Summer Fun Guide

The Summer Fun Guide For Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, and beyond

The 2014 Summer Fun Guide Update Is Available Here

Summer Fun Guide

Summer just wouldn’t be the same without at least one good road trip. So our Summer Fun Guide team did the legwork (or is that roadwork?) for you, each beginning in Hampton Roads and taking off in different directions to bring you what we think are the region’s best rides. We always took the roads less traveled, of course, and made plenty of spontaneous stops along the way. History, nature, food, art, antiques and a little bit of kitsch—turning the page will start your engine. Also check out this year’s additional SFG features, including information on outdoor yoga spots, native planting tips, volunteer opportunities and biking Norfolk’s Botanical Garden.It’s been hot in Hampton Roads for awhile, but it’s now officially time for the summer sizzle. —The Editors

Eastern ShoreThe Eastern Shore is one of Virginia’s hidden gems. Surprisingly, though, it’s not hard to find people in Hampton Roads who’ve never made the short trip north on Route 13 across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. In years past, with no wife and children, I’d hit the Shore regularly for all manner of gung-ho outdoor pursuits. But now that I’ve settled down, I’m always on the lookout for fun trips for the family, and I’ve been curious for a long time whether the Shore would fit that bill. So one recent weekend, I gathered my wife and two boys and loaded up the old wagon to find out.

ROUTE: Route 13
FINAL DESTINATION: Chincoteague, Va.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
You pay a pretty hefty toll to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel ($12 one way, $5 if you return within 24 hours), but it’s a road trip stopover in its own right at more than 20 miles long and with two underwater tunnels anchored by four manmade islands. The southernmost island has a newly-remodeled travel plaza, including a gift shop, convenience store and full-service restaurant (there’s a fishing pier, too). We stopped by Chesapeake Grill for breakfast and were pleasantly surprised. It has a complete, fresh menu, including items for the kids—a dining experience made all the better by the restaurant’s outstanding view of the Chesapeake Bay.

Kiptopeke State Park
This is prime waterfront real estate a few minutes north of the Eastern Shore’s southern tip, and if you want to stay the night there are plenty of options. Since we were just passing through, however, we merely took advantage of an easy hike on Kiptopeke’s Chesapeake Bay-front beach. I marveled at the park’s nine WWII-era concrete ships sunk in two lines just offshore to form a breakwater—in its past life, before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, Kiptopeke was a ferry terminal. My wife enjoyed identifying all sorts of shore birds—Kiptopeke is renowned for the migratory populations that pass through on their way up and down the continent. Despite the extraordinary surroundings, my 2-year old was more interested in throwing sticks in the water. 3540 Kiptopeke Dr., Cape Charles. 757-331-2267.

OnancockChincoteague And Onancock
Onancock is a great place to stop, being a little more than halfway up the 70- mile stretch of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. It’s a small, historic village; the homes are well kept; and the town is perfectly manicured. There’s a lot to do—shops, art galleries, a movie theater. Onancock-based South- East Expeditions, experts in kayak tours, provides guide services on nearly any of the Shore’s unspoiled waterways. During the warm months, there’s a ferry that will take you to and from Onancock and Tangier, the island in the middle of the bay, renowned for its isolation from the mainland and hearty population of watermen and their families. With two small kids in tow, our options in Onancock were a bit limited, so, much to our enjoyment, we opted for dinner at Mallards at the Wharf.

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
The name here is deceiving— the refuge is actually located on Chincoteague Island’s neighbor Assateague Island. Nonetheless, this refuge gives visitors a chance to get up close and personal with the ecosystem of Virginia’s barrier islands. There’s a driving tour around the island, and you’re likely to see all sorts of wildlife and, as you’d expect, the worldfamous wild ponies, descendants of horses that arrived on the island hundreds of years ago. About the only major development on the island is Assateague Lighthouse, a 178-year-old, redand- white striped structure, accessible by a short hike off the main road. The big draw is undoubtedly the pristine beach which, even though it’s not open for swimming, lacks the commercial and residential development common along the East Coast’s more urban stretches. 8231 Beach Rd., Chincoteague Island.

