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20 Things You Might Not Know About Virginia

May 23, 2019 Visit USA No Comments Email Email

Whether you have yet to visit or consider yourself a serious fan, we’ve dug up a few facts about Virginia to share, at least some of which are sure to be a surprise!

  • Think you’ve never been to Virginia? Have you by chance been to Washington D.C.?  If you took a flight to get to D.C., it is likely you’ve been to Virginia.  Washington Dulles International and Reagan National airports are both located in Virginia.
  • The Pentagon is located in Arlington, Virginia, not in Washington D.C., and is the largest office building in the world. It has twice the floor space of the Empire State Building, and the U.S. Capitol building could fit into any one of the Pentagon’s five sections.
  • Arlington National Cemetery is also located in Arlington, Virginia.
  • Despite popular belief, most historians assert that the first Thanksgiving transpired in Virginia and not Plymouth, Mass. Virginia’s first Thanksgiving was in 1619, while Plymouth’s was four years later in the fall of 1623.
  • Old Dominion is one of the best-known nicknames for Virginia, along with Mother of Presidents and Mother of States. The nickname Old Dominion probably derives from the fact that Virginia was the first, and therefore the oldest, of the overseas dominions of the kings and queens of England. And yes, the country music band rapidly securing world-wide fame, Old Dominion, is from Virginia.
  • In the beginning, Americans were all ‘Virginians’. In 1584, as the New World was first being “discovered”, Queen Elizabeth I gave Sir Walter Raleigh free reign to colonize all new British territory, which included everything north of Florida (Spanish territory) and south of Canada (French territory). So, naturally, he named it all “Virginia” after “The Virgin Queen.” It wasn’t until later, as the population grew, that colonies were formed for easier governance.
  • Virginia is a commonwealth. Constitutionally, there is no difference between a state and a commonwealth.  Commonwealth originally meant a region governed by the people, not a monarch, and in calling themselves a commonwealth Virginia was declaring their independence from England.
  • Despite what Disney says, Pocahontas didn’t marry John Smith. She married John Rolfe, the man who introduced tobacco to Virginia in 1613, the colony’s first successful agricultural crop.
  • Pocahontas Island, a peninsula located on the Appomattox River in what is now Petersburg, shows evidence of prehistoric life as far back as 6500 B.C. But by the late 1700’s, it had become Virginia’s first free black settlement.  By the start of the Civil War, Pocahontas was home to the largest free black population of the time and included several stops on the Underground Railroad.  Today, Pocahontas is on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • On Tangier Island, Virginia, many folks speak a dialect that closely resembles the language used in Restoration England, a period just slightly after Shakespeare’s time.
  • Eight American presidents came from Virginia more than any other state. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor and Woodrow Wilson.
  • Patrick Henry gave his legendary “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech in Richmond, Virginia, at St. John’s Church on Church Hill.
  • President Thomas Jefferson designed his impressive home, naming it Monticello – the only house in the U.S. on the United Nations World Heritage sites list, with the exception of Taos pueblos.
  • The country’s first commercial crop of peanuts was grown in Virginia in the 1800s.
  • Bristol is the official Birthplace of Country Music, not Nashville. The famous 1927 Bristol Sessions laid the foundation for country music and continue to influence artists even today. In 1998, the U.S. Congress passed a bill that officially recognized Bristol as the Birthplace of Country Music.
  • Virginia is the nation’s fifth largest wine grape producer, and offers almost 300 boutique wineries.
  • Recognized as the “Oyster Capital of the East Coast” Virginia’s eight different oyster regions produce the largest quantity of fresh wild-caught and farm-raised oysters in the United States. Each region produces oysters with distinct flavors, offering an oyster for every palate.
  • There are more miles of the famed Appalachian Trail in Virginia than any other U.S. state. Virginia also contains some of the most difficult sections.
  • In an annual event that’s been taking place for almost a century, “Saltwater Cowboys” corral wild horses in a swim from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island in Eastern Virginia. At the island, the ponies are then auctioned off to raise money for a local fire department. The swim helps manage the growing population and allows vets to care for the horses each year.
  • The Wren Building at the College of William and Mary is the oldest college building in the country.

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