Probably my first beach
During the War, many of my relatives who were not drafted or otherwise inducted into military service, moved to Tidewater Virginia, perhaps better known today as Hampton Roads. Several of them never returned (not because they were killed in the war but because they felt that they had more and better options in the Hampton Roads area than they did in the mountains of North Carolina. My dad stayed in the Army a bit longer than many who got out at the earliest possible date. Then we moved to Jacksonville, Florida where he went to school to prepare to make his fortune but it was not an easy road. Times were so tough that my mother worked and my dad both worked and went to school so I was frequently shipped off to relatives in North Carolina or Virginia. I am told that I spent so much time outdoors as a young child that I was mistaken as a mixed race, or African American, child.
My earliest, and some of my most fond, memories of getting those deep tans were at Buckroe Beach and I love it still today.
Bordering the Chesapeake Bay, this wide, clean beach offers eight acres of family-friendly sand, a playground for children, picnic shelters with tables and grills which are available by reservation, a great walking and bike path, and spacious parking areas. Certified lifeguards are on duty daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day. During the summer months, visitors can swing to the sounds of the Sunday night Groovin' by the Bay concerts, or view an outdoor movie as part of the Tuesday night POMOCO Family Movie Series. There are fees for watercraft rentals and picnic shelters but they all contribute to a convenient and enjoyable day at the beach.
The worst thing about this otherwise delightful family recreation scene is that they no longer allow pets during mid-May to mid-September.
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
Fort Monroe, located where the James River meets the Chesapeake Bay, was completed in 1834 and named after President James Monroe. Construction began in 1819, after the War of 1812, and this became the largest stone fort ever constructed in the US. During the Civil War, the Union maintained possession of Fort Monroe for the duration of the war, and it was used as a staging area for the Peninsular Campaign of 1862. At the end of the War, Jefferson Davis was imprisoned here for two years until he was eventually released in 1867. Since WWII, Fort Monroe has been a major training headquarters for the US Army. Fort Monroe is the Army's third oldest fort, and the last stone fortress that is still an active post, but it is scheduled to close in 2011.
Originally nicknamed "The Gibraltar of the Chesapeake," Monroe became known as "Freedom's Fortress" during the Civil War when slaves who arrived here were granted their freedom. Lt Robert E Lee and Edgar Allan Poe were stationed at Fort Monroe, and the historic Chamberlin Hotel is closed but has plans to reopen as a resort after the fort closes. The Casemate Museum provides the history of the fort as well as guided tours.
Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek
Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek is home to Naval Special Warfare Group 2, the parent command for the 4 teams comprising the East Coast SEALs. The SEALs hold their the annual SEAL Team reunion is at SEAL Park on base, and much of the beach front area is reserved for their training.
Ships are Little Creek include six Dock Landing Ships used for amphibious operations, two rescue and salvage ships, and 20 other ships. 7,700 navy personnel are stationed on Little Creek's 2,100 acres of land. This is the world's largest naval amphibious base.
Little Creek was originally created in 1942 to prepare military personnel for the assaults on North Africa and Normandy.
Army Life in the 1800s
The (free) Casement Museum is in the Fort Monroe casements which is what they call the rooms inside the fort walls. They have several dioramas set up, including one of firing the guns, one of the cell where CSA ex President Davis was held for several months, one of the Casement Club which was apparently an early officer's club, and one of a quarters for an army family with a piano, and a bed - an officer would get 2 rooms. The casements are no longer used for quarters, but the chaplin has his offices there, and the post day care is also housed in the casements. We saw a short interesting video tape presentation on the Ghosts of Ft. Monroe, and saw a little show with narration and flashing lights on a map of the Chesapeake about the armament and the ranges of various types of artillery. There are plenty of places to sit in the museum even without sitting on Jefferson Davis's chair (which is in a glass case anyway).
On our visit in 2000, the little 30's movie of the firing of the disappearing gun was broken, and we didn't get to see that, but when we went back in 2005, they had put it onto an endless loop video tape, so I finally got to see it.
The Casemate Museum is open from 10:30 AM to 4:30 PM, 7 days per week. Admission is free and the facility is handicapped accessible. The Museum is closed New Years Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
- Family Travel
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
The Norfolk Tides are a Baltimore Orioles affiliate in the International League. The team began play in 1961 as the Tidewater Tides, and it was affiliated with the New York Mets from 1969 to 2006. From 1972 to 1985 the Tides won the International League championship five times.
Harbor Park, completed in 1993, is a great stadium for AAA-level minor league baseball. It holds some 12,000 spectators with views out to several ships on the Elizabeth River. The stadium was designed by HOK Sport, the famous architects who have built numerous other modern fields including Camden Yards and PNC Park.
Hampton's historic Olde Towne dates back to the 18th century. Many beautiful early American buildings survive to this day.
Queen's Way is the main street of this area. Lined with restaurants and clubs, it's also the heart of Hampton's night life.
Just off Queen's Way is the old Courthouse. The original was destroyed in the Civil War. It had served as the headquarters of the Union's III Army Corps under General Heintzelmann. After the war, the American Missionary Association set up a school here for liberated slaves. The present building dates from 1876.
St John's Episcopal Church, founded in 1610, is the oldest English-speaking parish in America. This structure, still an active house of worship, was built in 1728.
- Historical Travel
Virginia Air and Space Center
As an aviation buff, I couldn't resist seeing this place. Rather small compared to some of the more famous museums, it still offers a number of interesting exhibits. Probably the most historic is the Apollo 12 command module, used in the second of the lunar missions in 1969.
