They say it’s better to live in the present than to dwell in the past, but what if you could have the best of both worlds in one place? Virginia has no shortage of destinations that defy the laws of time, offering a tangible window into what life used to be like decades, centuries, and even millennia ago. From watching wild ponies frolic across the seashore to dancing in an old-fashioned bluegrass jamboree, get ready to step into the state’s most treasured time capsules and experience history as it unfolds live before your eyes.

Away we go!


Family Drive-In Theatre
Photo Credit: Chris Cruz, @_chriscruz

When The Family Drive-In opened in 1956, it joined more than 4,000 other drive-ins operating across the country. Now, only a few hundred remain, but The Family Drive-In is showing no signs of slowing down. Pulling into this movie theater in Stephens City could easily fool one into thinking that they are actually in another era. The 1950s-style marquee, the speaker poles, the outdoor screens—it is all one big callback to the golden age of drive-in theaters. But don’t let those cues fool you completely; there are some present-day twists to be found, too.

Pack up those pillows, blankets, and even your pets to enjoy modern movie hits from the comfort of your car. The venue also offers timeless snacks, from popcorn and candy to burgers and pizza, if you’re looking for a full meal.


Historic Michie Tavern in Charlottesville
Photo Credit: Bill Crabtree Jr.

Speaking of meals, you won’t find your standard burger and fries at Michie Tavern in Charlottesville, but what you will find is food served in the spirit of Southern tradition. Marinated baked chicken, stewed tomatoes, cornbread, and biscuits are just some of the items that attract guests from across the region—a common theme since Corporal William Michie opened the tavern in 1784. While it’s not 1784 anymore, the old-timey cuisine situated alongside period antiques, wood-burning fireplaces, and parlor games continues to conjure the convivial atmosphere that originally put Michie Tavern on the map. Word on the street is that Google Maps will get you there these days, though.


Floyd Country Store

When you walk into the Floyd Country Store, there’s no telling which of the five senses will properly introduce you to this staple of southwestern Virginia. What you will walk away with, though, is a deeper appreciation for Appalachian culture. The institution has served the community since the beginning of the 20th century. It continues to be a one-stop shop for everything from local apple butter to bib overalls to a good old game of marbles.

Maybe it’ll be the sweet smell of an Orange Blossom Special fizzling from the Soda Fountain, or the rhythmic shuffling of flatfoot dancers that will lure you in to discover more of the wonders. One thing is for sure: Floyd Country Store has all the flavors and more.


Carter Family Fold
Photo Credit: Cameron Davidson

If you listen closely, you’ll probably still hear The Carter Family’s 1928 hit, “Wildwood Flower,” ringing out from the hills of Hiltons on any given Saturday night. It makes sense, considering the song—and the family who made it—played a role in the creation of the country music we know today. The site of their old homestead along A.P. Carter Highway, known as the Carter Family Fold, serves as a tribute to their legacy.

Bluegrass, ballads, instrumentals, and more await those who visit the venue but don’t be surprised if you see a legend or two. Johnny Cash, Ricky Staggs, and Marty Stuart have all graced the stage of the Carter Family Fold, so it’s anyone’s guess who will be next.


Grand Caverns
Photo Credit: Taryn White

“Where History Runs Deep” is the tagline for Grand Caverns in Grottoes, a fitting clue in our quest to find more treasured time capsules. Tucked away in the depths of the Shenandoah Valley is this geological marvel of epic proportions. Nature’s handiwork over thousands of years has created formations that have been given fun names, like The Rock of Gibraltar, The Rainbow Room, and The Zoo. Don’t miss the 280-foot-long Cathedral Hall, one of the largest rooms of any cavern on the East Coast.

Oh, and did I mention the 200-plus Civil War soldier signatures etched onto the walls? History, indeed, runs deep.


Assateague Lighthouse
Photo Credit: Bill Crabtree Jr.

In a world where towering high-rises and bustling entertainment venues dot so many coastal locations, it’s refreshing to find a place where you can swap out the glitz and the glam with some simple sun and sand … and ponies. Assateague Island is a living postcard of what the Atlantic Coast looked like when settlers first spotted it in the 1600s. Pristine dunes, marshes, maritime forests, and beaches lay the foundation for nature to be the main attraction, which you can explore by kayaking, biking, walking, or lounging on the sand.

What about those ponies? Well, you have a couple of options to spot them. Venture out on the trails, take a nature tour/cruise, or visit during the annual Chincoteague Pony Roundup, Swim, and Auction, which runs from July 20-26, 2024.


Tangier Island
Photo Credit: Bill Crabtree Jr.

When you see a group of salty seamen unloading crab traps while speaking some unfamiliar kind of English accent, your eyes and ears aren’t deceiving you. It’s a sign you’ve made it to Tangier Island. This remote sliver of land, located 12 miles out in the Chesapeake Bay, is a relic for a variety of reasons. There are no cars, only bikes and golf carts. There are no ATMs or traffic lights. Most of the residents can trace their lineage back to the first settlers on the island. It is a culture they take great pride in. Ferry rides offer visitors the chance to soak in this rare way of life. Once you’re on the island, take a golf cart tour or walk around to see the sights. Be sure to stop by the Tangier History Museum, which includes a behind-the-scenes look at how that unique accent came to be.


Which treasured time capsule will you visit first? Let us know in the comments!