Exploring Hampton’s Historic Sites: A Travel Guide

historic sites in Hampton

Hampton, Virginia, is a treasure trove of historical landmarks and cultural experiences waiting to be explored. From its storied past at Fort Monroe to the vibrant streets of Phoebus, this travel guide will take you through some of the most iconic and hidden gems that Hampton has to offer. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature enthusiast, or someone looking to relax by the beach, Hampton has something for everyone. Dive into this guide to discover the rich heritage and exciting activities that make Hampton a must-visit destination.

Key Takeaways

  • Fort Monroe offers a unique blend of history and scenic beauty, with must-visit spots like the Casemate Museum and the Fort Monroe National Monument.
  • Phoebus is a charming neighborhood filled with historic streets, local eateries, and the picturesque Phoebus Waterfront Park.
  • Hampton’s Black History is deeply rooted and can be explored through specialized tours, historic sites like Emancipation Oak, and the legacy of Hampton University.
  • The Virginia Air & Space Science Center provides an educational and interactive experience with its exhibits, IMAX Theater, and various programs.
  • Downtown Hampton is a vibrant area featuring historic architecture, boutique shops, cafes, and the enriching Hampton History Museum.

Discovering Fort Monroe

Exploring the Casemate Museum

Begin your journey at the Fort Monroe Visitor & Education Center, where you can get an orientation and explore interpretive galleries. Don’t forget to pick up brochures, self-guided tour information, and your free timed-entry ticket to the Casemate Museum. The museum, housed within the 200-year-old fort walls, offers a deep dive into the site’s history from pre-colonial times to the present.

Walking the Fort Monroe National Monument

Take a leisurely walk around the Fort Monroe National Monument. The stone fort is surrounded by a moat, providing a picturesque setting for your stroll. Don’t miss the observation deck, which offers a spectacular vista of the old fort and its surroundings.

Historical Significance of Fort Monroe

Fort Monroe has played a crucial role throughout American history, from its construction in 1819 to its role during the American Civil War. The fort was a sanctuary for thousands of self-emancipated individuals seeking freedom. Today, it stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of those who fought for liberty.

Wandering Through Phoebus

Historic Streets of Phoebus

In Phoebus, located right off Interstate 64, you will find quaint streets filled with charming architecture, adventurous culinary establishments, and antiquing bargains. A National Historic District with a 400-year history, Phoebus has roots in the Civil War and both World Wars. Today, one of Phoebus’ many charms is the ability to reinvent itself. Phoebus not only survived 2020 but thrived, with the community coming together and new businesses opening.

Local Eateries and Shops

Phoebus is decadently paired with tapas or dessert at nearby restaurants. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register, Phoebus continues to maintain its distinct identity. For additional information, contact the Partnership for a New Phoebus at 757-727-0808. phoebusva.com.

Phoebus Waterfront Park

Phoebus, and Buckroe, and start and end at Fort Monroe. 2 p.m. – 6 p.m. Fort Monroe. hampton.gov/bikewalk

Phoebus Fall Fest

October 14

Historic Phoebus will transform into a vibrant outdoor street festival featuring handmade arts and crafts, community exhibits, food trucks, live music and craft beer. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Mellen St., Phoebus. phoebusvaevents.com

Ghost Walk at Fort Monroe

October 20 – 23

Dare to go on a walking tour exploring some of the unexplainable

Unveiling Hampton’s Black History

Hampton’s rich tapestry of Black history and culture is presented in the Family Tree Heritage Sites Guide available at the Hampton Visitor Center. From the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in 1619 to the significant contributions of African-Americans throughout the centuries, Hampton offers a profound journey through time.

Hampton was once called Kikotan by the Kecoughtan Native Americans living in the area. English settlers landed in 1607, which makes Hampton the oldest continually occupied English-speaking settlement in the United States.

Black History Tours

Embark on a guided tour that delves into the deep-rooted history of African-Americans in Hampton. These tours provide a comprehensive look at the pivotal moments and figures that shaped the community.

