Top Destinations in Hampton Roads

During my travels abroad I often find myself trying to convince my new foreign friends to make a pit stop in my hometown during their next adventure in the USA. Here’s my list of must-see things in the 757!

hrregionmap-profilesFirst off what is “Hampton Roads”? 

Hampton Roads (area code 757) is the name of the region in Southeastern Virginia, United States. It combines several cities including Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Williamsburg, Hampton and more. Hampton Roads is renowned for miles of waterfront property, beaches, theme parks, history and it’s large military presence.

My Top Destinations (In no particular order)

1. Paradise Ocean Beach Club

My favorite summer spot is Fort Monroe’s Paradise Ocean Club. It is a privately owned beach on the Chesapeake bay that is clean, secluded and makes you feel like you’re at a 5 star resort. Why bother fighting tunnel traffic, searching for parking and wrestling with noisy crowds when you can go to Paradise Ocean Club? There you can rest comfortably in free beach chairs, have cabana boys serve you on the beach and then take a dip in the pool after sun bathing in a safe atmosphere. For only $5 (you’d pay more at the ocean front for parking alone!) you can enter the private beach. The club features miles of clean beaches, a beautiful olympic sized pool, oceanfront restaurant, beach bars, plus volleyball and corn hole courts. The best feature of the club is you can drink on the beach (it’s illegal to drink on the public beach).

2. Windsor Castle Park, Smithfield VA

Windsor Castle Park is in the heart of downtown Smithfield. It is a 208-acre riverside park that features miles of woodland trails, picnic areas, a dog park, fishing pier, bike trails, and a kayak/canoe launch. I absolutely love coming to this beautiful park. I usually go on my own for some meditation and reflection. It is a safe, well lit and well maintained park. My favorite part of the park is the kayak launch and the water system. There are tiny canals, large rivers and miles of tidewater to explore. On the water you can view crabs, fish, birds, turtles and more. Everything about this park is relaxing and calm. An absolute treat for the city dweller like myself.

3. The Leaping Lizard Cafe

A must stop eatery for all visitors of Virginia Beach is The Leaping Lizard cafe. The cafe features fresh ingredients, organic, gluten-free, vegan and other gourmet options. You can eat inside or on the comfortable patio. There’s also a built-in farmer’s market and antique shop. Every day their menu changes. I’ve had delicious sandwiches, delectable soups and the most heavenly pies.

4. Busch Gardens Williamsburg

BG Park Map

Since you’re visiting Hampton Roads why not take a pit stop and explore Europe? That’s right, you can visit Germany, France, Italy and more right in our backyard! Busch Garden’s Williamsburg is a world famous theme park that is a must-go for all VA Beach visitors and residents. The park has been voted “Most Beautiful” in America for the past 10 years. There are always fantastic shows, fun rides and great food! My friends and I often take on-a-whim trips at the end of our work days or when ever we are bored. This theme park never gets old! If you have time visit Water Country USA as well!

5.  The Naro Theater and Ghent, Norfolk

Need something to do Friday night? Why not visit the Ghent area of Norfolk. You could grab dinner at Luna Maya. Where you can feast on true South American options made with homemade sauces, real chilis, spices, and herbs. The absolute best hispanic food in the Hampton Roads. Then you can catch an indie film at the Historic Naro Cinema. This movie theater features limited release and foreign films. All for low-low prices. On a date? Snuggle up on the second floor for some privacy. After the movie try one of the many pubs and bars on 21st street. I recommend The Public House. Still want more? How about a late night desert? Sassi’s Cake’s and Sweets is a bakery and bar!  When in Ghent you’ll never find a shortage of good food, drinks and atmosphere.

6. Dance, Dance, Dance

My friends and I love to go dancing. Here are my favorite dance spots in the 757.

  • The Eagles Nest in Chesapeake
    • Not just a country bar! They have a country dance floor, a pop/hip hop dance floor, live bands, bull riding, corn hole, three bars and so much more. This is also the most diverse club I’ve ever been to. Every age, race, gender, whatever…all come out to Eagle’s nest and have a good time!
  • The Banque
    • I am the most un-coordinated person you might meet but I absolutely love line dancing. The Banque is a country-western bar in the hood of Norfolk. If you love people watching this place is the mecca. There are always tons of newbies, so you’ll never feel to inadequate. Plus there’s alway people willing to teach you the newest dance craze. So throw on your tightest pants, hot boots and a plaid shirt and getting kick’n.

7. Get Artsy

One of my favorite things to do on a rainy day is to paint. In Norfolk and Virginia Beach there are a couple of great shops where you can get creative and make something one of a kind.

  • The Mermaid Factory
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    My ombre mermaid!

    • Need a great souvenir from your 757 trip? Why not paint the symbol of Norfolk? Design your own mermaid at this unique little shop. Take an hour or so and create a one of kind ceramic mermaid that you can take home that day!
  • Color Me Mine (In VA Beach & Norfolk)
    • Paint pottery, drink wine and have a great girls night out!
    • $10 Studio Fee (Covers paints, glaze, firing, table fees) + the cost of your piece (ranging from $10-$100).
    • Takes about 5 days to get back
  • Paint ‘n Sit
    • This studio offers painting parties, classes and open studio. You can paint canvas or wine glasses. They’ll take you step-by-step through the painting process so that you can create a masterpiece.

