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Things to do in Hampton

    Hampton History Museum Hampton History Museum Hampton, Virginia
    The Hampton History Museum in Hampton, Virginia contains four centuries of outstanding historical artifacts located in nine galleries that have been set up in a chronological array so you can start at the beginning and follow through to today. Hampton is the oldest continuous English-speaking settlement in the nation and the magnificent relics that have been discovered in the city, as well as many donations that support the collection in diverse ways that will help visitors understand the exciting and interesting history of this great area. Because of the correlation between the city and the nation, it is both poignant and personal for every American today, as we can learn how we started, and the hardships that were faced during each century of the country's significant heritage. The roots of the museum started growing in 1952, when Margaret Sinclair, one of the city's teachers, began putting an exhibit together of various artifacts, documents and photographs inside the old Syms-Eaton School that sat downtown. As the years passed by, the collection slowly grew and expanded, needing more space, so the collection had to be moved to a bigger locale into a downtown storefront exhibit that would end up in a bigger structure on Mercury Boulevard in 1966. Next to the Syms-Easton museum, a reconstructed Kecoughtan Indian village had been created and become one of the best places to bring school children to so they could learn more first hand about our nation's incredible history. The museum had gained some national attention since it displayed both Native American and African American themes through its numerous exhibits. As the nation's bicentennial approached, the Hampton Heritage Foundation sponsored some archaeological excavations in the downtown region, which would followed by a number of displays that housed the relics uncovered. A decade later, as the city itself approached its 375th anniversary, the Junior League of Hampton Roads would sponsor an exhibition of photographs that had belonged to Christopher Cheney and his son, who had been the city's photographers from the 1890s to the 1960s. The attendance surprised many since they hadn't realized so many people would be interested in the city's past and history and the city leaders noticed as well. It wasn't long before a group of very enthusiastic residents got together to form the Hampton History Museum Association and they started searching for a permanent place to house their museum. After getting great support from the city and the citizens, the funds were raised and the museum opened in 2003. The new museum's nine galleries include the Orientation Room that shows outstanding quotes from well known people that showcase the many eras of the city's excellent history; the Kecoughtan Gallery depicts the interaction of the Native Americans and their environment with original and recreated relics that include tools that were made from antlers, reeds and bones, houses of saplings, reed mats, log canoes and deerskin clothing; the 17th Century gallery that describes the arrival of the English settlers sent here by the Virginia Company in 1607, especially the interaction between the natives and the new arrivals, as well as the importance that tobacco had for the newcomers, the arrival of the first Africans in 1619 and the town's growth as a trading center. As you continue your journey through the centuries and galleries, you will enter into the 18th century gallery after passing through a ship's hold that highlights the developing town of Port Hampton that had blacks and whites working side by side, both indentured and free, in the fields surrounding the young settlement and the ships that began arriving and leaving filled with tobacco and other goods bound for Europe. As you come into the 18th Century gallery, you'll come face to face with the head of the most despicable nemesis of the Hampton trade, named Blackbeard the pirate, as well as showing the various occupations and domestic lifestyles of the folks living there and arriving by ship. It also discussed the city's role in the Revolutionary War. Next visitors enter into the Antebellum gallery that houses a wonderful collection of local portraits and clothes that had been popular during the era, with the life of the city shown from the War of 1812 until the night of the Civil War.  Next is the Civil War gallery that is lit with little lighting so that you can get a better feel for what the city went through as the Confederates burned it in 1861, and showcase the Battle of Big Bethel, the significance of Fort Monroe and the multitude of hospitals and military camps that began to appear like flies to a dung heap. One of the exhibits tells how General Benjamin Butler, a Yankee, was the first person to apply the term "contraband" to three runaway slaves, as well as discussing the founding of the Hampton Normal and Agriculture Institute and the different lifestyle that had to be endured during the period known as Reconstruction. Then you enter the 19th Century gallery housing pictures and relics of the seafood business and the resorts that began to show their signs and the marvelous photos that depict it all. The last gallery is called Modern Hampton and showcases many relics and artifacts like a cheerleader's megaphone, wedding dress made out of WWII parachute and kid's toys. As well as many more exhibits that will keep you busy for days.

