hollywood movies, documentary films and experimental videos from filmmakers in Virginia and elsewhere. Lectures and discussions are also held during the event and are open to the public.
Other performing arts and cultural venues in Virginia include:
- Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, Alexandria
- American Shakespeare Center, Staunton
- Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk
- Contemporary Art Center of Virginia, Virginia Beach
- Paramount Theater, Charlottesville
- Richmond Ballet, Richmond
- Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia Beach
- Southwest Virginia Ballet, Salem
- Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, Suffolk
- Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke
- Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Virginia Beach
- Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond
- Virginia Opera, Norfolk
- Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Norfolk
- Wolf Trap Opera Company, Vienna
Find other arts venues in Virginia.
Many Americans are passionate about sports – and not just baseball and football! Get a glimpse into this part of American culture by watching or participating in a favorite U.S. sport or recreational activity in your local area.
Virginia is the most populous U.S. state without a professional sports team, but there are many opportunities to see popular American sports in semi-professional leagues and at one of the universities or colleges in the state.
College Sports Teams
There are many colleges and universities in Virginia. College athletic programs have both men and women's teams in sports like basketball, football, soccer and baseball.
- JMU Dukes, Harrisonburg
- Liberty Flames, Lynchburg
- Norfolk State Spartans, Norfolk
- Radford Highlanders, Radford
- Richmond Spiders, Richmond
- Shenandoah Hornets, Winchester
- Virginia Cavaliers, Charlottesville
- Virginia Tech Hokies, Blacksburg
- VMI Keydets, Lexington
- Washington and Lee Generals, Lexington
- William and Mary Tribe, Williamsburg
League Sports in Virginia
Minor league and amateur sports teams can be found in Virginia, including many baseball teams:
- Lynchburg Hillcats (baseball)
- Norfolk Admirals (hockey)
- Norfolk Tides (baseball)
- Petersburg Generals (baseball)
- Potomac Cannons (baseball)
- Richmond Kickers (soccer)
- Rockbridge Rapids (baseball)
- Salem Red Sox (baseball)
The Shenandoah Valley in the autumn. Photo by Karen Nutini.
The United States is home to a variety of landscapes and climates to suit all types of outdoor activities. The courageous traveler can find extreme sports and outdoor adventure tours, while others may want to keep both feet on the ground in a national park or forest. Whatever your interests, take advantage of the many outdoor activities available during your time in the United States.
The Appalachian Trail is a hiking trail that spans from Georgia to Maine for about 2,200 miles. International visitors can hike sections of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, including many sections in the Shenandoah National Park. Trails range from easy to moderate difficulty.
Virginia’s 35 state parks offer many outdoor activities, including camping, hiking and running trails, fishing, boating and picnicking.
Skiing and snowboarding are available at four ski resorts in Virginia, including Wintergreen Resort, The Homestead, Massanutten Resort and Bryce Resort. Many of these resorts also offer other winter activities like snowshoeing, tubing, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. The Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre has synthetic snow so visitors can try skiing, snowboarding and tubing all year round.
Ice skating is available at Main Street Arena in Charlottesville, Fairfax Ice Arena, the Harris Pavilion in Manassas, the Prince William Ice Center in Woodbridge, the Reston Town Center and the LaHaye Ice Center in Lynchburg.
Virginia is home to many caverns, including one of the largest caverns in the Eastern United States at Luray in the Shenandoah Valley. Tours are available and some caverns offer activities like camping and swimming.
Mount Trashmore Park was created from layers of trash and soil, giving the park its unusual name. Today, visitors can enjoy picnic areas, playgrounds, volleyball courts, fishing, walking trails and a large skate park.
Enjoy one of the state parks, city parks or national refuges in the Virginia Beach area for wildlife viewing, walking trails, kayaking and other outdoor activities.
Photo by SKimchee.
One of the best ways to experience cultural exchange is through food and cooking. Visitors will enjoy exploring the regional specialties and local cuisine during their time in the United States.
Virginia cuisine is largely influenced by Southern culture, and visitors can enjoy local and regional specialties like shoofly pie, Smithfield ham and Brunswick stew, and local produce like peaches, peanuts, apples and tomatoes.
Purchase fresh produce and local goods at one of the many Virginia farmers’ markets found across the state.
