Hampton Roads

Hampton Roads

Coordinates: 36°58′N 76°22′W / 36.967°N 76.367°W / 36.967; -76.367

Hampton Roads
Map of Hampton Roads  Formerly known as Tidewater, Virginia[1] 

Common name: Hampton Roads
 Formerly known as Tidewater, Virginia[1]
Largest city Virginia Beach
Other cities  - Norfolk
 - Chesapeake
 - Newport News
 - Hampton
 - Portsmouth
 - Suffolk
 - Poquoson
 - Williamsburg
Population  Ranked 36th in the U.S.
 - Total 1,671,683 (2010 Census)
 - Density 2647/sq. mi. 
Area sq. mi.
1364.4 km²
State(s)   - Virginia
 - North Carolina
 - Highest point N/A feet (N/A m)
 - Lowest point 0 feet (0 m)

Hampton Roads is the name for both a body of water and the Norfolk–Virginia Beach metropolitan area which surrounds it in southeastern Virginia, United States. Hampton Roads is notable for its year-round ice-free harbor, for United States Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, NASA, Marine Corps, and Army facilities, shipyards, coal piers, and hundreds of miles of waterfront property and beaches, all of which contribute to the diversity and stability of the region's economy.

The water area known as Hampton Roads is one of the world's biggest natural harbors (more accurately a roadstead or "roads"), and incorporates the mouths of the Elizabeth River and James River with several smaller rivers and itself empties into the Chesapeake Bay near its mouth leading to the Atlantic Ocean.[2].

The land area (also known as "Tidewater"[1]) includes dozens of cities, counties and towns on the Virginia Peninsula and in South Hampton Roads. Some of the more outlying areas from the harbor may or may not be included as part of "Hampton Roads", depending upon the organization or purpose. For a commonly used example, as defined for federal economic purposes, the Hampton Roads metropolitan statistical area (MSA) additionally includes one county in northeastern North Carolina and two counties in Virginia’s Middle Peninsula. Officially, the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA has a population of about 1.7 million, the 36th-largest metropolitan area in the United States.[3][4]

"Hampton Roads" (or "Tidewater") is a "vernacular region"; that is, a distinctive area where the inhabitants collectively consider themselves interconnected by a shared history, mutual interests, and a common identity. Such regions are "intellectual inventions" and a form of short-hand to identify things, people, and places. Vernacular regions reflect a "sense of place", but rarely coincide with established jurisdictional borders.[5]

The area is steeped in 400 years of American history and hundreds of historical sites and attractions in the area draw visitors from around the world each year. The harbor was the key to the Hampton Roads area's growth, both on land and in water-related activities and events. Ironically, the harbor and its tributary waterways were (and still are) both important transportation conduits and obstacles to other land-based commerce and travel. Creating and maintaining adequate infrastructure has long been a major challenge. The Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) and the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel (MMMBT) are major harbor crossings of the Hampton Roads Beltway which links each of the largest population centers of Hampton Roads. In 2007, the new Hampton Roads Transportation Authority (HRTA) was formed under a controversial state law to levy various additional taxes to generate funding for major regional transportation projects, including a long-sought and costly third crossing of the harbor of Hampton Roads.



Counties of the metropolitan area

The U.S. Census Bureau defines the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA as the 16 cities and counties of Virginia and North Carolina listed below. While the borders of what locals call "Hampton Roads" may not perfectly align with the definition of the MSA, Hampton Roads is most often the name used for the metropolitan area.

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA is a U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). According to the 2010 Census its population is 1,671,683.[6][dead link]

According to the 2010 Census, the racial composition of Hampton Roads was as follows:


Note: Since a state constitutional change in 1871, all cities in Virginia are independent cities and they are not legally located in any county. The OMB considers these independent cities to be county-equivalents for the purpose of defining MSAs in Virginia. Each MSA is listed by its counties, then cities, each in alphabetical order, and not by size.

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA or more commonly known as the Hampton Roads Metropolitan area includes areas in Virginia and the State of North Carolina.

The MSA consists of these locations in Virginia:[8]

The MSA also includes the following location in North Carolina:


The term "Hampton Roads" is a centuries-old designation that originated when the region was a struggling English outpost nearly four hundred years ago. The name is believed to have originated from the combination of two separate words.

The word "Hampton" honors one of the founders of the Virginia Company of London and a great supporter of the colonization of Virginia, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton. In the easternmost part of the new colony, downstream from Jamestown, the early administrative center was known as Elizabeth Cittie [sic], named for Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of King James I, and formally designated by the Virginia Company in 1619. (The Elizabeth River was also named for the princess).

The town at the center of Elizabeth Cittie became known as simply "Hampton", and a nearby waterway was designated Hampton Creek (also known as Hampton River). The town (and later city) of Hampton was the county seat of Elizabeth City County for over 300 years, until they were politically consolidated into the current large independent city known as Hampton, Virginia, in 1952. The City of Hampton thus became one of the large cities of Hampton Roads, of which four others also grew to the larger sizes by consolidating with neighboring jurisdictions such as counties and towns in the mid-twentieth century.

A land area to the north across the bay in what is now called "the Eastern Shore" became known as Northampton. Another area south of the James River became Southampton. As with Hampton, both of these names also remain in use in modern times.

The term "Roads" as applied to a water channel[9] is used elsewhere. Examples include Castle Roads, in another of the Virginia Company's settlements, Bermuda, and Lahaina Roads, in Hawaii. Signifying the safety of a port, the word "roads" (also called roadstead) in nautical terminology of the day meant "a place less sheltered than a harbor where ships may ride at anchor."

The combination of the words as "Hampton Roads" was recorded as the channel linking the James, Elizabeth, and Nansemond rivers with the Chesapeake Bay in an act of the Virginia General Assembly in 1755.[1] Though it may be a misnomer, Hampton Roads has become well-known as the "world's greatest harbor." This is partially because it is the northernmost major East Coast port of the United States which is normally ice-free year round. The latter status is claimed with the notable exception of extraordinarily cold winter of 1917, which was the entire U.S.'s coldest year on record.

Although the designation initially applied to the water area, the region has also come to be known as "Hampton Roads", a label more specific than the term "Tidewater Virginia", which could by implication, include other areas of tidal lands in eastern Virginia. The U.S. Postal Service changed its postmark from "Tidewater Virginia" to "Hampton Roads, Virginia" beginning in 1983.[1]


The harbor area of Hampton Roads, from official state map of pre-civil war Virginia circa 1858. image from the Library of Virginia

The first colonists arrived in 1607 when English Captain Christopher Newport's three ships, his flagship Susan Constant, the smaller Godspeed, and even smaller Discovery landed in April 1607 at Cape Henry along the Atlantic Coast in today's City of Virginia Beach, an event now known as the "First Landing." However, they moved on, under orders from the Virginia Company of London, the crews and new colonists sought a more sheltered area up one of the rivers. Their major concern was other European competitors such as the Spanish, who had earlier discovered the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's rivers, and had even in 1570 begun a small settlement on the Virginia Peninsula known as the Ajacan Mission, which had failed.

During 18 days of exploring the area, they surely saw the enormous harbor of Hampton Roads, and some of the party must have appreciated its possibilities. However, after exploring the James River west at least as far as present-day Hopewell, they agreed upon Jamestown Island, where they established the first successful English colony in the New World on May 14, 1607.[10]

Despite the defensive advantages of that location against Spanish attacks, the low and marshy site at Jamestown proved a very poor choice in many other ways. More than five years of fragile existence and high mortality rates followed including the Starving Time of 1609–10 when over 80% of the 500 colonists perished before the future of the Virginia Colony began to appear more promising. The change came about with the just-in-time arrival of a new Governor, Lord De La Warr, and a new colonist with a successful business idea named John Rolfe, who established the Virginia tobacco industry.[10]

For centuries, the harbor and rivers of Hampton Roads have been ideal locations for both commerce and for many major shipyards. Some were established as early as the late 18th century such as the Gosport Navy Yard in what is now the City of Portsmouth.

The harbor was also a key point for military control of the region. Even the earliest settlers created fortifications at Old Point Comfort by 1610 against potential attacks by ships of Spanish or other unfriendly European forces.

Revolution and War of 1812

Important conflicts of the American Revolutionary War involved Norfolk and Craney Island (at the mouth of the Elizabeth River in Portsmouth). It was at Norfolk where the last Royal Governor of the Virginia Colony, Lord Dunmore, departed mainland Virginia for the last time.

