Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cape Henry Light House, Virginia

Things are crazy around here, and I'm finding it difficult to carve out much time for blogging about our recent travels. So I'll start with the quickest and easiest.

While hanging out in the Hampton Roads area for a week, I took the kids on the short drive over to the Cape Henry Lighthouses. They are located within Fort Story, which I think is currently annexed to the Little Creek Amphibious base, but they are open to the general public. You just have to submit to a full party ID check (driver's licenses) and a thorough vehicle search. Or you can hitch a ride with a friend who has a military ID and they'll wave you in.

Either way, you head straight in from the gate and you can't really miss them. Only the old one can be toured as the new one is still a functioning lighthouse. Hours are 10-4 November to 15 March, and 10-5 from 16 March- October, closed Thanksgiving, and Christmas and New Year's Eves and Days. Admission is $2 per child under 12 and $4 per adult, but you can't even go to the base of it unless you are 42" tall due to liability with the stairs. Entry is through a small gift shop building and after paying you go through a door and gate and up a butt-load of stairs just to get to the base of the structure. Hand carried/slung infants and strollers are not allowed.

Unfortunately one member of our party (Miriam) was a few inches shy of the height requirement, and being the only adult, there was no way I could leave her behind. Fortunately, one of the staff members volunteered to escort Patrick and Sam up, so the trip wasn't a total loss. Nicholas especially was devastated (and there was NO WAY I would burden that guy with the red-headed psycho), but I pacified him by allowing him and his sisters to pick something from the gift shop. He picked a mini statue of the new lighthouse which he slept with for the next week. Natalie chose a North American Lighthouses coloring book, and Miriam went with a stuffed dolphin. All together they cost $13 plus $4 for the boys' admission. A very decent price for an afternoon's entertainment for a large family.
Once in the lighthouse itself, you have another bazillion spiral stairs in a brick sweat house, and then a vertical ladder to the very top. But the effort is worth it: You get a panoramic view of the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. I know all this because went several years ago when Natalie was fresh out of the oven, and they crazily allowed hand carried infants at the time. I'd share those pictures, but the sweaty one week post-partem shots are not complementary. I also can't seem to locate them.
The lighthouse itself is one of the original ones commissioned by President George Washington, he even visited it. You can find its history and other visiting info here. The new lighthouse was built in 1881, which gives it a gravitas of its own.