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48 Hours in Hampton, Virginia

by Matthew Wexler
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Oct 5, 2018

If your idea of a relaxing weekend getaway is microbreweries and cultural finds rather than circuit party mayhem, a couple of low-key days in Hampton, Virginia, should be on your East Coast checklist. Just over an hour's drive from Richmond and another quick jaunt to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Coastal Virginia is slowly and steadily becoming an enclave for vacationers seeking affordable attractions, great food, and a bit of history to boot.

Dating back to 1610, Hampton is our country's first continuous English-speaking settlement, and boasts other firsts, including NASA's Langley Research Center, which trained our first astronauts. But the city is far more than its historic accomplishments.

Hampton Arts has been a cultural mainstay in the region for more than 30 years for performing and visual arts. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Richard M. Parison, Jr., who joined the organization in early 2016, The American Theatre has bolstered its exuberant programming with a line-up that appeals to diverse audiences.

The list of Grammy-winning performers that have played the historic venue continues to increase, as well as LGBTQ audience favorites such as last year's Sandra Bernhard and this year's Premier Performance Series opener, Tony Award winner Jennifer Holliday (October 6). The season kicks off with an annual gala with a special performance by Broadway favorite Emily Skinner.

"More than anything, I want our programming to be accessible," says Mr. Parison, an openly gay cultural and arts leader whose established career has included positions at Richmond's CenterStage Performing Arts Center and Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre. This year he implemented a $35-for-all campaign, offering affordable tickets for the entire season, including Lynda Carter (October 27), Coastal Virginia Bluegrass & Brew Festival (January 25-27, 2019), Branford Marsalis (February 16, 2019), Shawn Colvin (April 13, 2019) and more.

A Taste of Hampton

Two must-eat spots are within walking distance of the theatre and exemplify the success of local restaurateurs.

Mango Mangeaux — "Shark Tank" superfans may remember Lakesha Brown-Renfro, Tanecia Willis and Nzinga Teule-Hekima from their 2013 television appearance. Although the strong-willed women didn't land a deal, the exposure did jumpstart their specialty food business with their signature product, "Mango Mango" preserves. The bistro soon followed, and now the trio also operates Simply Panache Place, a boutique, all-suite hotel across the street from the restaurant.

The Point — The seasonal menu combines comfort food with artisan flair, such as local Hog Island clams, mesquite-smoked bone marrow with sage bruschetta, and buttermilk fried chicken with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and gravy. Wash it all down with one of the local beers on tap.

Beer, Beer and More Beer

Virginia's craft beer scene is booming and has planted strong roots in Hampton. Check out five of our favorite finds or check out the Coastal Virginia Beer Trail for the full list, which tops more than 20 breweries.

Bull Island Brewing Company - Brewmaster Michael Paine says he has a "liquid resume" after all of his years experimenting and perfecting his brew style. Helming the brew tanks and Bull Island's waterfront location, Paine puts all of that expertise to hard work with flagship brews like Queen's Way IPA, Dare Double Stout, and seasonal favorites such as the copper-hued Messick Point Marzen.

St. George Brewing Company - Whether you believe St. George to be the 3rd-century Roman soldier who slayed a fire-breathing dragon or the patron saint of England, this namesake brewery is pouring some of the region's most notable ales and lagers. Favorites include the English Style Nut Brown Ale, which offers notes of biscuit and caramel.

Capstand Bar Brewing Company - The family-owned brewery offers a west coast-style line-up along with rotating seasonal favorites including a malty caramel porter and an unfiltered k├Âlsch.

Vanguard Brewing Company - At only three years old, this newcomer is making a splash with small batches like the Good Day mosaic dry hop IPA and Piper's Moon dark chocolate porter.

Oozlefinch Craft Brewery - Located on the historic grounds of Fort Monroe and named after a mystical bird supposedly seen by Captain H.M. Merriam on a night in 1905, Oozlefinch whimsical approach doesn't diminish its serious beer-making. Standouts include the Silent Sentry (barrel-aged brett saison) and Rippin' Loaves, a sour lager made in collaboration with Alesatian Brewing Co. and sourdough bread from Commune.

Historical Perspective

It's important to reflect on our freedom, especially during such tumultuous political times. Hampton boasts several historical landmarks worth visiting that remind us of our country's struggles and fortitude.

Virginia Air & Space Center — A collaboration with NASA Langley Research Center, the $30 million, 110,000-square-foot facility opened in 1992 and has been a mainstay attraction for both visitors and locals alike. Exhibits highlight the history of flight and the soaring space houses more than 30 historic aircraft as well as space flight artifacts and more.

Fort Monroe Casement Museum — Completed in 1834 to protect the region from enemy attack, it is the largest stone fort in the U.S. Highlights include the room where Jefferson Davis was held prisoner after the Civil War and a commemoration of the "Contraband of War" decision, which granted three enslaved men sanctuary and the thousands who followed them seeking freedom, including James A. Fields, who went on to serve as a member of the Virginia General Assembly.

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Matthew Wexler is EDGE's National Senior Editor of Travel, Lifestyle, Health & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.


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