The first naval action of the War of 1812 took place on July 8, 1812, when the Bermuda sloop, HMS Whiting, its crew oblivious to the US declaration of war, dropped anchor in Hampton Roads. As its captain was being rowed ashore, the Royal Naval vessel was seized by the American privateer Dash, which happened to be leaving port.

Under the new United States government, by the 1830s, the entrance from Chesapeake Bay was defended by Fort Monroe, built by the U.S. Army beginning in 1819 on Old Point Comfort, and by Fort Wool, built as Fort Calhoun in 1829, on a small island called the Rip Raps near the middle of the channel (and now adjacent to one of the manmade islands of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel). Much work in the building of these fortresses in the early 19th century was done by a 24-year-old engineer in the U.S. Army, a Lieutenant named Robert E. Lee.

Battle of Hampton Roads

Civil War

During the American Civil War (1861–1865), the famous Battle of Hampton Roads between the first American ironclad warships, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (ex-USS Merrimack) took place off Sewell's Point, on March 8–9, 1862. That battle was inconclusive, but later in 1862, Union forces took control of Hampton Roads, Norfolk, and the lower James River. However, their efforts to take the Confederate capital of Richmond via the James River with their vastly superior Navy were thwarted by a strong Confederate battery position high above a bend in the river about 8 miles (13 km) below Richmond at Drewry's Bluff.

Fort Monroe was the launching place for Union General George McClellan's massive 1862 Peninsula Campaign, a land campaign of many months which began at Fort Monroe and advanced up the Virginia Peninsula, with a Siege at Yorktown and another battle at Williamsburg before the Union Army almost literally reached the gates of Richmond, ending at the Chickahominy River within earshot of the city's church bells, according to the journals of Union soldiers. However, the Confederates mounted a credible defense of their capital city, and McClellan's campaign failed to capture Richmond, ending in the Seven Days Battles, during which the Union Army withdrew, effectively extending the War for almost three more years.

On February 3, 1865, as the Confederacy was near total collapse, President Abraham Lincoln met with three senior Confederates in an effort to negotiate for peace (the "Hampton Roads Conference"). Lincoln wanted the states to return to the Union and indicated the Union would pay for the slaves. The Confederates insisted their demand was complete independence, so the 4-hour conference ended in failure.[11]

Beginning in 1861, some of the former slaves found refuge in a camp near Fort Monroe, which remained in Union hands throughout the War. There, the commander, Union Army General Benjamin F. Butler, a lawyer by training, declared them to be "Contraband of war". On that legal basis, Union forces refused to return them to Confederate owners as would have been the practice even in many "free states" before Virginia seceded and declared itself a foreign power. Soon, word spread, and many slaves were understandably anxious to become "contraband."

Although many of the "contraband" men at Hampton and elsewhere during the War volunteered and became part of the United States Colored Troops (USCT), others and the women and children grew in increasing numbers near Fort Monroe in Elizabeth City County. From the wood and materials salvaged from the remains of the Town of Hampton, which had been burned earlier by retreating Confederates, they built the Grand Contraband Camp, near, but outside the protective walls of the Army base. It was the first self-contained African American community in the United States.


Close by is the Emancipation Oak, on the grounds of the school for them which grew to become Hampton University. Beginning as a normal school founded to train teachers, Hampton University was established by church groups and former Union Army officers. Early educators of the era included Mary Smith Peake and former Union Army General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, who was himself the son of missionaries, and had commanded a USCT force during the War. Among the earlier students was a young former slave named Booker T. Washington, who became a famed African-American educator and was the first head of present-day Tuskegee University. The Emancipation Oak is part of the official logo of the modern city of Hampton.

20th century

The Jamestown Exposition for the 300th anniversary of the 1607 founding of Jamestown was held at Sewell's Point in a rural section of Norfolk County in 1907.

President Theodore Roosevelt arrived by water in the harbor of Hampton Roads, as did other notable persons such as Mark Twain and Henry Huttleston Rogers, who both arrived aboard the latter's steam yacht Kanawha. A major naval display was featured, and the U.S. Great White Fleet made an appearance. The leaders of the U.S. Navy apparently did not fail to note the ideal harbor conditions, as was later proved.

Beginning in 1917, as the United States became involved in World War I under President Woodrow Wilson, formerly rural Sewell's Point became the site of what grew to become the largest Naval Base in the world which was established by the United States Navy and is now known as the Naval Station Norfolk.

Twice in the 20th century, families of mostly African American heritage were displaced in entire communities when land along the northern side of the Peninsula primarily in York County west of Yorktown was taken in large tracts for military use during World War I and World War II, creating the present-day U.S. Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, which includes Cheatham Annex, and a former Seabee base which became Camp Peary.

Communities including "the Reservation", Halstead's Point, Penniman, Bigler's Mill, and Magruder were all lost and absorbed into the large military bases.

Although some left the area entirely, many of the displaced families chose to relocate nearby to Grove, an unincorporated town in southeastern James City County where many generations of some of those families now reside. From a population estimated at only 37 in 1895, Grove had grown to an estimated 1,100 families by the end of the 20th century. (To its north, Grove actually borders the Naval Weapons Station property and on its extreme east, a portion of the U.S. Army's land at Fort Eustis extends across Skiffe's Creek, although there is no direct access to either base).

Colonial Williamsburg

A dream of one Episcopalian priest to save his 18th-century church building was to expand to create the world's largest living museum. Replacing Jamestown at the end of the 17th century, Williamsburg had been capital of the Colony and the new State of Virginia from 1699–1780. After the capital moved to Richmond in 1780, Williamsburg became a quieter and sometimes described as "sleepy" small town. It saw some action during the Battle of Williamsburg of the 1862 Peninsula Campaign during the Civil War. However, it was not located along any major waterway and did not have railroad access until 1881. Perhaps due to the secure inland location originally known as Middle Plantation, for Williamsburg, growth and great expansion of commerce in the 19th century did not occur as rapidly as in many other Virginia cities. The main activities were The College of William & Mary and Eastern State Hospital, each historic institutions in their own right. In addition to the city's historic past, quite a few buildings of antiquity from the 18th century were still extant, although time was taking a toll by the early 20th century.

The Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin of Bruton Parish Church initially had wanted merely to save his historic church building. This he accomplished by 1907. He later served in Rochester, New York for many years. Upon returning to Williamsburg in 1923, he began to realize that many of the other colonial-era buildings also remained, but were in deteriorating condition, and their continued longevity was at risk.

Goodwin dreamed of a much larger restoration along the lines of what he had accomplished with his historic church. A cleric of modest means, he sought support and financing from a number of sources before successfully drawing the interests and major financial support of Standard Oil heir and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his wife Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. The result of their combined efforts was the creation of Colonial Williamsburg, which included a restoration of the Wren Building at The College of William & Mary and a change of much of the downtown Williamsburg area into a 301-acre (1.2 km2) Historic Area of restored and replica buildings and surrounds to celebrate the patriots and the early history of America.

By the 1930s, Colonial Williamsburg had become the centerpiece of the Historic Triangle of Colonial Virginia. These were, of course, Jamestown, where the colony started, Williamsburg, and Yorktown, where independence from Great Britain was won. The three points were joined by the U.S. National Park Service's Colonial Parkway, a remarkable accomplishment built over a period of 27 years. The Historic Triangle area of the Hampton Roads region became one of the largest tourist attractions in the entire world.

In Dr. Goodwin's words: "Williamsburg is Jamestown continued, and Yorktown is Williamsburg vindicated."

Other notable Hampton Roads "firsts"

America's first free public schools, the Syms and Eaton free schools (later combined as Syms-Eaton Academy), were established in Hampton in 1634 and 1659 respectively. The Syms-Eaton Academy was later renamed Hampton Academy and in 1852 became part of the public school system, thus Hampton High School lays claim to being the oldest public school in the United States.[12] The trust fund created from the Syms and Eaton donations has remained intact since the 17th century and was incorporated into support for the Hampton public school system.[13]

In 1957, the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel was the first bridge-tunnel complex in the world, to be followed by the area's much longer Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in 1963. This was followed by the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel in 1992. The prevalence of bridge-tunnels in the area is due to the number of shipbuilding and naval bases in the area. Access to the open ocean from Norfolk Naval Shipyard (in Portsmouth), Naval Station Norfolk, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story, and Newport News Shipbuilding (where all U.S. nuclear aircraft carriers have been built) do not pass under any bridges. Passing under bridges was considered a potential threat to the U.S. fleet.

