I arrived into Hampton, Virginia by way of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, and the view was gorgeous! It takes you across Hampton Roads and under the main shipping channels of this historic and very pretty Virginia harbor city. Because this northern’ish harbor remains ice-free year round, it’s one of the busiest in the world. Add in Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world, and you’ve already got some understanding of Hampton’s historical significance.
Historic downtown Hampton, VA is completely walkable and totally charming, so if you’re in the area, make a point to spend quite a bit of time there visiting the attractions and enjoying the Chesapeake Bay waterfront. I was invited by the CVB to spend three days in Hampton when I came for Historic Garden Week at Fort Monroe, and I still feel like it wasn’t enough. There’s more I want to do!
So let’s talk about what to do and where to eat in downtown Hampton. (Keep an eye out for a future post on Fort Monroe and the Phoebus area.)
Hampton History Museum
If you’ve never been to Hampton before, start your visit at the Hampton History Museum. It’ll give context to so much of what you’ll see. Allow at least an hour to wander through the city’s 400 year historical timeline where you’ll discover the original Kecoughtan Indian settlement, the development of Hampton’s thriving port, the notorious pirate Blackbeard, contraband and the Civil War, and finally the present day air and space legacy. (Plan a visit.)
Read more: Annual Pirate Festival in Greenville, NC
St. John’s Church
Behind the Hampton History Museum lies St. John’s Church, the oldest continuous English speaking parish in North America. The beautiful brick church was constructed in the shape of a Latin cross, and if you like cemeteries, take a stroll amongst the headstones as the collection is really quite diverse. The oldest headstone dates back to 1701. (Plan a visit.)
How can you not love this little bit of nostalgia? The Hampton Carousel is one of only about 75 antique carousels still in existence today. In its heyday, it had its home on Buckroe Beach, and now it resides in a weather-protected enclosure on the downtown waterfront. No two solid hardwood-carved horses are alike, and the band organ and self-playing drums are original. It’s really quite a treat! Ride it for just $1. (Plan a visit.)
Virginia Air & Space Center
America’s space program was born right here in Hampton, Virginia, so there’s no better place to experience 100 years of flight. With three levels of exhibits, over 100 interactive displays, and a 5-story-high 3D IMAX Theater, everyone has something to get excited about!
The exhibits are amazing, and hands-on activities include traveling to Mars and exploring its surface with a rover, testing your fighter pilot skills in the new FA-22 Raptor, and visiting the Solarium, where you can see, stand next to and listen to the sounds of the sun. It’s very cool! (Plan a visit.)
Hampton University Museum
This is the oldest African-American museum in the U.S., and it’s housed in the original Hampton University library. The university was first called the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. Upon its founding, the university served to educate freed slaves (and later American Indians), and the extraordinary museum collection includes over 9000 African, African-American, Asian, Pacific and and American Indian artifacts, including Henry Osswa Tanner’s famous painting, “The Banjo Lesson”. Allow at least an hour to see everything. Admission is free. (Plan a visit.)
Get out on the water for a few hours and enjoy a narrated tour of the beautiful Chesapeake Bay and Hampton Roads Harbor where the infamous Monitor and Merrimac battle took place. You’ll also cruise by the Norfolk Naval Base with its giant warships, see Blackbeard Point and stop at Fort Wool with time to explore. (When I was in Hampton, the weather took a turn for the awful on the day I planned to take the cruise, so I totally missed out. But it’s a must-do!)
Downtown Hampton Restaurants
Conch & Bucket
Conch & Bucket could be considered upscale casual, but the exposed brick walls and fun chalkboard wall of specials keep the atmosphere cozy and comfortable. The menu is heavily seafood-based, but not completely. I enjoyed a perfectly cooked steak, mashed potatoes and some to-die-for mac and cheese. Great place to eat!
Venture Kitchen & Bar
Tapas to share and brick oven pizza — what could be better? The varied menu also includes salads and sandwiches, but I’m not one to pass up pizza very often, so after an appetizer of house-made (and square!) tater tots, I dug into the ‘Everybody’s Pizza’. Thanks for the tip to add ricotta cheese, Ryan. So yummy!
Comments & Reviews
Jam and Tea Blog says
Oh nice! It looks like there are some serious hidden gems in Hampton. Your photos are amazing. DO you think you could do this all in a day?
I’d allow a couple of days, or at least a day and a half. I think you’d enjoy it all so much more if you did it leisurely!
