12 hours in Newport News

It’s a 23-mile long stretch of land on the Virginian Peninsula that’s only three miles wide at most. What Newport News lacks in width it most certainly makes up for in depth.

With the distinctive architecture and design of the Ferguson Center for the Arts and the new Tech Center shopping complex, Newport News is attempting to push forward while still holding onto its colonial roots.

It’s time to spend 12 hours in Newport News.

Lee Hall Mansion/Endview Plantation

Step into North Newport News and turn the calendar back a few centuries at Lee Hall Mansion and Endview Plantation.

The Lee Hall Mansion, a plantation built between 1849 and 1859, is one of the last antebellum houses remaining on the Peninsula. The mansion has a mix of architectural styles. Its floor plan, with a long central hallway and adjoining rooms, is from the Georgian style that was popular in English-speaking countries in the 1700s and early 1800s. The home’s exterior takes inspiration from Greek Revival, popular in the same time period and marked by the columns outside the home. Beyond the structure, visitors can experience Civil War life further with the many re-enactment groups hosted by Lee Hall.

Just a mile away, and nearly 100 years older, is Endview Plantation. Dating back to 1769, Endview’s land produced tobacco, grain and cattle before a doctor purchased the land in the mid-1800s. It then served as a Confederate hospital in the Civil War. Endview is a popular re-enactment site and hosts civil war camps and other educational programs.

Newport News Park

Taking up nearly 8,000 acres, Newport News Park could easily provide a day’s worth of activities for any nature lover.

More than 188 campsites are located throughout the park offering amenities from heated showers to laundry facilities. For those looking to spend a few hours at Newport News Park, fishing and boating are allowed with options like rowboats, canoes and paddleboat rentals.

There are trails for hiking, jogging, biking and mountain biking, depending on the amount of thrill one is looking for. For a more relaxed time, take a walk around the arboretum to check out seasonal flowers.

No matter what you do at the park, it’s important to work up an appetite as the next stop on your journey is full of indulgence.

Viking Burger

Located among the square and rectangular buildings along Warwick Boulevard sits a mustard yellow triangular structure that is Viking Burger. It’s worth every second of your attention.

It might take a second, too, to even find the entrance to the burger joint. (For the record, it’s on the left side of the structure when facing the front.) Once inside you’ll quickly be greeted by an employee asking if you’ve tried the Viking Sauce, a turkey-based chili with a bit of a bite. If you haven’t, the person working the counter will make sure to pass along a sample.

As the name suggests, Viking Burger’s menu is loaded with burger options. From a simple burger topped with Viking Sauce to one stuffed with macaroni and cheese, there should be no worries about leaving the restaurant anything but stuffed.

If burgers or hot dogs aren’t your thing, Viking Burger’s fries alone are well worth the trip. They’re huge and deliciously crunchy — a perfect vehicle for the restaurant’s sauce.

Newport News museums

Within a two-mile radius are three museums showcasing Virginia wildlife, maritime culture and art.

Get up close and personal with many of Virginia’s animals, dig for dinosaur bones and wander through the stars at the Virginia Living Museum. The museum has been open for 50 years to educate guests on the Commonwealth’s natural and living resources. Indoors, VLM hosts rotating exhibits ranging from the origin of the dog to the importance of water. Outside, guests can walk along the expansive boardwalk to find the Dinosaur Discovery Trail, one of the museum’s newest attractions.

Just down the road from VLM sits The Mariners’ Museum and Park, highlighting maritime history and the working watermen. The centerpiece of the museum is its USS Monitor Center, named for the ironclad steamship that fought in the Battle of Hampton Roads during the Civil War. Within the center is the Ironclad Revolution exhibit showing off artifacts, documents and interactive displays. Other areas touch upon exploration, small boats and an upcoming exhibit on the America’s Cup.

Just a jump away from The Mariners’ sits the Peninsula Fine Arts Center. The museum houses a single exhibit at a time. Currently that’s “Soaring: Works from NASA’s Art Program,” to tie into the 100th anniversary of NASA Langley on the Peninsula. Pfac has a robust education program with classes on ceramics, drawing and glass art, as well as plenty of kid-friendly classes.

