10 Things to Do in Hampton, Virginia
I have a confession to make- I often fall into the trap of feeling like I need to jet off to some far flung destination to truly feel like I’ve traveled neglecting some hidden gems that are literally right under my nose. So when a friend told me I needed to check out Hampton, a mere 30 minutes from my home in Virginia Beach, I was intrigued. What I found was an under-the-radar town that has played a pivotal role in American history, and will find any reason to throw a party along with some seriously good eats. An easy drive from both Virginia Beach and Williamsburg, Hampton is an easy addition to any Coastal Virginia vacation. Here are my recommendations for what to do in Hampton, Virginia.
Hampton University Museum
Hampton University is widely regarded as one of the top historically black universities in the country, but did you know that the Hampton University Museum is the oldest African-American Museum in the United States? Founded in 1868 the museum houses a diverse 9,000 piece collection featuring African, African-American, Native American, Asian and Pacific Island artists.
The Hampton Carousel
On any given day you can find families and those looking to relive their childhood taking a spin on the Hampton Carousel. This beautifully resored antique carousel was originally built in 1920 and is one of less than 100 wooden carousels in the United States. Open year round, the Hampton Carousel is sure to bring a smile to your face whether you’re young or young at heart.
The Hampton History Museum
Located in the heart of Downtown Hampton, the Hampton History Museum tells the fascinating story of the oldest continuous English-speaking settlement in the United States. From the villages of the Native American Kecoughtan tribe, pivotal roles in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars to being at the forefront of air and space research; the fascinating history of Hampton closely parallels the greater story of the United States itself.
Virginia Air & Space Center
Hampton is home to both Langley Air Force Base and NASA Langley Research Center so the city’s aviation roots run deep. The Virginia Air & Space Center is a must visit by anyone captivated by flight with a collection that includes a replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer to a DC 9 passenger jet and a number of military jets and helicopters. What I found fascinating was the the collection of spacecraft, ranging from the Apollo 12 (the second manned spacecraft to the moon) to a replica of the Mars Rover. You can even take a look at an actual moon rock!
On any given weekend there is sure to be some kind of celebration going on in Hampton. From May to September Saturday nights heat up with the weekly Downtown Hampton Block Party featuring music from local and national acts as well as tasty treats from local food vendors. Don your finest pirate garb and get your “Arrggh” on at the annual Blackbeard Pirate Festival that celebrates all thing pirate with food, music and even a full scale sea battle in Hampton Harbor. Satisfy your need for speed in August at the Hampton Cup Regatta, the oldest continuous hydroplane boat race in the world.
Fort Monroe National Monument
Standing sentry at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay since 1609 Fort Monroe has played an integral role in America’s early history. Fort Monroe provided protection to the settlers of the Jamestown settlement and during the Civil War, as a Union held stronghold in the Confederate South, Fort Monroe provided a safe-haven to runaway slaves. In 2011 Fort Monroe was declared a National Monument, you can learn about the Fort’s fascinating history at the Casemate Museum.
Paradise Ocean Beach Club
With palm trees, powder white sand and tropical drinks flowing you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Key West. Situated on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay the Paradise Ocean Beach Club boasts an Olympic size swimming pool, beach volley ball courts, VIP cabanas and features live music from local and national artists all summer long.
Venture Kitchen and Bar
Venture Kitchen and Bar serves up elevated bar food and creative cocktails in the heart of downtown Hampton. Choose from their extensive menu of eclectic pizzas and inventive sandwiches that pair pefectly with thier artfully crafted cocktails. Make sure you get an order of their handmade tots served with an all too addictive spicy mayo.
St. George Brewing Company
Virginia’s craft beer scene has never been hotter and Hampton’s St. George Brewing Company has been at the forefront of the craft beer boom since 1996, making them the second oldest craft brewery in Virginia. Visit the brewery to sample their award winning European-inspired brews, the Golden Ale and Winter Scotch are personal favorites.
End your day in Hampton with a waterfront sunset dinner at The Deadrise. Located near Fort Monroe The Deadrise offers up classic steaks and the freshest seafood with stunning marina views.