Hampton Roads Attractions
There are few metropolitan areas as packed with attractions as Hampton Roads, which encompasses seven cities – Norfolk, Chesapeake, Newport News, Hampton, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Virginia Beach. These cities offer diverse options from water activities to annual festivals to historical sites. Not only are residents able to enjoy these offerings, Hampton Roads is buzzing with tourists each year who travel far and wide to partake in the fun.
Virginia Beach may be the area's biggest draw, with a plethora of area attractions that reach beyond the oceanfront. From various outdoor activities to prime shopping spots - there's something for everyone. The city is home to over 4,000 acres of state parks. This includes: neighborhood, community and district parks with playgrounds, picnic shelters, skate parks and ball fields. Ocean Breeze Water Park is also a summer favorite for children and adults. The shopping scene in Virginia Beach ranges from quant souvenir oceanfront shops to large malls and upscale boutiques. The city's history is rich and there are many landmarks and museums in the area to visit such as the Adam Thoroughgood House and the Cape Henry Lighthouse.
The oceanfront in itself hosts many events annually with its famous three-mile boardwalk. The East Coast Surfing Championships as well as the North American Sand Soccer Championship bring people from across the nation to Virginia Beach. In addition, the Neptune Festival is a local favorite along with “McDonald's Lights at the Beach” during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. In the evening, the oceanfront has a lively nightlife, with bars and dance clubs for college students and adults.
The city of Norfolk is another big draw to Hampton Roads with an abundance of area attractions. The city has a number of parks and open spaces, as well as community pools and three beaches in the Ocean View area on its north shore. Some of the parks have playgrounds for kids and picnic facilities. Towne Point Park, in the downtown area, hosts many annual events from early spring through late fall. The largest of these is Harborfest, a three-day festival full of music concerts, regional food and a large fireworks display. One of the main events, “The Parade of Sail,” consists of numerous tall ships from around the world forming a line and sailing past downtown before docking at the marina.
One of the city's most beautiful sights is The Norfolk Botanical Garden. The grounds, which opened in 1939, include numerous theme gardens spread over 155 acres. Another local favorite, The Virginia Zoological Park, has been around for over 100 years and has hundreds of animals on display. Norfolk is also known for its “Mermaids on Parade,” where seventeen colorful mermaid statues can be spotted downtown as part of a public art program launched in 2002. MacArthur Center is a 1,100,000-square-foot shopping mall located in the heart of downtown Norfolk adjacent to The General Douglas MacArthur Memorial. It boasts upscale department stores, restaurants, a movie theater and even an ice skating rink during the winter season.
Chesapeake also has an array of area attractions and many nearby. As the center of Hampton Roads, it's just twenty minutes from the Virginia Beach oceanfront, fifteen minutes from downtown Norfolk, forty-five minutes from historical Colonial Williamsburg as well as North Carolina's Outer Banks. It's located near historical sites, waterways, music, parks, nightlife, sports, dining and an variety of outdoor activities. Both locals and visitors can enjoy a scenic hike or paddle boat ride and many other activities through nature.
Chesapeake hosts many festivals within its borders. The city is most known for the Chesapeake Jubilee. It was first held at Greenbrier Mall in May of 1983 and has remained a local favorite. It has since moved to Chesapeake City Park. The event was created to celebrate the city's anniversary and to build the community's spirit. The Jubilee has a history of top entertainers including Willie Nelson, Trace Adkins, The Commodores, Travis Tritt, Eddie Money and many more.
Hampton is full of activities and entertainment for all ages. There are two specific areas with links to the Chesapeake Bay that welcome visitors and residents each year. Downtown there are shops, restaurants, pubs, cobblestone streets, galleries, museums, and parks. There are two public beaches in the city – Buckroe Beach and Grandview Beach. Buckroe is a lifeguarded beach that used to be a boardwalk amusement park and now has a fishing pier and holds concerts and outdoor movies during the summer months. The other, Grandview, is located in the Fox Hill section of the city and is accessed by a trail that runs through the Grandview Natural Preserve. It also has a fishing pier.
The Hampton Coliseum, located in the middle of the city, is also a big draw to the area. It's a large, multi-purpose facility that hosts many events. These include concerts, conventions, trade shows and sporting events. It seats nearly 14,000 people. NASA's Langley Research Center is located nearby and brought The Virginia Air and Space Center to the downtown area of Hampton. This facility, visited for both educational and entertainment purposes, features an IMAX movie theater and teaches about aviation and space exploration.
There are thirty-two parks maintained by the city of Newport News. One of these is the second-largest city park in the United States – Newport News Park. At 8,065 acres it's the largest in the city, while the smallest in the city is less than half an acre. The parks, that are scattered throughout the city, offer an array of enjoyment for visitors. From fishing and camping to archery and disc golf, there are activities for children and adults alike.
There is also an abundance of historical sites in Newport News – eight of which are maintained by the city and four of these area within parks. Most of the sites, including the Monitor-Merrimac Overlook and the Warwick Court House, were significant during the Peninsula Campaign of the American Civil War in 1862. Additionally, there are five museums in the city – Endview Plantation, Lee Hall Mansion, Lee Hall Train Depot, Newsom House Museum & Cultural Center and the Virginia War Museum. Sports programs and community centers are also plentiful in the area. The city runs eight facilities and community centers for Newport News residents. These include Achievable Dream Tennis Center, Deer Run Golf Course, Doris Miller Recreation Center and many more.
Many of Portsmouth's attractions are within walking distance of each other – conveniently located in the “Olde Towne” area of the city. This neighborhood offers a number of antique and boutique shops, upscale dining, a scenic waterfront and the largest group of historic homes between Alexandria, Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina. The Children's Museum is a local favorite and draws many visitors each year. It has over ninety interactive exhibits sure to entertain kids of all ages. The Virginia Sports Hall of Fame is a 35,000 square foot family-friendly, hands-on facility that honors the state's inductees.
For historical entertainment – America's oldest and largest Naval Shipyard, located on Portsmouth's waterfront, has a popular museum that presents its history. The city also has a wildlife preserve at Hoffler Creek. It's in the Churchland region of the city and has a 142-acre sanctuary for wildlife. Additionally, Portsmouth has three venues for music and the arts: The nTelos Pavilion Harbor Canter – a 6,500 seat outdoor amphitheatre, Willett Hall – a 2,000 seat indoor facility and The Commodore Theatre – a 1945 restored movie theater, where you can dine while watching.
The city of Suffolk is full of attractions for both locals and visitors to enjoy. There are many outdoor activities such as: camping, fishing, golf, horseback riding, scuba diving, kayaking, fishing, nature trails, tennis, baseball, narrated tours and even skydiving. The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is one of Suffolk's most popular visited spots. With 111,000 acres of untouched wilderness and forested wetlands. Visitors to the refuge can hike or bicycle on many miles of trails.
Another popular Suffolk attraction is the Civil War reenactments. There is an annual Civil War Weekend in April where Confederate and Union re-enactors bring the city's history to life. Additionally, there are family-friendly events and festivals each year. These include the Suffolk Peanut Festival, Nansemond Indian Tribal Pow Wow, Taste of Suffolk Downtown Street Festival, Great Dismal Birding Festival and more. For more relaxing options, one can enjoy a show, a quiet walk along the riverfront or the opening of an art exhibit.