Arlington National Cemetery, the most famous cemetery in the country, is the final resting place for many of our nation’s greatest heroes, including more than 300,000 veterans of every American conflict, from the Revolutionary War to Iraq and Afghanistan. Since its founding in 1866, Arlington National Cemetery has provided a solemn place to reflect upon the sacrifices made by the men and women of the United States Armed Forces in the name of our country.
Virginia is a popular vacationland. Its varied topography and mild climate afford year-round recreational opportunities. The state's historic sites draw many visitors. One of the most famous attractions is at Williamsburg. There, extensive restoration of buildings, gardens, and streets has recreated the city as it looked when it was the capital of the colony during the 18th century.
National Park Service units in Virginia include such areas of scenic beauty as the Shenandoah National Park, covering a large area of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The George Washington Memorial Parkway, which skirts many historic sites associated with George Washington, the first U.S. president, extends from Maryland into Virginia. Sections of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and Assateague Island National Seashore also lie within Virginia.
Colonial National Historical Park preserves several historic sites, including most of Jamestown Island, where the first permanent English settlement was founded, and Yorktown, where a British surrender brought the American Revolution to a close.
National Park Service units associated with the Civil War include Manassas National Battlefield Park, which marks the site of the two battles of Bull Run. Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park includes parts of four battlefields. Petersburg National Battlefield and Richmond National Battlefield Park preserve the sites of the battles fought in defense of the two cities. Appomattox Court House National Historical Park contains the restored village of Appomattox Court House, where the Confederate forces surrendered in 1865.
Other National Park Service units include the George Washington Birthplace National Monument, Arlington House-The Robert E. Lee Memorial, Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts, Prince William Forest Park, and a portion of the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
Two sites commemorate blacks who were influential in the nation's development: the Booker T. Washington National Monument honors the noted educator and the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site recognizes the first woman to found and serve as president of a bank.
Other federally-maintained sites include Arlington National Cemetery, with its Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the graves of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and soldiers from every American war. The Marine Corps War Memorial (popularly known as the Iwo Jima statue) is nearby.
The two national forests in Virginia have facilities for outdoor recreational activities. George Washington National Forest, along both sides of the Shenandoah Valley, and Jefferson National Forest, in the southwestern part of the state, combined cover1,648,000 acres. Both forests include recreation areas and sections of the Appalachian Trail.
Many of the 28 state parks in Virginia offer camping, boating, and swimming facilities, as well as hiking and riding trails. Breaks Interstate Park, on the Kentucky-Virginia border and operated jointly by these two states, is known for its spectacular 1500 feet gorge known as the Breaks of the Cumberland, the longest and deepest gorge east of the Mississippi River.
The largest state park is Clinch Mountain in Russell County. Many of Virginia's state parks include lakes such as Swift Creek Lake in Pocahontas State Park, which offers recreational facilities for nearby Richmond. The Staunton River Park on the reservoir formed by John H. Kerr Dam, and Claytor Lake State Park, in western Virginia, are other large state parks. Seashore State Park in Virginia Beach is the most-visited, attracting more than 1 million people each year. Virginia has 11 state forests, the largest of which is Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest, named for the counties where it is located.
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Mount Vernon, George Washington's estate, and Monticello, which Thomas Jefferson designed for himself, are Virginia's most noted historic homes. Other fine examples of 18th-century architecture are Ashlawn, the home of James Monroe, which was also designed by Jefferson; Gunston Hall, the home of George Mason, the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights; and Stratford Hall, the ancestral home and birthplace of Robert E. Lee. There are many historic churches and buildings, including Fort Monroe, at Old Point Comfort, where Confederate President Jefferson Davis was confined after the Civil War, and Saint John's church in Richmond, where Patrick Henry delivered his famous "liberty or death" speech.
Among the most popular natural scenic attractions in Virginia are the limestone caverns in the Shenandoah Valley, such as Luray, Skyline, and Endless Caverns, that were carved from solid rock by the action of underground streams. Natural Bridge, south of Lexington, is a huge arch of stone. Natural Tunnel, near Gate City, was cut through a mountain by a creek and is 850 ft long and 100 ft high. The Natural Chimneys, at Mount Solon, are seven huge towers of rock that rise about 100 feet above the ground.