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    Fort Monroe Casemate MuseumFort Monroe Casemate Museum Hampton, Virginia
    The Fort Monroe Casemate Museum in Virginia opened in 1951 so that visitors could see the cell that held Jefferson Davis during the Civil War, along with many exciting artifacts that were used during the 19th century and at the fort. The original fortress was built in 1609 and called Fort Algemourne, but would burn down in 1612, showing historians and others that perhaps this fort or area was destined for bad things, or events. Then two other forts would be constructed here, the first, Old Point Comfort, as it was called by the early settlers, was constructed in 1632, and then in 1749 Fort George, however, they would both be severely damaged by hurricanes and had to be rebuilt. Sometime after the War of 1812, Fort Monroe would be constructed, to protect the nation against any attacks that might come from the ocean. It would become the biggest stone fort in the nation, becoming vitally important to the protection of Hampton Roads and the Virginia Beach area. The museum that sprouted up here in 1951, would eventually grow and fill with many exciting and interesting artifacts and materials that pertained to the 19th century that include; weapons, newspaper clippings, medical instruments, clothing and uniforms worn by the military, exhibits that showcase the use of the various rooms, artist's drawings and much more. The museum is dimly lit because there are only a few windows that let the light filter in and the doorways are set low so you might need to watch out for your head as you go through. The walk through offers you outstanding historical minutes that the fort was involved in, like the cell that held Major General Jefferson Davis and Benjamin Butler's decision to let escaped slaves hide in the fort are only two of the very interesting exhibits. As you continue, you get to the wall of the fort and see the slots for the 30 cannons that had been used here, and try to imagine what it must have been like for the men that were firing and loading the cannons in this area and the effects those guns made on their hearing and bodies. The original fort had been commissioned to be constructed by Captain John Smith, who saw the importance of protecting the entrance into the harbors leading to Jamestown's colony. The reason that the fort would be constructed of stone was quite evident by the destruction of the previous ones, and especially after Washington, DC. was burned in the War of 1812. That fire and destruction would instigate the construction of a new system of coastal defenses, with Fort Monroe being the first and the biggest since it would guard the gateway to our capitol. In the Civil War, it defenses would be reinforced because of its strategic location, and it became a jumping off point for the Battle of Big Bethel in 1861, Major General George McClellan's Peninsula campaign in 1862, and the siege of Suffolk in 1863 and in 1864, the Army of the James would be formed here. It was also here that General Butler had made the decision to let escaped slaves stay here, and then taken past the Union lines to safety and freedom. Jefferson Davis would be imprisoned here for two years. It is very unfortunate that the fort itself is now going to be closed, sometime in 2011, according to Congressional changes and closures, but what the status of the museum will be is still uncertain, so if you want to see all these exciting exhibits, then you had better make plans to visit the next year.

    Bluebird Gap Farm
    Bluebird Gap Farm Hampton, VirginiaThe Bluebird Gap Farm in Hampton, Virginia is the city's outstanding and interesting public park and petting zoo that opened in 1966, and designed like a working farm that highlights farm animals and fowl of every variety, as well as some wild animals indigenous to the state. When you visit, there are places where you can buy food to feed the animals and so many animals to feed. Sitting on 60 acres, there is also a small lake, playground, picnic areas and the Azalea Trail, that features some very rare azalea varieties, while the farm itself has many displays of antique farm equipment, modern equipment, the original Hampton train station and an old family cemetery; as well as being the city's volunteer master gardeners' demonstration garden area. When the farm opened, it originally was called Old MacDonald's Farm, and today is one of the oldest parks in the city. It has become home to 105 donated and loaned domestic animals and had been located on the site of the nearby Hampton Coliseum, until 1969, when it was moved here, offering city children and others that had never had the experience of growing up or working on a farm. The animals house here include; barn owl, white-tailed deer, sheep, domestic rabbits, donkey, raccoon, goats, tortoises, Arabian horses, Appaloosa pony, miniature horse, vultures, domestic pot-bellied pig, chickens and bantam chickens, alpacas, cows, mute swan, ducks, geese, turkeys and peafowl.

