By Carla Olivo, USMC Spouse
So you are headed to Hampton Roads! The Hampton Roads area, often called “military-centric” is the birthplace of Colonial America and has the largest concentration of military installations of any metro area in the world. Nearly a fourth of the nation’s active-duty military personnel are stationed here. All five military services’ operating forces are here, as well as several major command headquarters.
PCSgrades has put together a list of all the things you need to know before relocating to this unique region. So get ready to enjoy this experience full of history and culture!
Moving to Hampton Roads
What You Need To Know
The Virginia Beach–Norfolk–Hampton-Newport News area known as Hampton Roads has a population of over 1.7 million, making it the 37th-largest metropolitan area in the U. S. The Hampton Roads area is made up of the cities of Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake.
In addition to the large military presence, Hampton Roads is known for its ice-free harbor, shipyards, coal piers, and miles of waterfront property and beaches. The body of water known as Hampton Roads is one of the world’s largest natural harbors.
All five branches of service and the DOD are represented on this east coast epicenter of military activity.
Tale of Two Bases
Joint Base Langley-Eustis Langley AFB – JBLE
Located in Newport News and Hampton, this joint base is comprised of two groups that provide installation support to more than 9,000 military and civilian personnel including Headquarters Air Combat Command and three operational wings. Although JBLE is a joint base, it is not contiguous. There are 17 miles of interstate between the two installations. Langley AFB is located in Hampton while Ft. Eustis is in Newport News. JBLE serves a large population made up of over 145,000 active duty, guard and reserve, family members, civilians, contractors, and retirees.
Langley Living Arrangements
There are many options for housing at Langley. There are five communities encompassing 1,430 new, renovated, and historic single family, duplex, fourplex and sixplex homes. Property features include playgrounds, tennis courts/ basketball half-court, newly constructed shoppettes, state-of-the-art fitness facilities, splash park, indoor and outdoor pools, bowling alley, camping facility, dry cleaners, movie theater, shooting range, veterinary clinic, and 18-hole golf course.
There are many great neighborhoods within a 10-15 minute drive from Langley. Nearby cities include Yorktown, Williamsburg, Hampton, Newport News and Poquoson. If you work with a PCSgrades reviewed realtor, you’ll find there is a rental or mortgage to fit every BAH.
There are no DOD schools at Langley, but there are two school systems serving the base. Main base housing residents attend Hampton City Schools, with 36 schools and approximately 23,000 students. One elementary, one middle school, and one high school serve as primary feeder schools
Bethel Manor residents attend York County Schools, with 19 schools and approximately 13,000 students. Two elementary, two middle and two high schools, serve Bethel Manor, depending on your location.
Military family housing is privatized and run by Balfour Beatty Communities. There are more than 950 homes in nine neighborhoods available to all ranks. Community features include a fitness center, multi-purpose room, television, and computer center, playgrounds, tot lots, a spray park and basketball and volleyball courts.
Some of the nearby areas for off post housing include lower York County, Dare, Yorktown, Grafton, and Poquoson.
Children who live on post at Fort Eustis attend Newport News Public Schools. While the Elementary school is on post; Middle and High School are off post.
Driving around the area is sometimes complicated by all the water which means bridges and tunnels. The Hampton Roads Bridge–Tunnel built in 1957 was the first bridge–tunnel complex in the world, to be followed by the area’s much longer Chesapeake Bay Bridge–Tunnel six years later. The prevalence of bridge–tunnels in the area is due to the number of shipbuilding and naval bases in the area. Region-specific information and tools to help you make the most of your commute can be found at VDOT.
There are two public transport ferries to include a passenger ferry operated on the Elizabeth River between Norfolk and Portsmouth. The Jamestown Ferry is an automobile ferry system on the James River connecting Jamestown in James City County with Scotland in Surry County.
Amtrak’s Northeast Regional trains service Newport News, Norfolk, and Williamsburg. There are two main airports in the region: the Norfolk International Airport n Norfolk and the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport in Newport News.