Michelle Kay says
Definitely putting Hampton on my must visit list! Your tip about checking out the visitor center first is great. I always forget that part when I visit somewhere new. Also, your food photos made me hungry! Ricotta cheese, is something I would have never thought to try! Thank you!
Candice Nikeia says
I haven’t been to Virginia in a really long time, but I love all the history. The buildings are so beautiful and the food looks so tasty! Thanks for sharing!
I love that you were visiting my home city! In response to Jam and Tea, above, no. I would not suggest trying to do it all in one day. Possibly a long weekend though. The Harbour tour is the majority of a day, just on its own (and so much fun, my husband, brother, and his wife all took a tour for our anniversaries, which are both in June). Plus, there’s stuff to do in our neighboring cities as well, and Hampton is only about 30-40 minutes from the historic triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown battlefield.
Kathy!!! Are you still living there? If so, next time I visit Hampton, we need to meet up!! And I agree with you about one day not being enough time to spend there. 🙂
Yes, I’m here! And I never plan to leave again (tried it once, got so homesick I couldn’t stand it, came back). I would definitely enjoy meeting up if you are back in the area sometime. It would be fun to meet you after all these years.
This was such a great post, too, and I was all proud and stuff because it’s my town! 🙂
Megan Ogden says
You just put Virgina on my travel bucket list! I might go here ASAP.
Sarah L says
I’d eat fresh seafood all day long and ride the carousel and visit all those great places.
Lois Alter Mark says
Okay, that food is enough reason for me to plan a trip! It looks delicious! And it seems like there are a lot of fun things to do in Hampton. Oh, and did I mention how good that mac and cheese looks?!
Rana Durham says
wow so many amaing places to go and i love the carnval scene. i believe the carnival is where i would go and not want to leave lol.
I have actually never been to Hampton, VA. Most of my VA knowledge is of the sounding DC areas. I do love any city with a nice harbor and good food!
St. John’s Church looks beautiful, I really do enjoy looking at churches & oldest headstone dates back to 1701, wow! Everything seems so well preserved, I don’t think I’ve ever been on a carousel, if I did I was pretty young.
Tania Potter - Soul Sense Coaching says
Lots of interesting things to see and do in Hampton, Liz, and those tater tots look to die for divine!
Alli Smith says
I’ve neve been, so I’d definitely begin at the History Museum. That vintage carousel is beautiful and the Harbour tour would be fun. Looks like a great place to visit. Oh, and that food looks delicious.
Azlin Bloor says
Great post, that very first image is sooo beautiful! I love places with lots of history, my family would totally enjoy the space centre, especially as our oldest is studying astronomy.
You can thank the Hampton CVB for that amazing shot! I just used it to create my featured image and show what a pretty view there is to enjoy. 🙂
Erin @ Stay at Home Yogi says
I live in Virginia, but have never been to Hampton! This post really makes me want to go! Especially the air and space museum, so cool! 🙂
I would love to visit – and I know that if we did, the space centre would be high on our list! It looks so picturesque in Hampton!
Sam B says
This makes me annoyed I live in the UK. I see so many beautiful places and of course, amazing food! Insanely jealous!
Julie Mason says
One of my favorite places on the East Coast! Great write up. You nailed it.
Oh so beautiful and the food looks so good! I’ve never been to VA before only drove pass it many years ago. One day I’d love to explore downtown Hampton, VA 😀
I would love to meander through the Hampton University Museum–I love museums!! Of course all the rest would quickly capture my attention!
Thanks for this article, I used to live in DC and explored VA lots I am yet to go to Hampton, so now I will have to. Great post, thanks for sharing.
R U S S says
I have not been there and I would love love love to go there. There are so many beautiful places to see in Downtown Hampton. St. John’s Church and Virginia Air & Space Center are the top places that I want to visit.
Janet W. says
This looks like a beautiful place to visit! There’s so many cities I’ve never been to and hope to travel to someday.
It looks like a lovely city. I haven’t been there in years and I would love to see how it has changed and evolved. That pizza looks fantastic too!
Gorgeous photographs! I love old carousels and the architecture here looks really interesting.
Stephanie Jeannot says
Such a lovely place. You captured the moments well. In other words, this area of the world must be loaded with lots of history. The church sounds nice too.
Terri Beavers says
What a fun place with so much to see and do. That food looks incredible as well so I’d love to try it sometime.
Борка Шаула says
I would love to visit both museums and carousel since I am pretty much childish! Venture Kitchen & Bar sounds great because I just love pizza and would love to try it made in brick oven. That must give the pizza some special taste!
