20 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to Hampton Roads

If you are thinking of moving to Virginia Beach, you might have in mind a quaint beach town with a nice boardwalk. In fact, Virginia Beach is one of several cities that comprise the sprawling Hampton Roads region. Okay, so the boardwalk is nice, but “Vah Beach” is much, much more than that.

1. What’s in a name?

You might think you’re moving to one city, like Virginia Beach, but you’re actually moving to Hampton Roads. Also referred to as Tidewater, HRVA, the 757 or the 7 Cities, this region has an interesting mix of city-proud residents and blurry borders.

2. I-64 is a circle and nobody gets it.

The portion of I-64 that connects most of Hampton Roads is actually a big loop. While it does get commuters from point A to point B, it makes the whole east/west thing really complicated. You’ll need to know whether you’re driving in the “inner loop” or “outer loop” to know which direction you’re really going, but the good news is – even us locals still don’t really understand it.

3. This is a military town.

There is a military installation in every city of Hampton Roads, with Norfolk being home to the largest Naval Installation in the US. According to the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, there are over 83,000 active duty military here. We respect our military residents, welcome them when they relocate or retire here, and support their families when they deploy. Patriotism isn’t just a word we throw around – it’s deeply embedded in our culture.

4. Don’t expect big name sports teams.

While we don’t have big name professional sports teams, we do have the Baltimore Orioles’ farm team, The Tides, and a pretty great American Hockey League team, The Admirals. Most people here would rather cheer for their alma mater – whether that’s Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University, Hampton University or Virginia Wesleyan.

5. A dusting of snow will shut this place down – no kidding.

The average US city gets 26 inches of snow per year. Norfolk gets five. And when those five little inches come down, we collectively panic. Expect schools to be closed for two to three days, roads to be deserted, and milk and bread to be scarce at the mere mention of flurries.

6. We love our waterways.

The Atlantic is obvious, but we’re also obsessed with the Lynnhaven River, Elizabeth River, James River, Intracoastal Waterway and the Chesapeake Bay. Boating, surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking, deep sea fishing and just about anything else you can do on the water is a big deal.

7. Summers are crazy.

Virginia Beach is a tourist town, so prepare for the summer to be a little crazier due to out-of-towners driving our confusing roadways and gawking at our beautiful bodies of water. You will learn to be patient (hopefully) and plan ahead for traffic and long waits at any restaurant within a 2-mile radius of the oceanfront.

8. We have world class art.

The Chrysler Museum in Norfolk is one of the best-known art museums in the south boasting works by Pollock, Rothko, Renoir, and Cassatt (to name a few). On top of that, the museum is completely free – all the time. The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Virginia Beach has one of the largest Dale Chihuly chandeliers on permanent display. The Hermitage Museum and Gardens in Norfolk contains international antiques and artwork as well as 12 acres of beautiful gardens on the Elizabeth River.

9. We LOVE beer.

The craft brewery scene here has exploded in the last decade. From microbreweries to national brands like Green Flash, our beer scene is big enough to warrant its own publication, The Growler.

10.You can be just about anywhere in a few hours.

It’s unlikely, but possible, that you might get tired of the beach. Fortunately, there are tons of options within a few hours’ drive. DC is four hours north (take the train out of Norfolk for a stress-free trip), the Blue Ridge Mountains are just three hours to the west, the Outer Banks of North Carolina are two hours to the south and the bustling state capital, Richmond, is just two hours inland.

11. Same street, different cities.

Before the I-64 loop and the I-264 extension, people in Hampton Roads got from city to city via very, very long roads, many of which are still in use. Don’t be confused when you see Princess Anne Road in southern Virginia Beach and downtown Norfolk, or when you’re on Virginia Beach Boulevard, but are actually in Norfolk. Other roads that span cities include Ballentine Boulevard, Shore Drive and Northampton Boulevard.

12. There are so. many. bridges.

The downside to all the water is all the bridges and tunnels. Most bridges have regularly timed openings, but some just seem to open whenever. Your best bet is to learn the timing of the bridges you travel frequently and plan around it. Oh, and listen to the traffic reports religiously.

13. Jet noise = freedom.

As mentioned earlier, this is a military town, and with that comes jets. You’re not allowed to complain about the noise – if you do, someone nearby will just yell, “that’s the sound of freedom!” 

14. The weather is . . . weird.

Although generally mild, our weather can change dramatically and quickly, especially in the fall and spring. Don’t be surprised if the temperatures in October or April go from mid-80’s to low 40’s in a matter of days.

15. There is some amazing food.

You will never run out of places to eat here. We have exceptional restaurants in every city with renowned Chefs at the helm of many. To list any would be to leave so many out, so do your research and give them a try – you won’t be disappointed.

16. Hampton Roads is BIG.

From the southernmost tip of Virginia Beach to the westernmost edge of Suffolk is over 70 miles. Be prepared to do a lot of driving here.

17. American History abounds.

American (Colonial) history started here. First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach is where the first colonists made landfall in 1607 before moving on to Jamestown. There are also many Revolutionary and Civil War battle sites in the area, so history buffs will never run out of things to do.

18. There is only one Orange Crush.

People in Hampton Roads are obsessed with this drink that started at Waterman’s restaurant on 4th Street and Atlantic Avenue. It is often imitated, but never perfectly replicated, so head down to the beach and try the original.

19. We all sound different.

Forget about trying to nail down a consistent accent – even amongst lifelong locals. Just make sure to replace “you guys” with “y’all” and to pronounce it Nor-fick, not Nor-folk, and you’ll be fine.

20. There is always something going on.

There are events every single weekend in multiple cities. Follow AltDaily’s “Reason’s to Leave Your House” published every Thursday for a great list of ways to get out and enjoy this awesome region you now call home!

Rachel Burns