In the 1960s, the first astronauts of Project Mercury trained at the NASA facility adjacent to Hampton's Langley Air Force Base. Local features including Mercury Boulevard commemorate this fact.


The area consists of ten independent cities and seven counties. Each city is independent and has the powers and responsibilities of a county, including maintaining courts, schools, and a sheriff. Some cities do share these responsibilities with an adjoining county. These localities do come together to consult on regional issues.

The military has a large presence in the region. Area military facilities (alphabetically) include Camp Peary in York County, Fleet Training Center Dam Neck in Virginia Beach, Fort Eustis in Newport News, Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach, Fort Monroe in Hampton (scheduled to be closed by 2011), Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth (not to be confused with Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, in Kittery, Maine), Naval Station Norfolk, Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, the Coast Guard Integrated Support Command Portsmouth.[14] Saint Julian Creek Naval Depot Annex in Chesapeake, Fort Story in Virginia Beach, and Naval Weapons Station Yorktown in York County.

The federal government also has two major research laboratories there. NASA/Langley is the home of a variety of aircraft-related research, including several one-of-a-kind wind tunnels. It is on the northeast edge of Hampton, near Poquoson. Also, the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (known as 'Jefferson Lab')[15] conducts cutting edge physics research in Newport News; the lab hosts the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF)[16] and a kilowatt-class Free-Electron Laser.[17]

Virginia defines regional planning districts by law. Generally, members are independent cities and counties; incorporated towns are located within counties in Virginia. Localities around the state are allowed to belong to more than one Planning District, as their constituents may have interests which crossover individual planning district boundaries.

The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC) currently includes 16 cities and counties, all in Virginia, and represents over 1.6 million people.

The 16 jurisdictions include: the Cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, and Williamsburg, and the Counties of Gloucester, Isle of Wight, James City, Southampton, Surry, and York. It is noteworthy that there are incorporated towns located in three of the counties within the district (Isle of Wight, Southampton and Surry).[18] The differences between the service area of the HRPDC and the federally defined metropolitan area are:

  • Southampton County and the City of Franklin are not in the federally defined metropolitan area.
  • Mathews County is in the metropolitan area but not part of the HRPDC. The metropolitan area also includes Currituck County, North Carolina.


View of the Elizabeth River with Downtown Norfolk at top right. The carrier in the foreground is the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75).

The water area known as Hampton Roads is a wide channel through which the waters of the James River, Nansemond River, and Elizabeth River pass (between Old Point Comfort to the north and Sewell's Point to the south) into the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

The region has extensive natural areas, including 26 miles (42 km) of Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay beaches, the Great Dismal Swamp, picturesque rivers, state parks, wildlife refuges, and botanical gardens. Inland from the bay, the region includes Lake Drummond, one of only two natural lakes found in Virginia, and miles of waterfront property along the various rivers and waterways. The region's native flora is consistent with that of the Southeast Coastal Plain and the lower Southeast Maritime Forest.

The land area which constitutes "Hampton Roads" varies depending upon perspective and purpose. Most of the land area of Hampton Roads is geographically divided into 2 smaller regions: the eastern portion of the Virginia Peninsula (the Peninsula) and South Hampton Roads (locally known as "the Southside"), which are separated by the harbor. When speaking of communities of Hampton Roads, virtually all sources (including the three discussed in the following paragraphs) include the seven major cities, two smaller ones, and three counties within those two subregions.

In addition, the Middle Peninsula counties of Gloucester and Mathews, while not part of the geographical Hampton Roads area, are included in the vast metropolitan region's population. Also, a small portion of northeastern North Carolina (Currituck County) is included in the region's statistics. Due to a peculiarity in the drawing of the Virginia-North Carolina border, Knott's Island in that county is connected to Virginia by land, but is only accessible to other parts of North Carolina across waterways via a ferry system.

Each of the following current cities, counties and towns is included by at least one of the three organizations that define "Hampton Roads"

Hampton is a Hampton Roads community.

The Hampton Roads area consists of nine independent cities (which are not part of any county). Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach cover the Southside of Hampton Roads while Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, and Williamsburg reside on the Peninsula. Franklin borders Suffolk but the Census Bureau does not consider it as a part of the metro area.[19]

The metro area has one county in North Carolina, Currituck. The remaining counties, in Virginia, include Isle of Wight and Surry on the Southside, James City and York on the Virginia Peninsula, and Gloucester and Mathews on the Middle Peninsula. While Southampton is adjacent to Surry, Isle of Wight, and the City of Suffolk, the Census Bureau does not consider it part of the metro area.[19]

Five incorporated towns reside in the metro area including Claremont in Surry County, Dendron in Surry County, Smithfield in Isle of Wight County, Surry, Surry County's seat, and Windsor in Isle of Wight County. (Two other incorporated towns, Boykins and Courtland are located in Southampton County, and therefore, like the county within which they are located, are not part of the federally defined metropolitan area).[19]

Other unincorporated towns and communities in the metropolitan area which are not within its cities include Gloucester Courthouse and Gloucester Point in Gloucester County, Isle of Wight Courthouse, Rushmere, Rescue, Carrollton, Benns Church, and Walters in Isle of Wight County, Yorktown, Grafton, Seaford, and Tabb in York County, Jamestown, Ford's Colony, Grove, Lightfoot, Toano, and Norge in James City County, Moyock, Knotts Island, and Currituck in Currituck County, North Carolina.[20]


Ferry Between Norfolk and Portsmouth

Historically, from the earliest times, the harbor was the key to the Hampton Roads area's growth, both on land and in water-related activities and events. Ironically, the harbor and its tributary waterways were (and still are) both important transportation conduits and obstacles to other land-based commerce and travel. Yet, the community leaders learned to overcome them.

In modern times, the region has faced increasing transportation challenges as it has become largely urbanized, with additional traffic needs. In the 21st century, the conflicts between traffic on vital waterways and land-based travel continue to present the area's leaders with extraordinary transportation challenges, both for additional capacity, and as the existing infrastructure, much of it originally built with toll revenues, has aged without an adequate source of funding to repair or build replacements. The now-closed Kings Highway Bridge in Suffolk and the Jordan Bridge closed by neighboring Chesapeake in 2008 were each built in the 1920s. These were considered locally prime examples of this situation.[21][22]

In 2007, the new Hampton Roads Transportation Authority (HRTA) was formed under a controversial state law to levy various additional taxes to generate funding for major regional transportation projects, including a long-sought and costly additional crossing of the harbor of Hampton Roads (The Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, Monitor-Merrimac Bridge Tunnel, and the James River Bridge are the existing crossings). As of March 2008, although its projects were considered to be needed, the agency's future was in some question while its controversial sources of funding were being reconsidered in light of a Virginia Supreme Court decision.[23]

A tugboat in Norfolk

Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, located in Newport News, and Norfolk International Airport, in Norfolk, both cater to passengers from Hampton Roads. The primary airport for the Virginia Peninsula is the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport. The Airport is experiencing a 4th year of record, double-digit growth, making it one of the fastest growing airports in the country. In January 2006, the airport reported having served 1,058,839 passengers.[24] Norfolk International Airport (IATA: ORFICAO: KORFFAA LID: ORF), serves the region. The airport is located near Chesapeake Bay, along the city limits of Norfolk and Virginia Beach.[25] Seven airlines provide nonstop services to twenty five destinations. ORF had 3,703,664 passengers take off or land at its facility and 68,778,934 pounds of cargo were processed through its facilities.[26] The Chesapeake Regional Airport provides general aviation services and is located on the other side of the Hampton Roads Harbor.[27]

Amtrak serves the region with three trains a day to its Williamsburg and Newport News stations. The line runs west along the Virginia Peninsula to Richmond and points beyond. Connecting buses are available to Norfolk and Virginia Beach. A high speed rail connection at Richmond to both the Northeast Corridor and the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor are also under study.[28][29]

Intercity bus service is provided by Greyhound Lines (Carolina Trailways) with bus stations in Newport News, Hampton, and Norfolk.[30] Transportation within Hampton Roads is served by a regional bus service, Hampton Roads Transit.[31] Local routes serving Williamsburg, James City County, and upper York County is operated by Williamsburg Area Transport.[32]

A light rail service known as The Tide was constructed in Norfolk. It began service in August 2011.[33] Operated by Hampton Roads Transit, it is the first light rail service in the state. It is projected to have a daily ridership of between 7,130 to 11,400 passengers a day.[34] There has also been a light rail study in the Hampton – Newport News areas.[35]

I-64 on the Hampton Roads Beltway, north of I-264

The Hampton Roads area has an extensive network of Interstate Highways, including the Interstate 64, the major east-west route to and from the area, and its spurs and bypasses of I-264, I-464, I-564, and I-664.

