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Arriving in Hampton, VA my soul was instantly lighter when I caught a glimpse of the Chesapeake Bay and I wondered, once again, why I don’t live closer to the ocean. Luckily I was booked to stay at the Crowne Plaza hotel which is Hampton’s only waterfront hotel. That meant that each and every morning during my stay I was welcomed by beautiful views of the Chesapeake. Plus, the Crowne Plaza makes a nice central location for fun down by the bay.
I was thrilled to finally be back in the land of salt water and, the best part, I was exploring a new town. Hampton, Virginia is a town full of charm, history, culture, and an impressive air and space legacy. Hampton is a town that I would come to love in just a few short days and add to my “must return to” list.
I had just around 36 hours to do as much as possible. I started my visit with a delicious dinner at the Surf Rider. A marina restaurant that has to-die-for crab cakes and a beautiful view. The crab cakes were fabulous which I completely expected from a town also known as Crabtown, due to its steeped history in the crab industry.
After dinner, it was time to party like the locals at the Hampton Bay Days Commodore Reception. Hampton Bay Days is the largest festival in Hampton drawing 150,000 people to the area to celebrate life at the bay and to educate people on promoting the upkeep and preservation of the bay. The festival is kicked off with one heck of a party with food, music, an auction, and a whole lot of fun.
During the party, I met Joseph Griffith the artist who created the Bay Days poster. We chatted for a bit and he told me that the poster is a metaphor on how seafood supports the area and how Bay Days is about education, conservation and leaving the planet a better place. It took him around 120 hours to create this masterpiece. You can see more of his work at peachstapler.com
Up and at it early the next morning the first stop was a tour of the Hampton History Museum. Hampton has a rich history and the Hampton History Museum does a fabulous job of sharing that history with visitors. Walking into the museum your first stop is an indian settlement as you continue through the museum you travel through time and learn how Hampton came to be. There are artifacts, stories and hands-on activities throughout the museum that makes what might be considered a boring subject to children much more interesting.
After you walk through history be sure to exit through the gift shop and walk across the street to the St. John’s Episcopal Church, the oldest speaking English-speaking church in the U.S.. The church was started in 1610 and has been at its current location since 1728. I love walking around the grounds of old churches. There is so much history there if you take the time to look around. The oldest grave is that of a captain who died in 1701. You can read more about the history of the church here.
After leaving the church I headed over to St. George’s Brewery and learned how their delightful beer came to be and, the best part, I was able to taste a variety of their brews. St. George’s brews 22 varieties and usually has 7 on draft for tastings. I enjoyed the Golden Ale with its citrus and grapefruit notes and black forest, but I was ready to take a keg of Larry’s Lemonade home with me. It is so good! I really wish it was available in Michigan, oh well, another reason to return to Hampton.
After tasting some very fine brews I made tracks to the Paradise Ocean Club to have lunch by the sea. The Paradise Ocean Club is a little slice of heaven and a great place to spend the afternoon. Be sure to pack your suit and a towel. The club has a pool, a gorgeous beach, cabanas, music (lots of concerts all summer long), food, a bar and more!!! I could easily spend an entire day lazing around here and soaking up the sun…oh, and ladies, there are even cabana boys (just sayin’).
Needing to walk off my lunch it was time to explore the Casemate Museum and Fort Monroe. Fort Monroe is the largest stone fort ever built in the U.S. and was a key player in the Civil War. It’s awe-inspiring to stand on ground walked by some notable Americans including Robert E. Lee, Edgar Alan Poe and Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The Casemate Museum, located inside Fort Monroe, provides a wonderful history of the area and fort. Visiting is free.
My love of everything space related runs deep so I was eagerly anticipating my tour of the Virginia Air and Space Museum. The museum acts as the visitor’s center for NASA Langley Research Center and the Langley Air Force Base. This museum has some of the best exhibits I’ve seen. There is an Apollo 12 Command Module, a Mars meteorite, moon rock, fighter jets, a DC-9 passenger plane suspended from the ceiling that is open for exploring, you can sit in the cockpit of an F/A 22 fighter jet and so much more. After leaving the museum be sure to take a ride on the antique carousel that is located right next to the museum. Plan appropriately as this can easily be a half day or more activity.
A trip to Hampton wouldn’t be complete without getting out on the bay and exploring the water that has formed Hampton into what it is today. Boarding the Miss Hampton II I took a seat on the top deck and prepared to enjoy the views.
The tour took us out to Fort Wool where, if conditions are right, you’ll be able to explore for a bit before continuing your tour.
The best part of the cruise though is cruising past the Norfolk Navy Base and seeing all the incredibly large ships and learning about their service and history.
During our cruise we were even passed by a huge container ship. That’s not something I see everyday.
After the cruise it was time to grab some lunch at Venture and say goodbye to my fun down by the bay. I can’t wait to come back and spend more time exploring this great town.
If you have questions about visiting Hampton feel free to visit their website or give the visitors center a call at 800-800-2202.