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Local Restaurants in Hampton

    Little Bar Bistro Six
    Entrees; pan seared duck breast over wilted arugula with raspberry glaze; oysters Rockefeller pot pie; seared sea scallops over sweet potato mashers; butternut squash Mac-n-cheese; beer braised sausage with caramelized onions & whole grain mustard; crab cakes with potato & leek sauce; root veggie hash with black truffle aioli; rabbit stew with jalapeño corn cake; honey glazed asparagus with toasted almonds; sweet potato fries with truffle honey & spicy catsup; petit filet of beef with mushroom, onion & pepper sauté & shaved parmesan; pork & ginger pot stickers with sweet chili sauce & ponzu; bread & house butter; avocado dip with tomatoes, cilantro, lime & tortilla chips; Cobb salad with crab, bleu cheese & bacon; roasted beet & herbed goat cheese stack; gorgonzola stuffed poached pear; apple & grape salad with candied pecans; sushi style tuna over coconut rice with spicy soy; tomato & mozzarella stack with basil & balsamic; Six house salad with balsamic vinaigrette; goat cheese & olive tapenade with grilled bread; edamane with sea salt & lemon; hummus du jour with grilled pita.

    Surf Rider Restaurant
    Entrees, served with 2 veggies or steamed broccoli; pealed shrimp over half pound; shrimp & crabmeat combo; scallops 8 or 10oz. steamed or broiled; seafood surf rider is all 3; crab cakes is house recipe; crab cake & 4 deep fried shrimp; surf & turf 8oz. marinated steak with fresh steamed shrimp; fried surf & turf; steak & crab cake 8oz. NY strip with 5oz. crab cakes; fried seafood platter is fresh fish of the day, oysters, shrimp, scallops; broiled seafood platter is fresh fish of the day, scallops, shrimp, crab cake; surf rider crab pot with crab legs, shrimp, clams, sausage & corn on the cob; fresh cut NY strip grilled 8 or 12oz.; marinated steak is Black Ace flank steak marinated 8oz.; hamburger steak is fresh ground beef grilled 8 or 12oz.; pork chops is two 6oz. center cut chops grilled; pastas are served with choice of salad; seafood marinara is fresh chopped tomatoes, black olives, purple onion, basil, oregano & garlic, tossed together in pan with shrimp & scallops topped off with lump crabmeat; chicken marinara is fresh chopped tomatoes, black olives, purple onion, basil, oregano & garlic tossed together in pan with 8oz. fresh chicken; seafood alfredo is shrimp & scallops in white cream sauce topped with lump crabmeat; chicken alfredo is white cream sauce with 8oz. fresh chicken tenders; deep fried shrimp hand cut & breaded then fried; clam strips 9oz. Chincoteague clams lightly fried; scallops 8-10oz. of freshly shucked oysters, hand breaded & fried.

Pan Seared Duck Breast Little Bar Bistro Six Hampton, Virginia


Pork & Ginger Potstickers Little Bar Bistro Six Hampton, Virginia


 Fried Seafood Platter Surf Rider Restuarant Hampton, Virginia


Seafood Alfredo Surf Rider Restaurant Hampton, Virginia

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    Virginia Air & Space Center Virginia Air & Space Center Hampton, Virginia
    The Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton, Virginia, where the birth of our nation's space program began, the center highlights many interactive aviation displays that span more than a century of flight, special space flight relics, 30 historical aircraft, a hands-on space gallery and so much more that you would have to visit to believe it all. Let your imagination run wild as you are given the opportunity to pilot a space shuttle, get to be an air traffic controller, launch a rocket, climb into a WWII bomber, program Mars rovers for a unique mission and even fly a plane! You will be able to explore the Apollo 12 Command Module that visited the moon, see the gorgeous copy of the 1903 Wright Flyer, look over a 3 billion year old moon rock, check out a Mars meteorite and then a DC-9 passenger jetliner. There is so much to see here that it would take a few days to enjoy it all, so you better make plans soon so you won't miss any it, as it does change often since they have so many exhibits to show. In the Riverside IMAX theater you'll catch a 3D IMAX film on their giant screen or visit the world of science that is always changing, and enjoy riding on the Hampton carousel, a restored turn-of-the-century carousel sitting right next to the center. The center is also the visitor center for the NASA Langley Research Center and Langley Air Force Base. The center opened in 1992, at a cost of $30 million and occupies 110,000 square feet of exciting space, nine stories high on 2.2 acres. The Cosmic Cafe is located within the facilities so that you can always get something to snack on or drink as you spend the whole day here exploring and discovering all the marvelous exhibits and artifacts, contained in the more than 100 outstanding exhibits that showcase NASA's historic achievements, with many happening right here in Hampton. Some of the most exciting displays include; Adventures in Flight gallery, Space gallery, Air and Space Craft and the Ham Radio exhibit.

