Virginia is drenched in history and is without question, one of the most historical states in the USA. Virginia history dates back a while and the region’s history is brimming with things like battlefields, lighthouses, and it’s even home to the first British colony in the US, Jamestown.
With so many historic sites, Virginia is a place you’ll love if you’re a history buff and there are tons of museums showcasing it all too. Join me as we take a look at the best museums in Virginia that you should visit while you’re exploring this wonderful state.
If there is one Virginia museum that you should take a visit to, it’s the American Civil War Museum. You’ll find this museum located in downtown Richmond, and located inside the old Tredegar Iron Works on the banks of the James River.
This museum is huge, spanning over 30,000 square feet and over 120,000 military artifacts and other artifacts too in the permanent collection. The museum portrays the Civil War from multiple perspectives to give visitors a holistic view of what happened. You’ll even find special exhibits in the form of stories from war generals on both sides of the conflict.
There are two more museums on the same site that are worth a visit too including the historic Tredegar Iron Works itself which is home to 500 artifacts as well as the White House of the Confederacy.
The Military Aviation Museum is located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and is home to one of the largest private collections of World War I and II combat planes. If you love cars, planes, and/or engineering, this museum in Virginia Beach should be at the top of your list to explore.
You’ll find combat planes from Russia, Japan, Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom on display in this amazing museum. All the planes in the exhibit have been restored to working order and are in flying condition. These amazing old planes are even used twice a year in airshows.
If you plan your trip with the airshows, then you might even be able to go flying in one of the planes. Just be sure to check their website for the dates and buy some advanced tickets.
The Holocaust Museum can be found in Richmond, Virginia, and is one of the most emotional activities you can do in this state. Walking around this free museum and its four main exhibitions will require some tissues as you discover the way they showcase what happened in this awful tragedy.
The main exhibition runs through the Holocaust chronologically but through the eyes of the victims and there are 300 different artifacts on display from the horrific genocide too. You’ll also find an original German freight car in the war.
You’ll find the Ipson Saga exhibit quite tearful as it tells the story of the Holocaust through the eyes of the Ipson family, one very tortuous and emotional journey.
One of the best interactive exhibits you’re ever likely to see is the newly-opened Nuremberg Courtroom, a full recreation of the courtroom that housed the Nuremberg Trials.
Another Virginia museum in Richmond is dedicated to the famous Virginian writer Edgar Allan Poe and is home to all his original memorabilia, letters, and his original manuscripts.
Edgar is best known for his macabre storytelling and getting to see all his old works is quite a thing. He was actually the first-ever author to make a living out of writing, by writing both dark short stories and being a critic too.
Edgar actually spent a lot of time in Richmond as a sad result of being orphaned and then adopted by a couple in Richmond. The museum is home to the largest collection of Poe memorabilia in the world and despite being a small museum, the exhibitions are excellently represented.
One of the best things to see at this museum is the garden which is built from the staircase of Poe’s Richmond home as well as bricks from the journalism building he worked in. The garden is built around “To One in Paradise,” and even features flowers from the poem.
This museum is all about getting involved in hands-on exhibits that are related to the Civil War. The museum is located on an estate on Hupp’s Hill that was first established by George F. Hupp in the 1750s.
The views from the museum are beautiful and you should spend a day walking around this interesting museum. You’ll see the great Strasburg, the Shenandoah Valley, and Massanutten Mountain along with the Blue Ridge, plus the Appalachian Mountains in the background.
The actual hill and house of this museum were used by both parties in the war and you can even see the Federal gun positions and the Relict Confederate entrenchments on the grounds.
The museum is full of reproductions of Civil War weapons, uniforms, saddles, and toys which are a great way for adults to connect to the war. There is even a separate place for kids in this museum where children can try on costumes, ride wooden horses, and lots more.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is one of the largest art museums in the United States and even Canada and is the main event in the museum district of the state capital, Richmond.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has a huge number of permanent collections that span the globe. You’ll find unique paintings to enjoy and if your interests are international then you’ll also get some education by looking at all the attractions.
You’ll find African art, East Asian Art, decorative arts, Indian artifacts, and even some modern and contemporary art from American artists. If you love art, this is the art museum to visit in Virginia as the list doesn’t stop there.
There is some Ancient art, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Faberge, European, and lots more. Another great thing about this museum is it’s free admission to all, but not for the special exhibits.
The Chrysler Museum has more than 50 gallery exhibits that feature a collection of more than 30,000 pieces, and the collection is only growing. The museum is home to all forms of art including paintings, glass, photography, and more.
Every year, this museum goes further and further to host more and more exhibitions and educational programs. They also provided an interactive space for families and there is even a glass studio.
The glass studio teaches you how the amazing glass sculptures in the museum’s galleries were made and you can even watch live demonstrations and join classes too.
You’ll also find the Jean Outland Chrysler Library in the museum which is a closed-stacks, non-lending library where both students and artists spend a lot of time researching. You’ll also find the Myers House is the oldest Jewish home in America open to the public as a museum.
Going to the Quilt Museum is a unique and interesting day out in Harrisonburg, Virginia which everyone would enjoy. You’ll find three floors at this museum each devoted to different quilts and the building itself was used as a hospital in the civil war, so ghost sightings are common in this museum.
Each exhibit showcases quality from the museum’s collection and other traveling exhibitions too. If you’re into quilts, then you’ll find contemporary, heirloom, modern quilts, and lots more. There really is a huge variety of styles of quilts along with different quilting techniques.
The Children’s Museum of Richmond is another great place to visit if you have kids as it’s all about having as much fun as possible with hands-on learning exhibits. All the exhibits and events at the museum keep kids entertained and learning about nature, science, art, heritage, and lots more.
Children can even make their own masterpieces, play with farm animals, experiment with sun tubes, and play with vacuum tubes that let kids fly things from one place to another.
There are two different museum locations to choose from, one in downtown Richmond and the other in Chesterfield.
If you’re looking to learn a bit more about America’s heritage, then you should head north to Mount Vernon where you can take a stroll around George Washington’s family home and plantation.
Set on a stunning estate that you can explore at your own pace and even look through the incredible mansion and the stunningly groomed gardens. You can visit this museum any day of the year, even on Christmas, which continues a tradition started by George Washington himself which was to allow visitors to enjoy his grounds and gardens.
As you stroll around the inside of the mansion, you’ll notice that the interior has been fully restored to its original appearance and original furniture. The Museum and Education Center also has displays of Washington’s clothing, weaponry, and even his wooden dentures for all to see as well.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.