Springtime brings thunderstorms that produce gusty winds, hail, and occasionally, tornadoes. Temperatures rise to an average 57.5 degrees during March, April, and May. Summers are often described as hot and humid while the fall brings welcome relief with temps in the mid 60’s. Snowfall over the winter months averages 7.1 inches each year with the average temperature in the mid-forties.
Customs and Traditions
- Seafood is popular in the coastal areas. Blue crabs are prepared in many ways such as crab cakes, crab imperial, soft-shelled in season, or simply plain crab meat that is picked from its shell and dipped in melted butter.
- Barbecue in Virginia is mostly pork with a vinegar-based sauce which is similar to barbecue in North Carolina.
- Smithfield ham, sometimes called Virginia ham, is a type of country ham which is only produced in the town of Smithfield.
- Fried peaches: cut in half and simmered in butter with brown sugar melted in their hollows, and served with vanilla ice cream
- Shoofly pie is popular in the Shenandoah Valley brought to the area from the Pennsylvania Dutch.
- Marble cake originated in Rockingham County, Virginia from the Mennonite community.
There are over 230 wineries in the state of Virginia including several wineries on the Lower Peninsula.
Points of Interest
Hampton Roads has extensive natural areas, including 26 miles of Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay beaches, wildlife refuges, scenic rivers, state parks, and botanical gardens.
- Newport News Park, a favorite destination for campers who love the great outdoors, is 8,000+ acres featuring forests, 30 miles of hiking trails, a 5-mile mountain bike trail, a 5.3-mile bikeway and two fresh-water reservoirs. There are with bike rentals available, along with boat, canoe and paddle boat rentals. The park has an 180-site campground, playground, aeromodeller’s flying field, freshwater fishing and golf, archery range, picnic shelter, arboretum and two stages.
- The Nolan Trail is often referred to as an urban oasis. The trail is a 5-mile loop around Lake Maury, with 14 bridges, several overlooks, and benches to rest on every half mile or so. It has been a popular strolling and jogging route for more than 25 years.
- The Virginia Living Museum is a combination aquarium, zoo, botanical garden and science center, showcasing animals and plants native to Virginia. Visitors experience animals native to Virginia in habitats, discovery centers, and interactive exhibits.
- Yorktown Beach, located in historic Yorktown, is a 3-acre beachfront featuring a fishing pier with no entry fee and no requirement for a fishing license and a 10-acre grass picnic area. Rentals include kayaks, paddleboards, and bikes. Shower facilities are open all summer. A hundred weddings a year happen at scenic Yorktown Beach. Next to the beach is Riverwalk Landing, a mile-long shopping and entertainment area. Tall ships, traditional sailing ships with the huge masts from countries around the world, are often seen sailing on the York River.
- The Yorktown Battlefield is site of the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War. Park Rangers lead guided walking tours of the battlefield and the 18th-century town. You can drive through the battlefield and visit the Moore House, scene of surrender negotiations; and Surrender Field, among other sites.
- Virginia Beach is the largest city in Hampton Roads and features a beach, boardwalk, a live music venue, the Sportsplex, museums, parks and a variety of shops and restaurants. www.vbgov.com www.virginiabeach.com
- The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
The largest intact remnant of a vast habitat that once covered more than one million acres of southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. There are over two hundred species of birds, 96 species of butterflies and at least forty-seven species of mammals recorded within the boundaries of the refuge. This outdoor attraction is located in Suffolk which is the birthplace of Mr. Peanut, the mascot of Planters’ Peanuts, also in Suffolk.
Take a trip into the past at Colonial Williamsburg and the Jamestown Settlement. You can interact with colonists as you walk the historically accurate Duke of Gloucester Street.
Most famous as the site of the surrender of General Cornwallis to George Washington during the American Revolutionary War. History is kept alive through patriotic events and festivals throughout the year.
PCSgrades.com is a community of military and veteran families helping each other with our most significant relocation needs through trusted reviews. If you live near Norfolk or Hampton Roads, leave a neighborhood or base housing review for your fellow military families. Together, we can truly make a difference!