Virginia Facts for Kids
Virginia is a state in the southeast region of the U.S. known for its stretches of coastline, woodland, mountains, historic towns, cities, and sites, rich culture and history, and the birthplace of many important and famous people.
All About Virginia
Virginia is a U.S. state in the mid-Atlantic region that shares a border with Washington, D.C., Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Atlantic Ocean. Its capital city is Richmond, and other notable cities include Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Arlington, which share the larger metropolitan area of Washington, D.C.
Virginia has played a major role in U.S. history. It’s the state where the first English settlements were located, it was part of the original Thirteen Colonies, the site of many battles in the American Revolution, and many of the Founding Fathers hailed from Virginia, including George Washington. On top of that, it was the location of the Confederacy’s capital during the American Civil War, which resulted in it having the most battles fought on its soil than any other state.
The state is 63% covered by forest and woodland, with the rest comprising the Appalachian Mountains, the Chesapeake Bay, coastland, farmland, hills, and swamp. All this has made Virginia attractive to several various wildlife and plantlife. Virginia is also the location of the Pentagon, Jamestown/Yorktown, and the longest artificial beach in the world.
Quick Virginia Facts for Kids
|Nickname||“The Old Dominion,” “The Mother of Presidents”|
|Motto||“Sic semper tyrannis,” “Thus always to tyrants.”|
|Date of Statehood||1788|
|Key Cities||Richmond, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, Charlottesville|
|Bordering States||Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia|
|Size||42,774.2 sq mi|
|Main Industries||Agriculture, military, tobacco, government|
|C. 10,000 B.C.||First, people move into the Virginia area.|
|C. 3,000 B.C.||Permanent settlements begin to emerge in Virginia.|
|C. 900 A.D.||Agriculture begins to flourish in Virginia.|
|1500||Algonquian people establish settlements such as Werowocomoco.|
|1540||Spanish explorers Juan de Villalobos and Francisco de Silvera are the first Europeans to discover Virginia.|
|1607||The English colony of Jamestown is established.|
|1775 – 1783||Virginia plays a crucial role in the American Revolutionary War.|
|1790||Alongside Maryland, Virginia cedes territory to form the District of Columbia.|
|1861||Virginia joined the Confederacy and seceded from the Union.|
|1865||The Battle of Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia concluded with the surrender of Robert E. Lee and the end of the Civil War.|
|1870||Virginia is officially restored to the Union.|
|1943||The Pentagon is built in Arlington as the headquarters of the DoD.|
|2001||The Pentagon came under fire during the 9-11 terrorist attacks when a passenger jet was flown into it.|
Virginia lies in the southeast region of the United States, also known as the Mid-Atlantic. Maryland borders it to the northeast, West Virginia to the northwest, North Carolina and Tennessee to the south, and a small border along the Potomac River with Washington, D.C., also to the northeast. Virginia also has a coastline along the Atlantic Ocean and a portion of the Chesapeake Bay.
The capital city of Virginia is Richmond. With a population of 1.2 million, it is the third-most populous metropolitan area in Virginia. Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads take the top spots with people of 3.1 million and 1.7 million, respectively.
Virginia’s east is home to a portion of the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the U.S., formed with rising sea levels after the last ice age. As a result, many of Virginia’s waterways drain into the Chesapeake Bay, including the Potomac, Rappahannock, York, and James Rivers.
Running along Virginia’s western border is the Appalachian Mountain Range, and its smaller province, the Blue Ridge, is home to Virginia’s highest mountain peak, Mount Rogers, at 5,729 feet tall. East of the mountainous area of the west border, the land is more flat and favorable for farming and settlement – which includes a part of the Piedmont area, a plateau that is known for its low, rolling hills.
Along with North Carolina, Virginia shares a portion of “The Great Dismal Swamp” in the state’s southeast. Apart from the swamps, waterways, rolling hills, and mountains, Virginia is heavily forested, with over 63% of the state covered in woodland.
The climate of Virginia is classed as a “humid subtropical,” meaning it experiences temperatures ranging from lows of 25 °F in January to average highs of 86 °F in July. These temperature extremes vary mostly in the Blue Ridge range to the west and the coasts of the east, which are mitigated due to the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Stream, respectively.
Virginia also experiences heavy thunderstorms and tornadoes between April – September and tropical storms and hurricanes between August – October. The coast is particularly vulnerable to these extreme weather conditions, and Virginia has been subjected to many severe hurricanes.
Completed in 1943 during WWII, The Pentagon serves as the headquarters for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), located in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. It is named after the pentagonal shape of the building and is famous for being the world’s largest office building.
