Intro by Jeff Maisey
The List by Bill Candler & Jeff Maisey
I recently took some friends of Veer Magazine sailing on the American Rover schooner. Everyone knew about the Rover, but most of the 60-some people had never been onboard. A common remark was, “Wow, this is great. I can’t believe I’ve never done this before.”
I suspect many of us can think of something we’ve often considered but somehow never found the time to do. Ten or 20 years go by and you’ve still never hand-picked strawberries in a Pungo field.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of 101 things to do before you die for residents of Hampton Roads as well as for those folks new to the area and visiting tourists. Feel free to use it as a check list. They are numbered but are in no particular order. How many have you done?
Enjoy – and get out and about this summer!
Hike, bike or take a tram ride to the remote False Cape State Park, with several beach and forested trails, with possible sightings of wild ponies, fox, deer, feral pigs, and wildfowl.
Visit Back Bay Wildlife Refuge with wetlands trails, an interpretive center, wildfowl viewing, and access to False Cape.
Attend a Virginia Symphony concert; take in a play at the Virginia Stage Company or one of several little theaters, and an opera presented by Virginia Opera.
Attend as many outdoor festivals as possible including the She-Crab Soup Challenge, Norfolk Greek Festival, Norfolk NATO Festival, Shamrockin’ in Ghent, Bayou Boogaloo, American Music Festival, Norfolk Harborfest, Hampton Blackbeard Festival, and Funk Fest.
Hike, bike, or take a tram or boat through Norfolk Botanical Gardens, one of the true gems of Southside with 155 acres of trails and water- and walkways though 52 themed gardens, including azaleas, rhododendron, a nationally recognized camellia garden, and an abundance of flowers and trees, some which hold state records.
Bike the three-mile Virginia Beach Boardwalk, in summer on recommended early mornings (to avoid crowds) on the designated bike trail, and on the Boardwalk itself in the off-season.
Go surfing at the Oceanfront between 1st and 5th Street. We have the Atlantic Ocean at our doorstep. Get in it!
Hike or drive into the Dismal Swamp’s Lake Drummond from the Suffolk side on the Wildlife Drive. Or canoe to mysterious Lake Drummond on the mile-long Dismal Swamp feeder ditch from Chesapeake.
Challenge yourself on the ropes course at the Virginia Aquarium’s six-level Adventure Park with 15 trails, 21 zip lines, and almost 200 challenge bridges
Go airborne at iFly at the Beach and feel what it’s like to skydive in a safe, monitored environment
Visit historic Smithfield, VA, with fine restaurants, lovely shops, an attractive, historic main street, and many side streets filled with elegant homes
Hike the five-mile Noland Trail in Newport News through forest, along lakes, over bridges, hill and dale for a great urban workout in the woods
Visit the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, one of the world’s finest nautical museums, featuring the recovered turret of the famous Civil War-era Monitor, famous participant in the first battle of ironclad ships.
Check out the annual Sand Sculpture Contest as part of the Neptune Festival in Virginia Beach.
Attend the many beer and wine festivals including Treasure Chest Fest, Fall Town Point Virginia Wine Festival, Virginia Beach Craft Beer Festival, Whistle Belly Festival, Common Grounds Fest and Virginia Beer Festival.
Cheer on marching bands, floats and more during the Grand Illumination Parade in downtown Norfolk.
Bike the Elizabeth River Trail south to north mostly along or near Norfolk’s waterfront from Harbor Park through many lovely coastal neighborhoods as well as Old Dominion University’s campus all the way to Lochhaven and Norfolk International Terminals
Visit the Weyanoke Bird and Wildflower Sanctuary in Norfolk’s West Ghent, open for walks from 9 am Saturday until 6 pm Sunday
Bike or walk and dine on Duke of Gloucester Street and make a point to seek out and tour the backyard gardens of historic Williamsburg. Many of the lovely gardens and side alleys and streets are open to visitors (except as noted as a private residence).
Visit the combined museum and visitor center facilities at both historic Jamestown and Yorktown’s battlefield, with many great forest, beach and shoreline trails for biking and walking, as well as archaeological digs often in progress at Jamestown.
