Things to Do in Hampton Roads
Rich with historic and cultural attractions, outdoor activities, shopping and dining, Hampton Roads offers an array of entertainment and recreation options for visitors and locals alike. From world-class museums and music venues to the famed Virginia Beach boardwalk, Portsmouth's historic Olde Towne district and the downtown Norfolk waterfront, there is always something to do.
Hampton Roads boasts an impressive array of cultural arts attractions including a number of world-class performing arts centers and museums. Music lovers will enjoy notable performances at the Virginia Symphony, Virginia Opera, Virginia Stage Company, the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, and Christopher Newport University's Ferguson Center for the Arts, along with many other acts and venues throughout the Tidewater region.
Art enthusiasts should check out the rotating exhibitions at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), the ecletic offerings at the d'Art Center at Selden Arcade in downtown Norfolk, and the many distinctive art galleries located in Williamsburg. The Chrysler Museum of Art, currently undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation and set to reopen in spring 2014, is located just blocks from EVMS’ main campus in Norfolk.
Outdoors, Sports & Recreation
Hampton Roads is an ideal locale for sports and outdoors enthusiasts. An abundance of state and city parks and wildlife refuges, public beaches, and other recreational facilities are open to the public for camping, hiking, boating, kayaking, paddleboarding, surfing, fishing, swimming, tennis and golf. This is also one of the most active yachting areas in the nation.
Must-sees include First Landing State Park, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, the Virginia Beach oceanfront, and Norfolk's Town Point Park and waterfront.
Hampton Roads is home to university athletics, including Old Dominion University and William & Mary; the Norfolk Admirals professional hockey team (AHL affiliate of the NHL Anaheim Ducks); and the Norfolk Tides baseball team (Triple A Affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles).
Family fun abounds in Hampton Roads, and visitors and locals alike enjoy city parks and playgrounds, state parks and national wildlife refuges and a wide array of attractions regionwide. The resort city of Virginia Beach boasts its signature sun, sand and surf - as well as places such the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, Beach Street U.S.A., and Ocean Breeze Waterpark. In Norfolk, the Virginia Zoo and Botanical Gardens are popular family attractions. Portsmouth features the Children's Museum of Virginia and its Olde Towne Walking Tour. In Chesapeake, families will find fun places such as the Chesapeake Planetarium and Fun Forest. Suffolk is home to Riddick's Folly House Museum and a number of city parks and nature trails. The Virginia Air & Space Center and Carousel Park are popular attractions in Hampton. Newport News Park Discovery Center, Virginia Living Museum and the Mariners' Museum Park are notable family-friendly destinations in Newport News. Williamsburg, and the surrounding Historic Triangle, are home to a number of popular attractions, include: Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestowne Settlement, Busch Gardens, Water Country USA, Great Wolf Lodge Resort & Water Park, and many more.
The history of Hampton Roads dates back more than 400 years to colonial times. During the Revolutionary War, many battles were fought here, ending with Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown. In addition, the harbor was the site of the famous Civil War battle between the ironclads, the Union Monitor and the Confederate Virginia, commonly known as the Merrimac. In more modern times, the region's large military presence and shipbuilding industries have continued to play a major role in American history and defense.
All nine cities offer an abundance of historical sites and attractions, collectively drawing millions of visitors from around the world each year. History buffs should plan to check out First Landing State Park, where the first settlers stepped ashore in 1607; Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestowne Settlement, and Yorktown Battlefield; and Fort Monroe. Notable museums in the region include the Nauticus Maritime Museum, the Military Aviation Museum, the Virginia War Museum, and the Casemate Museum at Fort Monroe.
Festivals & Events
The region plays host to a number of seasonal festivals, including the Virginia Arts Festival (along the entire Virginia waterfront), Virginia Beach Boardwalk Art Show, Hampton Bay Days, Virginia Beach Neptune Festival, Norfolk Azalea Festival, Suffolk Peanut Festival, Chesapeake Jubilee, Norfolk's Harborfest, Portsmouth's Seawall Festival and Art Show, and Norfolk's Holidays in the City/Grand Illumination Parade.
Near the EVMS campus, on the downtown waterfront, special events are presented most weekends, sometimes including fireworks and boat parades. Several tour boats set sail nightly throughout the year, providing tours of the waterfront.
Hampton Roads is known for its signature coastal cuisine, thanks to the region's unique location. Proximity to both the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay, coupled with the mild, year-round climate and the rich history and diversity of the region, mean there is no shortage of fresh offerings. Distinctive restaurants throughout the region range from casual to upscale, many boasting fresh-caught seafood and an emphasis on locally sourced products.
Hampton Roads also offers many opportunities for weekend getaways. The cultural attractions of Washington, D.C., the windswept beaches of North Carolina's Outer Banks, and the scenic beauty and ski resorts of the Blue Ridge Mountains are only a few hours' drive away.