The Hampton Roads Beltway extends 56 miles (90 km) on a long loop through the region, crossing the harbor on two toll-free bridge-tunnel facilities. These crossings are the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel between Phoebus in Hampton and Willoughby Spit in Norfolk and the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel between Newport News and Suffolk. The Beltway connects with another Interstate highway and three arterial U.S. Highways at Bower's Hill near the northeastern edge of the Great Dismal Swamp. Other major east-west routes are U.S. Highway 58, U.S. Highway 60, and U.S. Highway 460. The major north-south routes are U.S. Highway 13 and U.S. Highway 17.

There are also two other tunnels in the area, the Midtown Tunnel, and the Downtown Tunnel joining Portsmouth and Norfolk, as well as the 17-mile (27 km)-long Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, a toll facility which links the region with Virginia's Eastern Shore which carries US 13.[36] The original Downtown Tunnel in conjunction with the Berkley Bridge were considered a single bridge and tunnel complex when completed in 1952, perhaps stimulating the innovative bridge-tunnel design using man-made islands when the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel was planned, first opening in 1957. The George P. Coleman Memorial Bridge is a major toll bridge connecting U.S. Highway 17 on the Peninsula at Yorktown with Virginia's Middle Peninsula region. Another major crossing of waterways is the James River Bridge, carrying US 17 US 258, and SR 32 from Newport News to Isle of Wight County.[37]

The region is notable in that it has 2 types of public transport services via ferries. A passenger ferry is operated on the Elizabeth River between downtown areas of Norfolk and Portsmouth by HRT.[38] The Jamestown Ferry (also known as the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry) is an automobile ferry system on the James River connecting Jamestown in James City County with Scotland in Surry County. It carries State Route 31. Operated by VDOT, it is the only 24-hour state-run ferry operation in Virginia and has over 90 employees. It operates four ferryboats, the Pocahontas, the Williamsburg, the Surry, and the Virginia. The facility is toll-free.[39]


The David Student Union at Christopher Newport University

Hampton Roads' individual cities and counties administer their own K-12 education for their localities. In addition to public education, area residents have many private and religious school options.

The area also has a number of higher education options for area residents. The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg was founded in 1693 and has served as the second oldest institution of higher education in the United States.[40] Old Dominion University, founded as the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary in 1930, became an independent institution in 1962 and now offers degrees in 68 undergraduate and 95 (60 masters/35 doctoral) graduate degree programs. Norfolk's Eastern Virginia Medical School, founded as a community medical school by the surrounding jurisdictions in 1973, is noted for its research into reproductive medicine[41] and is located in the region's major medical complex in the Ghent district. Norfolk State University is the largest majority black university in Virginia and offers degrees in a wide variety of liberal arts.[42] Virginia Wesleyan College is a small private liberal arts college on the border of Norfolk and Virginia Beach.[43] Hampton University, a private HBCU university, has a long history serving Hampton.[44] Christopher Newport University serves as a public university and is located in Newport News.[45] Regent University, a private university founded by Christian Evangelist and Leader Pat Robertson which has historically focused on graduate education but is attempting to establish an undergraduate program as well.[46] Atlantic University, associated with the Edgar Cayce organization, the Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE), offers instruction in New Age subjects and an M.A. in Transpersonal Studies.[47]

Crim Dell in the heart of William & Mary's wooded campus

Area residents also have options for training for technical professions. The Apprentice School was founded in 1919 and offers four/five year programs in mechanical and technical fields associated with the shipbuilding industry. Graduates from the Apprentice School go on to work at the Newport News Shipbuilding.[48] technology-focused ECPI University has campuses in Virginia Beach and Newport News[49] while ITT Technical Institute has a campus in Norfolk. Avarett University is in Newport News, Bryant and Stratton College has campus in the Town Center shopping complexes of Virginia Beach and Hampton;[50] The Culinary Institute of Virginia[51] is located in Norfolk.

Three institutions in the Virginia Community College System offer affordable higher education options for area residents. Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Portsmouth, Paul D. Camp Community College in Suffolk, Franklin, and Smithfield, and Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton and Williamsburg offer two-year degrees and specialized training programs.[52][53]

Bible training schools include Hampton University and Regent University, but also Canaan Theological College & Seminary, Bethel College and Victory Baptist Bible College and Seminary in Hampton, Tabernacle Baptist Bible College & Theological Seminary, Gateway Christian College and Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Virginia Beach, Providence Bible College & Theological Seminary in Norfolk and the Hampton Roads campus of the John Leland Center for Theological Studies.


Hampton Roads is home to four Fortune 500 companies. Representing the food industry, transportation, retail and healthcare, these four companies are located in Smithfield, Norfolk, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach.

2010 Fortune 500 Corporations[54]         
Hampton Roads from space

Hampton Roads has become known as the "world's greatest natural harbor". The port is located only 18 miles (29 km) from open ocean on one of the world's deepest, natural ice-free harbors. Since 1989, Hampton Roads has been the mid-Atlantic leader in U.S. waterborne foreign commerce and is ranked second nationally behind the Port of South Louisiana based on export tonnage. When import and export tonnage are combined, the Port of Hampton Roads ranks as the third largest port in the country (following the ports of New Orleans/South Louisiana and Houston). In 1996, Hampton Roads was ranked ninth among major U.S. ports in vessel port calls with approximately 2,700. In addition, this port is the U.S. leader in coal exports. The coal loading facilities in the Port of Hampton Roads are able to load in excess of 65 million tons annually, giving the port the largest, most efficient and modern coal loading facilities in the world.

It is little surprise therefore that the Hampton Roads region's economic base is largely port-related, including shipbuilding, ship repair, naval installations, cargo transfer and storage, and manufacturing related to the processing of imports and exports. Associated with the ports' military role are almost 50,000 federal civilian employees.

The harbor of Hampton Roads is an important highway of commerce, especially for the cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Newport News.

Northrop Grumman Newport News (formerly Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company), the world's largest shipyard, is located a short distance up the James River. In Portsmouth, a few miles up the Elizabeth River, the historic Norfolk Naval Shipyard is located. BAE Systems, formerly known as NORSHIPCO, operates from sites in the City of Norfolk. There are also several smaller shipyards, numerous docks and terminals.

Northrop Grumman Newport News Shipbuilding

Massive coal piers and loading facilities were established in the late 19th and early 20th century by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O), Norfolk and Western Railway (N&W), and Virginian Railway (VGN). The latter two were predecessors of the Norfolk Southern Railway, a Class I railroad which has its headquarters in Norfolk, and continues to export coal from a large facility at Lambert's Point on the Elizabeth River. CSX Transportation now serves the former C&O facility at Newport News. (The VGN's former coal facility at Sewell's Point has been gone since the 1960s, and the property is now part of the expansive Norfolk Navy Base).

The Hampton Roads area has the largest concentration of military bases and facilities of any metropolitan area in the world. Nearly one-fourth of the nation’s active-duty military personnel are stationed in Hampton Roads, and 45% of the region's $81B gross regional output is Defense-related.[55][56] All five military services’ operating forces are there, as well as several major command headquarters: Hampton Roads is a chief rendezvous of the United States Navy, and the area is home to the Allied Command Transformation, which is the only major military command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on U.S. soil. Langley Air Force Base is home to Air Combat Command (ACC). The Norfolk Navy Base is located at Sewell's Point near the mouth, on the site used for the tercentennial Jamestown Exposition in 1907. For a width of 500 feet (150 m) the Federal government during 1902 through 1905 increased its minimum depth at low water from 25.5 feet (7.8 m) to 30 feet (9 m), and the channel has now been dredged to a depth of 55 feet (17 m) in some places.

NASA Langley Research Center

NASA's Langley Research Center, located on the Peninsula adjacent to Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, is home to scientific and aerospace technology research. The Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (commonly known as Jefferson Labs) is located nearby in Newport News.

The area's experiences with commercial and retail centers began early in 1918. Afton Square, located in the Cradock naval community of Portsmouth, was the first planned shopping center in the USA and has served as template for future developments throughout the nation.[57]

Hampton Roads experienced tremendous growth during and after World War II. In the 1950s, a trend in retail was the shopping center, a group of stores along a common sidewalk adjacent to off-street parking, usually in a suburban location.