Emancipation Oak

The Emancipation Oak stands as a symbol of freedom and resilience. This historic tree is where the first Southern reading of the Emancipation Proclamation took place, marking a significant moment in American history.

Hampton University Legacy

Founded in 1868, Hampton University has been a beacon of higher education for African-Americans. The university’s legacy includes notable alumni and a commitment to preserving Black history and culture. The Hampton History Museum is currently conducting research on the legacy of African American watermen, oyster shuckers, sea laborers, and significant watermen.

Virginia Air & Space Science Center

historic site with aircraft and space exhibits in Hampton, Virginia

The Virginia Air & Space Science Center is the official visitor center for NASA Langley Research Center. Visitors can immerse themselves in the sun or train like an astronaut in the Be the Astronaut exhibit. The Adventures in Flight and Space Quest galleries feature historic artifacts, such as NASA’s Apollo 12 Command Module, and a three billion year old lunar rock. You can easily spend a couple of hours here exploring the 100 exhibits that take a broader look at air and space science activities at Langley and NASA. The center is the only place which houses all 4 generations of space capsules, making it a must-visit for history buffs.

Interactive Exhibits

The Virginia Air & Space Science Center boasts an extraordinary collection of NASA space capsules, including test–flight vehicles from the Mercury and Gemini programs, the Apollo 12 Command Module, and an Orion test flight, NASA’s next step in deep–space exploration. The center also features a digital airplane studio, literacy center, junior pilot training, and a planetarium without walls for all visitors to enjoy.

IMAX Theater Experience

Creating unmatched experiences and images that leap off a screen five stories high, the 3D IMAX Theater at the Virginia Air & Space Science Center offers a variety of educational films throughout the year. For current films and showtimes, visit VASC.org.

Educational Programs

The center offers a range of educational programs designed to inspire and educate visitors of all ages. From hands-on activities for kids to in-depth lectures for adults, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re a student, a teacher, or just a curious mind, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to learn and explore.

A visit to the Virginia Air & Space Science Center is an awe-inspiring celebration of aviation milestones, space exploration, and technological advances. From historic aircraft suspended from the Center’s 94-foot ceiling to the unforgettable space capsule display, there’s something to captivate every visitor.

Strolling Through Downtown Hampton

Downtown Hampton is a treasure trove of historic architecture, showcasing buildings that date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Walking through the streets feels like stepping back in time, with beautifully preserved structures that tell the story of the city’s rich past.

The area is home to a variety of unique boutiques and charming cafes. Whether you’re looking for one-of-a-kind gifts, local art, or a cozy spot to enjoy a cup of coffee, Downtown Hampton has something for everyone. The pedestrian-friendly streets make it easy to explore and discover hidden gems.

A visit to the Hampton History Museum is a must for anyone interested in the city’s past. The museum offers a comprehensive look at Hampton’s history, from its founding to its role in significant historical events. Interactive exhibits and engaging displays make it a fun and educational experience for visitors of all ages.

Downtown Hampton is the perfect blend of coastal beauty and old-town charm, offering superior regional cuisine, shopping opportunities, and a picturesque waterfront. Make your plans to visit and create unforgettable memories.

Relaxing at Buckroe Beach

Beach Activities

Buckroe Beach is a fantastic spot to unwind and enjoy the gentle surf of the Chesapeake Bay. Whether you’re looking to swim, fish, or simply take in the incredible views, this beach has something for everyone. The recently renovated boardwalk is perfect for a leisurely stroll, and you might even spot a dolphin in the water!

Picnic Spots

The park at Buckroe Beach is equipped with picnic tables and grills, making it an ideal location for a family outing. There are also plenty of shaded areas where you can relax and enjoy a meal. Don’t worry about finding a spot; there’s ample space for everyone.

Seasonal Events

Buckroe Beach hosts a variety of special events throughout the year, from sand soccer tournaments to triathlons. These events add an extra layer of excitement to your visit and offer something for everyone to enjoy. Be sure to check the local guide for upcoming events during your stay.

