Fun facts about Virginia state, USA

90 Fascinating Facts About Virginia

Virginia state is famous for the Pentagon, oysters, the Appalachian Trail, and for its important place in early US history.

Let’s explore what else the “Mother of Presidents” is known for with these fascinating Virginia state facts!

General Virginia Facts

  • Virginia is located in the mid-Atlantic and Southeastern region of the United States. The Appalachian Mountains run diagonally across the state.
  • Virginia is the 35th largest state by area, spanning 42,774 mi² (110,786 km²). It is between Ohio and Tennessee in terms of size.
  • If it were a country, Virginia would be between Cuba and Bulgaria in size.
  • Virginia is roughly shaped like a triangle, although one Reddit user noted that it is also shaped like a stegosaurus. Its southwest corner looks like a wedge, and mirrors the shape of North Carolina below it.
  • Virginia is the 12th most populous state, with 8.6 million residents. New Jersey has slightly more people, while Washington state has slightly less.
  • Richmond is the capital city of Virginia. With a population of 226,000, it just barely makes the list of 100 largest cities in the US.
The skyline of Richmond, Virginia, with a bridge in the foreground and river to the left
Richmond, the capital of Virginia, on the James River
  • The greater Richmond area has 1.26 million people, making it the 45th largest metropolitan area in the country.
  • The largest city in in Virginia by population in Virginia is Virginia Beach. It is the country’s 42nd largest city (population 457,000) and 34th largest metropolitan area (1.44 million).
  • Two other cities in Virginia are also larger than the capital: Chesapeake and Norfolk.
  • Chesapeake, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Newport News, along with a few adjacent metropolitan areas in North Carolina, together form an extensive urban area called Hampton Roads.
  • The surrounds one of the largest natural harbors in the world, which is also called Hampton Roads and is a channel of the James, Nansemond and Elizabeth rivers. The area is known for its military presence, beaches, ice free harbors, and coal piers.
  • Virginia was named after Queen Elizabeth I, who never got married, hence she was famously called the “Virgin Queen”.
A string of buildings along a beach in Virginia Beach, a city in Virginia state
Oceanfront in Virgina Beach
  • According to historians, British adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh suggested naming the state after her in 1584.
  • The state was given the nickname “Old Dominion”, which refers to the fact that Virginia was the first and oldest of the overseas dominions of England.
  • The tourism slogan for Virginia, “Virginia is for Lovers”, has been used since 1969. It has been called “one of the most iconic ad campaigns of the last 50 years.”
  • The official beverage of Virginia is milk, the same as 21 other US states.
  • The official state motto is “Sic Semper Tyrannis“, which means “Thus Always to Tyrants” in Latin.
  • The official acronym for Virginia is VA, while people from the state are called Virginians.
The Virginia state flag
The state flag of Virginia
  • Virginia’s flag has the state’s coat of arms in a white circle on a deep blue background.
  • The coat of arms features the Roman goddess Virtus and the tyrant she defeated. The goddess is holding a spear and a sword, while the tyrant is holding a whip and a chain. The tyrant’s crown has fallen to the right. The goddess symbolizes the state of Virginia, while the tyrant symbolizes Great Britain.