Lynnhaven Mall, opened in 1981, has 1,400,000 square feet (130,000 m2) and 180 stores.

In 1959, one of the largest on the east coast of the USA was opened at the northeast corner of Military Highway and Virginia Beach Boulevard on property which had formally been used as an airfield. The new JANAF Shopping Center, located in Norfolk, featured acres of free parking and dozens of stores. Backed by retired military personnel, the name JANAF was an acronym for Joint Army Navy Air Force.[58]

During the 1950s and early 1960s, other shopping centers in Hampton Roads were developed, such as Wards Corner Shopping Center, Downtown Plaza Shopping Center and Southern Shopping Center in Norfolk; Mid-City Shopping Center in Portsmouth; Hilltop Shopping Center (now known as The Shops at Hilltop) in Virginia Beach; Riverdale Shopping Center in Hampton and the Warwick-Denbigh Shopping Center in Newport News.

In the late-1960s, a new type of shopping center came to Hampton Roads: the Indoor Shopping Mall. In 1965, South Hampton Roads broke ground on its first shopping mall in Virginia Beach, known as Pembroke Mall. The mall opened in 1966, and became Hampton Road's newest indoor shopping destination. The Virginia Peninsula had its first indoor shopping mall in 1973, with Coliseum Mall. Coliseum Mall drew so much traffic from Interstate 64, that a towering flyover was built at the Mercury Boulevard and Coliseum Drive intersection, to accommodate eastbound mall traffic, from the Mercury Boulevard interchange. Coliseum Mall was demolished to make way for the open air mixed-use development Peninsula Town Center. Also in the 1970s, Tower Mall was built in Portsmouth, but was torn down and turned into the Victory Crossing shopping development. In Norfolk, Military Circle Mall on Military Highway was built across Virginia Beach Boulevard from the large JANAF Shopping Center with its own high-rise hotel right in the center. In 1981, Greenbrier Mall gave Chesapeake a shopping mall of its own as well, and Virginia Beach got the massive Lynnhaven Mall the same year.

Chesapeake Square Mall was constructed in Chesapeake, VA in 1989, near the border of Suffolk, Virginia, and has spawned a number of shopping centers in the surrounding areas.
MacArthur Center, opened in 1999, has 1,100,000 square feet (100,000 m2) and 140 stores.

MacArthur Center opened in March 1999, which made downtown Norfolk a prime shoppers destination, with the region's first Nordstrom department store anchor. MacArthur Center is compared to other downtown malls, such as Baltimore's Harborplace, Indianapolis' Circle Centre Mall, Atlanta's Lenox Square Mall and most comparably to The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City near Washington, D.C., in Arlington, Virginia.

Currently, Virginia Beach's Lynnhaven Mall is the region's largest shopping center with nearly 180 stores, and is one of the region's biggest tourist draws, with the Virginia Beach oceanfront, Colonial Williamsburg, Busch Gardens Williamsburg: The Old Country and MacArthur Center.

For a long time, the indoor shopping malls were seen as largely competitive with small shopping centers and traditional downtown type areas. However, in the 1990s and since, the "big-box stores" on the Peninsula and Southside, such as Wal-mart, Home Depot, and Target have been creating a new competitive atmosphere for the shopping malls of Hampton Roads.

Patrick Henry Mall, opened in 1987, has 700,000 square feet (65,000 m2) and 120 stores

Several older malls such as Pembroke and Military Circle have since their grand openings have been renovated several, and others have been closed and torn down. Newmarket North Mall is now NetCenter, a business center (the Sears store remains). Coliseum Mall, in Hampton, has been redeveloped as Peninsula Town Center in a new style, in step with the latest commercial real estate trend: the nationwide establishment of "lifestyle centers". Additional malls which have closed include Mercury Mall in Hampton (converted to Mercury Plaza Shopping Center in the mid-1980s, then completely torn down in 2001), and Tower Mall in Portsmouth (Built in the early 1970s, then torn down in 2001).

Shopping mall Location Number of stores Area Year opened
Lynnhaven Mall Virginia Beach 180 1,400,000 sq ft (130,000 m2) 1981
MacArthur Center Norfolk 140 1,100,000 sq ft (100,000 m2) 1999
Chesapeake Square Mall Chesapeake 130 800,000 sq ft (70,000 m2) 1989
Greenbrier Mall Chesapeake 120 809,017 sq ft (75,160 m2) 1981
Patrick Henry Mall Newport News 120 644,000 sq ft (59,800 m2) 1987
The Gallery at Military Circle Norfolk 120 944,447 sq ft (87,742 m2) 1970
Pembroke Mall Virginia Beach 100 650,000 sq ft (60,000 m2) 1966

America's First Region

In late 2006, the Hampton Roads Partnership, a non-profit organization representing 17 localities (ten cities, six counties, and one town), all local universities and major military commands as well as leading businesses in southeastern Virginia, commenced a campaign aimed at branding land area of Hampton Roads as "America's First Region".

The new title is based on events in 1607 when English Captain Christopher Newport's three ships – the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery landed at Cape Henry along the Atlantic Coast in what is today Virginia Beach. After 18 days of exploring the area, the ships and their crews arrived at Jamestown Island where they established the first English speaking settlement to survive in the New World on May 14, 1607.

Because the region's east-west boundaries (now the City of Virginia Beach and James City County) have not changed since 1607, the Partnership felt justified in labeling Hampton Roads "America's First Region". It unveiled the new brand before 800 people at the annual meeting of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce on December 13, 2006. A video shown that afternoon included endorsements from mayors and county board of supervisors chairs representing Hampton, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg and James City County as well as the Governor of Virginia, Timothy Kaine.[59][citation needed]

The mission of Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance (HREDA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to business attraction—marketing the Hampton Roads region as the preferred location for business investment and expansion. HREDA represents the cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg and Franklin, as well as the counties of Gloucester, James City, Isle of Wight, York, and Southampton.[60]


Hampton Roads flag, adopted 1998

In 1998, a flag representing the Hampton Roads region was adopted. The design of the flag was created by a contest. The winner, sixteen-year-old Andrew J. Wall of Frank W. Cox High School in Virginia Beach, raised the new regional flag for the first time on the mast of a ship moored in the harbor.

As conceived by student Andrew Wall and embellished by the selection committee, his flag is highly symbolic:

The ring of sixteen white stars stands for the cities and counties that comprise the region of Hampton Roads. The blue upper panel refers to the sea and sky, recalling the first European settlers at Jamestown in 1607, the first battle between ironclad ships in 1862, the importance of shipbuilding and ship repair in the area, as well as maritime commerce, fishing, recreational boating, and the major military and government installations around the area’s shores. Agriculture, the environment, tourism, industry, and a healthy quality of life are suggested by the lower panel of green. The wavy white central band with three crests suggests past, present, and future. The wave also recalls the surf and sand dunes of the area as seen from the sea. Water is the central theme. It touches all the components and binds them together.[61]


Virginia's Historic Triangle

The area is most often associated with the larger American South. People who have grown up in the Hampton Roads area have a unique Tidewater accent which sounds different than a stereotypical Southern accent. Vowels have a longer pronunciation than in a regular southern accent.[62]

Attractions, museums and sites of interest

There's also a wealth of other points of history to explore in the Hampton Roads area. Led by the Historic Triangle area, Hampton Roads consistently rates among the top tourism destinations in the world.

Cultural attractions include museums, historical sites, and venues from tiny to massively large for such things as art and musical shows. The region hosts two week-long visits by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus each year with multiple performances at Norfolk Scope and the Hampton Coliseum, and even attracts a group of Circus Train Enthusiasts, railfans who watch, photograph and report on the blue or red unit trains as they make their move between the two sites, requiring a long inland trip through Petersburg and Richmond in order to avoid crossing the 10-mile (16 km) geographical distance across the harbor (a trip impassable directly by modern trains; the two bridge-tunnel facilities operated by VDOT accommodate only highway traffic).

Historic Triangle

The Historic Triangle is located on the Virginia Peninsula and includes the colonial communities of Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown, with many restored attractions linked by the Colonial Parkway.

