Enjoy the new (and old!) on the Peninsula: Newport News and Hampton

No one knows for sure where Newport News got its name, but "Newportes Newes" first appears in the Virginia Company records in 1619, making it one of the oldest place names in the New World. Newport News is one of the Seven Cities in the Hampton Roads region of the Chesapeake Bay. (For our trivia buffs: Hampton, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth and Suffolk are the others.) In Newport News you can learn about the nation’s beginnings, enjoy outdoor activities, sit down to a great meal, take in a street festival or live music – or simply soak in the beauty of the area.

Day 1: Delight Abounds

Check in: Simply perfection at Simply Panache

This boutique hotel is in an historic building in the heart of historic Phoebus, in nearby Hampton. The suites are uniquely designed with style and comfort in mind. Take a short walk to Buckroe Beach, the Virginia Air & Space Museum and Hampton University. Or stroll down Mellen St. and visit the antique shops, bakeries, boutiques and more. Note: Simply Panache Place is accessed only by stairs.

Grab your beach towel and head to Huntington Park

This 60-acre park is open sunrise to sunset daily and offers a public beach fronting the James River. There’s plenty here for you in the summertime—lifeguards are on duty and the beach food concession stand are available from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The other seasons have plenty to recommend them too. The public boat ramp is open all year and accommodates boats with trailers up to 30-feet in length. The Rose Garden features forty-five varieties, and the tennis center has twenty lighted outdoor hard courts. Fort Fun, a 13,000-square foot playground, overlooks the James River. Fishing for brook, brown and rainbow trout at Lake Biggins from November to March each year. 

Visit 1865 Brewing Company: “Freedom Starts Here”

That’s the motto of 1865 Brewing Company, the first Black-owned brewery in Hampton Roads. With indoor and outdoor seating, it’s a community meeting hub equipped with a full-service coffee shop, fully functional brewery, nutritional juice bar and non-alcoholic cocktail station. Tasty food and snack options are available, and the owners urge, “Come and enjoy a drink with us. You are always welcomed.”

Explore maritime connections in an urban oasis at the Mariner’s Museum

The Mariners’ Museum sits in a 550-acre park that’s also home to the 167-acre Mariners’ Lake and the Noland Trail – a five-mile shoreline trail with 14 bridges that’s perfect for a stroll after lunch. The museum houses one of the world’s most extensive maritime collections, displayed in spacious and engaging exhibition galleries. Don’t miss the award-winning USS Monitor Center with 210 tons of artifacts from the Civil War ironclad Monitor, which were recovered from NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary.

French. Creole. NeoSoul? Try Mango Mangeaux

The owners of Mango Mangeaux – also known as the Mango Ladies –have crafted a menu from flavor infusions of three distinct cuisines and explain their importance as possessing “comfort, classic flavor and heritage.” The style and flair of French cuisine is paired with the unique mix of Creole flavors and celebration. They’re joined by what the Mango Ladies call NeoSoul cuisine ­– the latest iteration of a Soul Food tradition that fills bellies and hearts with recipes passed from generation to generation.

Day 2 - A "new" day awaits!

Start with a little guilty pleasure at Guilty Pleasure Coffee Shop

If you’re a coffee lover or simply have a sweet tooth, go ahead and indulge yourself. Guilty Pleasure Coffee Shop features locally roasted coffee served up in signature selections that are sure to start your day off on the right foot. Guiltless ice cream shooters, muffins, cakes and cookies are waiting for you as well.

Everything old is new again at Lee Hall Depot

Take in one of the city’s newest attractions. Lee Hall Depot is a restored 1881 train depot that highlights the impact of the railroad on Warwick County and the City of Newport News. It’s the only remaining station of the original five on the Lower Virginia Peninsula. Now open to the public as a museum, it displays period rooms outfitted to 1900.

City Center at Oyster Point is at the center of it all

Dine, shop to your heart’s content, take in a show or simply relax on a bench overlooking a five-acre fountain. City Center at Oyster Point was inspired by the maritime history of Newport News. Retail shops featuring national brands, restaurants, unique boutiques, and a movie theater nestle in a walkable cityscape with a southern living vibe.

The Mary M. Torggler Center is a stunning new gem

A sparkling rotunda topped by cascading glass domes at the Mary M. Torggler Fine Arts Center takes you to galleries presenting the work of nationally and internationally recognized artists. From there, visit the community gallery devoted to the work of local and regional artists and a micro-gallery for experimental projects. The work of students and faculty at Christopher Newport University is on display in the academic gallery. An interactive gallery for children is scheduled to open soon.

Experience Fort Monroe, the ultimate safe haven

Fort Monroe, so named in honor of the 5th president, President James Monroe, was completed in 1834. Recognized as the largest stone fort ever built in this nation, this fortification was a safe haven for thousands of enslaved people during the Civil War as well as the site that the Army of the Potomac landed before beginning their fateful march toward Richmond. Come to the visitors center to experience historic interpretations, as well as self-guided walking tours.

Day 3 - Wrap up your trip with a heritage walk in paradise

A morning stroll will do you good! Visit James A. Fields House

James A. Fields, a teacher and a lawyer born into slavery, escaped in 1862. In 1871, he graduated from what is now Hampton University, received a law degree from Howard University in 1882, served as the commonwealth's attorney for Warwick County in 1887 and represented the region in the House of Delegates (1889-1890). He used his now-restored late-Victorian Italianate-style brick house as his law office and primary residence. Today, visitors get a glimpse into the life of the African American community during the 1900s.

Then, the historical marker for educator, politician and Civil Rights pioneer, Jessie Menifield Rattley

Walk from the James A. Fields house to Jessie Menifield Rattley’s historic marker. Rattley founded the Peninsula Business College at this site in 1952. She was the first black woman elected to the Newport News City Council in 1970. In 1986 she became the city's first black and female mayor. Rattley was the first black president of the Virginia Municipal League (1978–1979) and in 1979 was elected the first black woman president of the National League of Cities.

See where the “First Lady of Song” Ella Fitzgerald was born

A short stroll brings you to “Lady Ella’s” 1917 birthplace. Ella Fitzgerald was considered one of the most influential jazz vocalists of the 20th century. She won recognition worldwide, recording her first hit, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” in 1938. The winner of 13 Grammys and a recipient of the National Medal of Art and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among other honors, Fitzgerald died in 1996.

Walk to “The Unfinished March”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is front and center in this massive bronze bas relief sculpture. The Unfinished March greets you as the visual centerpiece of [name of plaza]. The figures alongside Dr. King represent the women, men and children who stepped up and stepped out to help make his dream a reality. The simple but courageous act of walking, an iconic action of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, gave visible presence to demands that our nation honor its ideals of freedom, justice and opportunity for all citizens.

End your stroll sweetly at Scratch Bakery

Though this bakery is known for their custom cakes, jumbo cookies and other made from scratch desserts, this bakery, run by Lashonda Sanford, has plenty of savory treats to make a meal of it. You won’t go wrong with one of their soups, sandwiches, or chicken pot pies.