Whenever I think of “the park”, my brain goes straight to jungle gyms and sliding boards. I love to run around with my friends when I can take a break from running the inn and just be a kid. Whenever Mama says “the Park”, she means the National Park here in Appomattox. I like visiting it too, especially when my cousins come to visit or I get to go see a neat play. I don’t know how it gets confused with my kind of park, but I’m glad we have such a special place so nearby. I wanted to learn about other places like it, so I thought I would share with you what I found out about a bunch of other parks in our fair state.
The National Park Service was created in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson, effectively gathering various national parks and monuments together under one agency. Today, the National Park system comprises over 84 million acres across the country including historical and natural sites. Virginia is home to twenty two of these federally protected parks with 121 historical landmarks, 10 natural landmarks, 1,834 archaeological sites and one world heritage site.
Virginia’s historical sites span from before the birth of our nation to modern times. Jamestown was founded in 1607 and our first colony developed there. When you visit the park, you can see how, despite early struggles, the settlement was able to prosper. Yorktown marks the effective end of our War for Independence from Britain. Still a charming town today, the battlefield itself is open for tours all year long with different educational programs including the Junior Rangers. Fort Monroe is a national monument located on an island in the Chesapeake Bay south of Newport News. Known as “Freedom’s Fortress”, it is a very recent addition to the National Park system.
Most of the well-known battlefields and historical sites in Virginia are related to the Civil War. Beginning with Manassas, the war spread across the state and all over the country, separating families and putting our nation’s unity in grave danger. You can visit Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania, Petersburg, Richmond and finally Appomattox Court House to learn about the progression of the war in Virginia and the young men who gave their lives fighting to protect their homes and values. See where two gentlemen met to sign a treaty that would end the war and re-unite our nation. Then check out the homes of Booker T. Washington and Maggie L. Walker, both pioneers in the progression of civil rights in the South.
Besides historical sites, the National Park system also boasts many gorgeous natural locations. Spanning almost 2200 miles in its entirety, the Appalachian Trail stretches about a quarter of that distance just in Virginia. Following the path of Interstate 81 closely, it offers a wealth of opportunity for amateur or serious hikers. Assateague Island holds so much charm, from hunting and camping to lovely beaches and encounters with wild ponies. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a great way to travel through western Virginia. With stunning vistas and so many charming stops, it’s a great adventure to take on your trip.
Obviously this is not a full list, but just some of the highlights and it would be hard to do all these in just one trip! I hope that you will find many things of interest in and around each park that will keep you coming back to Virginia for more. Until next time…!