Random Facts About Virginia

  • Patrick Henry, one of the founding fathers of the US, famous said “Give me liberty or give me death” at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia in 1775.
  • Virginia has also been nicknamed the “Mother of Presidents”.
A statue of George Washington riding a horse atop a pedestal
George Washing statue in Richmond, Virginia
  • Eight US presidents have been born in Virginia: James Monroe, John Tyler, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Woodrow Wilson, Zachary Taylor, William Harrison, and George Washington.
  • The wives of six US presidents have also been born in Virginia: Edith Wilson, Martha Jefferson, Letitia Tyler, Ellen Arthur, Martha Washington, and Rachel Jackson.
  • Today, more people work in the federal government than in any other industry in Virginia, around 1 in 5 workers.
  • Half a million people in Virginia work for the US Army, making it the state’s largest employer.
Aerial view of the Pentagon building
The Pentagon is technically in Virginia
  • The Pentagon, typically considered part of Washington D.C., is actually located across the Potomac River in Arlington County of Virginia. It is located just west of the river’s high water mark, which marks the Washington-Virginia border.
  • The Pentagon is the world’s largest office building, with three times more floor space than the Empire State Building in New York City. It is the headquarters of the US department of defense.
  • There are nearly 68,000 mi (109,435 km) of internal telephone lines in the Pentagon.
  • Virginia has the most Confederate memorials in the country, but recent protests may result in several being torn down.
  • Virginia has been called the “Home of the Internet”, as Loudoun County hosts data centers that cater to three-quarters of the web’s traffic. Ashburn, located in the county, is nicknamed “the Data Center Capital of the World.”
A road with a view of distant mountains in Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park
  • Virginia has one national park: Shenandoah National Park. The park protects a section of the Blue Ridge Mountains along Shenandoah River.
  • There are over 500 mi (800 km) of walking trails Shenandoah, including more miles of the Appalachian Trail than any other state.
  • Virginia is the only place on the Appalachian Trail where wild ponies can be seen.
A wooden fence at Jamestown with a green statue head poking up from behind it
A statue of Captain John Smith peeks over a fence at Jamestown
  • Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. It was established on May 4, 1607. More than 80% of the colonists died with a few years of founding it.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel viewed from a distance and crossing over a large body of water
Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
  • Virginia has 15.4 million acres of forest land, is 61% of the state’s total land area.
  • In fact, the state’s major cash crop is tobacco, which was also the first export of the Virginia colony.
  • Virginia is the 3rd largest seafood producer in the country, known for its hardshell clams, oysters, menhaden, sea scallops, and Chesapeake blue crabs.
  • In fact, Virginia is considered the oyster capital of the east coast, producing over 40 million oysters per year.
  • Virginians claim that Brunswick stew was invented there in Brunswick county, but Brunswick, Georgia also makes a similar claim (New Brunswick, Canada, as far as I know, made such a claim!)
A metal bowl of stew with a wooden spoon in it
Brunswick stew was possibly invented in Virginia
  • The state’s highest temperature of 115°F (46°C) was recorded in Balcony Falls on July 15, 1954. The lowest was -30°F (-34°C) at Mountain Lake on January 22, 1985.
  • Mount Rogers is the highest point in Virginia, at 5,729 ft (1,746 m) above sea level.
  • Hampton, Virginia became home to the country’s first free public school, the Syms-Eaton Free School, in 1634. Several schools have followed since then in the same location or with the same name.
  • Rockbridge County resident Cyrus McCormick created the mechanical reaper in 1831 after he combined the work of multiple farming tools. His invention increased the crop yields of farmers by up to 200%.
  • Each time you suffer from chapped, cracked or dry lips and reach for your chapstick- just remember to thank Dr. Charles Browne Fleet of Lynchburg, Virginia, who invented the Chapstick in the early 1880s.
A close up of a stick of chapstick on a blue background
Chapstick’s inventor was from Virginia
  • America’s first test tube baby was developed at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, which resulted in the country’s first successful IVF pregnancy. A little baby girl was born by Caesarian on December 28, 1981.
  • Dirty Dancing was partially filmed in Mountain Lake, Virginia (the other parts were filmed in Lake Lure, North Carolina).
  • Some of the most famous actresses and actors from Virginia include Sandra Bullock, Ariel Winter, Shirley MacLaine, Camila Mendes, Chris Pratt, Rob Lowe, and Jason Sudeikis.
  • Musicians Ella Fitzgerald, Missy Elliot, Jason Mraz, Patsy Cline, Neko Case, and Gwar were all from Virginia.
  • Virginia has been home to many novelists, historians, political columnists, and Pulitzer Prize winners, including the likes of Willa Cather, Russell Baker, David Baldacci, David J. Mays, Edgar Allan Poe, Ann Spencer, and Tom Wolfe.
A mosaic of famous people from Virginia
Famous Virginians Ella Fitzgerald, Missy Elliot, Jason Mraz, Sandra Bullock, Rob Lowe, and Gwar (clockwise from top-left)
  • Virginia has produced some top-tier professional athletes and Olympians, including boxers Pernell Whitaker and Norvel Lee, gymnast Gabrielle Douglas, taekwondo martial artist Terrence Jennings, baseballers Justin Verlander and David Wright, and basketballer Moses Malone.
  • Hilton hotels and Dollar Tree are both headquartered in Virginia.
  • Virginia is no stranger to strange laws. Some locals laws include the following: in Norfolk it’s illegal to spit on a seagull, in Richmond it’s illegal to flip a coin to decide who’s paying for coffee, and in Culpeper it’s illegal to wash a mule on a sidewalk.
  • Other strange laws that still exist on paper in the state include laws against tickling a woman, and hunting on a Sunday (unless it’s a raccoon).

