Located in the center of Coastal Virginia, the city of Chesapeake is known in the state as a place of great historical and cultural significance, as well as being the home to a whole host of natural beauty spots.
There are over 22 miles of waterways in Chesapeake that include canals, rivers, and lakes, and you can even visit the moody Dismal Swamp Canal which was allegedly the inspiration for the poem ‘The Raven’ by Edgar Allan Poe.
If you love the great outdoors, then the parklands of Chesapeake are just the place to come, and bird watching, hiking, and picnicking are great pastimes here in places like Northwest River Park.
If you prefer to stay in the city, then you will find great dining options as well as fun museums, indoor events, and diverse activities like ice skating and star gazing.
Lets explore the best things to do in Chesapeake:
1. Chesapeake Arboretum
Known in the Virginia area for being a regional treasure, the Chesapeake Arboretum encompasses 48 acres of land and is often referred to as ‘nature’s classroom’, as you can learn all about the flora and fauna of this area here.
The Arboretum dates from the 18th century when the farmhouse in which it is based was built, and aside from this period building you can also find themed gardens that stretch across the property.
These include a fragrance garden as well as an antique rose garden, and if you prefer something a little more rugged then there is also a hardwood forest here that you can explore.
This is also a stop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail South Chesapeake Loop, so make sure that you don’t miss this natural beauty if you are in town.
2. Northwest River Park
As the name suggests, the Northwest River Park lies on the leafy banks of the Northwest River and is in the southeastern part of Chesapeake.
The park encompasses over 763 acres of land which means that you will find lots to do here.
Anyone looking to enjoy the local flora and fauna in Virginia will certainly find it here, and there are trails that run all over the park so that you can take in its natural beauty.
There are also picnic areas and playgrounds for younger guests, and you will even find a mini golf course here called the ‘Dude Ranch’. If you like bird watching, then you have come to the right place, as this is also a stop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail, so you can expect to see a wide variety of species on a trip here.
3. Chilled Ponds Ice Sports Complex
The Chilled Ponds Ice Sports Complex is known for being one of the premium ice sports complexes in the Virginia area and stretches over an amazing 90,000 square feet.
With that in mind, there are a huge number of activities on offer here, and you will find not one but two NHL skating rinks.
Chilled Ponds is open to the public, so if you want to learn to skate or simply take to the ice for the afternoon, then this is the place to come.
This is also the training ground of the ice hockey team, the Norfolk Admirals, and if you are lucky you may just be able to take in a fast paced game when you are in town.
4. Battlefield Park
Battlefield Park was created as a monument that commemorates the history of the Battle of Great Bridge.
To that end, you will find a huge range of things to do here such as an Interpretive Historic Pathway, a recreation of the causeway of 1775, and an outdoor auditorium.
There is a monument that was set up by the Daughter’s of the American Revolution that sits at the entrance of the park at Battlefield Boulevard that serves as a memory of the Patriot soldiers who died here.
If you want to know more about the history here then there are docent tours here which run daily and are free of charge.
5. Chesapeake Planetarium
Anyone who wants to know about the wonders of the universe should look no further than the Chesapeake Planetarium, where you can do just that.
The planetarium is situated inside the Chesapeake Municipal Center and has the claim to fame of being the oldest planetarium in the entire state of Virginia.
Should you choose to visit, you will be able to take in shows that will teach you all about the galaxy, as well as programs that aim to educate the public on the planets and solar system.
Depending on when you visit, there are also telescope observations available so that you can take in the beauty of the stars firsthand.
6. Fun Forest
If you come to City Park in Chesapeake then make sure that you don’t miss out on Fun Forest, which sprawls over three acres here.
At Fun Forest you will find a children’s play area, an imagination center, as well as a family adventure area, so that everyone can get in on the fun.
The forest was built by an army of almost 2,000 dedicated volunteers and the playgrounds here are designed to develop motor skills, coordination, and interactive play.
To that end, activities on offer here include an underground telephone, a shaking bridge, a dolphin side, and swings and slides.
