With terrain varying from the mountains to the coast, Virginia offers an array of fall colors for leaf-peepers. But before or after your drive along one of the state's many scenic byways, consider a fix of Southern city living with a visit to the state capital, Richmond.
Located along Interstate 95, it's an easy stopping-off point. And whether you like the outdoors, art or history, there's plenty to do here – and you don't have to spend a dime.
CANAL WALK/BROWN'S ISLAND/BELLE ISLE
Find out why Outside magazine readers voted Richmond the nation's most livable river town in 2012 by taking in the scenic James River. Canal Walk runs more than a mile (1.6 kilometrs) through downtown Richmond along the river and the banks of the city's canals, with monuments and exhibits along the way highlighting Richmond history.
With various access points around the city, Canal Walk eventually leads to Brown's Island, a popular venue for concerts and festivals located between the canals and the river. It has a series of walking trails and bridges, including one that takes you to the middle of the river. Just steps away, a pedestrian bridge suspended under the Lee Bridge takes visitors over the river to Belle Isle, where you'll find locals exploring the 54-acre (29-hectare) island and resting on its rocky shores.
Belle Isle was first explored in 1607 by Capt. John Smith, who helped establish England's first North American settlement in Virginia. The island was once home to a granite quarry and hydroelectric plant. It was also used as prisoner-of-war camp during the Civil War. It features several bike trails, a rock climbing wall, and tons of off-the-beaten-path areas to explore.
Canal Walk is open 24 hours a day. Brown's Island and the Belle Isle access bridge are open sunrise to sunset.
VIRGINIA STATE CAPITOL
The State Capitol building, designed by Thomas Jefferson in the Monumental Classical style, has housed state government since 1788. The wings of the building were added between 1904 and 1906. The Capitol reopened in 2007 after a $104.5 million restoration and expansion project that began in 2004. Statues of