The National Park Service's Colonial Parkway joins the three popular attractions of Colonial Virginia with a scenic and bucolic roadway carefully shielded from views of commercial development. This helps visitors mentally return to the past, and there are often views of wildlife and waterfowl. This two lane roadway is the best (but not quickest) way to move between the three points. Near the James River and York River ends of the parkway, there are several pull-offs, where some families allow their children to feed bread to the seagulls. Commercial vehicles, except for tour buses, are prohibited.

For an even better experience, approach the area from the south by water from Surry County with a ride aboard one of the Jamestown Ferrys, which include the Pocahontas and Williamsburg. As passengers cross, they can walk about the boat or go up to an enclosed viewing level with restrooms. Weather and daylight permitting, passengers usually see Jamestown Island much as the first colonists may have approached it. In fact, the replicas of Christopher Newport's the three tiny ships, Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery are docked near the northern ferry landing at Glass House Point. Both the Jamestown Ferry and Colonial Parkway are toll-free.

The first permanent English settlement in the New World which was established at Jamestown in 1607. The 350th anniversary celebration at Jamestown Festival Park in 1957 was so popular, tourism has been continuously increasing ever since. The 400th anniversary was celebrated with an 18-month long celebration called Jamestown 2007.

Today, at Jamestown, you can visit recreations of an American Indian village and colonial fort, and archaeological sites where current work is underway by archaeologistss from the Jamestown Rediscovery project, with recently recovered archaeological artifacts in a new display building. Replicas of the three ships, Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery are docked nearby.

The two major attractions, which are complementary to each other, are the state-sponsored Jamestown Settlement near the entrance to Jamestown Island, and the National Parks Service's Historic Jamestowne, on Jamestown Island itself.

In 1699, the first capital of Virginia was moved to Middle Plantation at the suggestion of students from the College of William & Mary (established 1693). It was soon renamed to Williamsburg, but became a largely forgotten little town after the capital was moved to Richmond in 1780. Largely due to the 20th-century preservation efforts of the Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, rector of Bruton Parish Church and the generosity of Standard Oil heir John D. Rockefeller Jr., today Colonial Williamsburg is a large living museum of early American life. It has dozens of restored and recreated buildings and reenactors. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The Visitor's Center (right off the Colonial Parkway) features a short movie and is an excellent place to start (and leave automobiles, which are restricted from the restored area, where wheelchair-accessible shuttle bus service is provided).

Bassett Hall, an 18th-century farmhouse, is located in Williamsburg just southeast of the Historic Area, was the Williamsburg home for over 25 years of the family of John D. Rockefeller Jr and his family from the mid-1930s until 1960, following over 7 years of restoration and expansions. The Rockefeller family bequeathed Bassett Hall to Colonial Williamsburg in 1979.[63] The home is now open to the public and appears much as it did in the 1930s and 40s when the Rockefellers made it their home.[64]

The third point of the Historic Triangle of Colonial Virginia is Yorktown where General Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington in 1781, ending the American Revolution. There are two large visitor centers, battlefield drives, and a waterfront area.

Notwithstanding the amazingly successful efforts to provide a non-commercial atmosphere at the three Historic Triangle areas (and on the Colonial Parkway between them), there are many hotels, motels, campgrounds, restaurants, shops and stores, gasoline stations, and amusements close by.

Peninsula museums

Recovered artifacts from the USS Monitor are displayed at the Mariners' Museum, one of the more notable museums of its type in the world. The Museum’s collection totals approximately 35,000 artifacts, of which approximately one-third are paintings and two-thirds are three-dimensional objects. The scope of the Museum's collection is international. Included are 10 permanent galleries, changing and traveling exhibits, and virtual galleries available through the museum website. The collection of over 600,000 prints and 35,000 maritime artifacts is international in scope and includes miniature ship models, scrimshaw, maritime paintings, decorative arts, carved figureheads, and working steam engines.[65]

The Virginia War Museum covers American military history. The Museum's collection includes, weapons, vehicles, artifacts, uniforms and posters from various periods of American history. Highlights of the Museum's collection include a section of the Berlin Wall and the outer wall from Dachau Concentration Camp.[66]

The Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News contains a rotating gallery of art exhibits. The Center also contains a Studio Art School of private and group instruction for all ages. It maintains a permanent "Hands On For Kids" gallery designed for children and families to interact in what the Center describes as "a fun, educational environment that encourages participation with art materials and concepts."[67]

The Hampton University museum was established in 1868 in the heart of the historic Hampton University campus. The Museum is the oldest African American museum in the United States and one of the oldest museums in the State of Virginia. It contains over 9,000 objects, including African American fine arts, traditional African, Native American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Island, and Asian art.[68]

The Charles H. Taylor Arts Center is Hampton's public access arts center. It offers a series of changing visual art exhibitions as well as a quarterly schedule of classes, workshops and educational programs.[69]

The Casemate Museum (where former Confederate President Jefferson Davis was imprisoned) is at Fort Monroe in the historic Phoebus area at Old Point Comfort in Hampton.[70]

NASA Langley Research Center is in Hampton, the original training ground for the Mercury Seven, Gemini, and Apollo Astronauts. Visitors are able to learn about the region's aviation history at the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton.[71]

Air Power Park is an outdoor on-site display of various air craft and a space capsule. It is located on Mercury Boulevard at the intersection of LaSalle Blvd, near the AF Base.

Harbor Tour Sites

  • Fort Wool is located in the middle of the Hampton Roads harbor. Harbor tours departing from Hampton and Newport News provide access to Fort Wool.
  • Newport News Shipbuilding – America's largest military shipbuilder – may also been seem from aboard a Hampton-based harbor tour.[72]

South Hampton Roads

The Chrysler Museum of Art, located in the Ghent district, is the region's foremost art museum and is considered by the New York Times to be the finest in the state.[73] Of particular note is the extensive glass collection and American neoclassical marble sculptures.

Nauticus, the National Maritime Center, opened on the downtown waterfront in 1994. It features hands-on exhibits, interactive theaters, aquaria, digital high-definition films and an extensive variety of educational programs. Since 2000, Nauticus has been home to the battleship USS Wisconsin, the last battleship to be built in the United States. It served briefly in World War II and later in the Korean and Gulf Wars.[74] The General Douglas MacArthur Memorial, located in the 19th-century Norfolk court house and city hall in downtown, contains the tombs of the late General and his wife, a museum and a vast research library, personal belongings (including his famous corncob pipe) and a short film that chronicles the life of the famous General of the Army.[75]

The Children's Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth has one of the largest collection of model electric trains and other toys.

The Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth is one of the oldest shipyards and has the first dry dock on display.

The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (in Suffolk and Chesapeake) is accessed from U.S. Route 17 in Chesapeake.

The Suffolk-Nansemond Museum is in the restored Seaboard and Virginian Railway passenger train station in Suffolk.

The Isle of Wight Museum is in Smithfield.

The Contemporary Art Center of Virginia located in Virginia Beach features the significant art of our time.

Music and venues

The Hampton Roads region has a thriving music scene, with a heavy concentration thereof in the Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Norfolk areas. Many clubs, venues, and festivals exist within the region, all playing host to a wide variety of musical styles. There are a few hundred bands that play routinely in the region, spanning multiple genres. There are also twenty to thirty musical acts based in the region that perform throughout Hampton Roads and its surrounding areas on a "full time" basis.

In addition, plenty of well known acts have come from the area. Some of the major rock/pop artists include Bruce Hornsby, Gary "U.S." Bonds, Juice Newton, Mae, Seven Mary Three, Gene Vincent, Keller Williams, and Steve Earle. Ella Fitzgerald is the most recognizable jazz musician from the area. Robert Cray and Ruth Brown are both prominent blues and R&B artists. Tommy Newsom is another famous jazz musician. Many prominent rap and hip hop artists come from the area including Chad Hugo, Clipse, Magoo, Missy Elliott, Nicole Wray, Pharrell Williams, Quan, Teddy Riley, and Timbaland.

The region has a number of venues hosting live music and performances. Several of the larger (in order of maximum seating capacity) are:

  • Verizon Wireless Virginia Beach Amphitheatre in Virginia Beach (seating 20,000)
  • Norfolk Scope in Norfolk (seating 13,800)
  • Hampton Coliseum in Hampton (seating 13,800)
  • Kaplan Arena at William and Mary Hall in Williamsburg (seating 10,175)
  • Ted Constant Convocation Center at Old Dominion University in Norfolk (seating 9,500)
  • nTelos Pavilion at Harbor Center in Portsmouth (seating 7,500)
  • Le Palais Royal Theatre at Busch Gardens Williamsburg in James City County (seating 5,600)
  • Ferguson Center for the Arts in Newport News (seating 1,725 and 453 in 2 separate concert halls)
  • Lake Matoaka Amphitheatre at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg (seating 1,700)
  • The NorVa in Norfolk (standing 1,500)

Dozens of much smaller commercial establishments offer live music and other entertainment such as comedy shows and mystery dinner-theater throughout the region.