    Charles H. Taylor Arts Center
    Charles H. Taylor Arts Center Hampton, Virginia
    The Charles H. Taylor Arts Center was started by Mrs. Grace Taylor Armstrong in 1925, when she had the construction of a building completed so that it could house the library. She would donate the land and the building that would be called The Charles H. Taylor Memorial Library, that would be used to benefit the citizens of Elizabeth County that included the city of Hampton, Virginia, and the other towns and communities that lie in that county. The library was constructed as a memorial to her father, General Charles H. Taylor, the founder and managing editor of the Boston Globe newspaper for a good many years. The structure was neo-classical in design, and believed to have been modeled after the courthouse of Elizabeth County that had been a favorite design of Grace. The library would handle the needs of the city of Hampton for over six decades, and in 1987, the structure would close after the city had constructed a much bigger Hampton Public Library next to it. A careful and considerate renovation began that would open the historical building in 1989 as the Charles H. Taylor Arts Center, owned by the Board of Trustees to her estate, and leased to the city, run by the Hampton Arts Commission. In the summer of 2005, the center would celebrate its 80th anniversary and enjoyed many upgrades and renovations, and with the appointment of well known artist and curator James Warwick Jones as the gallery's manager, the center once again began to enjoy a revival of its own. The Armstrong galleries are housed in the original space of the structure and named after its donor, as is the Chapman gallery that was named after Elizabeth and Harold Chapman, who had been leaders and great patrons of the artistic and cultural life of the city and the Virginia peninsula. On the second floor, there is new gallery space for the center's permanent collections with studio space for the expanding teaching programs that included workshops, classes and lectures for students of every age. The center is free to enter and a great place to learn more about the artworks of this marvelous center.

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    Fort WoolFort Wool Hampton, Virginia
    Fort Wool in Hampton, Virginia was originally called Fort Calhoun, and the companion fort to Fort Monroe mentioned earlier and had been the place for dumping ballast for ships. The fort was initially thought of in 1817, and constructed on an artificial island southeast of Old Point Comfort in Hampton. The construction of the fort and its repairs would continue for many years since the foundations weren't too stable as the adjacent photo can show. The first levels of casemates would be completed in 1830, and as the construction of this haphazard fort continued through the 1830s, President Andrew Jackson came to visit and escape the heat of the capitol. From 1831 to 1834, a young second lieutenant named Robert E. Lee, an engineer was stationed here, the assistant to Captain Andrew Talcott, playing an important role in the completion of the fort, as well as the other fort on the mainland, Monroe. The first fort had been called Ripraps, and then later, Fort Calhoun, becoming a significant participant in the Civil War for the Union troops stationed there. Besides being used to protect the entrance to the harbors, it was used to house POWs, and once the war was over, it would be renamed Fort Wool because of the Union Major General John E. Wool, that had captured the city of Norfolk early on in the war. In the early 20th century, it would be modernized and become part of the harbor's defenses during WWI and WWII. In the first world war, submarine nets would be slung across the harbor, and in the 1950s, the southern man-made island of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel would be built next to it. The bridge-tunnel opened in 1957, and the fort would then be abandoned by the military and donated to the state in 1967; with the city developing a park on the island. The Fort Wool passenger ferry, Miss Hampton II would bring tourists to the island most of the year. The island is now called RipRaps and has become a main attraction for tourists, although the casemates are often closed for safety reasons.