Rebecca Bryant says
Oh my word what a beautiful place. Packing bags for a visit for sure. Thanks for the tour.
Colleen Lanin says
What a gorgeous city! Hampton has never been on my radar until now. Now I want to make this our next vacation trip. Thanks!
There are so many places to explore in this world, and it looks like I need to add one more. It looks like it’s a beautiful place and also a wonderful place to explore.
Pamela Gurganus says
I have never been to Hampton, but it sounds like a wonderful place to visit! I would love going to the museums and of course eating all the yummy food! 🙂
Heather @ Kraus House Mom says
It looks like a great place to visit, we love carousels and my husband would love the air and space center. I could really go for a few meals like that.
Melissa @ Married my sugar daddy says
You literally just convinced me to put Virginia on my must travel to before I die bucket list places for adventures! So much culture and fun in Hampton!
Oh my!, I have never been to Virginia. This is a great list and I would love to visit one day, so gorgeous!
Kita Bryant says
My husband and I got married here! We adore Virginia and think it’s just absolutely gorgeous! I would visit there again in a heartbeat!
What fun! I love roundup posts like this – full of inspiration!
Wow this looks like a beautiful getaway! I’d love to check out Downtown Hampton and especially try out Conch and Bucket since I love Seafood!
Karen Glatt says
The Conch & Bucket restaurant is a place that I want to visit! The food looks delicious and this city is amazing! All the sites to see right in this City. I want to go!
Jenn Gerlach says
This looks like so much fun. Makes me want to explore the city, and see what they have to offer for myself.
My old boss actually relocated to Hampton years ago because she visited and loved it so much! She is constantly trying to get me to come visit. Sounds like there is so much to do… Thanks for sharing, sounds like she isn’t the only one who loves it there 🙂
Sam | North East Family Fun says
Oh the food looks yummy – I would love to visit a space center! I bet they are so interesting x
There are so many great places to visit in Virginia! This is one place I have never been, but now I want to go.
I would love to go to Virginia! The Hampton University Museum sounds like so much fun to visit!
Christine Dodd says
What a beautiful waterfront setting. I’ve never been here but I’m sure it is stunning in the Autumn.
Chavonne Harvey says
Hampton, Virginia looks like a great place to visit. I think I would really enjoy dining at Venture Kitchen & Bar then heading to the Carousel.
Harriet from Toby & Roo says
Awesome tips for what to do! I absolutely love the look of that pizza! Hx
Jenn @ EngineerMommy says
This sounds like a fabulous place to visit. I used to VA with my parents when I was a kid. I’d love go back now with my kids!
This looks like a lovely place, I’ve heard good things!
Rhian Westbury says
What a great first view of the place and the church looks so quaint x
That first photo is gorgeous! I love city reflections.
The carousel looks most impressive! My kids and I try to go on them wherever we visit.
Conch & Bucket is making my stomach growl!
Keeping this in my backpocket! Thanks for the tips.
Wow! I had no idea there was so much to see and do in Hampton, Virginia! In fact, I might need to go there for the food alone…that mac n cheese looks AH-mazing!
Ana De- Jesus says
Hampton Carousel looks beautiful and like you said it really does have a touch of nostalgia. It reminds me of attending fairgrounds.
Katy Stevens says
Wow – there really is so much to see and do! The food looks amazing too!
Tiffany VanSickle says
Hampton looks like a wonderful place for a vacation! I’d love to visit the east coast some time! I’ve only been out west.
Jen Becerril says
That looks like a beautiful place to visit.Looks like you had fun.That food looks amazing.
Amy Desrosiers says
Virginia is my favorite state to vacation in. These have some of the best sites to see, and the natural beauty is apparent everywhere you look. Of course the food is good too!
Elizabeth O. says
I love visiting historical sites and attractions, there’s so much to learn from them and they definitely take you back in time. I think it’s quite nice out here, very relaxing and full of good food! I must take my kids here one weekend!
We took my son to visit Hampton University but we didn’t really explore the city. If we ever make it back there, we will definitely keep your list in mind!
Mimi "MimiCuteLips" Green says
I am a fan of the Hampton area, my cousin lived there and went to college. I’ve been to a few of these places, but I clearly need to go back and check out more.
I have never been to that part of Virginia before and it has been a long time since I have been to Virginia. My husband and I would love to travel the east coast next year and I will have to make sure we visit Hampton.
I’ve never been to Virginia before, but I’ve always wanted to go. I hear it’s beautiful there. I love all your photos. Historical places are the best to see. All the food looks great too!
