I've never lived outside Virginia, and I'm amazed that I can turn around and find something new in the nooks and crannies of the great Commonwealth. From the state's capital, drive less than two hours and have your pick: the beach, the nation's capital, the mountains. Out of my travels around the state in the past few years, here's my top 5 places in Virginia:

5. Eastville, VA: This small town represents the entire Eastern Shore. The Shore, making up the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, hasn't been tainted by big chains (WalMart) and still acts and feels like yester-year. From the southeast Virginia end, the only entrance to the Shore is by way of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, a series of three bridges and 2 tunnels. The Shore has a great hospital too.

4. Monuments, Memorials, Statues and Museums: Apologies for being ambiguous and all-inclusive, but Virginia is home to some fantastic history that shows itself in "The City of Monuments" (Richmond), the National D-Day Memorial, Civil War historical sites across the state, and countless others throughout the state.

3. Blue Ridge Parkway: I've only really spent time on the Parkway around Roanoke, but it is always a great drive. The scenic outlooks give you a chance to hike, take a picnic or just relax along the drive. But watch your speed, the National Park Police are watching!

2. James River Park (Richmond): Home to the nation's only urban Class IV rapids. The park is a great getaway in the
middle of the city, from the westernmost Pony Pasture through downtown in the east. Swimming, kayaking, canoeing, tubing, hiking, biking, walking or running, it's all there. And it's incredibly peaceful early in the morning around sunrise.

1. The Breaks Interstate Park: I took the youth group to the park on a trip a few years back, and it is absolutely a hidden treasure. Nestled well off the beaten trail of Southwest Virginia, the tour guide led us to the newest acquisition of the park, not even on the map yet. The river's rocky bed made for a great slide and swimming area, and people jumped the cliff around the bend under a railroad bridge. Make a stop at the Pikeville's Rusty Fork Cafe just outside the park's Kentucky side for some good eatin'. Also home to our former senator's infamous "macaca" comments.

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