Shenandoah National Park
Extending along the Blue Ridge Mountains in western Virginia, the Shenandoah National Park was established in 1935 and is a vast region of an unspoiled natural landscape full of waterfalls, mountains, hills, scenic landscape, wildlife, plantlife, trails, cabins, campsites, recreation activities, and much more.
Manassas National Battlefield
With Virginia’s undeniable involvement in the American Civil War and the sheer number of battles fought on its soil, it would be wrong not to mention the Manassas National Battlefield. This site is home to two important war battles and has preserved field cannons and tourist facilities.
Colonial National Historical Park
This is the site of both Jamestown and Yorktown. The former is the oldest English settlement in America, built-in 1607. The park also contains some English church ruins dating from 1639. With Virginia’s status as a “Commonwealth” state, this site pays homage to that British and English heritage.
Aside from the sandy beaches and natural beauty of the coastline, Virginia Beach also boasts an impressive boardwalk, a waterpark, museums, historic lighthouses, trails, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Museum.
This is the historic home of none other than America’s first president, George Washington. As the Founding Father lived there from 1754 until he died in 1799, it saw him through the revolution and into his presidency. Now, tourists can visit many of the preserved house and estates and experience demonstrations of trades and skills employed by the people of the time, such as blacksmithing, plowing, grain grinding, sheep sheering, weaving, etc.
Virginia’s many waterways, forests, hills, mountains, coastlines, lakes, lowlands, and swamps have developed many ecosystems that support a range of wildlife, including birds, land and aquatic mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and more. Unfortunately, Virginia’s position as an agricultural hub and urban center has meant much human activity encroaching on its wildlife and impacting its populations and habitats.
Cardinals are small songbirds. The male of the species has a bright red beak and plumage along with a black mask, while the female has duller colors. They also have protruding feathers on their heads like a crown. Although they are distributed across the entire continent, their attractive plumage and pleasant singing earned them the official Virginia state bird spot.
Virginia Big-Eared Bat
These small, cave-dwelling bats with relatively large ears have earned them their name. They are found only in West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Virginia. They are nocturnal and eat insects around the caves in which they live and hibernate. In the 1970s, they were thought to only number a few thousand in the wild, but conservation efforts began when they were officially considered endangered. They now number around 20,000 and are recognized as Virginia’s state mammal/bat.
Barking Tree Frog
Earning its name from its distinctive “bark,” this tree frog is endemic to the southeastern United States and only in the southeast of Virginia. It prefers woodlands, where it can burrow into mud or logs to hide from predators. They are medium-sized, green-colored frogs, but they’re the largest tree frog in Virginia. The males can often be found “barking,” which requires them to inflate their large vocal sacks while floating in the water.
As the northernmost marsupial in the world, the opossum carries its young in a pouch and can be found throughout most eastern, central, and parts of western states in the U.S. They also inhabit Central America. They are around the size of a domestic cat and are famed for their ability to “play dead” when in danger. Unfortunately, their strong resistance to snake venom has made them natural enemies.
Famous People from Virginia
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
Lewis and Clark were fabled explorers whose 1803 expedition across the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase led them across many modern-day Midwestern and Northwestern states until they reached the Pacific Ocean in Washington. They followed the Missouri River for the first part of their journey, then the Yellowstone River, and eventually, they crossed the Cascade Mountain Range, charting much territory for the first time for the U.S. Along the way, they documented many plants and animals, and made contact with Native American tribes such as the Sioux, Blackfeet, Shoshone, and Nez Perce.
Pocahontas was a Native American woman and daughter of Powhatan, the chief of the Powhatan people in Virginia, who belonged to the larger Algonquian group. She is remembered for being captured by the English colonists at Jamestown in 1613, converted to Christianity, and marrying tobacco planter John Rolfe. She has been the subject of many romanticized works of art, literature, plays, and movies, including the 1995 animated Disney movie Pocahontas.
Booker T. Washington
Born into enslavement in Virginia in the mid-19th century, Booker T. Washington was ultimately freed under the Emancipation Proclamation during the American Civil War. Washington became the leader of the Tuskegee Institute – the same school George Washington Carver attended – and became a prominent figure in the Black higher education and political community. He was so well regarded that he became a presidential advisor to Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.
Hailing from Newport News, VA, Ella Fitzgerald was a prominent jazz singer in the mid-late 20th century until her death. She was referred to as the “Queen of Jazz,” the “First Lady of Song,” and “Lady Ella” because of her undisputed dominance in jazz. She collaborated with other prominent jazz musicians and singers, including Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.
Richard E. Byrd
Richard Evelyn Byrd Jr. is best remembered as the Virginian man who claimed to have reached the North and South Poles by air. He was a decorated naval officer and polar explorer who served in World War I and II. He is also credited for discovering the largest dormant volcano in Antarctica, Mount Sidley.
