How old is the state of Virginia? Where did the name Virginia come from? Did you know that Virginia is the home of our country’s defense headquarters, the Pentagon? These and other questions are answered in our Virginia unit study supplement!

The state was named after Queen Elizabeth I, known as the Virgin Queen.  The state’s nickname of the Old Dominion State arose as a result of Virginia being the first English colony (known as a territory or dominion of England) and a loyal supporter of the exiled Charles II, while its nickname of Mother or Birthplace of Presidents comes from the fact that eight US presidents were born in the state!

In this article you’ll learn more interesting facts about Virginia, including historical facts about Virginia, a Virginia history timeline, geography facts and more. Time4Learning members can download our list of PreK-12 interactive activities that align with your study of Virginia.  Here are a few Virginia facts for kids:

Virginia Fast Facts

Became a Colony:

1624

Became a State:

June 25, 1788

Order it Joined the Union:

10th state

State Capital:

Richmond

State Abbreviation:

VA

Border States:

State Flag:

Flag of Virginia

State Song:

“Carry Me Back to Old Virginia”

State Flower:

American Flowering Dogwood

State Nickname:

  • Old Dominion State
  • Mother/Birthplace of Presidents

Notable Virginians:

Historical Facts About Virginia

Ready to learn more interesting facts about Virginia’s history? It is believed that people may have lived in Virginia as far back as 18,000 years ago.  Native American tribes, such as the Cherokee, Croatoan, Powhatan, and Tuscarora, were in the area thousands of years later when Giovannie da Verrazzano claimed the land for France.  Jamestown, credited as the first English colony in the US, was founded in Virginia in 1607 by representatives of the Virginia Company of London.

Legend says that John Smith, one of the settlers, was captured by the Powhatans but was saved by the chief’s daughter, Pocahontas, when he was about to be killed.  Pocahontas later married John Rolfe, who brought the tobacco industry to Virginia, and the marriage brought temporary peace between the English and the Native American people.  However, with the death of Pocahontas and her father, war broke out between the English settlers and the Native Americans. As a result, in 1624, the Virginia Company’s charter was revoked, and Virginia became England’s first royal colony.

Virginia was very involved in the colonies’ independence from Great Britain.  Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 signaled the colonial desire for self-government. In addition to burning the statehouse at Jamestown (which was later rebuilt), the rebellion resulted in the removal of the royal governor, Sir William Berkeley.  Virginia’s elected House of Burgesses led the way in opposing British rule. Virginian Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Virginian James Madison was one of the founding fathers, and Virginian George Washington was a commander in the colonial army and became the first president of the new nation.

Despite its integral role in the start of the United States, Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861.  Virginia joined what was known as the Confederate States of America, which as a group sought to become a sovereign nation.  They were led by Jefferson Davis under a separate government with a capital at Richmond. Virginian Robert E. Lee was among the generals leading the Confederate forces.  The American Civil War ended in 1865 with Confederate defeat, and the Confederate States of America ceased to exist. During the war, Virginia lost a third of its territory to the new antislavery state of West Virginia.  Virginia did not rejoin the Union until five years after the end of the war, in 1870.

Let’s read the Virginia history timeline below to learn more historical facts about Virginia and the events that shaped what Virginia is today.

1524

Giovanni da Verrazzano claimed the area for France

1607

Virginia Company of London established the first permanent settlement at Jamestown

1619

First meeting of the Virginia House of Burgesses in Jamestown

1642

Virginia Company’s charter was revoked, making Virginia England’s first royal colony led by Sir William Berkeley, with Jamestown as its capital

1676

Bacon’s Rebellion; Jamestown’s state house was burned and was later rebuilt

1698

Jamestown’s state house burned again

1699

Capital was moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg (formerly Middle Plantation)

1747

Capitol building in Williamsburg burned and was later rebuilt

1775

Patrick Henry uttered his famous words, “Give me liberty or give me death!” at a convention in Virginia; beginning of the American Revolution

1776

Declaration of Independence was adopted

1788

Virginia became the 10th state in the US, before George Washington was inaugurated as the first president

1780

Richmond replaced Williamsburg as the capital of Virginia

1781

Battle of Yorktown, when British were forced to surrender to American and French forces

1783

Treaty of Paris, ending the American Revolution

1831

Nat Turner’s revolt, a slave rebellion that spread fear among the white South

1861

Virginia seceded from the Union to join the Confederate States of America; beginning of the American Civil War

1863

Virginia loses a third of its territory to the new antislavery state of West Virginia

1865

American Civil War ended with the defeat of the Confederacy

1867

South was placed under military rule

1870

Virginia rejoined the Union

1943

U.S. Department of Defense headquarters, the Pentagon opened in Arlington.

Bring history and geography to life with Time4Learning’s interactive online social studies curriculum for grades 2-12.

Virginia Geography Facts

Now that we’ve gone over Virginia’s history timeline, let’s explore the state’s geography.

Virginia’s geography allows for the growth of many tree varieties, covering over 60 percent of the state.  These include the maple, magnolia, hickory, pine, oak, and dwarf pawpaw. Wildflowers like purple milkweed, wild columbine, coneflowers, and wild geraniums can be found throughout the state as well.

Historically a land with large herds of bison, Virginia’s wildlife now includes black bears, Appalachian cottontails, Virginia opossums and northern flying squirrels, 28 species of frogs, northern copperhead and bright red northern scarlet snakes (as well as rattlesnakes and water moccasins), and the eastern glass lizard.  In the skies of the mountain areas, you will find bald and golden eagles, peregrine falcons, hawks, owls, and turkey vultures, while seagulls and piping plovers are found along the coast.

