Whether it’s your first summer in Hampton Roads or you’ve been in the area for years, there are two things you need to know about this season in southern Virginia: it’s hot, and there are so many great things to do to cool off. Our family spends a lot of time at the beach, but there are several other “can’t miss” things you have to do summer.
Hampton Roads offers the best of both worlds when it comes to summertime fun; there’s plenty to do in the area, and a mini-getaway is a quick road-trip away. If you’re looking for a romantic evening pre-deployment, a fun activity with the kids, our insider’s guide has something for everyone.
Grab Some Fish and Chips
Pack your fishing pole and buy a permit at the Ocean View Fishing Pier. Spend your afternoon casting off or netting crabs, and then wash up to head upstairs to their rooftop restaurant. Sit in the oversized Adirondack and take in the panoramic view of the shore, or grab one of the giant gliding picnic tables and swing into the sunset.
Party in the Park
The “Festevents” at Town Point Park are some of the greatest events of the summer. From the “Bayou Boogaloo” Music and Cajun Food Festival, to the 40th Annual Harborfest, and everything from a Brewfest and Midsummer Fantasy Festival in between, these events are full of fun. Harborfest is the “largest, longest-running, free maritime festival in the nation.” With a Parade of Sail, a performance by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and an impressive fireworks display, this event is fun for the whole family.
Take in the Botanical Gardens
With immaculately curated grounds, the Gardens are the perfect place to have a romantic stroll in the cooler evening hours, or pedal around on one of their bike nights. Kids love the splash pad at the expansive World of Wonders (WOW) garden, where they can run through fountains and learn about different plants at the same time.
Muse at museums
Beat the summer heat by taking advantage of Blue Star Museums: Blue Star Families’ collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, the Department of Defense, and museums throughout the nation. Participating locations include the U.S. Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, the Lightship Portsmouth Museum, Chrysler Museum of Art, the Hermitage, the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. For a full list, visit Blue Star Museums.
Hit the fair
If you’ve been craving deep-fried everything and enjoy a good watermelon eating contest, don’t miss the Franklin Southampton County Fair in mid-August. With live music, farm animals, and magic shows, this is a classic event for anyone wanting a true county fair experience.
Go for the scare
The Revolutionary War was won just up the road, and countless Civil War battles were fought on these grounds. It’s no surprise the area is riddled with hauntings and legends of spirits from the past. While you may have done the ghost walk in Colonial Williamsburg, “Shipwrecks and Ghostlore” at the Old Coast Guard Station runs every Tuesday and Friday evenings on the boardwalk.
Cool off with a cold brew
The craft beer scene is more vibrant in Hampton Roads than ever before. With over twenty craft breweries in the area, live music and cold drinks can be found every weekend of the summer. Check out HR Growler for a list of breweries and events. Be sure to catch the 4th Annual 757 Battle of the Beers on August 6. There’s a significant savings in buying an early bird ticket online, so don’t wait to pay at the door. With dozens of beers to try, food trucks galore, and live entertainment, this is the event of the summer that you don’t want to miss. Ticket proceeds benefit St. Mary’s Home and other local charities, so make sure your Uber app is ready to go, and vote for your favorite brew to be crowned the Hampton Roads favorite.
Ride the Tide
Watch the Sandlot, hop on the Tide to Harbor Park, and catch an American summer staple: baseball. With online military tickets only $9, an evening at the ballpark can be a fun night out for friends, or a great chance to watch fireworks with your love.
Beach or bust
You knew this was coming. You can’t have an insider’s guide to summer in Hampton Roads without talking about the Oceanfront. Virginia Beach is the quintessential beach scene. Souvenir shops, ice cream parlors, and incredible people watching make this a tourist favorite. If you haven’t been, you have to go at least once. Head all the way down to 2nd street and let your little ones enjoy the impressive Grommet Island Park. After some time in the sand, walk to Waterman’s on the boardwalk for a famous orange crush.
Not feeling up to the crowds? Visit the lesser known East Beach, where tides are quiet and a large sandbar makes it perfect for tiny feet. Pack your own picnic, or pick up sandwiches at the East Beach Sandwich Company. Another favorite is the beach on Fort Monroe. With the rich history of the decommissioned base and the picturesque structures still standing, this beach is rarely crowded but always fun.
Get out of town
Once you’ve done the other nine things on our list, take a day trip out of town. Whether you go walk the riverfront in Richmond, tubing in West Virginia, wine-tasting in Charlottesville, or head down to the Outer Banks, the possibilities for a summer drive are endless.
This summer, take advantage of all that Hampton Roads has to offer. Don’t miss your chance to cast your vote for your favorite brew or find your family’s new favorite beach. From free festivals to deep-fried Snickers, there is truly something for everyone.
T. T. Robinson is a proud Navy wife, writer, and crisis management consultant – a skill that proves useful as the mother of two young children. She is the author of the New York Times Deployment Diary, featured contributor for SpouseBuzz, and political correspondent for NextGen MilSpouse.