A military relocation brought me to the area, and I’m not looking back! In only two months of living here, the wonderful people, beautiful scenery, and incredible food have constantly impressed me. So impressive are they, in fact, that I wanted to share a few of my favorite things with you here.
I originally hail from Buffalo, New York – a city that has dragged itself through some rough times and is slowly emerging as a diamond in the rough. The passion for the city that I felt there is something I continue to experience in Hampton Roads. The seven cities boast endless possibilities for entertainment and fun, and the natives here know it. My first sense of the HR “spirit” came at Town Point Park’s Independence Day celebration (below). Spending all day on the waterfront, listening to live bands, and trying the food, I couldn’t help but notice how content everyone seemed to be there. They were just happy in the moment, on a beautiful evening, surrounded by loved ones. While I watched the bright fireworks explode over the Elizabeth River, I took a moment to look around at the smiles of those around me. That sense of enjoyment and calm is a wonderful first impression that I will always carry with me.
all photos by author unless otherwise noted
The “spirit” of the area is present around every turn. Whether it’s families mingling in the neighborhoods of Ghent, couples solidifying their love with a padlock on the Hague Bridge, or the owner of the Seoul 757 food truck talking passionately with me about her food and her culture, Hampton Road-ians carry an unmistakable enthusiasm for their turf, which is infectious to someone trying to make a home here.
The Food! My goodness, I would have moved here years ago if I had known what I was missing. I would classify myself as a casual foodie – not an expert by any means, but certainly enthusiastic about the topic of food in my mouth. Coming from an emerging culinary city like Buffalo, I’ve developed an appreciation for what a good meal really is. My list of Hampton Roads establishments to check out is growing every day, and I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon, which makes going out to eat a very overwhelming experience! Even though the list is getting longer, I already have some favorites and regular watering holes. A goat cheese and fig panini at The Sandwich Box followed by gelato at Strawberry Fields in Ghent have been recent weekend go-tos. I can usually be found on Saturdays walking through Ghent with ice cream in tow, admiring the beautiful houses. If you are a coffee-lover like I am and are willing to ignore the call of the green and white siren, I highly recommend checking out Café Stella in Ghent and Cure Coffeehouse and Brasserie in the Freemason district. Aside from the amazing atmospheres, both boast impressive menus including coffee, bar, and food items.
image | Cafe Stella
Having a food truck/restaurant owner in my family, I was thrilled to discover the growth and ambition of the industry here. A recent Saturday was well spent in Virginia Beach at The Hub, a park that houses a rotating cast of food trucks, musicians, and festivals. My pulled pork and brisket platter from Malbon Bros. BBQ set the bar very high for southern barbecue, while the authentic Korean tacos from Seoul 757 made for a delicious new experience. The huge net of support in Hampton Roads for great food and the people behind it is very encouraging to see.
Music & Arts
Seven Venues… seven! Do you realize how amazing it is to have seven performing arts centers within a 20-mile radius? This doesn’t even include the great collection of movie theaters, small concert halls, comedy clubs, and museums sprinkled throughout the area.
As someone who classifies movies as a hobby, I truly appreciate having a Regal Cinemas across the street from my house for the big blockbusters and theaters like Naro Expanded Cinema for smaller films only a 10-minute drive away. I have already been to dozens of movies, comedy shows, live performances, and small concerts in just 60 days! It’s great to have options available right at my fingertips, and I’m really looking forward to exploring all of them.
Just like there seems to be a restaurant gem around every corner here, there also seems to be a beautiful park or walking path everywhere I look. The Hampton Roads park system is something that came up again and again as a highlight of the area in my research before moving, and boy was it right! I’m lucky enough to work right across the street from Mt. Trashmore Park, which I take advantage of on a daily basis now. Town Point Park’s Fourth of July celebration was a highlight of the summer along with hikes through the Great Dismal Swamp and Indian River Park. I even discovered a beautiful walking path near the water in my Chesapeake neighborhood last week that leads right into Greenbrier Park.
It’s a gift to be surrounded by such beautiful outdoor spaces, from oceanfront views to hills and forests. Next on the list is to find a good camping spot (like hiking-to-the-middle-of-nowhere-and-pitching-a-tent kind of camping), so suggestions are welcome.
I have encountered nothing but friendly faces and smiles from everyone in Hampton Roads. Just this past weekend, I headed to Cure Coffeehouse and Brasserie looking for good coffee to accompany my new book. One latte and two Oktoberfest pours later, I was welcomed as the “new girl” having met one of the owners, a couple of baristas, and several neighborhood regulars. Their genuine friendliness made my week.
My co-workers and neighbors, likewise, have been extremely kind. Making a point to say hello and actually engage in conversation is very refreshing to someone coming from the “headphones in, head down” behavioral norm of Washington DC. Making a big move to a new area is always intimidating, but the people of the seven cities have certainly made it easier.
While looking for a job recently, I met a man who has lived in Hampton Roads all his life. We got to talking about the community here, and I will always remember what he said, “This is a great place to be a kid, having fun on the beach and in the parks. It’s a great place to be young and enjoy the nightlife. It’s a great place to fall in love, settle down and raise a family. And I’m finding out it’s even a great place to grow old. You can be happy all your life here, and I’m very glad this is my home.”