    Chrysler Museum of Art
    Chrysler Museum of Art Hampton, VirginiaThe Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia is located in the Ghent district and began in 1933 as the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences, and in 1971, the car heir, Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. would donate the majority of his magnificent collection to the museum since his wife, Jean Outland Chrysler had been a native of Norfolk. That single gift would catapult the small museum into the international scene and made it one of the finest museums of at in the entire southeastern United States. The Chrysler Museum of Art had been a rather small art museum in Provincetown, Massachusetts in the historic Center Methodist Church from 1958 until 1971, and now has been instrumental in putting the combined artworks on the map, sitting next to a small body of water that is called the Hague in the Ghent district, near downtown Norfolk. According to the New York Times, the Chrysler collection was one that any museum in the world would "kill" for and it contains more than 30,000 works that span more than 5000 years of world history. It includes European and American sculpture and paintings from the Middle Ages to the current day that make up the nucleus of the magnificent collection. Some of the finest works include those created by Paul Gauguin, Tintoretto, Georges Rouault, Veronese, Franz Kline, Peter Paul Rubens, Andy Warhol, Diego Velazquez, Henri Matisse, Salvatore Rosa, Georges Braque, Gianlorenzo Bernini, Jackson Pollack, John Singleton Copley, Mary Cassatt, Thomas Cole, Auguste Rodin, Edouard Manet, Edward Hopper, Gustave Dore, Albert Bierstadt, and Richard Diebenkorn. It is also the home of the last sculpture of the Baroque master, Gianlorenzo Bernini, which is a marble bust of Jesus that had been especially made for his benefactor, Queen Christina of Sweden. The museum is proud to house the world's best collections of glass, including many pieces by Louis Comfort Tiffany, pre-Columbian America, Asia, Africa ancient artworks, a marvelous collection of photography and outstanding holdings of decorative arts. The museum continues to strive each and every day to keep its mission to be a catalyst for bringing art and people together so that their lives can be enriched and transformed. It is always bringing in changing exhibitions and have included; "From Goya to Sorolla: Masterpieces from the Hispanic Society of America", "Rembrandt's Etchings: The Embrace and Darkness of Light", "American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell", "Rodin: Sculpture from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collection" and "To Conserve a Legacy: American Art from Historically Black Colleges and Universities".

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    Hampton University MuseumHampton University Museum Hampton, Virginia
    The Hampton University Museum is located in the heart of the historic campus, in Hampton, Virginia and is a magnificent museum and national treasure that began in 1868, and is the oldest African American museum in the nation, and one of the oldest museums in the state. There are more than 9000 artworks that include; Native American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Island, Traditional African, African American fine arts and Asian artworks and items that pertain to the history of the university. Housed in it excellent fine arts collections is the biggest existing collection of works in any museum of the artists Elizabeth Catlett, Samella Lewis, John Biggers, Jacob Lawrence and Richmond Barthe. Its main goal hasn't changed since it opened, more than a century and a half ago, and that is to offer knowledge and understanding of the diverse cultures and traditions of various ethnic groups. From its inception, it would strive to instill a pride in the ethnic identity and knowledge of world cultures, with instruction in geography, history and cultures, the first items to be acquired were from the Pacific Islands that had been collected by the university's founder, General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, who had been born and raised in Hawaii, the son of missionary/educator parents. During the 1870s, the museum has started an African studies program and there were many dozens of works from Africa that had been installed in the collection for more than thirty years. In 1911, the school would get the William H. Sheppard Collection of African Art, containing a few hundred splendid pieces that had been acquired by Hampton alumnus, William Sheppard between 1890 and 1910 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Sheppard was the first westerner to go into the Kuba Kingdom and the first African American to begin collecting African art in the late 19th century and the early 20th. Because of his magnanimous gift, the collection is the oldest Kuba-related material in the world. Then in 1878, the school started a pioneering program in American Indian education and between that year and 1923, more than 1300 native students from 66 tribes would come to the school to attend classes. That is how collecting American Indian and African art has been tied to nurturing ethnic pride and to be able to develop cross-cultural understanding in the students that come here.