Bike, walk, drive or run the beautiful 13½- mile Colonial Parkway along the York and James Rivers from Yorktown to Jamestown (or the reverse), a scenic drive that is a true area treasure.
Visit the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk for one of the country’s finest mid-size museums with more than 30,000 items in its care, featuring a world-class glass collection and well-trained, helpful guides rather than guards.
Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach, with the best of ever-changing modern, contemporary art exhibits from talents around the world, and an entire room dedicated to an enormous and breathtaking glass assemblage by the world-famous glass artist Dale Chihuly.
Hike the relatively new, nearly three-mile Windsor Castle trail in Smithfield, partly along the shoreline, past a vineyard, and over low hills and bridges through forest, also with weekend kayak rentals, and finish with a meal and a brew up in town at Wharf Hill Brewpub.
How many people know that Newport News Park is one of the largest municipal parks in the eastern United States? It’s got everything a park should have, including two golf courses, fishing, lakes, Civil War fortifications, campground, mountain biking and hiking trails, and more.
Take a Norfolk Naval Base bus tour and see the ships, carriers, and subs on the world’s largest naval base. Also, see it from the water on an Elizabeth River boat tour on the Victory Rover.
Take a sail on the Elizabeth River on the four-masted American Rover docked at Norfolk’s Waterside marina. Help raise the sails once under way.
Visit Norfolk’s Nauticus with interactive nautical attractions, an aquarium, films, and access to tours of the Wisconsin, the enormous battleship at the adjacent dock. While there, visit the free Hampton Roads Naval Museum. Enroll your young would-be sailors in the after-school Sail Nauticus program or have them learn to build a rowing skiff at the Tidewater Wooden Boat Workshop.
Forget the tolls! Get over there and bike or walk Portsmouth’s historic and beautiful Old Town and be charmed by the many port-style homes that will remind you of a mini-Charleston. Walk High Street and discover many fine restaurants and shops, plus the Virginia Children’s Museum, a must-see for the little ones. The Bier Garden features over 400 beers; the Commodore Theater has the largest movie screen anywhere!
Go see a non-fiction film and participate in the post-movie discussion on Wednesdays at the Naro Expanded Cinema.
Truly get away and disappear into 40 miles of biking and hiking trails in First Landing State Park from the Shore Drive north entrance in Virginia Beach; across the street is the park’s Bay beach and campground. At the south entrance of the park at the end of 64th Street at what’s called the Narrows on Broad Bay, rent a kayak, paddleboard, Jet Ski, or a motorboat or just enjoy the beach there.
Enjoy a beverage on the sidewalk patio at one of Colley Avenue’s locally-owned restaurants.
Visit the Great Bridge Locks Park and watch barges and boats get a lift or a drop in the canal lock there. The American Revolution’s little-known but significant Battle of Great Bridge was fought in the area.
Bike all the way from Williamsburg to Richmond on the brand-new Virginia Capital Trail.
Visit five historic James River plantations along scenic Route 5, including Westover, Shirley, and Berkeley.
Visit the War Memorial Museum in Newport News with an outstanding collection of personal artifacts, weapons, vehicles, uniforms, posters and much more, tracing military history from 1775 to the present.
Visit the U.S. Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis. If it has wheels or a track and a motor, you will see it here, with an example or an exhibit of every vehicle that moved the U.S. Army from place to place in war and peace.
Visit Fort Story for a two-fer: see the First Landing Cross at the spot where the English explorers and first Jamestown settlers allegedly first set foot on the beach of the New World in 1607. Then climb the steps of the Cape Henry Lighthouse, the country’s first, dating from 1792.
Avoid the crowds at a North End beach anywhere north of 43rd Street in Virginia Beach. As you go further north, up to Ft. Story at 89th street, the beach gets wider and wider. Includes access to the First Landing Park trails from 64th Street.
Attend the over-the-top St. Patrick’s Day Parade at Ocean View for an unforgettably wild and fun Irish time American-style. The crazies crow and the hooch flows but you can bring the kids. Eye candy for those who like weirdness.
