Chesapeake is a city defined by its neighborhoods. Greenbrier, Western Branch, Deep Creek, South Norfolk, Great Bridge, Hickory – all of these areas are unique and the people who live there are a little fierce about it. I live in Hickory – the southernmost section of Chesapeake, about five minutes from the state line.
When people tell me they also live in Hickory, depending on where they actually live, I’ve been know to say, “You live in South Great Bridge. You don’t live in Hickory until you’re on well water.” Fierce.
Obviously, the lines drawn around these neighborhoods can get a little blurry, so for this list, my first task was to define the Great Bridge boundaries. I’ve done my best here, but I know someone will tell me something is out of bounds, so I apologize in advance. Just be glad anyone is giving a hoot about what is going on in Chesapeake at all, OK?
Great Bridge is a tight-knit area of Chesapeake that is home to City Hall and most of the other municipal offices. I lived in Great Bridge for several years and still have an office there. I love the suburban yet “downtown” feeling, the walkability to places from my office near the Locks and the gorgeous views of the Intracoastal. If you’ve never been out to visit this little slice of Hampton Roads, here are 10 reasons why I think it’s worth the drive and easy to love.
Some will argue that Big Ugly is technically in Hickory, but it’s “north Hickory” and close enough, and obviously needs to be on this list. The craft brewery opened earlier this year and quickly became a local favorite. Partially funded by an enthusiastic Kickstarter campaign, Big Ugly is making really unique beers such as barrel-aged, Russian Imperial-style stouts, and small batch brews with local fruits and honey. The brewery is vintage car and motorcycle themed and you can even sit on an old Triumph or inside an old VW bus while sipping their ever-changing “Great Bridge Special.” That is, if you can find a seat. Most nights it’s packed to the gills.
2. Second-hand City
A second-hand renaissance started here three years ago when the old Great Bridge Pharmacy building was leased after nearly a decade of abandonment. Several second-hand and upcycled furniture, antique, home decor and craft stores opened up in the historic building just south of the Locks. The (incorrectly spelled) Intercoastal Plaza has been completely revitalized and most days it’s difficult to find a parking spot. Second Sale Consignments, refreshed, Over the Rainbow Crafts and Lady Antiquity Estates are all in this shopping center and others have popped up in nearby spaces along Battlefield including Wise Owl Resale, Three Little Blackbirds and more.
3. The Farmers Market
The Chesapeake Farmers Market was originally held only at the Chesapeake City Park in Greenbrier, but it became so well attended that a satellite location was started in Great Bridge on Reservation Road. Every Wednesday and Saturday morning from early June through the end of November, this producer-only market boasts everything from fresh eggs to home-baked breads to vegetables and fruits galore.
4. Best Kept Secrets
In Great Bridge it’s easy to overlook the good spots and only see the chains since the Best Kept Secrets (BKS) are usually hole-in-the-wall spots that locals keep to themselves, but which I’m willing to share. First off, The Grill – a four or five table breakfast and lunch joint, so-classic diner it looks like something out of a Coen Brothers’ movie. Other BKS include donut bar, Amazing Glazed; Courthouse Cafe, where you’re as likely to see the Mayor having lunch as you are your neighbor; Mr. Jim’s, which puts every other sub shop chain to shame; and Burrito Perdido, where Great Bridge people claim you can get the best burrito in town that is, in fact, sold inside a gas station.
5. The Za!
People complain that Chesapeake is just chains, and there are a lot, but in the past year, two chain restaurants in my part of the city have closed their doors, only to be reinhabited by a local business. One of these was the Ruby Tuesdays on Cedar Road, which closed and was replaced with YNot Italian earlier this year. A great addition to our other Pizza Meccas including Chesapeake Pizza – a local favorite where you can only pay cash, only buy pizza and only sit in awe of its completely original 1970’s decor. Additionally, Andrea’s Pizzeria is slinging some of the best Sicilian style pizza you’ve ever tasted. And their bolognese? Don’t get me started.
6. Shakespeare in the Grove at TCC
Since 1995, the Drama Department at the Chesapeake campus of Tidewater Community College has put on Shakespeare in the Grove every summer. This free and open to the public, outdoor performance of one of Shakespeare’s classic plays is highly anticipated and attended. The plays have always been held in “the grove” just east of the main campus, but recent expansion and construction have forced the location to move. However, annual performances will continue and more information can be found on the website.
Part of our series helping you find the right neighborhood for you, sponsored by Rose & Womble Realty Company.
7. Great Bridge Battlefield
Great Bridge is named after an important Revolutionary Battle fought on December 9, 1775 near where the Great Bridge Locks stands today. This Patriot victory forced Lord Dunmore (The British Royal Governor of Virginia) to leave the state, resulting in the Virginia Convention adopting the first public declaration expressing a spirit of independence. In the past few years, the Great Bridge Waterways & History Foundation (below) have made huge strides to honor the Battle of Great Bridge location and make it a destination for boaters and history lovers. A beautiful park and monument were built just on the northeast side of the Locks. Reenactments and other events are held there, and money is continuing to be raised for a future visitor’s center and educational facility.
8. Eat The Streets 757 Food Truck Humpdays
The first and third Wednesdays of the month, food trucks take over the Great Bridge Battlefield
park (mentioned above). The last one of this year was in October, but it will return next spring. Every month, over half a dozen food trucks such as Lucky Peach, New York Souvlaki, Bro Fish Tacos, Malbon’s BBQ The Flying Pig and more dish out delicious hand-held food with a great view of the Intracoastal.
The Christmas parade through downtown Great Bridge is a 32 year old tradition that winds its way from Mount Pleasant Road, down south Battlefield Blvd and along Cedar Road to City Hall. This annual holiday event draws huge crowds, and people start staking out their spaces along these roads with lawn chairs days in advance. School marching bands perform, organizations make floats and of course – Santa makes an appearance as well. The parade is organized by the Chesapeake Rotary in conjunction with the city and is sponsored by Chesapeake Regional Medical Center. This year the parade will be held on December 5th at 6pm.
10. The people
It sounds corny, but it’s true. Great Bridge is easy to love because the people are easy to love. In an extremely transient area like Hampton Roads, Great Bridge is a neighborhood of locals. And even if you’re not, you feel like one. If you want a perfect example of southern hospitality, come here. Many of the people who live here have lived here their whole lives and for them it’s nearly impossible to walk into a store or restaurant without running into someone they know. This small town vibe keeps people friendly and on their best behavior. Come and see for yourself.