For some people, traveling is all about visiting the most beautiful places in the world — bright cities, stunning scenery, amusement parks, live music venues. For others, there’s an entire underbelly of tourism that’s vastly more interesting. Places like cemeteries, disaster sites, and historical prisons are for some, much more alluring than their happier counterparts. For one reason or another, Virginia lays claim to some crazy abandoned places. Houses, orphanages, insane asylums, monster museums — it has it all. If you’re interested in the darker side of things, touring these abandoned places in Virginia is one of the best ways to spend a weekend getaway.
Wise County Orphanage, Wise
We’ll start this list off strong with an abandoned orphanage located in Wise County. In the 1920’s, this building was left to crumble, and for the century since it has slowly decayed and been swallowed by the surrounding brush. Even from the outside, it looks like someplace you would avoid at all costs, but it’s what’s inside that matters. Numerous reports from daring adventurers have noted the sounds of laughing children, bouncing balls, and floating lights. Even from a distance, ghostly figures can apparently be seen drifting by the windows.
Abandoned Renaissance Faire, Fredericksburg
In the mid-1990s, a group of Medieval times-enthusiasts decided to pool together some resources and construct a replica town filled with old European architecture, a sailing ship, and stages for performances. Unfortunately, the hot and muggy weather of the region proved to be too much of a burden, and the Renaissance fair closed after just two years of operation. Today, there remains a collection of decaying Renaissance buildings that curiously peak through the backwoods of Virginia. Enter at your own risk! The buildings here are badly deteriorated and extremely unsafe, so maybe appreciate the creepiness from a distance.
Western State Lunatic Asylum, Staunton
We’re we had you at “lunatic asylum.” This spot in Staunton has all the makings of a terrifying abandoned place. In the early 19th century, it originally operated as a kind of a resort-style asylum for the mentally ill with some extra money to spend. However, some pretty questionable operations went down including lobotomies, straitjackets, and forced sterilization. The business eventually relocated in the 1970s, and the building was repurposed as a prison until closing in the early 2000s. Adjacent to the building is a massive, terrifying cemetery with unmarked graves and over 3,000 bodies. Today, rumor has it that the building may be renovated into a collection of luxury condos — would you stay here?
Swannanoa Palace, Afton
The Swannanoa Palace in Afton is one of the few abandoned places in Virginia that is monitored by local authorities and visitors can legally tour. The massive marble palace was built in 1912 and was originally owned by a wealthy family before being converted into a country club after their deaths. Between World War II and 1998, the University of Science and Philosophy rented out the space, but it’s been abandoned for the last two decades. In the Swannanoa Palace you’ll be able to stroll through the decaying building and the overgrown courtyard areas. For all you ghost hunters out there, Swannanoa has also been the site of some paranormal activity, with reports of some convincing EVP (electronic voice phenomenon).
Professor Cline’s Haunted Monster Museum, Natural Bridge
As one of the state’s quirkiest attractions, Mark Cline — a bit of a local celebrity — constructed on his property a haunted monster museum and park he called Dinosaur World. The monster museum was a collection of huge mechanical rodents, “elvis-stein,” and a fiberglass python that would slither out of the gable windows. Unfortunately, in 2012, the monster museum was destroyed by fire. One of the prime tourist attractions in the region was burnt to a crisp, but you can still visit to stroll the grounds. Massive and creaking mechanical animals shrouded in ash? Yes, definitely scary.
Pamplin City Main Street, Pamplin City
For the first half the 20th century, Pamplin City was considered a fairly bustling commercial center. Main Street was thriving — the town was known as the country’s primary producer of clay pipes — and salesmen would travel into town, relax at local bars, and stay overnight at the Park Hotel. After residents slowly moved away in search of better job opportunities, Main Street eventually became completely vacated. Walking down the middle of the street is truly surreal. Today, it’s used primarily as the set for movies that are looking for civil war backdrops. Although Pamplin City is pushing for a revival, most of the shopfronts are still completely empty, so it makes for one of Virginia’s most interesting abandoned places.