Chincoteague Island
The town of Chincoteague itself deserves some special attention. It welcomes tourists and provides plenty for them to do—the town’s quaint Main Street has bike rentals, souvenir shops, ice cream parlors and, of course, a slew of seafood restaurants. Chincoteague Island is a town shaped by the water that surrounds it, a pleasant step back to a simpler time.

When I travel, I’m like a magpie in a 4-wheel drive, stopping to look at any shiny thing that attracts my attention. For my Summer Fun Guide road trip, I chose to travel along rural Highway 58, currently the longest continuous road in Virginia, and a gently undulating, horizontal line stretching from coastal Virginia Beach to the Cumberland Gap. During my ramble, I concerned myself primarily with the section of road that runs from Suffolk to Emporia, ending with a little side trip south into Skippers, and had plenty to gaze at.

Highway 58ROAD TRIPPER: Beth Hester
ROUTE: Highway 58

L&L Country Meats
Of all the stops on my road trip, with the exception of Emporia’s historic Klugel Building, my encounter with L&L Country Meats was perhaps the most delightfully unanticipated. Housed in a stark, and blindingly white, former gas station, owners Lorain Gardner and Lawrence Corbett utilize the height of the existing blue and white “Pure Gas” signage for their road-side advertising. Inside are myriad hand-cut meats, homestyle ground or link sausage (mild or spicy), slabs of thick-cut bacon, pork chops and country ham. During hunting season, they’ll grind the appropriate portions of your harvested venison for sausage and salami making. Local produce in season. You must stop in. Southeastern rural Virginia and French charcuterie juxtaposed. Bring a cooler. 5703 Holland Rd., Suffolk. 757-657-6360

Southampton Agriculture & Forestry Museum
Cruising through Courtland proper, I happened upon a split-rail fence surrounding a miniature community of whitewashed buildings, a little chapel, and an ancient looking gas station. This installation is part of the Southampton Agriculture and Forestry Museum, dedicated to preserving antique farm equipment, including a cotton gin, hand tools, rural wares and Native American artifacts. Visitors are transported to a time when mules plowed the fields and harvesting crops was a community effort. Also on-site, the Nat Turner-era Rebecca Vaughan House, currently under restoration. 26135 Heritage Lane, Courtland. 757-653-9554

Porky’s BBQ
This friendly little joint is definitely “off to the side,” on a small rise to the left if you’re heading west on 58. Its slogan is “Bite My Butt.” A small Formica counter spans the tiny interior, and allweather tables are set out front, shaded by a low roof. Though the hush puppies were pedestrian, the pulled pork was smoky and succulent. The sauce was perfect, the sides mild and complementary. Smoked chicken, ribs, brisket, hot dogs, burgers and sweet tea. 23218 Main St./Southampton Parkway, Capron. 434-658-3131

The H. T. Klugel Architectural Sheet Metal Company of Emporia 1914, National Register of Historic Places
This building so arrested my attention that I almost ran my truck up onto the curb. An exceptional architectural confection in black, white and silver. A must-see for design buffs and fans of the machine age. In 1914, sheet metal worker and entrepreneur H.T. Klugel opened shop in Emporia and used the facade of his building to display various types of tinwork and sheet metal ornamentation. 135 East Atlantic St., Emporia. 434-634-2267

The Good Earth Peanut Company
Skippers is a mere whistlestop, humble home to this creator of outrageously good gourmet peanuts. The signature Virginia nuts are locally produced, yet all of the nut creations, variously enrobed in proprietary spices and sweet coatings, are produced on-site. Gift assortments, notably the “Quadruple Drool” are available. I sampled Cajun spiced nuts, cashew brittle and butter-toasted pecans. Next trip I’ll bring a basket lunch, dine out on the picnic table and enjoy the CSX and Amtrak trains threading past. 5334 Skippers Rd., Skippers. 1-800-643-1695,

Many people know Route 17 as the scenic option for traveling the length of the Southeast coast. Once upon a time, it was the only route. But traveling north on 17 from the Peninsula is heading home for me. I was raised in Gloucester County from second grade until I graduated from Gloucester High School in 1989. It’s a nice, easy day getaway, complete with many historic sites, fun shops, antique stores and places to stop for a bite. These days it will cost you $2 to cross the Coleman Bridge from Yorktown (also a fun stop). The return trip is free. I recently conned two girlfriends into making the trip with me.