Ashley @irishred02 says
Welcome to VA! We do have some greta places here in the state. I love how you showcased Hampton 🙂
Melanie Smith says
That place looks very cool. I really want to go there.
Reesa Lewandowski says
Awesome showcase of Virginia especially the Hampton area. It is so gorgeous and there is so much to do and see.
Kathy Myers says
Wow this place looks amazing. Will add it to our list next time we visit our son in Norfolk!
Chelley @ A is For Adelaide says
I have been through a lot of VA, but never here! What a beautiful area!
The church, Virginia Air & Space Center and food trip are the things I should not miss. Great list and suggestions, dear. 🙂
Looks like there is a lot to do there! My kids would love the Air and Space center!
What a beautiful place to visit and of course the food looks amazing. Greenfield Village in Michigan has an antique carousel and it’s such a beauty.
It has been years since I was in Virginia and didn’t do much for tourist visits. This looks like the perfect way to spend a day in Hampton.
Elizabeth O. says
I love going to historic sites, it’s an awesome learning experience especially for the kids. It takes you back in time and makes you realize how much has changed and why. I think this is a great place to visit especially since it’s also surrounded with good food!
Wow what a gorgeous place to visit. Downtown Hampton, VA looks like a wonderful place to experience.
Kayla @ TheEclecticElement says
This looks like such a gorgeous place to visit! Thank you for sharing some of these great attractions for when I eventually take a trip there. You always find the best places to visit!
Daphine H says
Wow everything looks so amazing. Will have to put this down as a place I have to visit. Thanks for all the wonderful info.
Toni | BoulderLocavore.com says
Sounds like a great place to visit! These attractions are a must-see! It makes me want to fly to VA right now!
Everything looks so pretty! I’d love to go visit with my family. My husband would love space center.
Franc Ramon says
Hampton has the old town feel that is both refreshing and mystical. It would really be a welcome change compared to the busy cities.
Dawn Lopez says
Hampton looks like a fun place to go and visit! That carousel looks like a really cool attraction. The pizza would be a big plus for me. I can appreciate a pizza with ricotta cheese!
Looks like a very cool place to visit! I love visiting new cities especially when they have historic downtowns! They are so much fun.
Rose Pingol says
Wow, what a wonderful adventure. I almost drool with that last picture!
Dawn gibson-thigpen says
OMG WHAT A GORG PLACE. i love all of the photos you took. very nice.
Karlaroundtheworld | Karla says
I appreciate the admission fee tip through Sea to Stars, I do intend to have a historical adventure there. I just love the sights of modern VA relished with classic old structures and places.
Chrishelle Ebner says
Hampton, VA sounds like a pretty cool place to explore. I would love to take a boat ride in the harbor and then have a wonderful seafood meal. Sounds like a place my husband and I need to visit.
from the airspace to the museum to the places to eat , i want a trip down to hampton now, hahahaha, i enjoyed reading this as it has alot of rich history and way of making one wish they are there. thanks for sharing.
anna nuttall says
What an awesome couple of days. Beautiful photos. xx
aziel morte says
what a beautiful place to visit with my family. I would love to go there and see it in live.
Nicole Etolen says
I like that Hampton carousel. Good to know that it is very affordable, will bring my son there.
Gervin Khan says
Brick oven pizza? Sounds great, it looks tempting too. I want to visit Hampton soon.
The church looks so quaint and full of character, amazing photos x
Rachel Mouton says
What a gorgeous place to visit. I love the carousel and the food looks amazing!
Your posts make me want to travel to America so very much! Looks like a gorgeous place to visit with loads of fab eats!
Ann Bacciaglia says
I have never been to Virginia before. Hampton, Virginia looks like an amazing place to explore. I would love to go to the Space Museum.
Melissa major says
Looks like an amazing place to visit! The food looks very nice 🙂
Tammilee Tips says
This looks like such an amazing city to be able to explore!! All of the food looks amazing, my husband and I love trying new foods when we travel.
Sounds like a place to visit. I’ve heard of Hampton, VA but never been myself. Would love to; it looks very lovely!
Robin Rue says
i have been to Virginia a couple times but never to the Hampton area. Looks beautiful!
Claudia Blanton says
sounds like a great place to travel to. I love how you added those restaurants to your places to visit, an essential part of any trip for this foodie, yum! Blessings
Heather S-G says
This makes me want to hop a plane..bus..train so badly! Looks like a lovely little place to visit. And oh, that food!
