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Your 7 favorite Virginia man-made wonders

Your 7 favorite Virginia man-made wonders

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What's wondrous about Virginia- Mountains and seashores and the things we've built on them.

That's what readers told us when we asked them to vote for the state's top natural and man-made wonders. More than 650 people took part in the online poll.

Today you'll find the seven top vote-getters in each category -- man-made wonders beginning on this page and natural wonders on G14.

The top vote-getters were the Blue Ridge Mountains for natural wonders and Monticello for man-made wonders. The Skyline Drive, Appalachian Trail, Shenandoah Valley, Natural Bridge and Luray Caverns also made the lists.

The state's waterbound wonders also were well-represented. The Chesapeake Bay, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, Tangier Island and Chincoteague/Assateague Island were big vote-getters.

Richmond wasn't overlooked. Maymont and the state Capitol made the cut. And history lovers can delight in the good showing of Colonial Williamsburg.

To see how each wonder was ranked, read on.

1. Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's Albemarle County home

The product of one of the most brilliant minds in American history, Monticello has captured the affection of modern visitors as surely as it did Thomas Jefferson himself. The third president of the United States spent 40 years building his "essay in architecture."

"He not only put his wisdom but also his heart into its placement and design," wrote Gary Waugh of Ashland. "I've visited it many times and walk away with a greater appreciation after each visit."

"The man was unbelievable -- inventor, scientist, politician, botanist, educator, architect, philosopher -- and Monticello presents all that he did and lets you imagine what he could've done," said Susanna Raffenot of Richmond.

"One of the most beautiful houses in the world," agreed Brandi Turner of Midlothian. "It's full of wonder, merriment and displays the best that Virginia has to offer and the foundations upon which our nation was built."


2. Colonial Williamsburg

When the restoration of Virginia's Colonial capital began in the 1930s, it set a new standard for historical interpretation. More than 70 years later, visitors reap the benefits not only by touring the buildings but also by immersing themselves in the experience of a "Revolutionary City."

"The town is steeped in the history of our great country. You can get a feel for what was happening at the start of our independence like no other place," wrote John Fessick of Stroudsburg, Pa.

Michael Goodrich-Stuart of Richmond said he first enjoyed Williamsburg on a childhood visit from Michigan.

"Going there again brings back happy memories, but Williamsburg is also a place to make new memories with the outlets, Busch Gardens and that amazing Peking Asian buffet."

For Judy Marston of Richmond, "if I ever have a Sunday or evening for R[est] and R[elaxation], that's where I go."

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3. Skyline Drive

The Skyline Drive runs 105 miles north and south along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park. Construction of the road began in 1931, four years before the park was established.

"The Skyline Drive and its sister Blue Ridge Parkway are amazing feats of engineering, accomplished at a time when construction equipment was rather primitive by today's standards," wrote Perry Keeton of Roanoke.

Jan Belote of Richmond gave it a slight edge over its sister road. "Many of the views are more beautiful than the Blue Ridge Parkway's, and the quiet minimeadows often allow you a very close-up view of deer and other fauna."

Doug Keadle of Midlothian recommends seeing it "in spring or fall, on an uncrowded day, and going at or below the speed limit. Just a pure joy, with something new around each turn (and there are a LOT of turns)."

4. Maymont, James Dooley's Richmond home

The 100-acre Victorian country estate was given to the city by the Dooleys in 1925 and has been a park ever since. The mansion is an unusually complete example of a Gilded Age estate. 

"I am always amazed to find acres and acres of beautiful gardens, waterfalls, meandering pathways and gently rolling hills right in the middle of the city (as well as bears, river otters and bison!)," wrote Rosemary Seltzer of Richmond. "My two daughters and I have spent many a pleasant day going to Maymont. I loved it before I had children, and now it is

even more special sharing it with them."

Rob Floren of Richmond called it "a bit of landscaping genius, a touch of France stranded out-of-place, a 100-acre work of art."

"The Central Park of Richmond" was the comparison that came to Bruce Kay of Richmond. He sees "something for everyone in the family -- history, horticulture, animals, nature center -- very educational; conservation, ecology, historic preservation. What's not to love-"


5. State Capitol of Virginia 


A Roman temple admired by Thomas Jefferson in France became the basis for the design of Virginia's statehouse in 1785. Now the second-oldest Capitol building in continuous use in the United States, it just reopened after a $104.5 million renovation that created an underground entrance for visitors. 

"The Capitol should be considered the Front Door of Virginia," wrote Megan Mudd of Ashland. "It's where we began, and it is filled with history, not just of Virginia but our nation. It's a beautiful building that represents the place we call home."

Charles Chandler of Richmond sees the building as representing "a democracy, an era, an experiment, a person, a heritage, a tradition, a hope and a future."



6. Appalachian Trail 


Though the Appalachian Trail stretches 2,175 miles from Maine to Georgia, about a quarter of its entire length travels through Virginia. Day-hikers join through-hikers on popular sections such as those in Shenandoah National Park. Other sections go through isolated wilderness areas in the southwest. The difficulty ranges from easy hiking to very challenging rock scrambling. 

"Much of my childhood was spent hiking the beautiful trails, High Top trail, Doyle River cabin trail, as well as others,"wrote Glenn Shaw of Richmond. "We were young kids from Richmond, and this was a great time in our lives to be a part of this great beauty."

Marci Holland of Kingsport, Tenn., called it "an awesome place to view the majestic landscape of the eastern U.S. It is much more important to me than any building or road because every step of the AT has a different meaning for each person who has hiked there."

"The AT is that rare example of man managing to slightly improve upon God's landscape," wrote Kevin Streit of Mechanicsville. 



7. Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel 

The world's largest bridge-tunnel complex stretches 17.6 miles from Virginia Beach to the Eastern Shore. Considered one of the engineering marvels of the world when it opened in 1964, it contains more than 12 miles of low-level trestle, two 1-mile tunnels, two bridges, almost 2 miles of causeway and four man-made islands. 

"The bay bridge-tunnel is not the most beautiful of the man-made features in Virginia, but it is a phenomenal engineering feat,"wrote Elizabeth Gordon of Richmond. "It's amazing that anyone ever thought they could do it!"

Kitty Cox of King William County was impressed not only by the engineering but also that it "takes you from the developed Virginia to the unique environment of the Eastern Shore."


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