Also on display are a P-39 Airacobra fighter used in World War II, a Korean War-era F-84 Thunderstreak fighter, an F-4 Phantom used in Vietnam, an F-106 Dart interceptor from the Cold War, an N2S-3 Stearman biplane trainer, one of the Wright Brothers' early flyers, and many more planes. There are full-sized, cutaway models of other planes. Check out the space gallery. There are also scale models of aircraft, missiles, and aircraft carriers.
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
Downtown Norfolk has a variety of attractions, all within walking distance of the water front. I especially enjoyed Town Point Park, Battleship Wisconsin, St Paul's Church, Harbor Park Stadium, Waterside Marketplace, and the MacArthur Memorial at the old City Hall. Many of these sights are connected by Norfolk's "Cannonball Trail" its walking tour of downtown that documents 400 years of the city's history in 40 stops.
One of my favorite spots in the city is the Armed Forces Memorial at Town Point Park. On a small, diamond-shaped island, this unique memorial contains bronze letters written by soldiers home to their families from various American wars. Each of the letter-writers later died in combat.
I have also flown from Norfolk Airport to Shannon, Ireland, in 2005.
Virginia Beach is just across the mouth of the James from Hampton and along the Atlantic Ocean. The city is actually the largest in Virginia with 450,000 residents. Famous for its 28 miles of beautiful public beaches and 3 miles of boardwalk, Virginia Beach has other draws, most important perhaps its military installations including Oceana Naval Air Station, Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Fort Story, and Fleet Training Center Dam Neck. Other attractions include Old Cape Henry Lighthouse, Virginia Beach Amphitheater, Virginia Aquarium, and the Old Coast Guard Station Museum.
As a teenager, we spent a week at Virginia Beach at the KOA on General Booth Blvd. I don't remember much about the campground, except that it was under the flightpath from nearby Oceana Naval Air Station.
Sandy Bottom Nature Park
During my numerous visits to Hampton, I rarely left the city without at least one visit to Sandy Bottom. Not only because the name sounds just a little bit dirty, but because this is one of the best places to go jogging in town. Numerous well-groomed paths around tranquil lakes full of wildlife make this a great place for a run or stroll. And park entrance is free!
Sandy Bottom's 456 acres are preserved primarily for wildlife, but also for recreation. The park has a nature center, picnic areas, camping, boating, a small golf course, and fishing.
Virginia Air & Space Center IMAX Theatres
One of the world's largest motion picture format, offering viewers an unparalleled sense of realism and motion. In our unique, technologically advanced theater, images of awesome power are projected onto a five-story screen and enhanced by 16,000 watts of digital sound.
If you have never been to one, you should experience one. Seeing the photography in film version is spectacular.
- Arts and Culture
Hampton 1920's Carousel
Built in 1920's it was fully restored with hand carved horses and chariots under a fully covered pavillon. It still boasts its original mirrors and oil paintings, as well as 48 intricately decorated horses. It is simple so beautiful and a must see!
1 for $1.00 or $12.50 for 25 tickets.
January 1–April 1, 2004
Closed for Winter Season
Special Spring Break Hours!
April 2 – April 18, 2004
• Daily - 12:00 noon. – 5:30 p.m.
April 19– May 20, 2004
• Closed Monday – Thursday (Opening for advance group bookings only)
• Friday - Sunday - 12:00 noon. – 5:30 p.m.
May 21 – September 6, 2004
• Monday – Wednesday –12:00 noon– 5:30 p.m.
• Thursday – Sunday – 12:00 noon – 7:30 p.m.
September 7 – September 30, 2004
• Monday – Thursday – 12:00 noon – 3:00 p.m.
• Friday – Sunday – 12:00 noon –5:30 p.m.
October 1 – November 30, 2004
• Closed Monday – Thursday (Opening for advance group booking only)
• Friday – Sunday 12:00 noon – 5:30 p.m.
Closed for season December 1, 2004
*Opening for week of Christmas weather permitting.
Extended hours Bay Days weekend and during Halloween Bash
- Arts and Culture
Apollo 12 Command Module
Some neat facts right from the website: was launched on November 14, 1969, weighed 13,500 pounds at launch, traveled over 960,000 miles on its lunar mission, orbited the moon 31 times in 61.6 hours and returned to Earth on November 24, 1969.
I especially like this one, because in Lancaster we have a park dedicated to the Apollo space flights. There is even a Apollo Command Module in a very huge display case right at the park for everyone to see.
- Arts and Culture
Virginia Air & Space Center
What a wonderful place to bring the whole family to learn and experience the things that has made us so successful going into space. So many wonderful hands on displays for children and adults alike to enjoy and learn from. Many wonderful exhibits to view. I just love seeing all the wonderful aircraft floating from the ceiling. They have a elevator and very safe stairs to different levels so you can see and appreciate the aircraft a little more up close and from here you can appreciate the views outside. It is really cool! You and you children can spend a lot of time in here for sure!
- Arts and Culture
Drive, walk or bicycle along...
Drive, walk or bicycle along the James River. Sit in the riverbank parks and watch the water and the seagulls.
You can go from Hampton to Newport News, until you arrive at the beginning of the James River Bridge (where the fishing harbor is). Directly across the river form Hampton is Norfolk, Virginia with the naval shipyards. The sunsets are beautiful from here.
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