The Buckroe Beach Boardwalk is the perfect place to experience the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay. As you walk along the beach, take advantage of the recently added swing chairs and bike racks.

Exploring the Hampton Coliseum

Concerts and Events

The Hampton Coliseum is a hub for entertainment, hosting a variety of concerts and events throughout the year. Musical legends including Bruce Springsteen, Elvis, the Rolling Stones, Phish, and R.E.M. have performed at the Coliseum. Whether you’re into rock, pop, or classical music, there’s always something happening at this iconic venue.

Architectural Marvel

The Coliseum is not just about events; it’s an architectural marvel in its own right. Its unique design and structure make it a standout landmark in Hampton. The building’s innovative architecture has been a subject of admiration and study for years.

Visitor Information

Planning a visit to the Hampton Coliseum? Here’s what you need to know:

  • Location: Centrally located in Hampton, making it easily accessible.
  • Parking: Ample parking space available for visitors.
  • Facilities: Equipped with modern amenities to ensure a comfortable experience.

The Hampton Coliseum is more than just a venue; it’s a part of the community, welcoming hundreds of thousands of spectators, conventioneers, and locals each year to partake in entertainment, conventions, and sports.

Navigating Hampton’s Scenic Trails

Best Trails to Explore

Hampton offers a variety of trails that cater to all levels of hikers and nature enthusiasts. Sandy Bottom Nature Park is a must-visit, featuring 11 different trail systems. These trails are filled with wildlife, water views, and soft surfaces, making it a perfect spot for a leisurely walk or a vigorous run. Don’t miss the chance to explore Hampton Roads and view hand-curated trail maps and driving directions.

Wildlife Watching

One of the highlights of Hampton’s trails is the opportunity to observe local wildlife. Whether you’re an avid bird watcher or just enjoy the serenity of nature, you’ll find plenty to see. Keep an eye out for deer, various bird species, and other local fauna as you navigate through the scenic paths.

Trail Maps and Guides

To make the most of your trail experience, it’s advisable to use the available trail maps and guides. These resources provide detailed information on trail lengths, difficulty levels, and points of interest. You can easily find these maps online or at local visitor centers.

Hampton’s trails offer a unique blend of natural beauty and historical significance, making them a must-visit for anyone looking to explore the great outdoors.

Boating and Marinas in Hampton

Hampton is a haven for boating enthusiasts, offering a variety of marinas and boating activities that cater to all types of watercraft. The best of waterfront activities in Newport News can also be enjoyed here, making the Hampton River an ideal destination.

Popular Marinas

Hampton boasts several marinas, each providing unique amenities and services. Some of the most popular marinas include:

  • Wallace’s Marina
  • Bell Isle Marina
  • Old Point Comfort Marina
  • Bluewater Marina
  • Downtown Hampton Public Piers
  • Sunset Boating Center
  • Customs House Marina
  • Salt Ponds Marina
  • Southall Marina

Boat Tours and Rentals

For those looking to explore the waters without owning a boat, Hampton offers various boat tours and rental options. These services provide an excellent way to experience the scenic beauty of the area and learn about its rich history.

Fishing Spots

Hampton is also a great destination for fishing enthusiasts. The marinas and surrounding waters are teeming with fish, making it a perfect spot for both casual and serious anglers. Whether you prefer fishing from a boat or casting a line from the shore, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to reel in a big catch.

With five marinas built for watercraft ranging from sailboats to luxury yachts, the waterfront offers fixed and floating docks that accommodate all vessels from a dinghy to boats of more than one hundred feet in length. For small, and casual boaters, Downtown Hampton has floating docks for canoes, rowing sculls, and kayaks as well as a boat ramp where trailered vessels may be launched and recovered.

