Cheap Travel: Caves, dinosaurs, and battlefields in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains

If I haven't admitted it before, I will do so now: I am a total junkie for cheesy tourist attractions. I am one of those guys who will travel an hour out of his way to see the world's largest ball of string, the world's biggest frying pan, and every other silly sight that I can possibly find.

One summer, my littlest sister and I spent several days tracking down all the ridiculous attractions in the Hudson Valley and Western Massachusetts, reveling in every bizarre statue, obscure flea market, and abandoned marble quarry that we came across. It was a wonderful trip, but when I got home, I was left with an empty feeling: after exploring so many strange sites in New England, I wasn't really ready to hang up my spurs. On the other hand, though, I couldn't really afford to take another trip.

The answer soon presented itself: I became a local tourist. I bought a copy of Julian Smith's excellent Moon Handbook for Virginia and began exploring all the wonderful sites that lay just down the highway from my home. When I finally left the area, several years later, there were still hundreds that I hadn't yet visited. If you live in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, or the DC area and are looking for an exciting and inexpensive place to spend your vacation, then you might want to head down the Blue Ridge Parkway (or Route 81, if you're in a hurry) and check out some of the amazing things that are just a short drive away.