7 Ideas for Your Summer Staycation in Hampton Roads

Summer is nearly upon us, and if you have children, you may be looking for daytrips or activities to enjoy as a family.

The idea of a staycation is to get away and capture that ‘vacation vibe’ for a day, but be home in time to sleep in your own bed.

Budget-friendly and easy to set up, we’ve come up with seven ideas for a summer staycation in Hampton Roads. They’re not just fun for kids, but adults will enjoy these mini, near-home vacations just as much!

The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. (Image courtesy Facebook, the Virginia Aquarium)
The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. (Image courtesy Facebook, the Virginia Aquarium)

 

The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center

The Aquarium, itself, is a wonderful way to get out of the summer sun and explore a wide variety of animal exhibits – including many that are hands-on. The Aquarium also features an outdoor aviary, nature trail and marshlands. You could easily spend a few hours looking at underwater life, but there’s more to do at this Virginia Beach spot.

  • New this summer to the Virginia Aquarium is the Adventure Park, a ropes course that includes climbing and zip lines. Bring your family out for some fun in the trees starting May 31. Call 7575-385-4947 for details.
  • While you’re visiting the Aquarium, visit the IMAX theater for a sensational experience. Films are rotated throughout the season, but are always nature-themed. Click here for tickets.
  • Do you have a big animal fan in your family? Give them a special treat by setting up a behind-the-scenes visit with aquarium animals. There is a fee, but you’ll be able to meet sea turtles or seals (a sea turtle visit costs $20 for non-members, and the seal visit costs $55). You can also reserve a Seal Splash and get in the water with harbor seals! It’s a unique opportunity for an animal lover.
Chic's Beach (Photo by Ginger Whitaker)
Chic’s Beach (Photo by Ginger Whitaker)

 

Chic’s Beach and the Chesapeak Bay Bridge Tunnel

Visit Chic’s Beach and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel: Plan for a fun beach day at Chic’s Beach in Virginia Beach. It’s a different feel from visiting the Oceanfront, and generally less crowded during peak tourist times.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel will be in sight while you lounge in the sand, also a change from the Oceanfront area. You may not think of the Bridge-Tunnel as a destination, but after a trip onto it, you may change your mind! The bridge-tunnel takes drivers over (and through) the Atlantic Ocean.

*Important Note:  You will have to pay a toll of $13 to access this portion of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

About three miles into your drive across the bridge, you’ll run into a pull-off. Stop and stretch your legs, taking in the ocean view. If you’re interested in trying your hand at fishing, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is home to the 625-foot Sea Gull Fishing Pier. Aside from the bridge-tunnel’s toll, there is no fee to use the pier. According to the CBBT website, a fishing license is not required, but anglers must register online, or by calling 1-800-723-2728.

After you’ve made a catch or two, stop into the Virginia Originals & Chesapeake Grill, also located on this portion of the CBBT. Visitors will enjoy perusing a gift shop that features everything from jewelry to Virginia wines. Ready-made sandwiches and snacks are available for purchase, and can be enjoyed in a dining area with large windows overlooking the Atlantic. The full-service restaurant offers more dining choices.

You’ll simply use the turnaround area and head back onto the bridge to make it back to Virginia Beach.

First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach. (WAVY News)
First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach. (WAVY News)

First Landing State Park

Where can you relax on the beach, hike, go for a bike ride, camp, fish and enjoy boating? At First Landing State Park!

It’s a sure way to pack a well-rounded vacation into one day, or stay overnight at a campsite or cabin. Bicycle rentals are available, as are picnic areas equipped with fire grills and restrooms. The park offers 20 miles of trails and 1.5 miles of sandy beach area.

Park admission is $4 per vehicle on weekdays and $5 on weekends. Grounds and trails are open each day from 8 a.m. until dusk, if you’re just visiting for the day.

