HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Between inflation, gas prices, the cost of living and more, looking forward to your summer plans may not be as exciting as it has in the past.
But we live in such a beautiful place, which makes taking a "staycation" an easy and cheap option.
News 3 is spending the month of July helping you plan your stay in the seven cities and northeastern North Carolina.
How about some fun with the kids during their summer vacation? The Children's Museum is the largest of its kind in the Commonwealth.
It features two-floor exhibits, a planetarium, a toy train collection and much more. The museum is open every day besides Mondays. Tickets cost $10 but there are several discounts available.
Also, what better way to see the city's waterfront than taking a ride on the Elizabeth River Ferry!
It's run by Hampton Roads Transit and is a cheap option to get across the river. If you're out headed to a Norfolk Tides game, they have special routes running every 30 minutes.
For ferry times and fares, click here.
Another thing that's great about our area is you can enjoy nature at every turn. This includes Portsmouth's Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve. It's 142 acres of trails, lakes, salt marshes, and more. Plus, we are right in the middle of kayak season. Hoffler Creek has kayak rentals and launch sites available.
We begin with the Mermaid City! Nauticus Museum is hard to miss if you head downtown and is open seven days a week, all year round.
The museum's newest exhibit, featuring drones, just opened.
A general admission ticket also allows you to explore the Battleship Wisconsin! Travel the deck, see the missile launchers up close and even get a look at the inside of the ship.
- Adult 13 and up: $15.95
- Child 4-12: $11.50
- Child 3 and under: Free
- Discounts: Military members and seniors (55+) with ID
The Virginia Zoo is also just down the street. You can take a trip around the world without leaving Norfolk, seeing giraffes, rhinos, lions and more up close.
To add to the family fun, the ZooGroove concerts have made their return. Each outdoor concert features a new local band.
Food and wine trucks are also on site.
- Adult (12+): $17.95
- Children (2-11): $14.95
- Seniors (62+): $15.95
- Discounts: Zoo members, military, first responders, Norfolk residents, college and university students
There's also the Norfolk Botanical Garden, located near the Norfolk International Airport. The Garden is 175 acres of gorgeous flowers and plant life, which you can explore on foot or through a tram tour.
On top of that, it has a garden just for kids, with sprinklers and activities to keep them entertained.
- Adult: $16.00
- Child (3-17): $14.00
- Military: $14.00
- Senior (65+): $14.00
How about getting a look under the sea with the Virginia Aquarium? Tickets cost around $25 for adults and $20 for kids.
Adult (12-61): $24.95
Child (3-11): $19.95
Senior (62+): $22.95
Plus, if you want to take a break in the great outdoors, the Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium is just outside. You can take to the treetops and explore a fun high ropes course.
Tickets cost a bit more, starting at $50 a person. They also just launched a Summer Staycation package.
Right down the street is the Ocean Breeze Waterpark. In Hampton Roads, it can get HOT in the summer — so why not find a spot where you can cool off?
And if you're looking for a break from the water slides, Motor World is right next door, with several go-kart tracks for the whole family to enjoy.
The water park is open nearly every day at 10 a.m. Tickets range from $35 to $50 a person.
- Weekday Adult (10+): $44.99
- Weekend Adult (10+): $49.99
- Weekday Child (3-9): $34.99
- Weekend Child (3-9): $39.99
If you're looking for a more relaxing and cheaper option this summer, there's always First Landing State Park.
The state park has more than 20 miles' worth of trails, as well as a connection to United States history — this is where English colonists first landed when they made it to the States back in the 1600s.
If you are not a state park member, you may have to pay a small fee to enter.
All summer long in Elizabeth City, you can enjoy music down by the waterfront! This year, Elizabeth City has introduced the Summer Sounds Music Series, which will happen down at Mariner's Wharf Park.
The best part? It's completely free — just bring your own blanket or chairs.
Concerts take place every second and fourth Sunday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
If you're looking for a way to spend your mornings, the Downtown Waterfront Market is open every Saturday for the rest of the month. It's also happening at Mariner's Wharf Park from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
There are dozens of vendors lined up selling food, soaps, fresh produce, jewelry and more.
And just because school is out for the summer, doesn't mean the learning stops! You can always head over to Elizabeth City State University's planetarium to learn about the galaxy, the world of flight, nearby stars and more.
The Khan Planetarium is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. It's completely free, but you will have to reserve a ticket ahead of time.
What better place to start than the Great Dismal Swamp? Rich in history, the swamp stretches across a good portion of Suffolk, but also touches Norfolk and North Carolina, covering more than 100,000 acres.
If you visit, there are a ton of things you can do, from a drivable tour, walking trails, biking, fishing, camping and more.
Suffolk is also a great spot for horseback riding! There are several farms throughout the area that have guided horseback rides for the family.
There are several different rates you can choose from to fit your budget.
Also, every week this summer Suffolk is hosting a concert celebrating the end of the work week!
