This Is Hampton
Hampton is an extraordinary city in the heart of Coastal Virginia. The 400-year old settlement is multi-faceted; rich in Civil War history, African American heritage, water recreation, and abundant shopping and dining opportunities. It tugs at the senses prompting visitors to return again and again.
Hampton is a city of firsts. The first English colonists landed on Hampton’s shores 403 years ago and settled here at Kecoughtan in 1610. Nine years later, the first Africans to arrive in the colonies disembarked at Old Point Comfort, the present site of Fort Monroe. This fort is the largest moat encircled masonry fortification in North America. Old Point Comfort later developed into Virginia’s first beach resort, eventually becoming the home to several grand hotels such as the Hygeia and Chamberlin. In 1868, freed men were educated and taught trades for the first time at the Hampton Normal & Agricultural Institute. Hampton is the founding site of NASA, and the Mercury Seven astronauts trained here. The seafood industry was revolutionized in Hampton through the perfection of the pasteurization and canning processes. In every corner of the city, you will find historic neighborhoods and districts each with a remarkable past.
The nation’s oldest, continuous, English-speaking settlement in North America is dotted with historic attractions that interpret its role in pivotal American decisions and milestones. On November 1, 2011 President Obama named Fort Monroe a National Monument. With that, the former US Army installation issued an invitation to the world to visit the remarkable stone fortification built in 1834 whose walls were witness to major American turning points. You can learn about its many roles at the Casemate Museum. Or you may prefer to see Fort Monroe and Fort Wool from the water aboard the Miss Hampton II. The post Civil War legacy of historic Hampton continues at Hampton University’s historic campus, leaving one amazed at the timeless significance of both fortification and the institution founded in 1868. The Hampton History Museum illuminates the major moments in Hampton history, from the Native American gallery depicting the lifestyle of the Virginia Indians living at Kecoughtan to the Civil War gallery's depiction of Hampton in charred ruins.
Continue your explorations at the Virginia Air & Space Center and Riverside Digital 3D IMAX Theater, the result of Hampton’s longtime relationship with NASA. More than 100 flight simulators and hands-on exhibits allow you to take the controls and experience air and space innovations of the past, present and future. The Riverside 3D IMAX Theater presents digital feature films and documentaries on a five-story screen. Next door, the Hampton Carousel spins visitors year-round on hand-carved horses and chariots. This Hampton treasure built in 1920 by European artisans is enclosed in a weather-protective pavilion on the downtown waterfront. Nearby, you’ll find the Hampton Maritime Center where the Miss Hampton II departs daily April – October for tours of the Hampton Roads harbor, and the Ocean Eagle for fishing excursions on the Chesapeake Bay.
There are many very old churches in downtown Hampton and the surrounding communities. The parish of St. John’s Church, the oldest Anglican parish in North America, was founded in 1610 and celebrated their 400th anniversary along with the city in 2010. You can visit the church sanctuary and hear a recorded introduction. The charming streets surrounding St. John’s are lined with quaint shops, restaurants, art galleries, and parks. The streets come alive with special events from April through October, including the Hampton Street Fest offered on Queen’s Way on Saturday evenings. Citywide events, such as the annual Hampton Jazz Festival, and internationally acclaimed artists draw crowds to Hampton Coliseum and to The American Theatre year-round. The American Theatre is a regional landmark known for its unique line up of live performing artists set in a historic and intimate venue.
Hampton showcases its remarkable history through a new series of interpretive historical markers. As you explore our business districts and the historic corners of our city, you will have the opportunity to read markers that tell the stories of events that have taken place on those very sites. If you prefer a more detailed tour experience, you can explore the city by iPod or Smartphone tour. A series of six tours introduce you to Hampton present and past in Downtown, Phoebus, Hampton University, Fort Monroe, Hampton’s Historic Neighborhoods and inside the Virginia Air & Space Center. You can download or link to the tours for free from www.visithampton.com.
Boutique and antique shopping in Downtown Hampton and Phoebus and the locally-owned dining establishments in each district receive raves from visitors and residents alike. National favorites and still more restaurants unique to other parts of Virginia can be found at Peninsula Town Center in the Coliseum Central District. A menu of more than 70 national and regionally-owned shops is presented at Peninsula Town Center, and more than a dozen restaurants, like Bensi and Abuelos, flavor your visit with pleasing variety while Cinebistro has redefined “dinner and a movie” with first-run features and upscale dining, top shelf beverages, bowling—all complemented by an adult-only policy after 6 pm.
Theme restaurants like NASCAR Sports Grille, PBR, and Luckie’s Dueling Pianos can be enjoyed at the Power Plant of Hampton Roads, also within close proximity of concert and meeting venues. Like it spicy? Then Chipotle, bd’s Mongolian, Kenji Fusion, Six Little Bar Bistro and Soya are serving up the cuisine you crave. It’s no secret Virginia and our southern neighbors serve up mouth-watering barbecue. You can experience the best at Q Barbecue and County Grill. And a visit to Hampton is not complete until you take pleasure in our decadent Chesapeake Bay seafood. After all, this is where the seafood canning process was perfected. Long known as Crabtown, Hampton’s seafood has been caught, packaged and shipped throughout the world for generations. You can eat your fill at Marker 20, Surfrider, Harpoon Larry’s, Hampton Seafood Kitchen, and Joe’s Crab Shack.
The helpful travel counselors at the Hampton Visitor Center are eager to assist you in planning an excursion through the city. You’ll find them at our main center located at 120 Old Hampton Lane. We bet you’d like to sample a little of everything, so we’ve made it easy for you to do it all. Purchase the Hampton Sea to Stars Ticket, offering admission to the Miss Hampton II, Riverside 3D Digital IMAX Theater, Hampton Carousel, Hampton History Museum and the Virginia Air & Space Center. Tickets are priced at $39 adult and $25 for youth. While you’re there pick up a Hampton Visitor Guide, complete with the Hampton Day Pass Value Card, good for special values and discounts at Hampton shops, restaurants and recreation sites. There’s no shortage of fun and adventure. After all, this is Hampton! For visitor information call 800-800-2202, 757-727-1102 or come to www.visithampton.com.