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Virginia

A tour of Virginia's "Historic Triangle" brings us up to the time of the American Revolution: Jamestown, the first permanent English colonial settlement in America; Colonial Williamsburg, the capital of Virginia from 1699 to 1779; and Yorktown, the site of the British surrender in 1781. From there, it's on to the estates of George Washington at Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. (Four out of the first five US presidents came from Virginia: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, collectively known as the Virginia Dynasty.) Pressing forward, Virginia has well-preserved Civil War battlegrounds at Manassas National Battlefield Park, Fredericksburg National Military Park, and Richmond National Battlefield Park, all administered by the National Park Service. A visit to Arlington National Cemetery brings us to the present -- the most prestigious US military cemetery serves as a resting place for veterans of all armed conflicts from the Civil War onward. The most famous soldier buried there is President John F. Kennedy.

Government is the business of the "beltway" region adjacent to Washington DC, which lies sandwiched between Virginia's northeastern edge and the state of Maryland. Virginia has lots of military facilities, and lots of government contractors, such as the shipyards at Newport News, where aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines are built in addition to cruise liners. Tobacco, the foundation of Virginia's early wealth, is still a major cash crop, but it does not dominate as it once did -- tourism, manufacturing, fishing, and communications all play significant roles in Virginia's diversified economy.

Though history and government are its strengths, of course Virginia has many attractions not associated with either. In the north, the Shenandoah National Park hosts Skyline Drive, a 105 mile route through the mountains with 75 overlooks. On the coast, Chincoteague is famous for its wild ponies, but the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge there is a great place to spot migratory waterfowl. The highlands in the southwest host a startling array of cultural resources: the Carter Family's musical residency in Maces Spring, "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine", an outdoor play that has run for 4 decades in Big Stone Gap, and the Virginia Highlands Festival in Abingdon, an annual arts and crafts bonanza.

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