Virginia, United States

About Virginia

The Commonwealth of Virginia is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" because it is the birthplace of eight U.S. presidents. The geography and climate of the state are shaped by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay, which are home to much of its flora and fauna. The capital of the Commonwealth is Richmond; Virginia Beach is the most populous city and Fairfax County the most populous political subdivision. The state population is nearly eight million. Virginia is bordered by Maryland and Washington, D.C. to the north and east; by the Atlantic Ocean to the east; by North Carolina and Tennessee to the south; by Kentucky to the west; and by West Virginia to the north and west. Due to a peculiarity of Virginia's original charter, its boundary with Maryland and Washington, D.C. does not extend past the low-water mark of the south shore of the Potomac River (unlike many boundaries that split a river down the middle). The Chesapeake Bay separates the contiguous portion of the Commonwealth from the two-county peninsula of Virginia's Eastern Shore.

Virginia Tourism and Recreation

Attractions in the coastal region alone include the Jamestown and Yorktown historic sites, the Williamsburg restoration, and the homes of George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Also featured are the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Langley Research Center, Assateague Island National Seashore, and the resort pleasures of Virginia Beach.

The state's many recreation areas include state parks, national forests, a major national park, scenic parkways, and thousands of miles of hiking trails and shoreline. Some of the most-visited sites are Mt. Rogers National Recreational Area, Prince William Forest Park, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, and the Kerr Reservoir. Part of the famous Appalachian Trail winds through Virginia's Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains. The commonwealth has more than l,500 miles of well-stocked trout streams. The interior offers numerous Civil War Sites, including Appomattox; Thomas Jefferson's Monticello; Booker T. Washington's birthplace near Smith Mountain Lake; and the historic cities of Richmond, Petersburg, and Fredericksburg. In the west, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park, traversed by the breathtaking Skyline Drive.

Virginia Climate

Few states have a more diverse climate than that of Virginia. The state has five different climate regions: the Tidewater, Piedmont, Northern Virginia, Western Mountain, and Southwestern Mountain regions. Some localities--Charlottesville, Lynchburg, and Warrenton, for example--have climate amenities such as long growing seasons and infrequent subzero temperature minimums, while winters on the northern Blue Ridge frequently produce bitterly cold temperatures like those of Chicago. Similarly, annual rainfall totals can vary from a sparse thirty-three inches typical of the Shenandoah Valley to more than sixty inches in the mountains of southwestern Virginia.

The climate of Virginia, a state on the east coast of the United States, is considered mild compared to other areas of the United States. Most of Virginia east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, plus the southern part of the Shenandoah Valley, has a humid subtropical climate. In the mountainous areas west of the Blue Ridge, the climate becomes humid continental. Severe weather, in the form of tornadoes, tropical cyclones, and winter storms impact the state on a regular basis.

Many variations occur because of the state's significant relief. Elevations in Virginia vary from sea level to Mount Rogers at 5,729 ft (1,746 m) above sea level, with major gradations occurring at the edges of the Atlantic Ocean, the end of the Piedmont, and the Blue Ridge and Allegheny chains of the Appalachian Mountains. The moderating influence of the ocean from the east, powered by the Gulf Stream, also creates the potential for hurricanes near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. Cold air masses arrive over the mountains, especially in winter, which can lead to significant snowfalls when coastal storms known as nor'easters move up the Atlantic coast.

Virginia Transportaion

Virginia has Amtrak passenger rail service along several corridors, and Virginia Railway Express maintains two commuter lines into Washington, D.C. from Fredericksburg and Manassas. The Washington Metro rapid transit system serves Northern Virginia as far west as Fairfax County. Commuter buses include the Fairfax Connector and the Shenandoah Valley Commuter Bus. The Virginia Department of Transportation operates several free ferries throughout Virginia, the most notable being the Jamestown-Scotland ferry which crosses the James River in Surry County.

Virginia has five major airports: Washington Dulles International, Reagan Washington National, Norfolk International, Richmond International, and Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport. Sixty-six public airports serve the state's aviation needs. The Eastern Shore of Virginia is home to Wallops Flight Facility, a rocket testing center owned by NASA, and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, a commercial spaceport.