20 Things to Do in Hampton Roads

You might know it as Tidewater, Coastal Virginia, or its official name: Hampton Roads; whatever you call it, this charming corner of southeastern Virginia has a lot to offer. As one of the largest natural harbors on earth, Harbor Roads embodies the life aquatic with ample opportunities to experience the outdoors. The Elizabeth, James, and Nansemond rivers all flow into this channel, and the bustling metropolis surrounding it features numerous shops, restaurants, and attractions. If you're seeking things to do in Hampton Roads, these gems are sure to entice you, whether you're visiting for your first trip or your 50th.


01 Fort Monroe National Monument

Explore over 400 years of history within this legendary fortress, a can't-miss destination for any visitor to Hampton Roads. It has been the area's primary defensive point for centuries, and when you step inside, you can experience its breathtaking story for yourself. Self-guided tours through the complimentary Casemate museum explore this topic in-depth, providing a large assortment of artifacts dating back to the building of the first fortification site in 1609. Visited by icons ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Edgar Allen Poe, this is one stop worthy of a weekend afternoon.

02 Grandview Nature Preserve

Discover nearly 500 acres of untouched beauty within the Grandview Nature Preserve, one of the region's most breathtaking sites. Situated along the Chesapeake Bay, it features scenic trails abundant with flora and fauna throughout the year. The pristine beach attracts frequent visitors, such as tundra swans, black skimmers, and hundreds of shorebirds, and it's dotted with gorgeous seashells to bring home as souvenirs. Outdoor lovers, rejoice. From canoeing to sunbathing and bird watching, this is your spot.

03 Hampton Coliseum

If you want to get in some entertainment during your visit, the Hampton Coliseum is the place to be. Whether you're a fan of pop music or comedy performances, there's something for everyone scheduled at this nearly 10,000-seat entertainment arena. It hosts enticing events year-round, from Monster Jam to the Hampton Jazz Festival, the Ringling Brothers Circus, WWE, and Cirque du Soleil. Whenever you arrive, there's always a show on the radar.

04 Virginia Living Museum

This one-of-a-kind experience combines a little bit of everything in one place: it includes an animal sanctuary, garden, geology center, conservation center, and planetarium, so you could easily spend a day here. Meet and greet over 250 species, such as coyotes, loggerhead turtles, red wolves, and flying squirrels, or follow a path of fossilized dinosaur tracks. Shoot into space with a viewing at the 71-seat planetarium theater, travel underground to explore the ancient past, or view one of the largest collections of native plants in the state.

05 J. Thomas Newsome House Museum and Cultural Center

Prominent attorney J. Thomas Newsome built this home in 1899, and it became the base for the local African-American community's fight for social justice. His home played a vital role in Virginia's cultural history, and now, it has been restored to its former glory so you can see that beauty for yourself. The two-and-a-half-story Queen Anne masterpiece is a marvel; the museum and cultural center help bring the story of Newsome and his community to life through engaging exhibits.

06 Sandy Bottom National Park

As the premier park in Hampton, Sandy Bottom is a no-brainer. With over 450 acres of natural beauty to explore, you'll find yourself standing among verdant forests, lush woodland, and other wonders. Diverse hiking trails guide you through the expansive park, and you'll likely spot species such as salamanders, rattlesnakes, and white-tailed dear along the way. You can also bike your way through — just watch out for wetlands. A 10,000-square-foot nature center provides pristine views of Sandy Bottom Lake, and you'll learn more about the species you've seen inside.

07 The Virginia Air and Space Center

This immersive museum is a must-visit for any aircraft or aeronautics enthusiast, highlighting the history, science, and technology spanning the past 100+ years. Inside, learn about aircraft and spaceships from around the world, including a replica of the Wright Flyer, a Pitts Special, and the Apollo 12 command module, to name just a few. Immerse exhibits and hands-on displays make the experience all the more magical. If space is your thing, there's an entire gallery devoted to spacecraft, which features detailed replicas, spaceships, exhibits on the solar system, and even real rocks from the moon and Mars.

08 Woodlands Golf Course

This 18-hole, 5,400-yard golf course is the place to get your game on, whether you're a novice or an experienced pro. Known by locals as the course that's always in shape regardless of season, this is the golf enthusiast's go-to year-round. It's a challenging fairway that puts your skills to the test, and it's open to all ages and skill levels. Popular tournaments, including the Hampton Amateur Championship and the Virginia Tech Alumni Tournament, are also hosted here.

