Hampton Roads is known for its historical military sites and history museums. Seven southeast Virginia cities—including Newport News, Hampton, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Williamsburg—contain a wealth of things to see and do for the historical military buff.
If you want to explore the region’s historical roots and find great places to eat in Hampton Roads, check out our list of favorite things to do in the area. Plan a weekend around these historic sites and explore some of the best cities in the southeast!
Fuel Up & Head to Fort Monroe
Start your morning with a hearty breakfast at Anchor Allie’s, a naval-themed restaurant near Fort Monroe. Breakfast is served all day, so it’s never too late for a “USS Wisconsin Omelette” or “Battleship Sandwich.”
Once you’ve had your fill, make your way to Fort Monroe. It’s the largest stone fort in America and even has its own moat! The Casemate Museum is located within and provides an interesting and comprehensive history of the fort. It’s a haven for old military uniforms and supplies, as well as Robert E. Lee’s living quarters and Jefferson Davis’s prison cell.
Check Out the Hampton Roads History Center
Next you’ll want to head inland to the Hampton Roads History Center, located inside the Virginia Air & Space Center. The exhibits span the area’s history, from the Colonial era through the Civil War and into the 20th Century. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a peek at a replica of a pirate’s skeleton, which was found during the excavation of the city’s waterfront (arrrgh!).
Burgers and Battleships
By this point you might be feeling hungry again, so head to Norfolk for lunch. We recommend stopping by Freemason Abbey for a bit of history with a side of delicious American fare.
After lunch, you’ll be ready to dive into the afternoon with a tour of the Battleship Wisconsin. It’s one of the largest battleships ever built by the U.S. Navy, and it earned five battle stars during World War II. Choose a self-guided or audio tour to learn the history behind this regal vessel—just don’t forget to duck when walking through doors!
Exploring the Williamsburg Historic Triangle
Colonial Williamsburg offers a wide variety of historical sights to see, and anyone interested in the Revolutionary War won’t want to miss it. If you plan your trip right, you could even see live reenactments, such as “Storming the Palace” or the reading of the Declaration of Independence. If you’re ready for an afternoon spot of tea or coffee, you can step back in time at R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse for an authentic experience and tasty treats.
While you’re on the peninsula, you should also check out one of the numerous exhibits and reenactments that take place at Jamestown Settlement—or make your way to check out the Yorktown Battlefield for an interesting look into the last major battle of the Revolutionary War.
Finish the Day at First Landing State Park
Round off the afternoon at First Landing State Park near Virginia Beach. Its top-notch beach is surrounded by one of the most northerly stands of bald cypress in the country—and it also happens to be the place where English colonists first landed. It then became an important waterway for naval, merchant and pirate ships during wartime. Follow the Bald Cypress Trail Boardwalk through the swamp to see one of the region’s most beautiful natural areas.
You’ve reached the end of the journey, so sit back and relax at Hot Tuna Bar and Grill in Virginia Beach. Try a creative cocktail or seafood dish and check out some live music to end your Hampton Roads adventure.
Have any favorite historical places? Let us know in the comments below!