Newport News combines modern shipbuilding with historic maritime history on a slender Eastern shore peninsula between the James River and Chesapeake Bay. There is no real downtown here; the city extends along I-64 and US 60 to touch the largest privately-owned shipyard in the country and transitions easily into the city of Hampton, which edges the southern and southeastern edges of the peninsula. To the northeast is historic York, and a short drive up I-64 past NASA Langley Research Center both historic Williamsburg and big Busch Gardens attractions.
Newport News itself is relatively unassuming, home to the expected assortment of big stores and a handful of noteworthy museums. Nautical history fills 13 galleries of the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, one of the largest maritime history facilities in the world; next door is the Peninsula Fine Arts Center, which showcases a regularly changing array of exhibits, many of which feature works by local artists.
Virginia Living Museum presents wild animals in their natural habitats including a presentation of life on the James River and an aviary of Virginia coastal birds. Find at the Virginia War Museum a piece of the Berlin Wall and relics of other past conflicts. Historic buildings in the area include Lee Hall Mansion (a former Civil War headquarters), 18th-century Endview Plantation and Fort Monroe, which back in the late 19th century served as both defensive outpost and prison, part of which is now viewable as the Casemate Museum.
Outdoor activities abound in the area - try the Mariners' Museum Park's five-mile long trail, or do some canoeing and fishing at Newport News Park, which boasts over 8,000 acres of surf and turf good for mountain biking, horseback riding, archery and disc golf. The park also has 10 miles of Civil War fortifications to explore.
Hampton, sprawling out along the south-side of the peninsula, has a modest little stretch of downtown blocks that are within easy driving distance of Newport News. Take time for a detour here to see the official visitor center for the NASA Langley Research Center (the Virginia Air and Space Center) and the Hampton History Museum. Just north and east of Newport News on the west bank of the York River is historic Yorktown, which counts amongst its charms a quaint town center (fronting the river) and a number of buildings of note for their association with early British history in North America. Start the Colonial Parkway here and follow it on to Williamsburg and Jamestown.
Newport News is located in Southeastern Virginia about 80 miles southeast of Richmond, VA along I-64 and US 60.