Whoever said not to reinvent the wheel hasn’t seen how the already awesome Newport News has made itself an even better place to visit. With some new and some very old historic hotspots, a lingering testament to Ella Fitzgerald, and a cool brew-to-bread making “tradition”, Newport News’ reinvented wheel is rolling.
Newport News-Worthy Historic Hotspots for Your Bucket List
Larger than Life: Dinosaurs Get an Upgrade
Did you ever wonder what it would be like to experience Jurassic Park? Okay, probably not … at least not the scary parts. But, wouldn’t it be cool to get a taste of the times when dinosaurs roamed without the terror?
Well, if your answer is yes, then make the Virginia Living Museum’s new permanent outdoor Dinosaur Discovery Trail a must-see. Opened in honor of the museum’s 50th anniversary, the exhibit allows you to stroll through the woods where 16 1/3- to full-size dinosaurs can be viewed.
The exhibit is as visually striking as the history itself. Discover different dinosaurs from the Jurassic and Cretaceous eras. Walk among creatures that ruled the earth for over 150 million years like the 16-foot-tall Brachiosaurus, the baby T. Rex, half-size T. Rex, and mini Ankylosaurus.
The Dinosaur Discovery Trail includes additional sights such as whale specimen from Coastal Virginia and displays of dinosaur and Ice Age fossils. There are other cool to-dos such as a children’s play area and a dig pit for budding paleontologist (or folks who want to unleash their inner Ross Geller).
Putt Nothing: What’s up at the U.S.’s Oldest Golf Museum
Golf has been around for a really long time. How long? Well, if you visit the Golf Museum at James River Country Club in Newport News, then you’ll be able to view the world’s oldest identifiable golf club made in 1790. Perhaps the Puritans were more festive than we gave them credit for?
The museum itself is a little newer. Opened in 1932 by founder Archer Huntington, who’s known for starting The Mariners’ Museum, much of the Golf Museum’s inventory dates to the pre-1930s when golf clubs and balls were handmade. For example some of the relics on display include:
• The world’s oldest book that makes reference to golf (the book dates back to 1566).
• A collection of 150 golf balls dating from 1790 to 1932; the collection includes the oldest golf ball in the world.
• A collection of 85 long-nosed wooden golf clubs.
• Two 19th century golf medals, one from 1826 and one from 1838
• Celebrity golf memorabilia such as: Horace Rawlins’ putter from his 1895 U.S. Open win; Harry Vardon’s club set and golf bag from his 1900 U.S. Open win; three of Bobby Jones’ clubs including the one from the Grand Slam of 1930; and others donated by legends like Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, and others.
• A scroll dating back to 1836 with the drawing of the map of the Old Course at St. Andrews
Recent History: Artifact from the 9/11 Attacks
In July 2016, as part of the commemoration of the 9/11 attacks’ 15th anniversary, a three-foot piece of contorted metal from the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in NYC went on display as part of the Global War on Terror exhibit featured at the Virginia War Museum. This special addition is believed to be part of a vehicle bumper. The piece was provided to the Virginia War Museum as part of a program led by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The program distributed more than 2,600 9/11 artifacts including steel beams, columns, parking deck exterior construction, a fire truck, subway car, and a Port Authority police car to museums and organization around the world.
Artifacts on display in addition to the piece of metal from the WTC include U.S. service members’ uniforms and equipment worn during 9/11-related services performed in Afghanistan and Iraq; uniforms and equipment of Iraqi insurgents and Taliban fighters are also on display.
Eternal Ella Fitzgerald: The First Lady of Song’s Centennial Celebration
While many know the unmistakable voice of Ella Fitzgerald, AKA the First Lady of Song, far fewer know that Fitzgerald was born in Newport News on April 25, 1917. In honor of what would’ve been the songstress’s 100th birthday, the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center will host a year-long celebration, Reflections: 100 Years of Ella, in Ella’s memory.
The centennial celebrations will feature a series of performances and events that tell Ella’s extraordinary life story and honor her legacy. Ella first recorded in June of 1935 and became one of the best scat singers in the world. Ella recorded at least 200 albums and is distinguished as the first African-American female artist to win a Grammy award. By the end of her career, Ella had won 13 Grammys and sold more than 40 million albums.
The Bread of Life: A Tasty Partnership between Whole Foods & Tradition Brewing Co.
Tradition Brewing Co. is a local brewery in Newport News that opened just two miles from the local Whole Foods. The spent malt and grain from their brewing process was often used to feed chickens and cattle or to compost local fields; however, the team leader of the Whole Foods store had a better (tastier) idea for the beer’s leftovers.
The spent grain is instead being used to make a delicious German-style sourdough-like bread on sale at Whole Foods. The Newport News Whole Foods is one of two in the country that has adopted this brew-to-bread process. The boules on sale in Newport News’ Whole Foods store have a T for “Tradition” stenciled on them. This is definitely a delicious tradition that should be experienced without hesitation (and possibly paired with a Tradition Brewing Co. brew).