History and travel often go hand in hand: Nearly every destination makes some effort to educate visitors about its past, whether by building museums or preserving historical sites and architecture. But few places—at least in the U.S.—can claim a historical legacy like that of Virginia. And few have done such a good job of preserving it for modern travelers.

Take Colonial Williamsburg, for instance: It was one of the first locations to combine historic architecture with living-history re-enactments, and it's still one of the best. Visitors there enjoy an up-close look at early colonial life—the language, the tasks, even the buttons appear authentic. Those interested in the Revolutionary War era know that Virginia was a virtual who's-who of founding fathers. Four of the first five U.S. presidents, in fact, were from the state, and most of them—George Washington and Thomas Jefferson being the best known—have left behind impressive estates. And when North and South fought the epic clashes of the Civil War, the blood flowed deepest in Virginia. To walk among the battlefields of Manassas, Fredericksburg and Cold Harbor is to appreciate the valor and carnage unleashed by the deadliest war in U.S. history.

There is more to Virginia than historical sites, of course—the natural beauty of the Shenandoah region and some quality oceanfront beaches in the Tidewater area, for instance—but to go to this state without taking at least some notice of its past is almost impossible. In Virginia, you'll best create your own vacation memories by moving among the memories of what came before.

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