Virginia Beach for the Historian

From the Jamestown colonists’ first landing to ties with Blackbeard the Pirate, Virginia Beach is a history-rich coastal city. So, if you’re headed to Virginia Beach, check out these popular historical sites that are sure to be enjoyable for the history buff that you are and anyone else who’s along for the ride.

First Landing State Park

This now-recreational area is where the original Jamestown settlers landed in 1607. Built by an all African American military unit in the 1930s, the park is located right on the beach and sits in the middle of an urban sprawl. Originally called Seashore State Park (the name was changed in 1997), it’s described by thestate website as an “oasis,” with trails, cypress swamps, camping facilities, forests, as well as educational and historical landmarks and exhibits.

Open year-round, swimming, boating, hunting and even weddings and corporate events are available at First Landing.

Cape Henry Lighthouse

This old lighthouse was completed around 1792. As one of the first acts of the newly formed U.S. Congress, they funded the lighthouse because more than 50 vessels had met an untimely demise due to treacherous waters.

It was refurbished several times throughout the 19th century, but theheaviest renovation was in 1872, when serious structural issues were found. (This was also what caused the new Cape Henry Lighthouse to be built in 1881, which has remained in service ever since.)

The lighthouse is located on the Fort Story military base, so be ready to show some ID and have your vehicle inspected by military policemen, so plan ahead, as this could cause some delays entering the base.

You can visit the Cape Henry Lighthouse year-round either by yourself or in a group, as group tours are available, but be sure to check Preservation Virginia’s website for hours and admission prices, which vary by the time of year and age of the person, respectively, as well as for the few days during the holiday season that it’s closed. If you go in the summer, be warned: it can get up to 115 degrees Fahrenheitat the top of the lighthouse. Oh, and wear closed-toed shoes sinceflip flops are strongly discouraged.

National Aviation Monument

Located along the lovely Virginia Beach boardwalk, and not far from the well-known Norwegian Lady Monument, the National Aviation Monumentcovers three eras of naval aviation, including the early days of aviation, World War II and the modern era.

The history taught here is really cool, and it definitely gives visitors a greater appreciation for our naval aviator servicemen. Online reviews rave about how well maintained and put-together it is. Commonly used expressions are “touching” and “beautiful.”

Heads up: there isn’t a public parking lot, so you’ll need to park on the street and pay for a meter.

The Military Aviation Museum

Haven’t gotten enough aviation history after the monument? This museum is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Admission is $15 for adults and $7.50 for kids, but online reviews say it’s definitely worth it, with rare working World War I and World War II aircraft. One Yelp review from February 2017 even states the reviewer had been there approximately a dozen times.

There are 5 hangers at the museum: Army, Navy, WWI, Cottbus and the Fighter Factory. The Navy hanger is rentable for ceremonies and private functions, and hosts the annual Valentines Day 1940s Hangar Dance, as well as hangar dances during the World War One and Two airshows.The WWI hangar is unique, in that it was built to reflect the French barns that served to house planes during the time period of 1914-1918.

The hangers are hot in the summer and cold the winter, so be sure to dress appropriately.

The Old Coast Guard Station

Just a few blocks down the boardwalk from the Aviation Monument is the Old Coast Guard Station. An independently operated non-profit museum, this relic is full of old artifacts and excellent exhibits.

You can take private individual and family tours—no reservation needed—and you can also contact the Education Department to make a reservation for an educational program and tour. The Old Coast Guard Station also offers exhibits and special events, so check their website to find out what’s happening while you’re in town.

Thoroughgood House

This historical house was named after Adam Thoroughgood, an indentured servant who arrived in Virginia in 1622. It was restored in 1957, renovated in 2011 and in 1966 it was designated a national historic landmark. The Thoroughgood House pays honor to someone who essentially followed what would now be known as “following the American dream,” as Mr. Thoroughgood became a well-respected community leader.

Visiting one of the oldest Colonial locations on record will certainly be worth your time. Tours are available, and there is a restaurant inside that those who have visited have enjoyed. However, the house is currently closed, but it’s set to reopen in spring 2017.

Are you looking for a great place to stay while on your historical tour of Virginia Beach? The Holiday Inn is a great place and keeps you close to these awesome historical locations.


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