Historic Sites Cell Phone Tours

How to Access the Tours

Explore the wonders of Hampton at your own pace with our free, self-guided cell phone tours—a perfect way to dive deep into the city’s rich history and culture. Get ready to time-travel through Hampton’s storied past. These tours are your ticket to a journey that transcends time, where every site holds a chapter of our city’s remarkable history. From tucked-away historical sites to iconic landmarks, each tour is a journey of discovery waiting to be experienced.

Highlighted Sites

Wander through our historic city, and at each stop, let captivating audio narratives transport you to the moments that have shaped Hampton into the charming coastal gem it is today. Feel free to follow the tour at your own rhythm, embracing detours that lead you to discover hidden gems, restaurants, attractions, and more along the way!

Tips for an Enjoyable Tour

  • Ensure your phone is fully charged before starting the tour.
  • Bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes.
  • Keep a bottle of water handy, especially during warmer months.
  • Take your time to explore and enjoy each site.

Embrace the freedom to explore Hampton’s rich history, architecture, and culture on a guided walking tour. Future developments aim to enhance the waterfront.

Hampton’s Breweries and Distilleries

Local Breweries to Visit

Hampton is home to a vibrant craft beer scene with several notable breweries. 1865 Brewing Company stands out as the first Black-owned brewery in Hampton Roads, offering a unique blend of coffee, beer, and non-alcoholic cocktails. Another must-visit is the Bull Island Brewery, known for its waterfront views and diverse beer selection. Don’t miss out on the Oozlefinch Craft Brewery, located at historic Fort Monroe, which combines history with innovative brews.

Distillery Tours

For those interested in distilled spirits, The Vanguard Brewpub and Distillery is a premier destination. Housed within the historic Hampton Armory, it features Caiseal Beer & Spirits, brewed and distilled on-site. Visitors can enjoy live music, seasonal menus, and private rooms for special events. Signing up for the Toast the Coast Pass can get you special discounts and prizes at various locations.

Tasting Experiences

Tasting experiences in Hampton are diverse and delightful. At Sly Clyde Ciderworks, you can savor a variety of ciders made from locally sourced apples. The St. George Brewing Company offers a range of craft beers that cater to all palates. Many of these venues also host events and festivals, making them perfect spots for adventurers, foodies, and craft beer fans alike.

Hampton, Virginia has special discounts for all of these travelers – and many more too!


Exploring Hampton’s historic sites offers a unique journey through time, where every corner of the city tells a story of its rich past. Whether you’re wandering through iconic landmarks, enjoying guided tours, or discovering hidden gems, Hampton provides an unforgettable experience for every traveler. From its captivating museums to its scenic tours, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So pack your bags, bring your curiosity, and get ready to create lasting memories in this charming coastal gem. Hampton awaits you with open arms and a treasure trove of history to uncover.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the must-visit historic sites in Hampton?

Some of the must-visit historic sites in Hampton include Fort Monroe, the Casemate Museum, Emancipation Oak, and the Hampton History Museum.

Are there guided tours available in Hampton?

Yes, Hampton offers a variety of guided tours including historical site tours, Black history tours, and cell phone tours for a self-guided experience.

What can I do at Fort Monroe?

At Fort Monroe, you can explore the Casemate Museum, walk through the Fort Monroe National Monument, and learn about its historical significance.

Where can I learn about Hampton’s Black history?

You can learn about Hampton’s Black history through Black history tours, visiting Emancipation Oak, and exploring the Hampton University Legacy.

What family-friendly activities are available at the Virginia Air & Space Science Center?

The Virginia Air & Space Science Center offers interactive exhibits, an IMAX theater experience, and educational programs suitable for families.

Are there any scenic trails in Hampton?

Yes, Hampton has several scenic trails perfect for exploring, wildlife watching, and enjoying nature. Trail maps and guides are available for visitors.

What can I do at Buckroe Beach?

At Buckroe Beach, visitors can enjoy beach activities, picnic spots, and seasonal events throughout the year.

Where can I find local breweries and distilleries in Hampton?

Hampton has several local breweries and distilleries that offer tours and tasting experiences for visitors.

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