    Hampton Air Power Park & Museum
    Hampton Air Power Park Hampton, Virginia The Hampton Air Power Park and Museum in Hampton, Virginia is dedicated to sharing the history of space exploration that had started in this city in the early attempts of space and aircraft testing. It sits on 15 acres and contains a children's playground, although there isn't a brick and mortar building or even a visitor's center. It just has a number of vintage aircraft and experimental space launch vehicles from the 1950s and 1960s that are showcased around the property, as can be seen in the adjacent photograph. The craft displayed include; a Javelin sounding rocket, P-1127 Kestrel, Little Joe/Mercury that was the booster used in testing the Mercury program and launched from Wallops Flight Facility, F-86L Sabre, Corporal IRBM, Mercury capsule, Polaris A-2 SLBM, A-7E Corsair II, F-100D Super Sabre, F-101F Voodoo, Nike Hercules SAM, F-89J Scorpion, Nike Ajax SAM, RF-4C Phantom II, Nike SAM, F-105D Thunderchief, Jupiter IRBM and the T-33A Trainer. Obviously, there isn't an entry fee, so you can just walk around and enjoy looking over these historical crafts that were such an important part of space and flight programs in the early history of our programs.

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    Lee Hall MansionLee Hall Mansion Newport News, Virginia
    The Lee Hall Mansion was constructed between 1851 and 1859 and home to the rich planter Richard Decauter Lee, his wife Martha and their children; and not related to Robert E. Lee. It is one of the last remaining intact antebellum houses on the Virginia Peninsula and offers visitors a wonderful opportunity to go back in time to those mid-Victorian days with outstanding and authentically furnished rooms, including a luxurious ladies' parlor. In April and May of 1862, the house would become the headquarters for Confederate generals, John B. Magruder and Joseph E. Johnston; and houses many hundreds of relics, and the tablecloth from the USS Monitor, with many exciting and interesting pieces on display in the museum's 1862 Peninsula Campaign gallery. There are numerous special events and other evening programs that are held all through the year, with free parking and a marvelous gift shop. The house is the only antebellum plantation house left on the lower peninsula, and the family was forced to run for their lives just three years after finishing it. It was constructed on a high point of ground, with a magnificent view of the countryside all around, which is how it would become the Confederate headquarters in 1862. From the house, the two generals would be able to direct the defense of the peninsula against Major General George B. McClellan's advancing Union army for three weeks, until the Confederate army was ordered to retreat. There would be a small skirmish on the property between the retreating army and the advancing Union army; and the peninsula would become under control of the Union until the end of war. The Lees would come back to their beloved house and live there until 1871, with many different families owning the property after that.

    Battle of Big Bethel
    Battle of Big Bethel Monument Hampton, VirginiaThe Battle of Big Bethel in Hampton and York County, Virginia is also known as the Battle of Bethel Church or Great Bethel and took place on June 10, 1861. It would be the first Civil War battle in the state of Virginia and perhaps the first land battle of the war, since the Battle of Phillippi that occurred on June 3, 1861 was really a skirmish more than a battle. Major General Benjamin F. Butler, the Union commander, sent converging columns from Hampton and Newport News against the advance Confederate outposts at Little and Big Bethel Churches. The rebels would abandon their defense of the Little Bethel church and fall back to their main entrenchments that had been dug behind Brick Kiln Creek, by Big Bethel Church. The Union troops under the immediate command of Brig. General Ebenezer W. Pierce would chase after them and attack their main frontal positions along the road, but were repulsed. They decided to try crossing downstream, with the 5th New York Zouaves trying to turn the rebel left flank, and they also would be repulsed. By then, the Union forces were so confused and disorganized that they returned to their camps in Hampton and Newport News. Butler had been stationed at Fort Monroe, and as time passed, his troops would be continually harassed by the squads that had come from the outposts, so he sent 3500 troops to try to stop them. The majority of the battlefield on Big Bethel and all of the Little Bethel site have been lost, mostly covered by residential and commercial developments, and the Brick Kiln Creek has been dammed, to make the Big Bethel Reservoir over the battlefield. Therefore, only some areas of the battlefield have been able to be preserved, although they are not identified.  The Union would have 79 casualties that included 9 killed and 72 wounded and the Confederates had one man killed and seven wounded.

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