Other notable people from Virginia include:
Bill “Bojangles” Robinson – Actor, singer, dancer, and entertainer popular in the first half of the 20th century. He was also the highest-paid African American performer at that time.
Sandra Bullock – Notable Academy Award-winning actor who has starred in many major Hollywood productions from the 1990s until now.
Allen Iverson – From Hampton, VA, Allen Iverson is regarded as one of the most prolific NBA scorers, with a career spanning from the late 1990s until 2010.
Pharrell Williams – As a musician, rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer, Williams has cemented himself in modern popular music with many hit singles earning him several Grammy Awards, and he remains a successful music producer now.
Virginia, the “Mother of Presidents”
Because of Virginia’s status as the preeminent producer of American presidents, a separate section must recount all eight presidents who earned the state one of its nicknames, “The Mother of Presidents.”
- George Washington – The president who needs no introduction, served as the nation’s first, is the namesake of the capital and a state, led America to independence against the British, and served from 1789-1797.
- Thomas Jefferson – As another Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson served as the 3rd president from 1801-1809. He was also a prominent statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, and philosopher.
- James Madison – Another Founding Father, James Madison served as the 4th president from 1809-1817 and was an influential figure in America’s founding.
- James Monroe – As the 5th president, James Monroe served from 1817-1825 and was also a Founding Father. He is considered the last of the “Virginia Dynasty.”
- William H. Harrison – Much of President Harrison’s tenure in the presidential office is marred by the fact he was the first president to die in office (after only 31 days). In addition, he served from March 4, 1841, to April 4, 1841, making him the shortest-serving president.
- John Tyler – Taking over from William H. Harrison’s short time in office, John Tyler served as vice president and was the nation’s president from 1841-1845.
- Zachary Taylor – As a war hero in the Mexican-American War, Zachary Taylor served as the nation’s 12th president from 1849 until he died in 1850, 16 months after taking office.
- Woodrow Wilson – Serving from 1913-1921, Woodrow Wilson saw America through the First World War and was a major player in establishing the League of Nations.
Virginia State Symbols
- State Flower: Dogwood
- State Bird: The Cardinal
- State Tree: American Dogwood
- State Rock: Nelsonite
- State Song: “Our Great Virginia”
10 Fun Virginia Facts for Kids
- Known as the “Mother of Presidents,” Virginia has produced eight U.S. presidents, more than any other state. Not only that, but four out of the first five presidents were from Virginia and are often referred to as the “Virginia Dynasty.”
- Virginia was the location of the first major battle of the Civil War and the last, which resulted in the surrender of Robert E. Lee. It is no surprise considering that Virginia is also the location of the most Civil War battles, with 120 recorded major battles, discounting skirmishes and smaller engagements.
- Virginia is a state of firsts and battles, so it’s only natural that the world’s first battle between two ironclad warships happened there, too, in 1862. Unfortunately, the battle between the Union gunship Monitor and Confederate Virginia was fought, and the outcome was indecisive. However, it changed the course of naval history as wooden vessels were now rendered obsolete.
- As the first place English speakers interacted long-term with Native Americans who spoke Algonquian, Siouan, or Iroquoian languages, many of their words first entered the English language in America here. Such words as raccoon, moccasin, hickory, moose, skunk, and chipmunk are all evidence of this.
- Virginia shares this fun fact with Tennessee: Bristol in the southwest of Virginia sprawls across the Tennessee border, and as a result, the city is split in two. The city has a separate government for the Virginia and Tennessee sides.
- Virginia has many claims to forging American history, and the modern city of Hampton can claim to be the oldest continuously inhabited English settlement in America. Having been established in 1610, the ancient fort remains can still be seen.
- Virginia has several nicknames, including the “Commonwealth,” the “Old Dominion,” “Mother of Presidents,” “Mother of Presidents,” “Mother of States,” “Cavalier State,” and “Down Where the South Begins.” But ” Virginia ” is named after Queen Elizabeth I, nicknamed the “Virgin Queen.”
- The very first Thanksgiving was celebrated at the Berkeley Plantation, VA, in 1619, a whole year before the Thanksgiving feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts, which is often reported as the first celebration in popular culture.
- On Assateague Island, between the coasts of Virginia and Maryland, there lives a herd of wild ponies/horses. The debate is fought between the two states, with Maryland calling them Assateague Horses while Virginia calls them Chincoteague Ponies. However, this herd of feral horses/ponies has been there for hundreds of years. Some speculate they originated from a shipwrecked Spanish ship in the 16th century!
- Virginia’s borders have changed a lot. Aside from being the only state to lose territory after the Civil War when West Virginia broke into its separate state, Virginia also lost territory to form Kentucky, and the land was lost (and later regained) when Arlington County was initially a part of Washington, D.C., in 1791.