The Top 11 Things to Do in Hampton, Virginia

Hampton Marina
Hampton Marina.

Rachel Cooper

The coastal town of Hampton, Virginia, located between Virginia Beach and Colonial Williamsburg, offers visitors a variety of attractions including museums, historic sites, beaches, wildlife refuges, shopping and dining. U.S. military history and culture have a big influence on the Hampton Roads area, as Langley Air Force Base is located to the north and Naval Station Norfolk (the largest Navy base in the world) is located just south of town. You can easily spend a few days here and combine your visit with a side trip to some of the other popular destinations around the region. Use this guide to plan your visit and enjoy the best things to do in Hampton, VA.

01 of 11

Explore the Virginia Air and Space Center

Virginia Air & Space Center

Rachel Cooper

This museum is the official visitor center for NASA Langley Research Center and home to more than 100 historic aeronautic and space exploration exhibits. Artifacts on display include the Lunar Excursion Module Simulator used by astronauts like Neil Armstrong in training to land on the moon, a three-billion- year-old moon rock, a Mars meteorite, and more. The Center also boasts the only place in the world you can see all four NASA space capsules, including test flight vehicles from Mercury and Gemini programs, to the Apollo 12 Command Module, and an Orion test flight, NASA’s next step in deep space exploration. "Engineer it! An Imagination Playground" is a playground that features larger-than- life blocks for giant scale buildings and tabletop blocks for smaller hands. Families can also explore together in the state-of- the-art NASA Robotics Laboratory. Digital IMAX films and special programs bring science, technology, engineering, and math to life, and offer adventure for the entire family.

600 Settlers Landing Rd, Hampton, VA. Open year-round. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon-Sat, Noon-5 p.m. Sunday. 

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Visit the Hampton History Museum

Hampton History Museum
Photo courtesy of the Hampton Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Hampton History Museum chronicles life in America through the story of this city from early Native American culture to man’s reach into space. Ten galleries share the personal stories of explorers, pirates, and men and women working along the Chesapeake Bay, and illustrate profound changes to our nation. Hampton’s history includes dramatic moments on the world stage including the American Revolution, War of 1812, and the American Civil War, as well as pivotal events in our culture – such as the “Contraband Decision,” the first step toward freedom for millions of African Americans held in slavery.

120 Old Hampton Ln, Hampton, VA. Open year-round. Hours: Mon-Sat 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sun 1-5 p.m. 

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Take a Swim at Buckroe Beach

Buckroe Beach
Photo courtesy of Hampton Convention and Visitors Bureau

Located along the Chesapeake Bay, just north of Downtown Hampton, the expansive beach offers an ideal place for a day of fun in the sun. The park has a children's playground, restrooms and a stage pavilion for community events. The beach and park is open daily sunrise to sunset. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer season. Kayaks and standup paddle boards are available for rent Memorial Day through Labor Day.

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Attend an Event at the Hampton Coliseum

Hampton Coliseum
Photo courtesy of the Hampton Convention and Visitors Bureau

This cool architectural structure hosts a variety of events throughout the year including concerts, family events such as Ringling Circus and Disney on Ice, sporting events such as Monster Jam, World Championship ICE Racing, WWE and much more.

1000 Coliseum Dr, Hampton, VA.

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05 of 11

Take a Cruise on the Miss Hampton II

Miss Hampton II

Rachel Cooper

This three hour narrated cruise is unique as it includes an in-depth view of the massive warships and aircraft carriers at the Norfolk Naval Base. The double-decker tour boat cruises the Hampton Roads harbor and Chesapeake Bay providing panoramic views of commercial cargo ships, Blackbeard’s Point, Fort Monroe and the gray fleet of the world’s largest naval installation. Passengers also disembark at Fort Wool for a 35 minute historic walking tour of the island.

Cruises depart from 710 Settlers Landing Rd, Hampton, VA mid-April through Oct. 31, Tues-Sat 11 a.m. and Sun 2 p.m.

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Visit the Hampton University Museum

Hampton University Museum

Rachel Cooper

Hampton University, founded in 1868, is a short walk from downtown. The museum is a surprising gem. The campus is home to the oldest African American museum in the U.S. and maintains a collection of more than 1,200 cultural artifacts and traditional and contemporary works of art. 

Address: Hampton University, 100 E Queen St, Hampton, VA. Hours: Mon-Fri 8 a.m.-5 p.m. & Sat 12 p.m.-4 p.m. Closed Sun and major campus holidays. Free admission.

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Take a Walking Tour of Fort Monroe and Visit the Casemate Museum

Fort Monroe
Photo courtesy of Hampton Convention and Visitors Bureau

Located on the 565-acre peninsula known as Old Point Comfort, Fort Monroe is the largest stone fort ever built in the United States. The site was an active US Army post from 1823-2011 and is now operated by the Fort Monroe Authority and the National Park Service. The museum is located in the fort’s casemates, which are interconnected gun chambers within the fort walls. Exhibits chronicle the history of the site from pre-colonial times to the present. During the Civil War, Fort Monroe was a Union stronghold and attained the nickname “Freedom’s Fortress” as a shelter for thousands of enslaved freedom seekers. Visit the cell where Jefferson Davis was imprisoned and climb atop the fort’s ramparts for views of the surrounding waterways.

Address: 20 Bernard Rd, Hampton, VA. Hours: Open year-round 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily Memorial Day through Labor Day, Tues.-Sun. the remainder of the year. Free admission.

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Take a Ride on the Hampton Carousel

Hampton Carousel
Photo courtesy of the Hampton Convention & Visitor Bureau

Built in 1920, the carousel is completely restored to its original beauty and housed in its own weather-protected pavilion on the city’s downtown waterfront. It is one of only 170 antique wooden merry-go- rounds still existing in the U.S.

Address: Located in front of the Virginia Air and Space Museum, 600 Settlers Landing Rd, Hampton, VA. Hours: Open April through Dec. Tues-Sun 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

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09 of 11

Visit the Oozlefinch Craft Brewery

Oozlefinch Brewery
Photo courtesy of Hampton Convention and Visitors Bureau

With its prime setting adjacent to the Fort Monroe National Monument, the brewery offers a wide variety of beers and scenic views of the fort and the waterfront. There is a tap room and outdoor seating. Local food trucks are on site.

Address: 81 Patch Rd, Fort Monroe, VA. Hours: Open daily, Sun-Thurs 1:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 1:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m.

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Enjoy Some Summer Fun at the Paradise Ocean Club

Paradise Ocean Club
Photo courtesy of Hampton Convention and Visitors Bureau

The site includes a private beach, Olympic sized swimming pool with water slide and diving board, kids’ pool, Tiki Bar, cabanas for rent, picnic area, snack bar, tennis courts, special events, live music all weekend on the deck and Paradise Raw Bar and Grill, a full service restaurant.

Address: 509 Fenwick Rd, Fort Monroe, VA. Hours: Open May through Labor Day. Sun-Thurs 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri & Sat 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

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Explore Grandview Nature Preserve

Grandview Nature Preserve
Photo courtesy of Hampton Convention and Visitors Bureau

The nature preserve forms the northeast corner of the city of Hampton and is comprised of more than 475 acres of salt marsh, tidal creeks, and Chesapeake Bay beachfront. The preserve is a great location to beach comb, observe the migratory birds, and discover the wonders of wetlands.

Address: State Park Dr, Hampton, VA. Hours: Open year- round from sunrise to sunset daily.