- Alexandria Restaurant Week, January, Alexandria
- Pungo Strawberry Festival, May, Virginia Beach
- Virginia State Peach Festival Weekend, August, Stuart
- Smokin’ on the Track Cookoff Festival, September, Shenandoah Valley
- Dayton Autumn Celebration, October, Dayton
- Whitetop Mountain Molasses Festival, October, Grayson County
- Suffolk Peanut Festival, October, Suffolk
- Urbanna Oyster Festival, November, Urbanna
For a unique and local perspective on American cultural, be sure to check out festivals and events near your cultural exchange program location. These events are a fun and interesting way to interact with locals and to learn more about American culture by experiencing it firsthand.
Local Festivals in Virginia
Browse the Virginia tourism website for a calendar of local and state events in Virginia.
Annual festivals in Virginia include:
- Virginia Arts Festival, multiple locations
- Virginia Spring Show, March, Richmond
- The Highland Maple Festival, March, Monterey
- Virginia International Tattoo, April, Norfolk
- Chincoteague Pony Swim, July, Chincoteague
- Virginia Highlands Festival, July/August, Abingdon
- Wintergreen Summer Music Festival, August, Wintergreen
- Virginia State Fair, September, Doswell
- Mountain Day Street Festival, October, Buena Vista
- Fall Festival of Folklife, October, Newport News
Festivals in Virginia Beach:
- Pungo Strawberry Festival, May
- Sand Soccer Tournament, June
- East Coast Surfing Championships, August
- FunkFest, August
- Neptune Festival, September
Employers may be able to assist with housing during your time in the United States, but this is not always possible for all participants. When looking for housing during your cultural exchange program, consider the cost of the accommodation, the distance to your work place and the amount of time you will be in the United States.
It's also important to avoid fraudulent housing. It is highly recommended that you secure short-term housing upon arrival (e.g. in a hostel) and conduct your housing search once you are in the U.S. Never give your financial information to a stranger over the Internet. Browse the Housing Information guides for InterExchange participants below for more tips and advice.
General Housing Information
Virginia Housing Resources
Some examples of housing and accommodation resources for Virginia participants include:
- Craigslist - Virginia
- Apartments.com - Virginia
- Forrent.com - Virginia
- American Homestay Agency
- Hostelling International
Public transportation options can be hit or miss, depending on your location in the United States. Buses are a common transportation option for short and long-term travel in the U.S., while some areas will also have trains, subways and other options.
Visit the American Public Transportation Association website for a complete list of public transportation options in your local community.
Commuter bus services from Northern Virginia take many residents to nearby Washington, DC. Companies providing commuter services include:
Amtrak serves many communities in Virginia, including major cities like Alexandria, Newport News, Williamsburg and Richmond.
Virginia Railway Express is a commuter rail service between Northern Virginia and Washington, DC.
Public Transit Systems in Virginia
Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk and Virginia Beach
GRTC Transit System provides bus service in Richmond, Henrico County and sections of Chesterfield County.
To find other local public transit systems in Virginia, visit the American Public Transportation Association website.
Participants in Virginia can use the following resources in case of an emergency or extreme weather event in their area:
Emergency Management Agencies
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) www.fema.gov and www.ready.gov
- Virginia FEMA updates on Twitter @femaregion3
- National Weather Service
- Weather – Eastern Virginia
- Weather – Northern Virginia
- Weather – Western Virginia
Interact with others and expand your skill set by volunteering in your local community. Volunteer organizations are often looking for short-term volunteers or for individuals to help with a single event, making it a great option for InterExchange participants who wish to add to their cultural exchange experience during their time in the United States.
Habitat for Humanity Virginia provides low-cost housing for families in need. Volunteers need no construction experience to help with Habitat for Humanity. To volunteer, find a local affiliate on the Virginia website.
Virginia Office on Volunteerism & Community Service lists opportunities and information on volunteer centers throughout the state.
Virginia State Parks needs both individual and groups for short and long-term volunteer projects. Contact Virginia State Parks on 703.583.5497 for more information.
Volunteer at food banks throughout Virginia. Regional food banks include Central Virginia Food Bank, Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia & the Eastern Shore and the Capital Area Food Bank.