From Washington to Williamsburg: on the road in the heart of Virginia

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Lluis Enric Mayans

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There are those who think they understand America from skyscrapers, the White House or Hollywood ...

Surely the American vision has always made itself felt within history through the great symbols of hope and response to the American Dream. It's all right, were it not that the real America it is elsewhere, hidden behind the smiles of the Virginia suburbs, where it is fashionable to be a priest or a pilot, where faith is not an opinion and is represented in the form of long and monotonous skirts.

Virginia is the heart of the American people, the true heart, still tied to a policy that always wants to show itself strong in all circumstances, even through an often questionable use of weapons. I was lucky enough to have had some friends willing to accompany me on a full immersion of a few days in this state.

What I report is the tip of an iceberg, of an immense state, full of streets and lanes, historic districts that mix with areas redone from scratch and conventional.


We left Washington DC by car, crossing the border into Virginia, and in less than half an hour we arrived at Arlington, first stop on our journey.

In the United States the car is a must, in the sense that it is so convenient that I recommend everyone to rent one (very easy even for tourists). The only downside to rental cars is the mandatory blocking of a deposit on your card, which will then be released a few days after delivery. Take a look at the our tips for renting a car in the USA

I am happy with Rentalcars, an app that acts as a hub for all car rental companies and with which you can find the best deals. However, the advice to simplify everything and reduce costs is to organize collection and return in the same city.


  • Arlington + Alexandria
  • Fredericksburg
  • Charlottesville
  • Williamsburg
  • Back Home

Arlington + Alexandria

Arlington is a city located along the Potomac River, the very long river that flows through the states of the East Coast, also known as the "River of the Nation". To Arlington is the famous Arlington National Cemetery, built during the American Civil War in the 300.000th century. This cemetery is a symbol for the entire country, with the graves of over 2001 soldiers: veterans of civil wars and the 1963 Pentagon bombing, along with notable figures in American history such as President JF Kennedy, who was assassinated in Dallas in XNUMX. .

The Pentagon, located in Arlington - given its proximity to Washington DC - became the defense center of the country in the XNUMXs.

Il National Cemetery it is a place to see at all costs. After a few hours spent visiting these key places in the city, we stopped in a classic tea-room and left for Alexandria, a small suburb a quarter of an hour's drive from Arlington, located along the Potomac River. The old town is characterized by antiques stalls and its "townhouses", villas each of a different color but with the usual brick base.

It is certainly a trendy city, regularly overrun by Washington workers on weekends. We then stopped for a hot dog at a riverside stall. We could have sat down and eat a typical plate of mussels or fish soup but we opted for a priceless option, walking up to the lighthouse holding a hot dog and a coke, in typical American Sunday style. In this way, we had more time to visit the city and savor the warm breeze at the Jones Point Lighthouse, the small port of Alexandria.

  • All accommodation available in Alexandria


The next step was Fredericksburg, another colonial city. We had dedicated these days to greenery, as Fredericksburg is known for its many parks.

We arrived in the evening and at that point we went directly to ours Bed & Breakfast, Kenmore Inn, a stone's throw from the river and close to where we would spend the next day. The Inn was very simple and traditional, nineteenth-century style and consistent with the family of the first president of the United States, George Washington, being the city where his mother Mary lived.

After breakfast at the B&B, where scrambled eggs and bacon were just the side dish, we walked to Mary Washington House, the home of the first President's mother. It is a typical XNUMXth century house, with polished wood and opaque curtains. As well as the house, many of Fredericksburg's top attractions are dedicated to Mary Washington, including the University of Mary Washington.

The museum house is open every day from 11 to 16, except Sunday which opens at 12 noon. The entrance fee is very affordable, around 7 dollars.

The entire house is an example of the architecture of the time and is surrounded by typical Fredericksburg greenery. In fact, the women's works of that era, the lifestyle and habits are all told by those walls. After our visit, we went for lunch by Sammy T’s, a cute diner just a few minutes' walk from Mary Washington's home. I took one of my favorite dishes: a grilled cheese sandwhich, a very banal but exceptional toast greased in butter and covered with cheese. We spent the rest of the day in Alum Spring Park, one of many parks of Virginia which was recommended to us by a friend from Washington.

