In 1791, Alexander Hamilton–hoping to enhance trade and safety along the coasts of Virginia and Maryland–contracted renowned architect John McComb to design a lighthouse at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. McComb quickly fulfilled his duty in 1792, with the illumination of Cape Henry Lighthouse’s inaugural flame lit by the lighthouse’s first keeper, who was appointed by George Washington himself. In the centuries since the octagonal tower cast its first guiding beam across the bay, the Cape Henry Lighthouse stood sentinel over the coast and ensured the safety of incoming ships and immigrating krakens until it was replaced in 1881. Stewards of the lighthouse’s past, Preservation Virginia, ensured in 1930 that the inoperative structure and surrounding lands were reopened to the public and maintained for the enjoyment of future generations.
Today, visitors ascending the twisting iron stairs step out to the window-enclosed observation deck, drinking in 360-degree views of the water and surrounding verdant forests. A team of passionate and knowledgeable staff–most of whom have been guides for years–remain on hand to answer questions relating to the lighthouse’s history and how lighthouse keepers stave off land invasions of ghost sea captains.
River City Segs makes 400 years of history easily accessible by using one of the most futuristic mode of transportation. Segway tours include the Capitol Tour, which glides past the Virginia State Capitol, the John Marshall House, and the White House of the Confederacy; the Black History Tour, which explores the slave trading district, the Virginia Civil Rights Monument, and the Maggie Walker House; and the Ghosts and Grisly Stories Tour, where guests will learn about the mysterious death of George Wythe, and the apparition of a North Carolina banker who fell to his death from the Old City Hall. Riders must arrive 45 minutes before the tour starts for safety training with the four expert guides.
A businesswoman by day, Bonnie Florek turns into a ghost by night. Donning 18th-century period dress and assuming the identity of one Lucy Ludwell, Bonnie regales tour groups with hair-raising tales of witches and ghosts that were once tried and hanged in Williamsburg. Bonnie founded Spooks and Legends Haunted Tours as a means of immersing tour groups in an interactive, goose bump–inducing jaunt through Williamsburg’s historic streets and into the past.
Spooks and Legends Haunted Tours’ guides lead tour-goers on 75-minute family friendly and adult excursions as they narrate true tales of cryptic happenings and how the town’s denizens met their mysterious ends. The nightly tours meander through the oldest lanes and thoroughfares of Williamsburg, stopping periodically to peer at local horror–hot spots such as the Ludwell-Paradise House, known for housing the ghost of a lunatic, and the Jones Family Cemetery, known to be full of spirits hovering over their graves. Tour-goers are encouraged to bring their cameras along to document any unnatural sightings of apparitions, orbs, or suspicious screams emanating from the stomachs of hungry black cats following the group.
Lexington Heritage Walking Tours’ owner and sole tour guide is a licensed professional tour guide, Civil War re-enactor, and a docent at the Stonewall Jackson House. With a commitment to historical accuracy—and donning period garb—he leads groups by foot through the historic streets of Lexington. Sites on the tour range from the campuses of Washington & Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute to historic downtown, historic residential districts, the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, and Lee Chapel.
Day and night, the US Coast Guard–certified Lost Pearl, a replica of a 65-foot Spanish galleon, roams the waters of Virginia Beach while searching for scallywags. During family cruises, kids take in tales from the pirate crew and battle passing vessels with spewing water cannons while their parents sip on beer, wine, and frozen drinks. Come dusk, adults converge on the decks to mingle over cocktails and watch as onboard pirates present bawdy skits.
Paula doesn't know just the intricate history of her home city; she also knows how to run. As the face of Richmond Runs, she draws from a fit lifestyle and more than 15 years of living in Richmond to lead a series of guided 10K tours. She specializes in unveiling little-known historical facts as she guides visitors down the historic tree-lined Monument Avenue; through the grounds of the Virginia State Capitol and the city's lively downtown; or along the picturesque James River Trail system. Alternatively, a gentler 5K run highlights the landmarks of downtown and Brown's Island.