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The Best of Virginia for Groups

Virginia is a study in contrasts: Blue Ridge Mountain peaks and Shenandoah Valley lowlands; gentle Chesapeake Bay waves and wild Atlantic surf; sweet, small towns and beautiful, bustling cities.

But for all of its diversity, Old Dominion provides group travelers with treasures throughout its more than 40,000 square miles. Historic sites predating the founding of America, the jewels in the commonwealth’s crown, are everywhere in Virginia, along with attractions that explore its rich natural splendors. And topping it all off are hotels and restaurants that offer service with a heaping dose of old school Southern hospitality.

Here is the best of what Virginia has to offer groups.

Popular Demand

Colonial Williamsburg

Encompassing 301 acres, Colonial Williamsburg is the rare attraction that truly offers something for every group member. History buffs can wander 89 original buildings dating to the 18th century, chat with costumed interpreters and even dine on authentic Colonial-era recipes at King’s Arms Tavern. For culture enthusiasts, the attraction serves up two world-class museums spotlighting everything from folk art to fine art. Meanwhile, nature lovers will want to take in Colonial Williamsburg’s stunning arboretum and gardens. Various special group packages, covering half-day to multi-day visits, are available.


Founding Father Thomas Jefferson wasn’t just a whiz at nation-building, practicing law and philosophizing. He was also a gifted architect, as his estate proves. Located in Charlottesville, the 33-room Monticello was designed, redesigned and constructed over four painstaking decades, beginning in 1769. Planners can book tours of the stately neo-classical building, its gardens and Jefferson’s gravesite. Another highlight of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a visitor center with exhibits detailing Jefferson’s exhaustive accomplishments.

Arlington National Cemetery

The final resting place of some 400,000 veterans and their families, Arlington National Cemetery makes for a moving stop on any tour itinerary. The meticulously maintained grounds, which range over about a square mile, include such stirring sights as former President John F. Kennedy’s gravesite, the Memorial Amphitheater and the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial. Private one-hour tours, which may be expanded in half-hour increments, are available. Planners may also be able to arrange for their groups to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Up and Coming

Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center

Groups that love the briny deep won’t want to miss the recently unveiled South Building at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach. The structure, which debuted in January following a blockbuster $28.9 million renovation and expansion, boasts exhibits holding nearly 20,000 gallons of water. They provide homes for new aquarium critters like Pacific sea nettle jellyfish, decorator crab and cuttlefish while offering upgraded digs for the long-beloved North American river otters. Look for tours of the South Building coming next year.

Virginia Living Museum

After nine months of construction, Newport News’ Virginia Living Museum will unveil its $4.3 million Wild Care Center this August. Tucked along the museum’s outdoor boardwalk trail, the new space will give visitors a chance to watch wildlife vets in action, caring for some of the attraction’s more than 180 native species. The museum, which celebrates and explores Virginia’s natural heritage, will also host animals encounters for groups in the 5,000-square-foot center.

Tall Ship Providence

Tall Ship Providence, a replica of the legendary 110-foot sloop that was the first vessel commissioned for the Continental Navy in 1775, has been offering cruises out of Alexandria since 2020. But last summer the Providence got a jazzy new home: the Senator John Warner Maritime Heritage Center. Located at the city’s Waterfront Park, the two-building facility includes an education center and a theater that screens the film “Providence: Dawn of the U.S. Navy.” There’s also a new pop-up biergarten on site for groups to enjoy.

Overnight Sensations

Big Meadows Lodge

Sitting within Shenandoah National Park, Big Meadows Lodge is a beautifully rustic property listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1939 of local stone and native wormy chestnut trees (now almost extinct), it’s a stone’s throw from the verdant grassland from which it takes its name. After a meal in the Lodge’s Spottswood Dining Room, visitors can stargaze at Big Meadows, where astronomy programs are held on select Fridays during the spring, summer and fall.

The Jefferson Hotel

For sheer wow factor, Richmond’s magnificent Jefferson Hotel can’t be beat. The legendarily luxurious beauty, which opened in 1895 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, stuns with a sweeping grand staircase and 40-foot-tall rotunda lobby, topped with a stained-glass skylight. A favorite of luminaries including former U.S. President Barack Obama, musical artist Prince and actor Paul Newman, the Jefferson gives groups the option of everything from private historical tours to afternoon tea reservations.

Memorable Meals

The Tavern

In Abingdon, a charming town deep within the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Tavern is the oldest bar in the commonwealth and one of the 10 oldest in the country. It was built in 1779 as accommodations for weary stagecoach travelers. During its long history, it has also served as a barber shop, post office, bank, general store, bakery and private residence, and has even sheltered the likes of former U.S. President Andrew Jackson and the king of France. Nowadays, the establishment offers visitors a menu heavy on steak and seafood favorites, as well as private dining quarters.

City Cruises Norfolk

Groups can get a jaw-dropping view of the U.S. Navy’s mighty Atlantic Fleet while they dine with City Cruises Norfolk, which operates the Spirit and Freedom Elite boats out of the city. Planners can opt for a lunch, mimosa brunch or dinner cruise down the scenic Elizabeth River, with both public trips and private charters available. Journeys last about two hours, depending on the cruise, and include a variety of internationally inspired menu choices, as well as entertainment from a DJ.