Historical Facts About Virginia

  • Millions of years ago, parts of Virginia were under the sea. A new whale species dating to 14 million years ago was found in a cave there, and named after a volunteer at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.
  • Humans entered the area of Virginia as early as 20,000 BC, as evidenced by archaeological remains at the Cactus Hill site.
A walking trail beside the water in First Landing State Park, Virginia
First landing state park, where the English colonists first arrived.
  • Prior to European arrival, the area of Virginia was occupied by three indigenous peoples: the Iroquoians, the Eastern Siouans, and the Algonquians.
  • In 1570, Jesuits established a mission a few miles away from where Jamestown would be, but most of them were killed by the local Native people.
  • In 1607, 104 colonists from the Virginia Company of London entered Chesapeake Bay, then landed at Cape Henry, at what is now called First Landing. They then established the Jamestown Colony.
  • Pocahontas, Native American daughter Powhatan, chief of the Powhatan, an alliance of Algonquian people, was captured and held for ransom in 1613. She went on to marry Englishman Thomas Rolfe.
  • In 1616, Pocahontas was taken to London and presented as an example of a “civilized savage.”
A blue and white old stamp with a portrait of Pocahontas on it
A 1907 stamp with the historical Pocahontas dressed in European clothing
  • While most people consider the first Thanksgiving to have taken place in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621, another Thanksgiving ceremony took place earlier in Virginia in 1619. When a ship arrived safety from Bristol, England, the crew conducted a ceremony of thanks.
  • In 1624, Virginia became a royal colony.
  • In 1672, a peninsula in Petersburg, Virginia was renamed Pocahontas Island.
  • The city of Jamestown was burned during Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, when the settler Nathanial Bacon briefly took over the town then burned it before leaving.
  • In 1698, Williamsburg became Virginia’s capital.
  • Tobacco became the main crop in Virginia, with a Tobacco Inspection Act passing in 1730.
A row of tobacco plants on a farm
Tobacco has long been a key crop in Virginia
  • In 1737, a young George Washington was employed to survey lands to the west, resulting in Frederick Town (today’s Winchester) being established there a few years later.
  • In 1776, Virginia native Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence.
  • The fighting in the Revolutionary War came to an end after the defeat of the British at the Battle of Yorktown in Virginia in 1781. Today visitors can learn about it at the Yorktown Battlefield Visitor’s Center.
  • In 1788, Virginia became the 10th state to join the Union.
  • George Washington of Virginia was elected as the first president of the nation in 1789.
  • In 1801, Thomas Jefferson was elected as the 3rd president of the US.
A black and white image of the home of Thomas Jefferson
Moticello, the Virginia home of Thomas Jefferson
  • Hoping to arm the slaves in a revolt, abolitionist John Brown led the raid on the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry in Virginia in 1859.
  • Before the Civil War began, Virginia had more slaves than any other state.
  • In 1861, the state seceded from the Union and joined the Confederate States, and the Civil War began.
  • West Virginia broke away from Virginia and formed its own state in 1863, mainly because of political differences and views towards slavery.
  • Speaking of the Civil War, more battles were fought on Virginia soil than in any of the other states.
A black and white photograph of a group of freed slaves sitting in front of a wooden house
Freed slaves in Virginia during the Civil War
  • Virginia was readmitted to the Union in 1870.
  • The 1st rotary-dial telephones were installed in Norfolk, Virginia in 1919.
  • In 1943, the headquarters of the US Department of Defense, called the Pentagon, was opened in Arlington.
  • A mass death row prisoner escape took place from Virginia’s Mecklenburg prison in 1984. 6 death row inmates managed to escape, and all 6 of them were eventually caught or turned themselves in.
  • L. Douglas Wilder made US history after he won the race for Governor in Virginia on November 7, 1989, becoming the first elected black Governor in the country.
  • As part of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a hijacked passenger jet crashed into the Pentagon in 2001.
A 9-11 memorial at the Pentagon consisting of waves of cement over little pools of water
A 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon
  • On February 20 2004, a Virginia resident won a whopping $230 million in the Mega Millions Lottery, the biggest win in the game’s history at the time.
  • In 2006, Virginia residents voted against gay marriage in a referendum, in line with laws against it going back to 1975 but this was overturned in 2016.
  • On February 22, 2021 Virginia became the 23rd state to stop executions.
  • On December 17, 2021, Anthony Robinson was arrested after being suspected to be linked to the killings of the “shopping cart killer”. At least five women were killed by the serial killer.

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