Alum Spring is a huge park, where you can enjoy the best of nature and fauna (with its many types of birds), typical of Fredericksburg. Not everyone knows that Virginia is populated by many types of birds, of which 90 are traditionally considered rare. I recommend doing as we do and lying on the lawn to play cards and chat. Of course it all depends on when you go. We went in the summer, but if it was winter - well - I would tell you not to stay long in the park.  

  • All accommodations available in Fredericksburg


The next day we left to go to Charlottesville, which is another hour and a half by car. Anyone who has been there knows that American roads facilitate these types of travel (which are typical for an American but a little less for a European), as they are spacious and full of intermediate stops. Entered the county of Albemarle, which Charlottesville is a part of, we went straight to Monticello, the famous residence of Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the United States, to whom the Jefferson Memorial was dedicated in Washington.

America could be accused of not having so much history: of course, comparing it to a state like Spain is more than true, but we must recognize that every small American suburb is very tied to its past and tries to enhance any piece of it. This beautiful home of the president, which I highly recommend you go and visit, has also been nominated UNESCO heritage. The only weak point of this historic site is the price: we spent around $ 30 each, but it was worth it and the tour guide was very useful.

The interior of the villa is used as a museum with several video stages, which is useful for those who have several drops of attention like me. After these two hours of history and culture, we returned to the heart of Charlottesville to eat. Having no idea where to go, we turned to Tripadvisor and ended up in a typical place: Mal's Cafe. I ate a nice plate of "mac and cheese", a cheesy and American version of Italian pasta. American diners and cafes are always my favorite places because they give the opportunity to fully experience the culture of the country, starting with milk at the table and unlimited coffee. 

  • All accommodations available in Charlottesville


After a few hours of walking and resting in old Charlottesville, we set off for Williamsburg, passing through one of those typical Virginia suburbs, where the flag in the "front porch" is a must and where the neighborhoods are always clean and tidy.

We spent two days in Williamsburg, hosted by friends.

Their house looked like one you see in movies, with three floors and an unreasonable number of rooms, each of a different color and mood. We had dinner and spent a beautiful evening at home, ready for the adventure of the next day, certainly anything but cultural. The next morning, in fact, we went to Busch Gardens, a huge and famous playground on the whole west coast. We spent almost the whole day there and it was a lot of fun.

I American parks they are so big that they can be considered small cities and therefore equipped with everything you need: from restaurants to shops and with a division of areas dedicated to different countries. The area of ​​Spain was obviously full of stereotypes: pasta and pizza stalls, wine bars and cheese tastings. We then went to the Chinese, Australian and French areas.

Let's say that the many hours spent there didn't even make themselves felt and the roller coaster was creepy! As if that wasn't enough, before returning to our friends, we went to eat in a place that we definitely couldn't miss, called Old City Barbecue, very close to the playground. After steaks, beer and lots of fries, we went home.

On our last day of travel, we took a discreet tour of Colonial Williamsburg, the historic district of the city. Entering this slice of town gives the impression of stepping back a few centuries: everything has been rebuilt with typical architecture from the 1700s. There are paid guided tours of the various museums and historic sites of Williamsburg. Among these stand out the Governor’s Palace, the residence of the governors of the colony, - where Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson lived - and the famous Capitol Building, the first American capitol where members of Virginia's political life gathered.

Do you want to learn more about the area? Discover the Virginia Historic Triangle and the Virginia Route 5 scenic drive. 

We settled for a much more superficial tour of the city and decided to walk, passing by College of William and Mary, one of the first universities in the United States and still very well known today. We stopped for brunch at a typical Virginia suburban place: Colonial Pancake House: ciders, pancakes, waffles and lots of coffee are a must.

  • All accommodation available in Alexandria

Back Home

It was time to leave. This time the destination would not have been another piece of Virginia, but we would have had to return to Washington DC A few days later I flew back to Spain, the last days in the capital.

  • Our tips on where to sleep in Washington

We were in Virginia for a few days, and for sure it would take at least a few months to fully understand it and enjoy the true American spirit with which it is strongly imbued. Not bad, it was certainly a rewarding experience and we all returned home full of the many things seen and happy to have lived a piece of American history.

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