Hilton Village/Lions Bridge

In between the museums and Hilton Village sits the Lions Bridge, one of Newport News’ most iconic landmarks. Part of the Mariners’ Museum’s Noland Trail, the bridge’s dam created the neighboring Lake Maury. Bookended by lion statues, the bridge was designed by Anna Hyatt Huntingon, wife of of Mariners’ Museum founder Archer Milton Huntington.

Once you’re done seeing it and taking in views of the James River, head south toward Hilton Village.

Take a walk down some of Newport News’ most beautiful and historic streets in Hilton Village, an English-style neighborhood dating back to 1918. The government’s first planned community was built to house workers at the shipyard and is now listed on the United States’ National Register of Historic Places.

Walk along the tree-lined Post and Main streets, or take a look at many of the homes bordering the James River along River Road, Park Place and Hilton Terrace. There’s more than architecture to the neighborhood as Hilton Village has plenty of shopping.

There’s ACT II Consignments, specializing in women’s wear, and Plantiques, a store selling antiques, vintage furniture, jewelry and clothes, among many other locally-owned businesses. Don’t forget to grab a snack, either, from Couture Cakes or Indulge Bakery & Bistro.

Kismet Bistro

Just off Warwick Boulevard sits one of Hilton Village’s newest restaurants, Kismet Bistro.

The restaurant — a venture of the same group that started Hampton’s Barking Dog, The Deadrise and El Diablo Loco — opened in spring 2016 serving upscale American food in a casual, neighborhood setting. Menu highlights include pork belly biscuits, gingered sweet potatoes and a rotating fresh fish.

While a great weekend stop, the best time to visit Kismet is on Monday evenings when the restaurant offers a special pizza deal. For $20, customers get a pizza and a bottle of wine. The restaurant also has a special brunch menu with chicken and pancakes, breakfast pizza and housemade granola.

Performing arts

Newport News has become a hub for both local and national acts.

Check out the Ferguson Center for the Arts, located on the edge of Christopher Newport University. The structure’s curved exterior adorned with columns is an impressive sight at night. The theater has hosted national acts such as Jay Leno, Vanessa Williams and touring Broadway shows.

Located within the Southeast Community is the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center. This theater has been a hub of activity, even more so this year as Newport News celebrates what would have been native Ella Fitzgerald’s 100th birthday. Downing Gross has a summer movie series and regularly hosts dance, spoken word and music performances. Check out the list of classes too, ranging from visual arts to fashion.

Another option for local talent is the Peninsula Community Theatre in Hilton Village. Upcoming performances include “Ragtime,” from July 28 to August 19, and “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” beginning Oct. 6.

Black can be reached by phone at 757-247-4607.


Want to go?

Lee Hall Mansion

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday

Location: 163 Yorktown Rd, Newport News

More info: leehall.org or 757-888-3371

Endview Plantation

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday

Location: 362 Yorktown Road, Newport News

More info: endview.org or 757-887-1862

Newport News Park

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Location: 13564 Jefferson Avenue, Newport News

More info: nnparks.com or 757-886-7912

Viking Burger

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday

Location: 13650 Warwick Blvd, Newport News

More info: facebook.com/VikingBurger1 or 757-874-1269

Virginia Living Museum

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Location: 524 J. Clyde Morris Blvd, Newport News

Cost: $20 for adults, $15 for ages 3-12

More info: thevlm.org or 757-595-1900

The Mariners’ Museum

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

Location: 100 Museum Dr, Newport News

Cost: $13.95 for adults, $12.95 for 65 and older plus military, $8.95 for ages 4-12

More info: marinersmuseum.org or 757-596-2222

Peninsula Fine Arts Center

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday

Location: 101 Museum Dr, Newport News

Cost: $7.50 for adults, $6 for military/students/teachers/active military, $4 for ages 6-12

More info: pfac-va.org or 757-596-8175

Lions Bridge

Location: Near intersection of Museum Parkway and Museum Drive

Kismet Bistro

Hours: 5-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday

Location: 99 Main Street, Newport News

More info: facebook.com/kismetbistro or 757-327-0716

Ferguson Center for the Arts

Location: 1 Avenue of the Arts, Newport News

More info: fergusoncenter.org or 757-594-8752

Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center

Location: 2410 Wickham Avenue, Newport News

More info: downinggross.org or 757-247-8950

Peninsula Community Theatre

Location: 10251 Warwick Blvd, Newport News

More info: pctlive.org or 757-595-5728

Email: joblack@dailypress.com

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