Things to Do in Hampton
The Hampton Visitor Center is located inside the Hampton History Museum, located at 120 Old Hampton Lane. At the History Museum, you’ll find a variety of exhibits and artifacts related to the history of the city, from it’s earliest days to the present. Free visitor parking is available in the parking garage located at 555 Settlers Landing Road, across the street from the museum entrance.
Downtown Hampton’s waterfront area has been renovated and welcomes visitors. Attractions downtown include cobblestone streets, brick sidewalks, and shops, restaurants, pubs, galleries, an air and space museum, restored antique carousel, and a waterfront park. The Royal Customs House is where the British once brought tea, spices, cloth, and other supplies to the colonists. Pick up a brochure for the self-guided walking tour of downtown Hampton at the waterfront Hampton visitor center (710 Settlers Landing Road). The visitor center is the departure point for the Miss Hampton II harbor tours, which provides guests with a boat tour of the Hampton waterfront, Fort Monroe, Fort Wool, and the Norfolk Navy Base.
Mill Point Park, located at the eastern end of Queens Way on the waterfront, hosts live rock music each Wednesday evening and live jazz on Friday evenings from May to September. Saturday night Block Parties at Queens Way feature live top 40 dance music, street entertainers, and games.
The nearby presence of NASA’s Langley Research Center has brought the Virginia Air and Space Center to downtown Hampton (600 Settlers Landing Road). The Air and Space Center tells the story of aviation and space exploration and features an IMAX movie theater.
In a park next door to the Air and Space Center, visitors can ride on an authentic restored 1920’s wooden carousel. The carousel operates from April through December 15th and you can take a ride for only 50 cents.
Fort Monroe, at Old Point Comfort, is the largest star fort ever built in this country. The star shaped fort is surrounded by a moat. Fort Monroe’s original mission was to protect the entrance to Hampton Roads and the several port cities that had access to its waters. During the Civil War, Fort Monroe was quickly reinforced so that it would not fall to Confederate forces. In cooperation with the Navy, troops from Fort Monroe extended Union control along the coasts of the Carolinas. Confederate President Jefferson Davis was imprisoned at Fort Monroe during the Civil War. Over time the armament at the fort was improved, taking advantage of new technologies.
By World War II Fort Monroe served as headquarters for an impressive array of coast artillery guns ranging from 3-inch rapid fire guns to 16-inch guns capable of firing a 2,000 pound projectile 25 miles. But this vast array of armaments was all made obsolete by the development of the long-range bomber and the aircraft carrier. After the operational armament was removed, Fort Monroe received a mission that it still maintains to this day. Since 1973 Fort Monroe has been home to the Training And Doctrine Command, which combines the training of soldiers with the development of operational doctrine and the development and procurement of new weapons systems. A visit to this fort’s casement museum, surrounded by beautiful views of the Chesapeake Bay and picturesque structures, should be part of any visit to Hampton. In November of 2011, the federal government announced that Fort Monroe would be designated as a National Monument.
The Old Point Comfort lighthouse is also located at Fort Monroe. The light and keeper’s quarters are accessible by land and offer nice photo opportunities.
The Phoebus/Fort Monroe area is located on Hampton’s eastern side. Phoebus was once an incorporated town and has retained it’s individual character. During World War I, thousands of troops passed through Phoebus to the port of embarkation at Fort Monroe. In the roaring twenties, there was reportedly a saloon on every corner. Phoebus became a popular Liberty spot during World War II, and the hotels, saloons, restaurants and businesses all flourished. In 1952 the town was consolidated into the city of Hampton hut never lost its strong sense of identity and pride.
Today’s Phoebus is experiencing a renaissance and features a nice mix of older homes, antique shops, arts and crafts galleries, and restaurants. The restored American Theatre at 125 East Mellon Street is well worth a visit. The American Theatre has quickly become one of the premier performance venues in Hampton Roads. You can see Broadway shows, first rate classical, world and jazz concerts, explosive dance companies and a few special Gala evenings.
The Hampton Coliseum is a large, multi-purpose facility that hosts events such as concerts, sporting events, conventions, and trade shows. The Coliseum is located in the middle of the city, just off of Interstate 64. Visit the Coliseum’s website for a calendar of upcoming events.
Hampton Beaches: Hampton has two public beaches, Buckroe Beach and Grandview Beach. Buckroe Beach, located near the intersection of Pembroke Avenue and Mallory Street, was once a boardwalk amusement park. This beach has lifeguards on duty from 10am to 6pm. Concerts and outdoor movies are held on summer evenings. Buckroe Beach also has a fishing pier. Grandview Beach is located in a more natural setting. The beach is accessed by a trail that winds through the Grandview Natural Preserve in the Fox Hill section of Hampton.