By Elizabeth Hedger, Air Force Spouse
I’ve always fancied myself a bit of an adventurer. That being the case, I have to pause and ask myself why I haven’t taken advantage of all the things there are to do in the Hampton Roads area? There is virtually something to do for every adventure seeker (and those not pre-disposed to seeking adventure). If you cannot find it in the immediate area, you can usually drive within a three-hour radius and fill the gap unless you seek something having to do with a volcano, but I digress.
Your Hampton Roads Bucket List
#1 Hit the Beach
Virginia Beach provides many activities from surfing to paddle boarding. Walk along the boardwalk and make sure you take a selfie with Neptune. He’s gorgeous. On early summer mornings, grab a cup of coffee and walk up to the beach and wait. Wait for the sunrise and then watch the dolphins swim close to the shore. You’ll never regret the simplicity of an ocean sunrise to center your being and calm the soul. If the calmness of the summer ocean isn’t your speed, then bundle up in the winter months and go whale watching. The ideal season to see a massive humpback whale is December to March.
#2 Sleep on a Battleship
Honestly, I’ve never been a big fan of history. I thought it dull. Then we moved to Hampton Roads, and all the sudden history came alive. I highly recommend a visit to the USS Wisconsin berthed at Nauticus. With 40,820 tons of weight, this Iowa Class battleship is worth either a self-guided or formal tour. For a truly memorable experience, book an overnight and sleep in one of the areas the sailors did. Yes, you can actually do that.
#3 Attend a High Flying Prom
Our family has always been fond of military aviation. Perhaps marrying a pilot is the basis for this but even if he never pinned on those wings, I think we’d still be in love with airplanes. We have found the Military Aviation Museum to be a great place to visit. With over 100 acres and 70 vintage aircraft, this is one of the world’s largest privately-owned WW1 and WW2 aircraft most of which have been restored to flying condition. Although the museum is open year-round, we love to attend the “Flying Proms” each year. Rooted in U.K. tradition, this event takes place one night a year and is a symphony airshow. Pack a picnic basket and prepare to watch a ballet in the sky evoking a bygone era. You won’t see this anywhere else in North America.
#4 Witness History Come Alive
America’s Historical Triangle is the area formed by Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. These three towns are the mark of Colonial America and on their own, worth the trip. Historic Jamestown is made up of two areas, the archaeological site and Jamestown settlement which is a living museum interpretive site. Williamsburg is a 7-mile drive from Jamestown and is another living-history museum. Here you can visit taverns, walk through shops and take a few tours. All tours are properly historic, and some of the best are at night. Be sure to book a haunted ghost tour. It’s fun and not nearly as scary as you’d imagine. When you’re done, pop on over to Yorktown with its waterfront charm and historic battlefields.
#5 Chow Down Internationally
I love a good meal and even more than that, I like a meal that has atmosphere. The Bier Garden in Olde Town Portsmouth is worth the trip. Owned by a German family, the food brings authentic southern German cuisine to our shores. If you’ve never been to Germany, trust me it’s authentic, and the atmosphere is spot on. If German food isn’t your thing then perhaps their offering of European Beers will be sure to please. I personally like the Cherry Beer. I normally have to be told when I don’t need another one.
- Traditions Brewery in City Center is a place where you can bring the entire family including Fido. This brewery has a host of board games, an outdoor fire pit, live music and usually a food truck from one of the many local restaurants. You can experience BBQ, German, Latin and many other cuisines. Check out their web site for specifics.
- Still Worldly Eclectic is a great subterranean café and bar located in Olde Town Portsmouth. The Speakeasy feel has great global tapas treats and totally worth the price. Bring a friend because it’s too good to waste this night on an enemy.
- Vintage Tavern located in Suffolk. It ain’t cheap but dang it; it’s classy! Boasting Southern food and a great wine list, they aim at having one of the finest wine collections in Virginia. This is a must go for a special evening, and you shouldn’t live here without a visit at least once.
#6 Be a Sports Fan for a Day
Whether watching or participating there is plenty to do in the local area. You can always go take in a baseball game and watch the Norfolk Tide. A triple A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, this has been a favorite pastime over the years. Grab a hotdog and put your hand over your heart because this is as American as it gets! Make sure you stay for the 7th inning, you’ll want to sing along!
Another must do is going to see the Norfolk Admirals hockey team. This Northern girl loves her some hockey! Go get a beer (are you hearing a theme here?) and yell at some tough guys with lots of padding, it’s fun!
#7 Play Tourist
I haven’t even touched on all the other things on my bucket list. The Norfolk/Newport News/Hampton Roads area has some great touristy things go do that are worth braving the crowds. Here’s a few more to put on your Hampton Roads Bucket List:
- Norfolk Botanical Gardens: 175 acres, 53 themed gardens
- Free outdoor Concerts: various locations, all summer, google it!
- Elizabeth River Ferry: Go between Norfolk and Portsmouth the romantic way
- Jamestown-Scotland Ferry: Free. Take a nap while the ferry transports
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PCSgrades Author: Elizabeth Hedger and Lt. Col David Hedger (ret) have three children and have been married over 30 years. She serves as a contractor at Langley AFB and her husband teaches JROTC at a local high school. Elizabeth loves to travel, hang out and laugh with family and friends. She is also fiercely Scottish.