The TGIF summer series happens every Friday at either Constant's Wharf Park or Bennett Creek. The concert is free and runs from 6 p.m. through 9:30 p.m.
You can get in some summertime learning by traveling to outer space!
Virginia’s Air and Space Science Center is a collaboration between NASA Langley and the City of Hampton. It provides you and the family the chance to explore the past, present and future of air and space travel. The center is open 7 days a week.
Non-member general admission:
- Child (age 3-18): $19.00
- Adult: $22.50
- Senior: $20.50
- Active Military/NASA: $19.50, need ID
Rather than heading to space, how about seeing history up close at Fort Monroe in Hampton? It's the site where the first enslaved Africans arrived in 1619, beginning a grim chapter in American history.
It later became a fortress of freedom for those looking for refuge in the south. It's an incredibly rich source of history right in our backyard, and it's completely free to visit. The national monument is open everyday from sunrise to sunset.
And if you have a need for speed — you can always head over to Langley Speedway! The racetrack is celebrating its 72nd season and is one of the top short tracks in the country.
There are races nearly every weekend until the end of October. Ticket prices vary but cost around 10 to 20 dollars apiece.
You can kick things off with a family trip to Hickory Ridge Farms!
The 18-acre farm is known for its strawberry picking. While that season is over, right now is the best time to pick a bouquet of sunflowers! It's just $2.00 per stem. They also have plenty of fresh produce, farm animals and more.
Hickory Ridge is open every day starting at 9 a.m. It costs nothing to visit!
If you're looking for a relaxing walk through nature, Chesapeake is full of parks, including Oak Grove Lake Park. There's 65 acres of hardwood forest and wetlands, along with a play area, picnic tables and lookouts to catch freshwater fish.
Oak Grove is open every day from sunrise to sunset and it's completely free.
Speaking of exploring nature, how about a family kayak trip? In Chesapeake you can paddle through the historic Great Dismal Swamp Canal to Lake Drummond — two of the largest freshwater lakes in Virginia.
Chesapeake has several kayak launch sites. If you want to rent your own, Adventure Kayak & SUP offers single kayak rentals for just $15.00 an hour.
From Hampton Roads, it’s a day trip to travel to Virginia’s Eastern shore.
The 17-mile journey begins over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Cape Charles is on the National register of historic places. The town holds bragging rights as one of the largest concentrations of ‘turn of the century’ buildings on the east coast.
The folks who live in Cape Charles year-round say there’s something for everybody to enjoy. The beaches are vast and uncrowded. And for day trippers watching their budget, the parking is free. A short walk from the waterfront takes you to the center of the historic town. It’s a very walkable place, where you will see a vibrant array of shops, restaurants, and galleries.
If your timing is right, you may be able to score a part as an extra for the 10th annual ‘Experimental Film Festival’ this month. Filmmakers from around the globe will inhabit the town and later this month, and show their finished cinema works at the historic Palace Theatre. Up the road from Cape Charles you will find Chatham Vineyard.
History buffs will appreciate the landscape which has been working as a farm for four centuries. Jon Wehner is a second-generation winegrower. Together with his wife Mills, they’ve transformed the land as a mix of farming and vineyard since 1999. Wine tastings, and special events are scheduled throughout the year.
If you're looking to prevent the summer slide…how about a trip to the Virginia Living Museum!
You and the kids can hang out with more than 250 different species of animals. The museum helps folks connect to nature while also providing a sanctuary for animals that can't be re-released into the wild.
- Adult 13 and up: $19.95 – $23.95
- Child 12 and under: $16.95
- Child 2 and under: Free
You can't go wrong with a trip to the farmers market! Newport news host one every Thursday at city center.
You can get your hands on a ton of in-season produce, seafood, and local treats, and more. The market opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 2 p.m.
You have until September 9, 2022 to check it out.
With the hot weather we've been having this museum may be the best spot to be!
You can check out the Mariners’ Museum and Park. It's open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and it will only cost you $1 dollar to get in! The museum is a space to explore the world's waterways, including the many that's around our area.
It has exhibits for the kids, veterans and everyone in between.
175 miles of pristine beaches, quaint towns, and historic islands. “You can find your own quiet little piece of island, regardless of how many folks are down here. There’s always a little nook and cranny to explore."
Kill Devil Hills
If you're looking to avoid expensive plane tickets-- how about going to the spot where we first took flight?
The wright brothers flew off the coast of the outer banks more than a century ago.
Now you can visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial!
It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, and cost $10 a ticket.
Something special about the Outer Banks is it's true natural beauty.
You can head over to Nags Head Woods Preserve in Kill Devil Hills. It's one of the largest remaining maritime forests on the east coast. The preserve is completely free to visit.
Water Sport Rental
You can't talk about a summer vacation without mentioning the ocean!
The Outer Banks has 175 miles of coastline and Kill Devil Hills takes up a good portion of that. There are several rental companies that allow you and the family to experience everything from paddle boarding to jet skiing. A list of some nearby rental companies is below.