8. See a play!

The Hampton Roads has an outstanding theater community. We have a plethora of professional actors and theaters. Many of which reside in Norfolk. Almost every night there is a play or performance happening. Here are links to some of the local theaters:

9. Drink, Drink, Drink

There are some fantastic bars in Hampton Roads. Here are some of my favorite:

  • O’Connor Brewing Company 
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    O’Connor Brewing Company

    • O’Connor’s is a working brewery and Tap House! They feature a huge beer hall, tasting room with a 24-tap bar, plus shuffleboard and corn hole!
    • You can sample flights of beer brewed on campus as well as other exclusives only available at O’Connor. This place is seriously a good time!
  • The Bier Garden in Portsmouth
    • A traditional German style restaurant with amazing food and a huge selection of German and international beers.
  • The Birch 
    • Craft Beer, artisanal Cheese and great atmosphere
  • Mermaid Winery
    • On a cool summer’s night my girls and I love to relax on the patio at Mermaid Winery. You can order flights of wine to sample, appetizers and spend the night gossiping and hanging out.
  • There are seriously tons of bars in Norfolk alone…this list could go on forever.

10. Shop till you drop

There are about six major malls in the Hampton Roads. All with their own different draws. But here are some of my favorite little shops in the 757. Ones that are locally owned and truly unique.

  • Kitsch
    • Kitsch VA is a store that sells handmade and artisan products made in Virginia. This is the perfect place to find a unique gift! They have cute toys, accessories, art prints, bath products, vintage finds and much more. The staff is friendly and the store is simply adorable. I always take Norfolk Newbies here and it quickly becomes their favorite local shop.
  • With Lavender and Lace Vintage Clothing
    • This is a magical shop full of stunning vintage clothes, antiques, and vinyl records. The owner Kelsie is a blogger goddess, who will become your fashion icon and girl crush. The store is charming and beautiful. You can find cool sun glasses, jewelry and gorgeous clothes.
  • Vinyl Daze Records 
    •  I am a huge fan of vinyl. My personal collection tops 100. So of course one of my favorite shops is a Record Store! Vinyl Daze is located in Virginia Beach. They sell new and used vinyl records and accessories.

So there it is! My list of Must sees and Must Do’s in Hampton Roads. This is only a short list. There are tons of things I’ve left out. So come visit me and my city and I’ll show you the town!

Under the Vietnamese sun

Today was one of the best days of my life. Early in the morning we boarded a boat and sailed to an island of the coast of Nha Trang. On the way there we sang and basked in the beauty of the South China Sea.

Our first stopped was snorkeling off the island of Hon Mun.

The water was turquoise and clear. There were little reefs right off of the beach so it was very easy to see the corals and fish. There were tiny colorful fish and big strange-looking ones too. I snorkeled nearly the whole time while others sun bathed and started drinking.

After several hours on the beach we got back on the boat  and the party started! Everyone was drinking and singing. I started downing my personal bottle of vodka! The boat really started “rocking”. We had a party break and were provided a monstrous feast. After stuffing ourselves our ship pulled up beside two others and then we hopped the ship to have a group karaoke party and music show. Our local guides were hilarious. They sang cover songs and even made some of the guests get up and sing! It was a great time.

10420205_10152771305925813_4724614631742022969_nThen we stumbled back onto our own ship where we took shots before jumping into the water from the roof of the boat! They threw us tubes and then we hung out in the stunning bay. They even set up a floating bar for us to swim to!

Eventually it was time to head back to shore. So settled back into the boat. I put on my headphones, hung my feet off the side of the ship and reflected as we sailed back to Nha Trang. It was magical, beautiful and life-affirming.  10309170_10152771305880813_4727700327185685849_n

By the time we got back to Nha Trang most people (including myself) were extremely intoxicated. We didn’t want the party to stop so we headed to our hotel pool and continued hanging out. I fell asleep (okay passed out) and when I woke up it was night-time.

We went back to the Sailing Club for dinner where we reminisced about the adventures of the day. I loved every second of the day. It was truly amazing. I think it may be one of the best days of my life!

So Fancy in Nha Trang

Yesterday we flew to the Vietnamese beach town of Nha Trang. This is a booming tourist destination full of pale Russians and rich beach goers.

We decided to treat ourselves by heading to Thap Ba Hot Springs for some relaxation and natural spring water treatments. I loved sitting in the warm mineral pools but the mud bath was the real highlight. I’ve never done anything like that before. The mud was cool and grainy. We spread it all over bodies to exfoliate and cleanse. After the mud bath we got into jacuzzi and relaxed with hot water and beers.

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Where did I stay? Vien Dong Hotel

Later everyone got dressed up and we headed to a swanky restaurant right on the beach called Sailing Club. We ate on the beach under a full moon. I had a couple of beach cocktails and a fantastic steak.  Later everyone grabbed bean bags and watched dancers as we hung out around the bonfire.  10600394_10152755321335813_1012120772049136423_n