That first photo is beautiful. Another US city I never would have thought of visiting! I need to go to the US more
Lisa Rios says
I love visiting different places that has a historical background and Hampton sounds like one of them. The pictures are quiet beautiful and I am in love with that Museum and the Space Center. And those foods look absolutely delicious as well.
Looks like theres something to do for everyone! The food looks amazing and the museum is something I know my kids would love to explore. Definitley adding to my must visit since it is only a car ride away.
Tiina A says
The food looks absolutely delicious! The whole place seems to be a nice place to visit – thanks for your tips. I was actually a bit surprised that the harbour looks that modern.
Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy says
What a pretty place! All the food looks delicious too!
I didn’t realize that there was an Air & Space Center in Hampton. My husband is slightly obsessed with airplanes, especially WWII airplanes, and I thought we had visited every air museum along the east coast (maybe it just feels that way because I do not enjoy them as much as he does). I didn’t know that the space program began there. Honestly the “space” part of all of the air and space museums is what interests me (we have visited two of the space shuttles so far, the Enterprise in New York and Discovery in DC) so I am going to mention this to my husband for our next trip the the mid Atlantic states. The Hampton Carousel is gorgeous and also worth a visit.
Lisa Brown says
Lovely curb appeal at St. John’s Church; I would love to go to the Virginia Air & Space Center – the Apollo 12 command module looks like something I could never get into, how did the astronauts do it? The food looks great, I need that pizza.
Amber NElson says
I have never been to VA. Wow, that food alone makes me want to visit there!
That steak is making me hungry! I live in NC and have been wanting to take a trip to VA.
Looks like a fun and upbeat city. I have never been there. I would love to visit it someday.
Nicolas Puegher says
I always love the way you take the photo to describe what you want to write, I would love to do the same in the future.
Melanie Edjourian says
It looks like an interesting place to visit and the food looks amazing, yum!
Jamela P says
This looks like a fun place to visit. I have friends near this area, so this is the perfect excuse to visit!
Life as Mum says
Sounds like a great place to visit with many things to do!
Karen Glatt says
I want to go to Downtown Hampton Va and eat at the Conch and Bucket and take a Harbor tour. What a great place to spend the day or weekend and take in the sites!
Enricoh Alfonzo says
Ahhh the Hamptons
Love those mars mission exhibits.
Sounds and looks like a brilliant place to vacation too.
Caroline Barnes says
I’ve never been to Virginia but I’d love to go. This pizza looks so amazing, I’ll make sure to grab I slice whenever I visit.
Heather Hayes Panjon says
Looks Like A Wonderful City! The Pictures Are Beautiful! I’d Love To Visit Here Soon!
Eileen Kelly says
I have been to Norfolk but have not been to Hampton yet! What a great place to visit, so much to do and the food Yum! I am going down to Va this fall, and I would love to make this a stop off
I’ve been to Hampton once, many many years ago, but didn’t stay long! I had no idea all of this was there!
Marielle Altenor says
What fun! I’d go for the food. I love food! If I do go, I have to try the Hampton Carousel. I can’t recall the last time I went on a carousel.
Virginia is on my bucket list! I would totally go to the Air and Space museum as one of my first stops. Man, that pizza looks insanely delicious though!
Jasmine Watts says
Sounds like a great place to explore! All of the food looks delicious!
Rose Sahetapy says
I love to learn other city/town in US. You definitely gave interesting information about Hampton. It feels like I am there do the the tour through your photos. The food looks amazing.
This location has been on my bucket list for ages! I have to go X
The carousel looks and sounds beautiful and I could just eat that pizza!
Jessica Cassidy says
Wow! Look how beautiful Virginia is. I have never been in this beautiful state but my husband worked and lived there when he was still single with friends. I cannot wait to visit this place. Thank you for sharing information. It is very educational.
The London Mum says
What a greta place to vacation. My son would love the carousel.
Hampton VA is absolutely fantastic! Love how beautiful downtown looks!
Annie B says
Never been here but it is totally on my bucket list to check off. Awesome pictures too!
Celeste SunDragonLady Burgess says
Looks like you had a great time in Hampton, VA. I haven’t been there, myself, but when I do I will definitely have to try, .Conch & Bucket. Your meal looked absolutely delicious.
Mhaan A says
Great photos! It is also a nice place to explore with the whole family. Thanks for sharing!
Mhaan | http://www.mommyrockininstyle.com
Life as a Convert says
Looks like a gorgeous place filled with entertainment and learning adventures. I’d like to visit the museums.
Emily Rose says
Hampton looks like a great place to visit thanks for sharing so much information!