There is even a Fossil Dig where budding paleontologists can find a sand pit filled with fossils.
7. Hickory Ridge Farm
Hickory Ridge Farm is a family owned affair that has been in operation for years and offers some of the best seasonal produce in all of the Virginia area.
As well as things like crunchy and colorful fruits and vegetables, you can also get locally produced honey, and there is also a petting zoo here if you want to get up close with some of the resident farm animals.
Depending on when you visit, there are seasonal activities on offer such as pumpkin picking in the Fall and strawberry picking in the Spring.
8. Chesapeake 9/11 Memorial
If you want to pay your respects to those who perished during 9/11, then come to the Chesapeake 9/11 Memorial which sits on City Park Drive.
The memorial was set up to remember the tragedy in New York, and is made up of a steel beam that was once part of the World Trade Center.
There is also a rock from Shanksville that makes up part of the monument as well as a piece of limestone from the Pentagon which used to be housed in the Chesapeake Visitor Center.
9. Great Bridge Lock Park
Great Bridge Lock Park is situated at a strategic location in Chesapeake, as it sits at the intersection of the Chesapeake Canal and the Elizabeth River.
The lock here was designed to keep the salt water and the fresh water of the two waterways separate, and now a 19 acre park also stands in this majestic spot.
The park is actually part of a peninsula which is flanked by the canal and the river on each side, and there are boat ramps, picnic spots and also trails that run along both shorelines.
Fishing and crabbing are popular pastimes here for due to the water that surrounds the park, or you can explore the woods that lie in the western section of Great Bridge Lock Park.
10. Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel may not sound like a tourist attraction, but it is actually well known as the place to come if you want to take in the unrivalled beauty of the Atlantic Ocean.
The bridge in itself is also an amazing feat of engineering as well as an architectural icon in the city and connects the Eastern Shore and Virginia Beach, so it is not to be missed if you are in town and want to see some of the prettiest views in the city.
11. Chesapeake Park
Chesapeake Park is also known simply as City Park and spans 90 acres of land, 60 acres of which comprise grassy open space with the rest being made up of leafy woodland and trees.
Aside from its natural beauty, the park is well known for its outdoor events such as the Chesapeake Park Whisper Concert Series and the Chesapeake Jubilee, so make sure you check out what is on when you are visiting.
There is a skate park in the park as well as horseshoe pits and a dog park.
12. Rodgers’ Puddings
If you have a bit of a sweet tooth then don’t miss the chance to try out some of the famous deserts at Rodgers’ Puddings.
This retro pudding shop is nestled in the historic district of neighboring South Suffolk and has won awards for its banana pudding.
They also serve up a number of other delicious local sweet treats in a retro setting, so if you love anything to do with desert then this is the place for you.
13. The Great Dismal Swamp
The Great Dismal Swamp actually lies outside of Chesapeake in the southeastern part of Virginia where it stretches as far as northeastern North Carolina.
A place of legend and foggy mystery, the swamp is the location of deep historical interest as it was known as a place of refuge during the time of slavery when African Americans used the swamp to escape.
Nowadays the swamp is known for its natural, if haunting, beauty and is also a designated National Wildlife Refuge.
14. Gum Tree Farm
Stretching across an amazing 50 acres, the Gum Tree Farm is a local producer of sheep, but you will also find ducks, turkeys, pigs, cows, horse, goats, and even a donkey named Studebaker here.
If you visit the farm you can interact with all the friendly animals here, and there is also a side business here producing fiber from fiber plants.
If you want to find out more about the workings of the farm then you can join a tour which will explain its history as well as explain activities such as the dyeing of wool on the farm which also includes live demonstrations.
15. Lake Drummond
Lake Drummond is famous for being one of two lakes in the Virginia area and sits in the middle of Dismal Swamp.
There are many legends about the lake and the swamp, including one where fishermen have claimed to spot a ghostly white canoe paddling the lake with a fire-fly lamp.
Nowadays people mostly come here to enjoy the ample fishing opportunities that the lake provides, and boating is also a common pastime here if you want to brave going out on the water.