Don’t miss Norfolk’s Stockley Gardens Art Show or the Boardwalk Art Show at Virginia Beach for two of the Commonwealth’s best shows, the Boardwalk ranked as one of the nation’s very top outdoor shows.
Take the kids for a horseback trail ride at one of several horse farms in southern Virginia Beach and Chesapeake.
Go natural, fresh, and organic and visit an area Farmers Market, including the Virginia Beach Farmers Market on Princess Anne Road, the Old Beach Farm Market Saturday’s at Croc’s and Norfolk Farmers Market on Church Street.
Rent jet skis, take a scenic boat ride, go head-boat or deep-sea fishing, whale-watching, or parasailing, all out in the ocean, from one of the many rental concessions at the Beach’s Rudee Inlet.
Bike or hike the Route 17 trail in Deep Creek for a car-free, 16-mile round-trip ride along the Dismal Swamp Canal on pavement that was once old Route 17.
Motorcycle or road-bike the lonely and little-traveled back roads of the Back Bay area and elsewhere in remote southern Virginia Beach and Chesapeake near or even over the North Carolina border
Enjoy a day at one of the area’s first-class theme parks of Busch Gardens, Water Country, and Virginia Beach’s Ocean Breeze waterpark.
Visit the Virginia Aquarium at the Beach for everything you would want to see in an aquarium, including sea-critter touch tanks, otter and seal pools, an IMAX Theater, a walking trail, the multi-level Adventure Park, and much more.
Eat your heart out, Smithsonian! We also have a terrific Air and Space Museum in downtown Hampton. A special treat are the popular flight simulator rides.
Watch a glass-blowing demo at the new Chrysler Glass Studio, already considered a big contributor to Norfolk’s growing reputation as one of the nation’s top destinations for world-class glass art and artists
And right across the street from the Chrysler is the d’Art Center, with more than 20 artists in residence in their studios. You can visit, chat, and watch them work and buy their creations right on the spot.
Hampton Roads is fast becoming a beer-lovers paradise with brewmasters at work in many recent and new regional craft brew facilities. Visit a brewery tasting room or take a brew tour of several craft breweries in the area. Complete the Coastal Virginia Beer Trail. Details at www.covabeertrail.com
Break the standard American grub habit and make a point to try one of the many ethnic restaurants in the area for new taste experiences. We’ve got South and Central American, East and West European, and Near, Far and Middle Eastern, etc. Don’t be scared to try that little place with the strange sounding name in the little strip shopping center – you might get a really exciting taste surprise!
See locals only at the Bay beach at Chick’s Beach and avoid all the itinerant tourist crowds at the Oceanfront.
Walk the fort walls behind the moat at Fort Monroe, one of the country’s newest National Monuments and a true area treasure. While there, bike or tour the grounds of the historic fort, visit the Casement Museum where Jefferson Davis was imprisoned after the Civil War and see Robert E. Lee’s home. You can have a beach party also while at Fort Monroe over at the Beach Club with its fine beach and huge pool and restaurant. Avoid a cover charge and take your boat there and beach it and enjoy the facilities.
Visit Munden Point Park in south Virginia Beach and rent a kayak and paddle in and around and along the Inland Waterway.
Take in a concert at the NorVa, a well-known venue popular with and featuring local and national rock bands, or one of the region’s many city outdoor and indoor concert venues. We have a wealth of them! Wanna know what’s coming to these local stages? Pick up VEER every month and you’ll see!
Go to a Tides game and drink beer and eat hot dogs and cheer for our team at Norfolk’s Harbor Park, or support the Admirals hockey team at Norfolk’s Scope.
Climb a difficult vertical wall indoors and get instruction on roping up to safely do same at the Beach’s Rock Gym.
Go mountain biking on several trails or rent a kayak to explore the waterways at the York River State Park.
Rent a room at Williamsburg’s Great Wolf Lodge and enjoy the huge indoor water park.
You are not local until you’ve had a barbeque sandwich with cole slaw and a side of baked beans at the iconic Pierce’s Pitt Bar-Be-Que in Williamsburg.
See on the ground, in the hanger and in the air one of the world’s largest collections of World War I and II classic airplanes at Virginia Beach’s first-class Military Aviation Museum.
