Savvy Traveling with Penny Zibula

USS Cole (DDG-67) and USS Rampage (DDG-61)
Photo by: Simon Lock, taken aboard the Miss Hampton II of the USS Cole (DDG-67) and USS Rampage (DDG-61) at Naval Station Norfolk

3 Reasons to Escape to Hampton, Virginia: All this and free parking, too

Have you passed through Hampton, Virginia on your way to somewhere else? If so, you’ve missed remarkable opportunities for multi-generational family vacations, romantic get-aways and exploring our nation’s history. Here are three of the many reasons you want to make Hampton your next destination.

1. Water, Water Everywhere: Hampton is located on the Chesapeake Bay, so it stands to reason beach combers and water sport enthusiasts can indulge themselves until the dolphins come home. Buckroe Beach is just one option for renting jet skis, kayaks, paddle boards, and other watercraft.

Prefer to be near the water instead of on it? Hampton’s beaches are clean, warm and welcoming. And no one gets left out with wheelchair access all the way to the water.

A definite must-do is a tour aboard the Miss Hampton II. This three-hour cruise travels down the Hampton River past Naval Station Norfolk. The trip includes a stop at Fort Wool in the center of Hampton Roads Harbor. Here passengers have the opportunity to disembark and explore the island fortress which was constructed in 1819, under the direction of then Lt. Robert E. Lee. Throughout it all, a knowledgeable and personable guide provides historical facts and anecdotes via an entertaining narrative.

2. Historical Sites and Museums:

The oldest continuously occupied English settlement in the United States, Hampton’s history spans more than four centuries. So there’s a lot of history in this town. From its beginning with the arrival of three sailing ships in 1607, to the welcoming destination it is today, Hampton traces its evolution through a variety of museums and historical sites.

Fort Monroe is a fine place to begin your historical journey. Constructed between 1819 and 1834, this installation was held by Union troops throughout the Civil War.

A precedent was established in May of 1861 when three escaped slaves were granted refuge as “contraband of war”, the fort soon became known as “Freedom’s Fortress.”.

While at the fort, be sure to visit the Casemate Museum and see Confederate president Jefferson Davis’s prison cell. A restaurant and the Old Point Comfort Lighthouse are also located at the fort.

The oldest African American museum in the U.S. is well worth a visit. Located at Hampton University, it contains an impressive collection of fine and contemporary art and artifacts.

Another museum worth visiting is the Hampton History Museum. The exhibits take you from the city’s earliest days to its key role in NASA’s beginnings.

Hampton is home to several historic churches, including St. John’s Church, which is the oldest continuous English-speaking parish in the nation.

3. Family Friendly:

Hampton is a city that can be enjoyed by individuals of all ages and abilities, making it an ideal spot for family vacations and reunions. The beaches and Fort Monroe are ideal places to keep the kids active and entertained, but there is still more.

Did you know Hampton was NASA’s original location? The Virginia Air & Space Center is the official visitor center for NASA Langley Research Center. You and the kids can explore more than 100 interactive exhibits together, take a voyage to Mars and marvel at full-size aircraft suspended from the ceiling. Then rest your feet while you take in a film at the 3-D IMAX Theater.

Treat the family to a ride on the Hampton Carousel, one of only 70 antique wooden merry-go-rounds still spinning in the U.S. The 1920, ride has been completely restored right down to the paint on the ponies and the traditional organ music. It’s a thrill for the little ones and a ride down memory lane for adults. Climb onto one of those ponies. I dare you.

Bluebird Gap Farm is a 60-acre park where children can love on the captivating critters at the second largest petting zoo in the country. The park also contains a playground, arboretum and garden.

If You Go

An economical option for exploring Hampton is the Sea to Stars Ticket. The price includes admissions to the Virginia Air & Space Center and 3-D Digital IMAX®, the Hampton History Museum, the Hampton Carousel and a cruise on the Miss Hampton II.

Hampton is a delightfully walkable city with many attractions located in the downtown area and within easy walking distance of each other. If you need a place to park your car, however, Hampton offers free two-hour on-street parking, and free parking at conveniently located parking decks.

More information about all there is to see and do in this engaging seaside town can be found on the official Visit Hampton website.

Our visit to Hampton, Virginia was generously hosted by Hampton CVB. However, all opinions, as always, are entirely my own.

Penny Zibula is a freelance travel writer and blogger based in New Bern. Visit her blog at

By Contributing Author, Penny Zibula