09 Virginia War Museum

If American military history has ever captured your interest, the Virginia War Museum will be an absolute treat. It explores the U.S. military in-depth, highlighting key moments from 1775 till today. Inside, you can explore the stories leading up to each of the wars America has participated in; all organized chronologically from the Revolutionary War on. Exhibits and artifacts explore important accomplishments and military victories over time, and the displays feature everything from weapons to posters, propellers, artillery, and more.

10 Captain Hogg's Charter Service

What's a trip to Hampton Roads without a day on the water? This charter service has a capacity of just 32 people, providing a more close-knit experience where you can interact and learn from the captain himself. You'll step aboard a 40-foot boat and take in the scenery as you sail along the Atlantic, all while catching fresh bass, trout, and drum directly from the ocean. It's an authentic way to experience coastal Virginia living and catch a delicious dinner while you're at it.

11 Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region, so it attracts visitors into the thousands. If you can withstand the crowds, you'll find picturesque beaches from which to soak in the sun, go for a swim, or spend the day surfing. Along the shoreline, discover an eclectic mix of trendy bars and eateries serving a wide range of flavorful cuisine. Lifeguards are always on duty to provide peace of mind. If you want the best views in town, head here at sunset for an explosion of breathtaking color.

12 Dismal Swamp State Park

One hundred and twelve thousand acres make this natural paradise of wetlands and woods a dream for outdoor enthusiasts. It's expansive enough to handle a range of outdoor adventures, whether you're visiting for boating, paddling, fishing, photography, or just a quick afternoon hike. This area has a storied history; it was part of the Underground Railroad and helped hide bootleggers during Prohibition. Now, the largest swamp in the Eastern U.S. is yours to explore.

13 The Emancipation Oak, Hampton

Honor African American ancestors and what they've been through at the Emancipation Oak. While you might not get a guided tour or gift shop at this destination, you can wrap your arms around the tree where African Americans gathered to hear the Emancipation Proclamation. It was here that history was made, and it's here that you can pay it some reverence.

14 Old Point Comfort Lighthouse

This historic landmark is situated on Fort Monroe's grounds, but it's an attraction all its own. As the oldest lighthouse still in use in Chesapeake Bay, it has witnessed the region transform through the centuries. This was the spot where the first Africans landed and were traded in 1619 when the colonies were still being established. Before slavery even took place, this was the place where atrocity started. During the Civil War, it came under Union control, and it's now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

15 DoG (Duke of Gloucester Street), Williamsburg

This little-known gem is a completely free way to travel back in time, so it has to be a hit, right? Take a stroll along this scenic drive, which features historic homes dating back to the 17th century, actors in period-appropriate clothing, and life going on as it would hundreds of years ago. This street is a must-visit for history lovers in a place where each step feels like a step through the centuries.

16 Bluebird Gap Farm

This spacious 60-acre park and petting zoo is bound to get the whole family smiling with its farmlike feel and a large selection of adorable animals. Not only can you pet your favorite furry friends, but you can get up close and personal by feeding and interacting with them. A scenic lake provides the perfect place for a picnic, and trails offer space to stretch out your legs. From chickens, turkeys, and goats to rabbits, deer, and exotic white peacocks, animal lovers will be in for a treat.

17 The Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel

The views here will delight your eyes regardless of where you look, as breathtaking sights and seemingly endless miles of aqua ocean stretch out before you. This lengthy tunnel stretches over 90,000 feet, all surrounded by water. It's not for the faint of heart, but it's certainly a visual feast and a wonderful way to begin or end your trip to Hampton Roads.

18 Buckroe Beach

Hampton Roads is renowned for its beaches, but there are none quite like this one. Buckroe Beach scores points for its large open grassy spaces and recreation options. There's something for the entire family here. Kayaks and paddleboats are available for those who want to get their heart pumping, while multiple playgrounds provide space for the kids to go wild. Lifeguards and park rangers are always on duty.

19 Hampton History Museum

Learn about the history of Hampton from its 1619 origins to the present day through the art and artifacts at this local museum. As you wind your way through its stimulating galleries and exhibitions, you'll discover how the city was founded, what life was like during the Civil War, the stories of Native Americans, and much more.

20 Hampton Carousel

Dating to 1920, the Hampton Carousel is one of only 170 remaining antique carousels in the country. As striking as it is rare, its 48 gorgeous horses were hand carved from hardwood and painted by talented artisans from around the world, including Germany, Russia, and Italy. The oil paintings and mirrors are original, so you're experiencing a unique taste of the past with every turn.


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