Parks and recreation

The Norfolk Botanical Garden, opened in 1939, is a 155-acre (0.6 km2) botanical garden and arboretum located near the Norfolk International Airport. It is open year round.[76]

The Virginia Zoological Park, opened in 1900, is a 65-acre (260,000 m2) zoo with hundreds of animals on display, including the critically endangered Siberian Tiger and threatened White Rhino.[77]

First Landing State Park and False Cape State Park are both located in coastal areas in Virginia Beach. Both offer camping facilities, cabins, and outdoor recreation activities in addition to nature and history tours. First Landing is the site of Cape Henry while False Cape is located at the southeastern end of Virginia Beach.[78][79]

Newport News Park is located in the northern part of the city of Newport News. The city's golf course also lies within the Park along with camping and outdoor activities. There are over 30 miles (50 km) of trails in the Newport News Park complex. The park has a 5.3-mile (8.5-km) multi-use bike path. The park offers bicycle and helmet rental, and requires helmet use by children under 14. Newport News Park also offers an archery range, disc golf course, and an "aeromodel flying field" for remote-controlled aircraft, complete with a 400 ft (120 m) runway.[80]

The region also has amusement parks which attract tourists and locals alike. Ocean Breeze Waterpark, Shipwreck Golf, and Motor World are Virginia Beach's amusement parks, which were formerly called Ocean Breeze Fun Park. As separate parks, they provide miniature golf, go-karts, water slides, pools, climbing wall, paintball area, and kiddie rides.[81][82] Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA are the major theme parks in Williamsburg.

Sports, entertainment, and mass assembly venues

normal seating capacity in parentheses

Collegiate and other indoor arenas

Collegiate and other stadiums

  • William "Dick" Price Stadium at Norfolk State University (30,000) football
  • Foreman Field at S. B. Ballard Stadium at Old Dominion University – Norfolk (19,782) football
  • Walter J. Zable Stadium at The College of William and Mary – Williamsburg (15,279) football
  • Samuel C. Armstrong Stadium at Hampton University (14,000) football
  • Norfolk Scope – Norfolk (12,600) – Hockey, opened in 1971
  • Harbor Park – Norfolk (12,067) – Baseball
  • John B. Todd Stadium – Newport News (11,000) football
  • Joseph S. Darling Memorial Stadium – Hampton (8,000) football, track
  • B. Herman Bailey Field – Yorktown (6,000) football
  • Cooley Field – Williamsburg (3,000) football
  • Old Dominion University Soccer Stadium – Norfolk (6,000)
  • Union Kempsville Stadium – Virginia Beach (5,100) football (recently demolished to build Reniassance Academy)
  • Anheuser-Busch Field at The College of William and Mary – Williamsburg (4,450) soccer
  • Pomoco Stadium at Christopher Newport University – Newport News (4,200) football
  • District Park Sports Complex – Williamsburg (4,000) proposed
  • Powhatan Stadium – Norfolk (4,000) – football, lacrosse and field hockey, opened in fall 2006
  • Bud Metheny Baseball Complex at Old Dominion University – Norfolk (3,000) baseball
  • Marty L. Miller Baseball Field at Norfolk State University (1,600)
  • Joe Plumeri Park at The College of William and Mary – Williamsburg (1,200) baseball
  • Mark McCormack-Betsy Nagelsen Tennis Center at The College of William and Mary – Williamsburg
  • Virginia Beach Sportsplex-Virginia Beach (est. 16,000) Football,soccer

Golf Courses

Hampton Roads has a number of public and private golf courses.[84]

  • Chesapeake – Cahoon Plantation – Three 9-hole, par 36 courses
  • Chesapeake – Golf Club – One 18 hole, par 70 course
  • Hampton – The Hamptons Golf Course – One 18 Hole, par 71 Woods/Lakes Course
  • Hampton – Woodlands Golf Course – One 18 hole, par 69 course
  • Newport News – Deer Run Golf Course – Two 18 hole courses
  • Newport News – Kiln Creek Golf & Country Club – One 18 hole, par 72 course
  • Norfolk – Lake Wright Golf Course – One 18 hole, par 70 course
  • Norfolk – Ocean View – One 18 hole, par 70 course.
  • Portsmouth – Bide-a-Wee Golf Club – One 18 hole, par 72 course
  • Portsmouth – Links at City Park – One 9 hole, par 30 course
  • Smithfield – Cypress Creek Golfer's Club – One 18 hole, par 72 course
  • Smithfield – Smithfield Downs Golf Club – One 18 hole, par 71 course.
  • Suffolk – Sleepy Hole Park & Golf Course – One 18 hole, par 72 course
  • Suffolk – Suffolk Golf Course – One 18 hole, par 72 course
  • Suffolk – Riverfront Golf Course – One 18 hole, par 71 course
  • Virginia Beach – Bow Creek Municipal Golf Course – One 18 hole
  • Virginia Beach – Cypress Point Golf & Country Club – One 18 hole, par 72 course
  • Virginia Beach – Hell's Point Golf Club – One 18 hole, par 72 course
  • Virginia Beach – Heron Ridge Golf Course – One 18 hole, par 72 course
  • Virginia Beach – Honey Bee Golf Club – One 18 hole, par 70 course
  • Virginia Beach – Kempsville Greens Municipal G.C.- One 18 hole, par 70 course
  • Virginia Beach – Owl's Creek Family Golf Course – One 18 hole, par 62 course
  • Virginia Beach – Red Wing Lake Golf Course – One 18 hole, par 72 course
  • Virginia Beach – Stumpy Lake Golf Course – One 18 hole, par 72 course
  • Virginia Beach – Tournament Players Club of Va. Bch – One 18 hole, par 72 course, Home of The Nike Tour
  • Williamsburg – Colonial Golf Course – One 18 hole, par 72 course
  • Williamsburg – Ford's Colony – Three 18 hole courses. Marsh Hawk course: Par 71. Blackheath course: Par 71. Blue Heron course: Par 72.
  • Williamsburg – Golden Horseshoe Golf Club – Two 18 hole courses. Gold course: Par 71. Green course: Par 72.
  • Williamsburg – Kingsmill Golf Club (Home of The Michelob Tournament) – Three 18 hole courses. River Course: Par 71. Woods Course: Par 72. Plantation Course (Designed by Arnold Palmer): Par 72. Also One 9 hole par-3
  • Williamsburg – Williamsburg National Golf Course – One 18 hole, par 72 course.

Convention centers

  • Virginia Beach Convention Center 516,522 sq ft (47,986 m2) opened early 2007
  • Williamsburg Convention Center 259,000 sq ft (24,100 m2) proposed
  • Hampton Roads Convention Center – Hampton 258,000 sq ft (24,000 m2)
  • Norfolk Executive Conference Center 73,000 sq ft (6,800 m2) planned
  • Chesapeake Conference Center 37,000 sq ft (3,400 m2)
  • Portsmouth Conference Center 37,000 sq ft (3,400 m2)
  • Waterside Convention Center – Norfolk 35,000 sq ft (3,300 m2)
  • City Center at Oyster Point Conference Center – Newport News (Under Construction)

Auditoriums and performing arts theatres

  • American Theatre – Hampton[85]
  • Chrysler Hall – Norfolk
  • Hampton Coliseum – Hampton (13,800 – concerts, 9,777- basketball)
  • Crispus Attucks Cultural Center – Norfolk
  • Devary Theatre at Norfolk Naval Base – Norfolk
  • Ferguson Center for the Performing Arts – at Christopher Newport University – Newport News
  • Fort Monroe Theatre – Hampton
  • Harrison Opera House – Norfolk
  • Jeanne and George Roper Performing Arts Center at Tidewater Community College – Norfolk
  • L. Douglas Wilder Performing Arts Center at Norfolk State University – Norfolk
  • Liberty Baptist Church, Hampton (3000)[86]
  • Music Theatre of Williamsburg (752)
  • Norva Theatre – Norfolk
  • nTelos Wireless Pavilion- Portsmouth, Virginia
  • Ogden Hall at Hampton University – Hampton
  • Peninsula Community Theater[87]
  • Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall at The College of William and Mary – Williamsburg
  • Premiere Theatre (aka Granby Theatre) – Norfolk
  • Regent University Performing Arts Center – Virginia Beach
  • Riverview Theatre – Norfolk
  • Rockwell Hall at Little Creek Amphibious Base – Virginia Beach
  • Sandler Performing Arts Center – Virginia Beach
  • Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts – Suffolk
  • Wells Theatre – Norfolk
  • Willett Hall – Portsmouth
  • Yoder Dairy Barn Theater – Newport News


Two major newspapers serve Hampton Roads: The Virginian-Pilot in the Southside, and The Daily Press on the Peninsula.[88] Smaller publications include the six days a week Suffolk News-Herald, the Williamsburg-James City County area's twice-weekly Virginia Gazette (the state's oldest newspaper[89]), the weekly New Journal and Guide, and the Smithfield Times which publishes a weekly edition in the Isle of Wight County town of the same name.

