Hampton, Va., is a charming town in the shadow of Colonial Williamsburg and a great family vacation destination
Hampton is home to several huge military bases, Hampton University—which houses a wonderful African-American art museum—a beautiful nature park with boat rentals and fishing, a large commercial harbor with charter fishing and tour boats, the U.S. headquarters for the Cousteau Society, a restored wooden carousel and, the coupe de grace, the amazing Virginia Air & Space Center.
There also are plenty of free celebrations all year long.
1. Saturday Night Street Fest Series, Saturdays, April 25-Sept. 5. Weekly street fair featuring live musical entertainment, cold refreshments and plenty of activities for families. Queen’s Way, 6-11 p.m. (757) 727-0900.
2. POMOCO Family Movie Series, Tuesdays, June 16-July 28. Entertainment begins at 7 p.m. followed by the feature presentation at sunset. Food and beverages available for purchase. Buckroe Beach Park. (757) 727-8311.
3. Storytelling in the Park, Fridays, June 19-July 31 (no program July 3).
Experience the art of storytelling through music, prose and puppetry. Come early to picnic or stay to greet the animals and enjoy the playground. Bluebird Gap Farm, 11 a.m.-noon. The rain site is West Hampton Community Center at 1636 Briarfield Rd. (757) 727-8311.
4. 10th Annual Blackbeard Pirate Festival, June 5-7. This festival celebrates the pirate history of Hampton in the early 1700s. Live entertainment, pirate camp, children’s activities, sea battles and fireworks reenact the demise of Blackbeard, one of the fiercest pirates ever known. Downtown Hampton. (757) 727-0900
5. Fourth at the Fort, July 4. Celebrate U.S. independence at the largest stone fort ever built in the U.S. Live music, children’s games and rides, food and beverages, military exhibits and fireworks. Walker Airfield, Fort Monroe. (757) 788-3151.
6. Spirit of America Festival, July 5. Phoebus is celebrating more than 400 years of “small town living at its best.” Live music, food, a Mustang car show, beer stand, a static display of the Hampton Cup Regatta’s race boat ‘Black Pearl,’ face painting and more. 50 N. Mallory St. and the first two blocks of Mellen Street. Noon-5pm. www.spiritofamericafestival.net
7. The 84th Annual Hampton Cup Regatta, Aug. 14-16. North America’s oldest continuously-run hydroplane boat race. Event includes a children’s area, food vendors, Bay Education and environmental exhibits. East Mercury Bridge at Fort Monroe. The bridge opens to pedestrians at 10 a.m. and racing is noon to 5 p.m. daily. (757) 870-5020, (757) 727-8311.
8. Hampton Bay Days, Sept. 11-13. Celebrating its 26th year, this annual festival is a combination of free entertainment on three stages, a family friendly area with a children’s stage, rides for kids under twelve, 40 booths of interactive educational fun that encourages stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay,100 Arts & Crafts booths, 35 food vendors, a specialty car show and one of the longest fireworks displays in the area. Downtown Hampton . Fri, noon-11 p.m.; Sat, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. ; Sun, noon-6 p.m. 757-727-1641. www.baydays.com
9. 4th Annual Great Pumpkin Fall Fling, Oct. 10. Hay rides, mechanical bull rides, arts and crafts, face painting and a Great Pumpkin carving contest. Carousel Park. Noon-6 p.m. (757) 727-0900.
10. Central Holiday Parade, Nov. 21. Helium balloons, floats, clowns, marching bands and Santa. Coliseum Central. (757) 826-6351.
11. 21st Annual Lighted Boat Parade and 4th Annual Winter Wonderland Tree Lighting, Dec. 5. More than 30 lighted power and sailboats parade along Hampton’s waterfront and there’s live entertainment, horse and carriage rides and fireworks at the tree lighting ceremony. Downtown Hampton Waterfront, 6-9 p.m. (866) 556-9631 or (757) 727-0900.