Route 17ROAD TRIPPER: Leona Baker
ROUTE: Route 17
FINAL DESTINATION: Tappahannock, Va.

Abingdon Episcopal Church
I attended historic Abingdon Episcopal for several years when I was growing up. Even then, I appreciated its understated Colonial elegance. Built from handmade clay bricks in the shape of a Latin cross, work on the current structure began in 1750. Thomas Jefferson attended a service there while visiting his good friend and fellow William & Mary alum John Page. The cemetery is the final resting place of local land owners, merchants,farmers, slaves, Civil War soldiers and Native Americans. When we stopped by, there happened to be a rehearsal for a christening going on, so we got an up-close look at the 1980s renovation that included the addition of a stunning pipe organ. 4645 George Washington Memorial Highway, Gloucester. 804-693-3035.

Short Lane Ice Cream Co.
Short Lane is everything an old-fashioned ice cream shop should be. Housed in an old renovated general store/gas station, it has all the historic charm as well as a fresh, inviting, modern feel on the inside. All of the ice cream is made on the premises (they’re closed on Mondays for that reason) from as many local and seasonal ingredients as possible. The cozy, high-backed wooden booths are great for tucking into with a sugar cone packed with coffee ice cream (my favorite). They also sell candies, gourmet coffees and other goodies. The smell alone is worth stopping in for. 6721 George Washington Memorial Highway, Gloucester. 804-695-2999

Gloucester Courthouse
I’m embarrassed to admit that my recent tour of the historic buildings in Gloucester Courthouse was a personal first. Sure, I grew up there. But we appreciate these things more as we get older, don’t we? Gloucester Courthouse has a lot of character these days. The old courthouse buildings and history museum are complemented by antique shops, a boutique clothing store (Yolanda’s On Main), a nice little art gallery (Arts on Main) complete with performance space and even a Thai restaurant (to put that in perspective, I remember when G-town first got a McDonald’s, and it was huge news).

The Farmer’s Daughter
This cute little roadside farmer’s market packs a lot into a small space. It’s not far from the turnoff to my mom and dad’s place, and I always make a point of stopping in there after a family visit. It’s open from April through GloucesterChristmas. There really is a “farmer’s daughter,” Karen Merrill, whose family farming roots run deep in Gloucester. The prices are reasonable, and the produce, plants, honey, preserves, eggs, oysters and more always look fresh and delicious. I picked up some Chinese eggplant, red potatoes and a basil plant when we stopped in. 10935 George Washington Memorial Highway, Gloucester. 804-694-0569

This tiny waterside town, one of the nation’s oldest seaports, has become synonymous with oysters. Throngs of people descend upon it each November for the famed Urbanna Oyster Festival. The rest of the year, it’s all quiet, off-themap charm. Our favorite shopping stop was Taste Gourmet on Virginia Street, a beautifully appointed destination for wine and specialty food lovers. Around the corner on Cross Street is Marshall’s Drug Store, a real-deal old-fashioned pharmacy complete with a soda fountain; Cross Street Coffee, an adorable java stop with a platter of big, sexy cinnamon buns on the counter; and Pieces of Peper, a unique handmade jewelry shop. 804-758-2613.,

One of the big attractions in the center of town is Lowery’s Restaurant, a truly old-school family eatery— the kind with wood-paneled walls and ship wheels for décor. I got a fried oyster and chicken salad platter (yes, this is a popular menu item). The hush puppies are kickin’, and there are a couple of antique cars on display at one end of the building. A cluster of nearby antique shops (throw a rock and you’re bound to hit one of them) are a goodway to walk off your meal. 804-443-3336.

****For the 2014 Summer Fun Guide click this link /For the rest of this article, see the May/June 2011 issue of Hampton Roads Magazine.****

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