Hampton Roads Magazine is one of the region's city and lifestyle magazine. The publication is published ten times a year and covers all of Hampton Roads, Williamsburg and the Eastern Shore.[90]

Suffolk Living Magazine is another of the region's city and lifestyle magazines. The publication is published four times a year and covers the City of Suffolk. Suffolk Publications also produces Virginia-Carolina Boomers, a regional guide for Boomers in the area, which comes out twice a year.[91]

Inside Business is the area's only business newspaper. It covers all of Hampton Roads and is published weekly.

The Hampton Roads designated market area (DMA) is the 42nd largest in the U.S. with 712,790 homes (0.64% of the total U.S.).[92] The major network television affiliates are WTKR-TV 3 (CBS), WAVY 10 (NBC), WVEC-TV 13 (ABC), WGNT 27 (CW), WTVZ 33 (MyNetworkTV), WVBT 43 (Fox), and WPXV 49 (ION Television). The Public Broadcasting Service station is WHRO-TV 15. WUND 2(UNC-TV/PBS member station), broadcasting out of Edenton, NC, serves as another PBS affiliate for the area. Area residents also can receive independent stations, such as WSKY broadcasting on channel 4 from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, WGBS broadcasting on channel 7 from Hampton, and WTPC 21, a TBN affiliate out of Virginia Beach. Most Hampton Roads localities are served by Cox Cable which provides LNC 5, a local 24-hour cable news television network. Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight, and Southampton are served by Charter Communications.[93] Verizon FiOS service is currently available in parts of the region and continues to expand, offering a non-satellite alternative to Cox. DirecTV and Dish Network are also popular as an alternative to cable television.

Norfolk is served by a variety of radio stations on the FM and AM dials, with towers located around the Hampton Roads area. These cater to many different interests, including news, talk radio, and sports, as well as an eclectic mix of musical interests.[94]

Professional Sports

Norfolk serves as home to two professional franchises, the Norfolk Tides of the International League and the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League.[95][96] The Tides play at Harbor Park, seating 12,067 and opened in 1993. The Admirals play at Norfolk Scope Arena, seating 8,725 or 13,800 festival seating, which opened in 1971.

The Peninsula Pilots play in the Coastal Plain League, a summer baseball league. The Pilots play in Hampton at War Memorial Stadium seating 5,125 and opened in 1948.[97]

On the collegiate level, four Division I programs—two on the Southside and two on the Peninsula—field teams in many sports, including football, basketball, and baseball, with all four playing football in the second-tier FCS. The Southside boasts the Old Dominion Monarchs and the Norfolk State Spartans, both in Norfolk, while the Peninsula features the William & Mary Tribe in Williamsburg and Hampton Pirates in Hampton. ODU and W&M are both members of the Colonial Athletic Association. Norfolk State and Hampton, both historically black institutions, compete in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.[98][99][100][101] The area also has two Division III programs, one in each subregion—the Virginia Wesleyan Marlins on the border of Virginia Beach and Norfolk,[102] and the Christopher Newport University Captains in Newport News. The Captains sponsor fourteen sports and compete in the USA South Athletic Conference.[103]

The Hampton Coliseum, seating 10,761 ot 13,800 festival seating, hosts the annual Virginia Duals wrestling events, and the annual Hampton Jazz Festival. The arena opened in 1970 and has previously hosted Hampton University basketball along with NBA and NHL preseason exhibition games.

Virginia Beach serves as home to two soccer teams, the Hampton Roads Piranhas, a men's team in the USL Premier Development League, and a women's team by the same name in the W-League. The Piranhas play at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex. The Virginia Beach Sportsplex, seating 11,541 and opened in 1999, contains the central training site for the U.S. women's national field hockey team.[104] The Sportsplex will be expanded to accommodate the Virginia Destroyers, an expansion franchise in the United Football League for the 2011 UFL season. The North American Sand Soccer Championships, a beach soccer tournament, is held annually on the beach in Virginia Beach.

Virginia Beach is also home to the East Coast Surfing Championships, an annual contest of more than 100 of the world's top professional surfers and an estimated 400 amateur surfers. This is North America's oldest surfing contest, and features combined cash prizes of $40,000.[105]

Langley Speedway in Hampton, seating 6,500, hosts stock car races every weekend during Spring, Summer, and early Fall.[106]

The Michelob ULTRA Open at Kingsmill, an event on the LPGA Tour, is contested annually on Mother's Day weekend at Kingsmill Resort near Williamsburg.

The Norfolk Nighthawks were a charter member of the Arena Football League's minor league, af2. They ceased operations in 2003 after their fourth season. Also, the Virginia Beach Mariners of soccer's USL First Division were active from 1994 until 2006.

Hampton Roads has hosted many professional wrestling events throughout the years. The Norfolk Scope has served as the site of these events, including Total Nonstop Action Wrestling's Destination X and World Championship Wrestling's World War 3. Norfolk Scope was also the site of an infamous episode of WCW Monday Nitro, where several members of the World Wrestling Federation stable D-Generation X literally drove a tank to the entryway of the Scope, thus "invading" the competition. The Hampton Coliseum has also hosted many events, including WWF/WWE RAW, in April 1998, August 2005, May 2007, and January 2008, as well as SmackDown! and for ECW on Sci Fi on December 2006. In January 2008, WWE broadcast its first television show taped in high definition from Hampton, VA.

The Hampton Roads area is also home to at least one professional wrestling promotion, Vanguard Championship Wrestling, which holds events throughout the region, and has a weekly television show on the local Fox affiliate.

In 1997, Norfolk presented a proposal to bring an expansion hockey team to Hampton Roads. But that initiative failed. The team was going to be called the Hampton Roads Rhinos.

In 2002, Norfolk presented a proposal to bring the Charlotte Hornets basketball team to southeastern Virginia, but New Orleans won the bid for the team, renaming it the New Orleans Hornets.

In 2004, Norfolk presented a proposal to bring the Montreal Expos baseball team to the metro area, but Washington, D.C. won the bid for the team, renaming it the Washington Nationals.

See also


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  • Hampton Roads —   [ hæmptən rəʊds], der Teil des Ästuars des James River, der unmittelbar vor der Mündung in die Chesapeakebai liegt, in Südostvirginia, USA. Die Hampton Roads bilden einen ausgezeichneten Naturhafen. Am Nordufer liegen die Hafenstädte Hampton… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Hampton Roads — es un nombre que puede referir a: El Área metropolitana de Virginia Beach Norfolk Newport News, comúnmente conocida como Hampton Roads, en Estados Unidos. El puerto o estuario de Hampton Roads, sobre la que se encuentra dicha área metropolitana.… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Hampton Roads — [see HAMPTON2 & ROAD (sense 4)] channel & harbor in SE Va., linking the James River estuary with Chesapeake Bay …   English World dictionary

  • Hampton Roads — 36°58′N 76°22′W / 36.967, 76.367 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Hampton Roads — Satellitenfoto des Gebiets Hampton Roads (wörtlich „Hampton Reede“) bezeichnet den Wasserweg im US Bundesstaat Virginia, an dem die Flüsse James , Nansemond und Elizabeth River in die Chesapeake Bay münden, und das Ballungsgebiet um den Wasserweg …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Hampton Roads — a channel in SE Virginia between the mouth of the James River and Chesapeake Bay: battle between the Monitor and the Virginia 1862. * * * Channel in the U.S. through which the James, Elizabeth, and Nansemond rivers flow into Chesapeake Bay. About …   Universalium

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