Once you’ve looked at this map of Virginia to start getting familiar with the state, read through the following Virginia geography facts. Print out the map of Virginia provided below and add these items to the map.

  • Virginia is bordered by Maryland and West Virginia in the north; Tennessee and North Carolina in the south; Kentucky and West Virginia in the west; and Maryland, Washington, D.C., and the Atlantic Ocean in the east.
  • The capital, Richmond, lies in the eastern-central part of the state.
  • The Potomac River forms part of the northeastern border with Maryland.
  • The Shenandoah River flows in the northern part of the state.
  • The Clinch River flows between Tennessee and Virginia in the westernmost part of Maryland.
  • The New Kanawha is located between West Virginia and Virginia in western Maryland.
  • The James River flows across central Maryland and through Richmond.
  • Lake Anna is in the northeastern section of the state.
  • The John H. Kerr Reservoir is located on the North Carolina border just east of the center of the state.
  • Virginia’s highest point is Mount Rogers, at 5,729 feet above sea level, in western Virginia near the border with Tennessee.
  • The lowest point is at the Atlantic Ocean in eastern Virginia at sea level.

Virginia State Map

Download our FREE Virginia state map printable. Use it as a coloring page or use it to plot the state’s geographical features.

Download

Activities for Children in Virginia

Want to know a great way to learn more fun facts about Virginia?  Visit Old Dominion! Homeschoolers in Virginia are close to the state’s unique places, but out-of-towners can plan a longer stay to join in the fun. Here are a few ideas to help you learn some more Virginia state facts:

  • Colonial National Historical Park (Yorktown):  See both Historic Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America (1607), and the Yorktown Battlefield, the final major battle of the American Revolutionary War (1781).  Learn about history from the pre-colonization period through the colonial era and including the Civil War era. Enjoy nature through wildlife viewing and birdwatching. Access the educational resources online to learn more about the park and its history.
  • Colonial Williamsburg (Williamsburg):  Journey through an 18th-century village and living history museum where many of the buildings are the originals from the 1700s.  Watch the highly trained staff dressed in colonial clothing reenact daily life. Explore two art museums, four taverns, and over forty sites and trades.  Watch for special programs designed especially for kids.
  • Grand Caverns (Grottoes):  Combine your love for nature and history here.  Explore the caverns through guided tours, go hiking or biking, or fish on the South River.  Stay for a Historic Trails Tour or Adventure Tour of Fountain Cave. Learn about Civil War history and Virginia wildlife.  For recreation, complete a fitness trail or enjoy the pool and miniature golf course.
  • Presidential Homes (Various Locations):  Visit the homes of one or more of the presidents born in Virginia.  See Washington’s home at Mount Vernon, Jefferson’s home at Monticello, Madison’s home at Montpelier, Monroe’s home at Highland, Harrison’s home at Berkeley Plantation, or Tyler’s home at Sherwood Forest Plantation.
  • Virginia Historical Society (Richmond):  Although the state has more than a hundred historical societies and museums, here you will find one of the most extensive collections of colonial American artifacts in the country.  Permanent exhibits include “Landscapes of Virginia,” “Memorial Military Murals by Charles Hoffbauer,” and “Story of Virginia.” Even if you can’t visit, check out the online video and audio collection for some distance learning.  Two Homeschool Open Houses are offered each year with educator-led history presentations for students.

Looking for more things to do with your kids in Virginia? Check out this post full of field trip ideas in Virginia!

Virginia Freebies and Deals for Homeschoolers

Learn more Virginia facts and information by visiting some places that are not so expensive.  Below are just a few ideas:

  • Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (Appomattox):  See the McLean House where General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant in 1865.  That moment proved that the country could survive a civil war and also exist without slavery. Visit more than a dozen buildings, a museum, a bookstore, and a theater in the village of Appomattox Court House.  Hike any of the eight trails to enjoy the wildlife as well. There is no admission fee. Distance learners can access the Virtual Tour or learn about the park through the online resources.
  • Assateague Island National Seashore (Maryland/Virginia):  Shared between Virginia and Maryland, this island is noted for its wild horses, the Chincoteague ponies, who arrived on the island over 400 years ago.  Walk the beach, ride horses, camp, or participate in ranger programs. Check the calendar for fee free days.
  • Manassas/Bull Run National Battlefield Park (Manassas):  The Union and Confederate armies clashed for the first time on fields overlooking Bull Run (July 21, 1861), and again on the fields of Manassas (August 28-30, 1862). See Henry Hill, the focus of heavy fighting during the first battle, and the unfinished railroad, where much fighting occurred during the second battle.  Discover the features of the surrounding areas (including some original and restored buildings) and witness the site where a Civil War surgeon’s burial pit was recently discovered and taught us much about Civil War medicine. Admission is free.
  • Shenandoah National Park (Luray):  Explore 200,000 acres of protected vistas, waterfalls, and wooded hallows. Enjoy the geologic formations and abundant wildlife as you bike, fish, or camp and check out the exhibits in the two visitor centers.  Take advantage of ranger-guided programs or join livestream ranger talks if you cannot visit in person. The park does take part in the “Every Kid in a Park” Program with free admission for fourth grade families, and there are scheduled fee free days when entrance fees are waived.
  • Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Richmond):  View art from around the world in the permanent collections as well as through the many temporary exhibits.  Take advantage of art classes (for a cost) or free Open Studio Sundays where children under the age of 13 can participate in featured art activities.  Watch for free Family Day programming as well. Admission is always free. Explore the Resource Center to prepare for a visit or learn from home.

Virginia Learning Games for Children

Now that you have learned many interesting things about Virginia, test your knowledge of Virginia facts for students with these free games and activities:

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