By MyBaseGuide Staff Member
With structures dating back to 1802, Fort Monroe is the shining jewel set in the Virginia Peninsula. Fort Monroe (named for President J. D. Monroe) was established in 1819 as a safeguard for the Hampton Roads harbor, as well as a training ground for artillery officers. The fort also stood as a Union stronghold, hidden in the heart of the Confederacy. The coast is not without its unique history as well; the peninsula's extreme point faces the location of one of the most important naval engagements of all time—the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack during the civil war. In both World War I and II, Fort Monroe's "Coast Artillery School" trained thousands of soldiers for overseas duty. During this time, the fort's coastal defense systems were judged by many to be the most complex in the nation. Since WWII, the fort has been HQ to many major commands. Currently, the fort is home to the Northeastern Region Office, Training and Doctrine Command, Joint Warfighting Center, ROTC Cadet Command, as well as others. Geographically, the peninsula—which is 25 miles long (and varies from 8-10 miles wide)—is located 80 miles from Richmond and 180 miles from Washington D.C. Hampton Roads broadens out at Old Point Comfort to form the Chesapeake Bay, and the Atlantic ocean lies only 20 miles from Old Point Comfort. The rustic peninsula covers the most engaging territory in the United States, embodying much of the nation's historical heritage in Virginia, since 1607. Many towns (listed below) figure heavily into the rich history surrounding this peninsula, and each has a unique set of locales/experiences worth looking into. Hampton is America's oldest continuous English-speaking settlement, rife with history and adventure (in addition to being Fort Monroe's closest neighbor). For educational content, Hampton boasts not only Fort Wool, but also the Virginia Air and Space Museum and the Hampton History Museum. If your inner techie is struggling to get out, the NASA Langley Research Center maintains a visitors center in Hampton. For the finer arts, check out the Hampton Coliseum or the American Theatre. If you're in the mood for a movie, there's always AMC Hampton Towne Center 24 or the Regal Riverdale Plaza 12. For more natural surroundings, Hampton offers the Sandy Bottom Nature Park, Blue Bird Gap Farm, Buckroe Beach, Air Power Park, and Gosnold's Hope Park. For those who love the ol' 18, there's the Hamptons Golf Course and the Woodlands Golf Course. And for the kid in all of us, there's the historic Hampton Carousel. Williamsburg is the fulcrum for all things entertaining. If thrills are your grail, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is all you need. Pamper yourself by stopping at the Williamsburg Soap and Candle Company, and follow it with a visit to the Williamsburg Winery, Ltd. For a historical excursion, locals go to Colonial Williamsburg where you can "step back 220 years, to the eve of the American Revolution." If you're still feeling that need for history, check out one of the three reconstructed 18th century taverns. Founded in 1691, Yorktown was known as the first main shipping center for Chesapeake Bay trade. Because of its central location, Lord Cornwallis sought to establish a sea base. It's fitting that Cornwallis was both denied Yorktown, and later surrendered here in 1781, bringing closure to the Colonies' struggle for independence. The Yorktown Victory Center is close to the historic surrender site, constructed in 1976 as a permanent reminder of the nation's Bicentennial anniversary. From there, take a guided tour of the battlefield. Fort Monroe military personnel in uniform have admission waived. On May 13, 1607, Jamestown was the landing point for America's first English colony. This landing point marked the beginning of the English-speaking American nation. Check out the Jamestown museum and the Powhatan Indian village. At the Jamestown settlement, you can see full-scale reproductions of the three ships (Susan Constant, Discovery and Godspeed) that the first "Americans" arrived in. Named after Christopher Newport and the news of his voyage to re-supply the Jamestown colony. Newport News played a vital role in all major U.S.-involved wars. During the Civil War, the Peninsula Campaign was waged in Newport News, and the famous "Battle of the Ironclads" took place on (and off of) the surrounding coastline. When America became involved in WWI, Newport News was the designated Port of Embarkation for the U.S. army. Upon returning from WWI, more than 440,000 returning veterans passed through the (newly rebuilt/restored) Victory Arch, at 25th Street and West Avenue. Newport News is home to three spectacular museums: the Mariners Museum and Library, the Virginia War Museum and the critically acclaimed Virginia Living Museum. For a more rustic fare, there is the James River Bridge Fishing Pier, Harwood's Mill Fishing Area and Noland Trail. As always, for the finer arts, there is the Hilton Village Historic Area/Peninsula Community Theatre and the Peninsula Fine Arts Center. If you're interested in staying the night, there's the historic Boxwood Inn Bed and Breakfast. If golf is your game, there's always the Newport News Golf Club, a 36-hole, full service facility. About halfway between the resort strip at Virginia Beach and the cobblestone streets of Colonial Williamsburg you'll find a finger of land that points southeastward into the Chesapeake Bay. To Virginians it's known simply as "The Peninsula." It's an area singularly rich in history and in scenic beauty, and it's only now being "discovered" by family vacationers as one of the best travel bargains in Virginia. The Peninsula, which includes the cites of Hampton, Newport News and Poquoson, plus York County, is about 30 miles long and 10 miles wide. Concentrated within this area are a large number of attractions suited to the interest and inclinations of just about every vacationing family—historic sites, unique museums and countless miles of scenic waterways. Stroll through the battlements of the Yorktown battlefield where American independence was won in 1781; see a rock plucked from the face of the moon in the NASA Space Museum; browse through one of the world's finest collections of nautical artifacts at the Mariners Museum; and see some of the world's most impressive warships from the decks of the Harbor Cruise boats. Visitors to the Peninsula have found the welcome a warm one, although some—like General Cornwallis in 1781 and the Yankees in 1862—found the reception a bit hotter than they would have liked. Today, the Peninsula's rich historical legacy and natural beauty are enhanced with more modern improvements that make this region a pleasing and economical destination for the modern vacationing family.
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