From Civil War battlefields to the beach, many sites are within driving distance of Hampton Roads. Learn history while having fun in the sun.
1. Appomattox Court House, Appomattox
The buildings and fields where Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate army are still a peaceful place in the hills east of Lynchburg. Check out the Museum of the Confederacy's newest Appomattox Museum where visitors can see Lee's sword. 434-352-8987, ext. 226. nps.gov/apco
2. Ash Lawn-Highland and Montpelier, Charlottesville
The Charlottesville area boasts not one but three presidents. Go north from Thomas Jefferson's Monticello to check out James Madison's newly restored Montpelier (540-672-2728, ext. 100 montpelier.org). Or jaunt just south to see James Monroe's Ash Lawn-Highland (434-293-8000, ashlawnhighland.org).
3. Belle Grove Plantation, Frederick County
Visit the only antebellum plantation in the Northern Shenandoah Valley. It was built in 1797 for Isaac Hite and his wife, Nelly, (sister of future president James Madison) and was the centerpiece of the Battle of Cedar Creek in the Civil War. 540-869-2028. bellegrove.org
4. Cape Charles, Eastern Shore
Eyre Hall and its beautiful gardens are the Eastern Shore's entry into the historic mansion registry. Nearby Cape Charles gives you a wonderful view of the Chesapeake. http://www.virginia.org/cities/CapeCharles/
5. Colonial Downs
Colonial Downs is Virginia's only pari-mutuel horse racetrack. Located in New Kent County at Exit 214 off I-64, the track features summer thoroughbred racing, a fall harness racing season and an ever growing year-round slate ofspecial events. 804-966-7223. http://www.colonialdowns.com.
Spend the morning and afternoon visiting the Civil War battlefields that surround this city (Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania Courthouse or the Fredericksburg battlefield) and easily go back into the historic town for lunch and a treat at Carl's, a much-loved ice cream stand. 540-373-6122. nps.gov/frsp
7. George Washington Birthplace, Westmoreland County
There are places besides Mount Vernon to walk in the first president's footsteps along the Potomac River. This is where George Washington was born in 1732. 804-224-1732 ext. 227. http://www.nps.gov/gewa
8. Great Dismal Swamp, Suffolk
Escaped slaves hid within this 112,000-acre wildlife refuge for bears, bobcats, minks and turtles in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. Over 100 miles of trails wind through the swamp. 757-986-3705. http://www.fws.gov/refuge/great_dismal_swamp/
9. Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Just over the state border sits the town John Brown invaded in 1859 to steal guns to arm a slave revolt. Now the town is a quiet, friendly mix of museums and stores at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. 304-535-6029. nps.gov/hafe
10. John Marshall House, Richmond