The Plot, Downtown Norfolk. Photo from Jessica Kliner
The Plot, Downtown Norfolk. Photo from Jessica Kliner

Downtown Norfolk

Put on your walking shoes and visit downtown Norfolk for waterfront fun as well as shopping, museums, and restaurants.

Play tourist for the day, and visit the newly-reopened Chrysler Museum of Art or the MacArthur Memorial – both free. Nauticus is a unique museum experience, where you can tour the Battleship Wisconsin. Walk the Cannonball Trail along east Main Street that highlights Norfolk’s history, or set sail on the Elizabeth River with the American Rover – on board guests *can* help out with the sails, or just enjoy the ride.

For a nice way to cap off the day, schedule your daytrip to incorporate a Norfolk Tides baseball game at Harbor Park. Take a look at the Tides’ website for special event games and features.

Marching down Duke of Gloucester Street during Grand Illumination on the first Sunday in December, the Fifes and Drums of Colonial Williamsburg signify to all the holiday season has arrived.  (PRNewsFoto/Greater Williamsburg, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)
Marching down Duke of Gloucester Street during Grand Illumination on the first Sunday in December, the Fifes and Drums of Colonial Williamsburg signify to all the holiday season has arrived. (PRNewsFoto/Greater Williamsburg, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

Colonial Williamsburg

Turn your staycation into an educational experience: History buffs will love a trip to Colonial Williamsburg. Plan for tours, activities, museums, shopping, dining and more during your visit – and pack those walking shoes!

Colonial Williamsburg is open every day. Visitors have the chance to interact with the community, meeting townspeople and exploring daily life in the Revolutionary City. Join in marches or watch reenactments of pivotal moments in this country’s history.

There’s plenty of fun for kids, as well, with special activities intended to engage young visitors. RevQuest: Save the Revolution! is a great chance for children to learn about this historical period and experience life during those times. The special event runs through November 30.

Colonial Williamsburg is also a dining destination, with historic taverns to give visitors a taste of the times, as well as more modern options that will please even the pickiest palates.

Bottles at the Williamsburg Winery. (Image via Flickr)
Bottles at the Williamsburg Winery. (Image via Flickr)

The Williamsburg Winery

This one is for adults only! The Williamsburg Winery is a quick trip from Hampton Roads, but feels like a world away. Set in a quiet, gorgeous section of Williamsburg, the winery has a long, rich history.

A Fine Wine Tasting will cost $6 per person, while a Reserve Wine Tasting (a new feature) is $15 per person.  Both are offered from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily through December. If you’d like to learn more about how the wine is produced, go on a wine tour and tasting for $10. Tours are offered daily, every half hour. An extensive tour can be set up with a reservation, and costs $36.

Visitors have two dining options at the Williamsburg Winery, the Café Provencal and the Gabriel Archer Tavern.

Busch Gardens roller coaster. (Photo by Ginger Whitaker)
Busch Gardens roller coaster. (Photo by Ginger Whitaker)

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Dreaming of a trip to Europe? Why not get a *taste* of Europe this summer at Busch Gardens Williamsburg? Even if you don’t like rides and roller coasters, this park is a great daytrip.

There’s a lot more to do than roller coasters! Busch Gardens Williamsburg has a lot to offer in its Europe-themed areas. Walking around, you’ll enjoy musical performances, animal displays, candle making and other crafts, plenty of food options and more. Plus, the scenery is a point of pride for Busch Gardens.

If you are a roller coaster fan, get ready for some thrills as you tackle the park’s six main roller coasters. The Griffon dangles you over a mind-numbing drop, while the Verbolten holds surprising secrets within its forest! These aren’t your average rides!

If you visit Busch Gardens Williamsburg between May 23 and June 29, you’ll catch the Food & Wine Festival every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Treat yourself to culinary delights and wine tastings. Plus, visitors will enjoy special displays, like the Art of Food, where things like fruit turn into works of art!

The best part of this European adventure? You’ll be home without the struggle of jetlag!