Historical Family Getaway in Hampton, Virginia
By Kathy Chin Leong
"Grr.. ahoy matie! Whatcha doing in Hampton, Virginia?"
Considered the home of one of the top Blackbeard festivals in the United States held every Memorial Day weekend, Hampton is a vacation highlight swarthily worthy of a Bay Area family visit. According to local history, the famous pirate Blackbeard sailed to the coastal city to pillage in the 18th century. He was finally defeated, with his head mounted on a post in the Hampton waters. After that, fear struck in the hearts of pirates everywhere, and the era of violence soon ended.
The city puts on a full-scale weekend party filled with re-enactments of Blackbeard's final battle, a funeral parade, and tours of sail and powerboats which are bedecked in pirate gear. It's a family-friendly weekend with kids activities and music, fireworks and period-era costumed vendors and attendees.
Hampton Harbor is where all this action happens, and in addition to the festival, the city offers a number of other activities that will keep everyone engaged.
To get folks on the water of the beautiful harbor, the Miss Hampton II Harbor Cruises provides daily cruises through October 30. The two-to-three hour tour is priced at $25 per adult, $14 for children (6-12), and kids under 6 free. The boat ride features knowledgeable guides that makes American history come to life.
Learn why the government built forts all along the eastern seaboard and the role Hampton played during the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and World War 1 and WW2. During the tour, the boat stops at Fort Wool where folks can disembark and walk through the historic barracks and see views extraordinaire. With a snack shop on board and restrooms, the smooth ride is suitable and comfortable for the young and elderly.
Another stop on the history trail is a short drive away to the Casemate Museum and Fort Monroe, the new national monument. This brick memorial from the 17th century is full of stories of heroes and villains, and original cannons that will amaze. On this property is also the chapel with stunning Tiffany glass and the site where presidents have visited over the years.
Moving up closer to the 20th century, the Virginia Air and Space Center features a variety of military airplanes, a replica of the Wright brothers' first airplane, a space capsule, and more. Kids can go inside a real airplane to watch a movie, and enjoy hands on activities that will bring them up to speed on the latest in air and space technology.
Before leaving the premises, families should take a spin on the historic Hampton Carousel. Built in 1920, the colorful horses go up and down as the original music plays. For just $2 per ride per person, it's a great way to end the afternoon.
If coming in the summer, the new Paradise Ocean Club on the Chesapeake Bay offers opportunities to cool off. On the beach, the restaurant and outdoor facility features picnic tables, outdoor rentable cabana, swimming pool, beach access. A minimal entrance fee is $10 per person, and it provides a relaxing day with music bands, sunshine and water.
Where to stay: Embassy Suites - Features cooked to order eggs and omlettes: www.embassysuites.com.
Where to eat: Venture Kitchen & Bar - Pizza, salads, sandwiches, tapas: www.venturekitchenandbar.com.
Surf Rider - famous for crabcakes and seafood: www.surfrider.com
Conch and Bucket - pasta, seafood, steak: www.conchandbucket.com.
Paradise Point: Food and swimming and music - www.paradiseoceanclub.com
Actitivities: Casemate Museum - www.fmauthority.com/visit/casemate-museum; Miss Hampton II Harbor Cruises - www.misshamptoncruises.com; Virginia Air & Space Museum - www.vasc.org;
Hampton Carousel - hamptonroads.com
General Info: www.visithampton.com