Summer is here, and the sun is out. All across the country, everyone from solo backpackers to families is packing up and heading out for a week or two of rest and relaxation. For those on a budget, however, it can be challenging to balance planning an enjoyable trip without breaking the bank. If you are in need of a way to escape for a while and recharge your batteries, these affordable Virginia summer vacation ideas are for you.
They say that Virginia is for Lovers. Beach lovers that is. The town of Virginia Beach is an all-time classic for penny-pinching vacationers to the Chesapeake Bay. The town itself can be pricey at times, but for the savvy, there is plenty to see and do here without spending very much at all. Find accommodation away from the beach to start. Some can be had for around $100 per night. Take a stroll through Neptune Park, which comes alive at night. The park hosts live music and entertainment in the summertime. First Landing State Park is over 3,000 acres of forests, hills, and swamps. Check out the amphitheater as well, which sometimes hosts shows. Try and book a stay in Virginia Beach in the off-season as costs go up between Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Visitors to Wolf Creek Farm Bed and Breakfast in Ararat will have over 100 acres of a mixed farmland, woods, and grassy hills to explore. It costs around $150 per night, and people looking to save a few bucks will love the on-site swimming pool and the five acre lake which can naturally be used all day free of charge. Go for a canoe ride on the before retiring back to the B&B’s fire pit. Roast marshmallows by the crackling fire and enjoy the jaw dropping view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Visit the Buffalo Natural Area Preserve and the Lovers Leap Overlook or the historic Mabry Mill and surrounding trails for an enjoyable excursion that is easy on the wallet.
Beautiful in the winter, Luray is equally as wonderful as a destination during the warmer months. This small town is found tucked between the Blue Ridge Mountains and two national forests. Cabin rentals are all the rage here and for good reason. The varied landscapes are an endless source of enjoyment for both visitors and residents alike. Book an eco-friendly vacation cottage with Windymile for an extremely affordable stay between $125 and $150 per night. From the cabin, one is greeted by grand pastoral views of the Shenandoah Valley in the morning and pastel colored sunsets at dusk. Visit Goshen Pass for whitewater rafting opportunities or for a nice place to cast a line and fish. Watch clouds go by with the Windymile cows and sit around the complimentary outdoor fireplace at sundown.
The city of Williamsburg radiates a historical energy . As a former cultural and political hub, the city retains much of its former glory in the form of its magnificent residential architecture which is an absolute treat. Some of these buildings can even be used as accommodations like the Historic Powhatan Resort or the Westgate Historic Williamsburg Resort, but the nearby Wyndham hotel for $73 per night works just fine. Visiting Colonial Williamsburg has an incredible open air museum. To save, buy tickets which include the nearby parks like Jamestown and Busch Gardens–a cheaper alternative to individual tickets. The town also hosts movie nights on Sunday nights on Prince George Street for free. Be sure to check out the Colonial National Historical Parkway for some scenic natural beauty.
Blue Ridge Mountain Haven
Part of Shenandoah National Park, the awe-inspiring Blue Ridge Mountains host a bevy of affordable accommodations which have forests and hills to conquer right off of their backyard for under $150 per night. To be warned, this is not a place where all the creature comforts of urban life can be found, but with a pair of hiking boots in tow there is plenty to do here. Skyland Resort is found at 3,680 feet, the highest single mile stretch along Skyline Drive. To the west lie the Shenandoah River and Valley, whereas to the east are the rolling hills of Piedmont. The national park has nearly 200,000 acres of protected wilderness to hike, bike, fish, and stargaze. Drive the National Scenic Byway which runs the length of the park and take in the views as you fly down this belt of untamed Appalachian beauty at speed.
This rural Virginia town is the perfect place for a day trip. Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine called Hot Springs a “Top Adventure Town,” and for good reason. This village is great thanks to how close the natural beauty of Virginia feels. Douthat State Park offers excellent hiking and biking opportunities, whereas Lake Moomaw has campgrounds, swimming, paddling, and fishing while only being half an hour away by car. Stargazing is also highly recommended in Hot Springs as the clear skies are free of light pollution and, importantly, it is a free activity! Lastly, be sure to go for a reinvigorating dip at Jefferson Pools. These hot springs are great for the body after a hard day’s hike.
Smith Mountain Lake
This sleepy town is home to one of the most beautiful lakes in the state and offers picturesque views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Stay in a modest but well-appointed wood cabin and brew a piping cup of joe from the lakefront while the flocks of waterfowl croon in the gathering daylight. Boat slips are available for rent in town and there are six free boat launches. Rip around the lake’s surface on a motorized boat or jet ski, while paddleboarding, wakesurfing, and more are also popular activities. The town’s 500-mile shoreline makes for a fabulous place to walk, while the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway are not too far off. With some rooms under $200 per night, Smith Mountain is a steal.
Remote, peaceful, beautiful. All fitting words to describe the island of Tangier. Sitting 12 miles out in the Chesapeake Bay, this charming little fishing town is only reached by boats from nearby Onancock or by air. Tangier is called the “soft crab capital” of the U.S., and is surprisingly free of the noise found on the mainland. Golf carts and bicycles are two popular ways of getting round, perfectly encapsulating the town’s relaxed island vibes. Dine at lovely restaurants steps from the marina or catch your own crabs off the many piers. Watermen’s tours are available as are general aquatic tours across the bay at sunset. Kayak through the water trails of Tangier and the nearby marshes or simply relax at the beach. With cottages for $125 per night in the off season, it is hard to go wrong in Tangier.
Crabtree Falls Campground
For vacationers on a shoestring budget, there is no better way to experience a change of scenery and reset than by trading the chaos of the nation’s urban centers for a nearby campground. Campsites here can be had for as little as $35 per night and come with the added benefit of the Tye River, the stunning Crabtree Falls, and the Blue Ridge Mountains all being nearby. There is a unique waterfall staircase hike at Crabtree Falls which visitors should be sure not to miss, complete with plenty of lookouts and a panoramic view of the Tye River Valley as a reward for hikers who make it to the top.
Virginia is a premier destination for vacationers looking to avoid breaking the bank. The state’s natural beauty is plentiful and best of all, it is absolutely free. There are world class mountain biking opportunities in Virginia, and the beaches and lakes are premier attractions in and of themselves. Visit secluded fishing villages for some of the best crab cakes on the East Coast or even spend the night on a mountainside cabin without spending an arm and a leg. With a little ingenuity, Virginia can be the summer’s best budget vacation spot.