Visiting Hampton, Va

Travel to Hampton, Va – Tamar Alexia Fleishman

Hampton, Virginia traces its city origins since 1610. The harbor’s military strategic importance to the country cannot be overstated: throughout colonial times, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and even through the modern era, people have fought to protect Hampton’s natural assets. Today, you’ll find a port city bustling with live music, museums, Hampton University, world-class Chesapeake Bay seafood and proximity to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

 The Crowne Plaza in downtown Hampton is amazingly convenient to most tourist destinations: it’s steps away from boat tours, the visitors’ center, restaurants and bars. On weekends, a free shuttle runs people from the hotel to the Peninsula Town Center, which is full of shops, restaurants, and a major event venue. Many of the Crowne Plaza’s rooms overlook the water and they have a décor reminiscent of first-class luxury cruiseliners. Thoughtful additions like complimentary eyemasks and lavender room spray add to the sense of comfort. The hotel has a jazz bar in the lobby, as well as an upscale restaurant.

Queens Way is a street with lots of activity, including the Hampton Downtown Market Place on Saturday mornings and the Summer Street Fest Series on Saturday nights. With its proximity to water, outdoor beer gardens, live music, and several restaurants with Cajun cuisine, it has a bit of a New Orleans feel. The Market features regional produce, live bands, an upscale men’s clothier, as well as a Bloody Mary/local beer stand. The street fest has people of all ages and backgrounds listening to a wide range of music for free.

Hampton, Va’s Harpoon Larry’s is a real-deal, non-touristy, terrific seafood spot. It’s purely casual dressing — yet they have cloth napkins — and Southern rock plays in the background. Prices are quite reasonable and portions are generous. The seafood is extra fresh and you can even get crab meat on your hamburger. I checked it out for lunch.

Start off with a oyster shooter, which they make with a mild, fizzy beer and Bloody Mary mix. It’s in a nice sized glass, not a shot glass, only $1.95. The oyster is tender and ocean fresh. Very tasty!

Their oyster stew is made to order — takes a few minutes — but oh, so worth it! The bowl size is HUGE, garnished with a scoop of smashed potato in the center, bacon, plenty of plump oysters, scallions, sweet corn. The flavor is buttery and milky: very appealing.

If you order sweet potato fries, they’re hand cut and served with a special honey mustard sauce. Hush puppies have sweet onion flavor.

Harpoon Larry’s goes the extra distance on even the smallest details: buns are toasted for sandwiches.

Their crab cakes are flavored with black pepper, not overly breaded, mostly backfin crab, and maybe just a touch of Old Bay. You’ll know you’re not in Baltimore: they don’t serve their crabcakes with crackers and mustard.

They make their own desserts. The lemon pound cake with blueberries had blueberry cream, white chocolate icing, and was garnished with whipped cream.

Surf Rider has a number of locations around the Chesapeake Bay, including a Hampton, Virginia location. It’s a family owned restaurant that focuses on seafood made in a home-cooking way. Dress is casual and the place is definitely family friendly. The Hampton location is in the Blue Water Yachts Marina with great views, so feel free to pull your boat right up. The restaurant is wildly popular and they do not take reservations. Hampton has long been known as Crab Town, too.

Soups, veggies, the cakes, and pies are all homemade. They carry local beers.

The fried fish platter features tons of huge shrimp, fresh fish of the day (tonight was flounder), local oysters, and scallops. The seafood was all lightly hand breaded, sweet, and very fresh. It’s served with cocktail sauce and a rich tartar sauce. The portions are huge! I’m no dainty portion eater, yet I could barely make a dent in the generous platter. You can order it with two sides or with steamed broccoli with cheese sauce. It’s kind of their “thing”.

The Surf Rider crab pot is chock full of plump snow crab legs, shrimp, clams in the shell, spicy sausage, and corn on the cob. It’s served with melted butter on the side.

The Miss Hampton II Cruises are narrated cruises of Hampton Roads, with a seafarer’s view of Blackbeard’s Point, Hampton University, Fort Wool, and the Norfolk Naval Base. You’ll see famous aircraft carriers that have served all over the world.

The historic Hampton Carousel is a vintage wooden carousel downtown that was lovingly restored and that kids of all ages get a kick out of riding.

The Hampton History Museum brings  to life the beginnings of Tidewater Virginia, Blackbeard the pirate, African-Americans during the Civil War, commercial development at the turn of the century, and more.

The Virginia Air & Space Center and Riverside 3D IMAX Theater is the world-class facility for NASA Langley Research Center. There are over 100 interactive exhibits highlighting the growth of the air to space programs, including a room with a space-like walk and movie where the audience actually is put through the feel of being a barnstormer.

Buckroe Beach is a long, pretty stretch of beach, offering kayak and umbrella rentals, swimming, fishing, free concerts and movie nights.

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