Paddle and hike the woods and waters of Chesapeake’s Northwest River Park.
The kids will enjoy a ferryboat ride across the James River from Jamestown to Surry or the ferry ride from Knotts Island to Currituck. Take some bread to feed the swarms of gulls on the latter.
Go berry picking at one of several farms that open their fields to pickers in southern Virginia Beach or Chesapeake.
Go fishing. Try deep sea fishing by chartering a boat or cast your line off the pier.
Go to a football game at Old Dominion or Norfolk State Universities or the College of William and Mary.
See African-American, Native American, and Pacific and Asian art and artifacts at the Hampton University Museum on the lovely and historic campus. It is the oldest African-American museum in the nation with over 9000 objects in its collection.
Motorcycle, drive or bike the scenic back roads around the many Suffolk Lakes.
Camp locally overnight under the water oak trees at First Landing State Park and take a swim on the Bay beach there before returning to your campsite for the evening’s cookout.
Why not? Take the Amtrak train from Norfolk’s brand-new railroad station to Washington, DC’s Union Station, spend the night in a local hotel, and return the next day.
Take a country road drive from Great Bridge to Virginia Beach along Mt. Pleasant Road. On the way, stop by Bergey’s Dairy and get an ice cream. Oh, and go ahead and buy that inviting chicken pot pie in the cold case.
If you haven’t tried it yet, go ride The Tide from one end to another and see what all the fuss is about. We’ll bet you can’t help but think, “It would be nice to be able to ride this all the way from Norfolk to the Oceanfront.” Hmmm?
Sports fans can visit the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in Portsmouth.
Take a self-guided walking tour of the historic homes along Norfolk’s Freemason Street; then, from there, walk north across the Ghent Footbridge and stroll among the venerable mansions of Mowbray Arch along several streets.
Tour the Hunter House Victorian Museum on Freemason Street and see what it was like to live here in that bygone era.
GOLF! That new multi-level golf driving range with the huge threatening-looking net next to I-264; Sleepy Hole golf course/park; the ODU 9-holer; many top-notch Beach golf courses; etc etc.
Pull your vehicle up to the car port at Doumar’s and order a BBQ, limeade and ice cream as patrons have done for over 60 years.
Take the family to the Virginia Zoo and observe lions, tigers, giraffes and rhinos.
Fly a kite from the top of Mount Trashmore in Virginia Beach.
Go see a local band performing original music at the Taphouse Ghent, Shaka’s Live or Belmont House of Smoke.
Take-in an international performance presented by the Virginia Arts Festival.
Attend the Virginia International Tattoo at Scope.
Walk the Labyrinth at the Edgar Cayce ARE Center.
Have drinks on the Ocean View Pier at sunset.
Purchase fish right off the boat next to Dockside Restaurant near the Lesner Bridge.
Watch the stars or a laser show at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News.
Stroll the grounds and enter the historic Hermitage Museum & Gardens in Norfolk.
Join the Annual Olde Towne Ghost Walk in Portsmouth during Halloween season.
Drive across the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel.
Enjoy a tasting flight at Mermaid & Williamsburg Wineries.
Watch a fireworks display on the 4th of July in downtown Norfolk or the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.
Go antiquing in Phoebus on a Saturday morning.
Pitch in: Volunteer at a local soup kitchen; pick up trash on the sidewalk; clean the local rivers and Bay; help a non-profit sell beer; become a docent at a museum.
Attend a city council meeting in your municipality.
Sit in on an open mic night and play a song of your own – even if you make it up on the spot.
Attend a church, temple or masque service that is different from your faith or denomination. You’ll come away with a better understanding.
Attend a block party. It’s more fun when you can drink a beer and listen to live music in the streets of Ghent, downtown Hampton or Norfolk.
People watch at an outdoor café in Virginia Beach Town Center, Merchant’s Square in Colonial Williamsburg or Virginia Beach Boardwalk.
Go to a locally-owned coffee shop, have a cup of java and a conversation with someone you don’t know. Leave your laptop, cell phone and tablet at home. Consider it Digital Detox.