Road Trip: Where Urban Newport News Meets Rural Smithfield
Short, scenic trips by car allow you to pick and choose where you go and what you do, based on your interests. We suggest you use this Coastal Virginia road trip as a jumping-off point. From the quaint, walkable downtown streets of Smithfield to the city landscape of Newport News, you’ll find a wonderful mix of urban and rural in these two neighboring cities.
OUTDOOR ART TREASURES
Newport News has a proud heritage of outdoor art, dating back to 1919 when its original Victory Arch was dedicated. Today, nearly three dozen pieces of public art are on display, many of which were crafted by European sculptors. Before you head out, though, take a few minutes to download the Newport News Public Art Foundation’s audio tour app. With this cell phone app, you’ll be able to take a personal tour of 20 sculptures, with the artists themselves as your guide! You’ll actually hear the artists, in their own words, tell about their work – how and why it was created, what the artist was thinking, what he or she was trying to accomplish, and what they would like you to see in it.
While in Smithfield, don’t miss the life-sized porcelain pigs scattered throughout town. Celebrating the “Ham Capital of the World,” these public works of art memorialize the agricultural roots of Smithfield. Each was painted by a local artist to reflect an aspect of the town’s rich history, culture and recreation. Smithfield is also proud to boast the country’s largest collection of bronze statues by acclaimed sculptor George Lundeen.
And before leaving each city, don’t forget to snap a selfie or take a group photo with the LoveWorks “L-O-V-E” letters found in both destinations! Smithfield’s letters are located at 319 Main St., while Newport News’s can be found in City Center at Oyster Point in the 700 block of Town Center Drive.
SCENIC DRIVES AND The Great Outdoors
For a fun and relaxing way to explore our historic waterways, consider taking the Jamestown-Scotland Vehicle Ferry. From points north, you’ll first take a scenic drive along the Colonial Parkway to the ferry entrance, and then you’ll enjoy a stress-free 20-minute ride across the historic James River. After departing the ferry, relish in the lovely country drive through Surry County that takes you to the heart of downtown Smithfield. There’s no better way to get a real taste of the area's natural beauty than on this FREE ferry ride … and as they say, getting there is half the fun!
Outdoor activities in Smithfield abound with a seasonal outfitter available at Windsor Castle Park, bike trails, fishing piers, parks and walking trails. Isle of Wight County is proud of its agricultural heritage and many of the local farms offer tours and on-site shopping, as well as “pick your own” opportunities.
From Smithfield, we invite you to take a short leisurely drive to Newport News via U.S. Route 17 and the James River Bridge. When completed in 1928, the 4.5-mile James River Bridge was the longest bridge in the world over water. A new one was built and completed in 1982. While on the bridge, look to your right as you approach Newport News and you’ll see the Newport News Shipyard, where our world-famous nuclear powered aircraft carriers are built.
After arriving in Newport News, stroll along Huntington Beach at the foot of the James River Bridge; challenge yourself to a 5-mile hike along the breathtaking Noland Trail at Mariners’ Museum Park; or take a leisurely walk in Newport News Park, a 7,711-acre oasis at the north end of the city. It’s here that you can also go cycling, boating, golfing, fishing or play disc golf. For an overnight outdoor adventure, reserve one of our 188 modern campsites there.
A trip to Newport News would not be complete without a visit to the Virginia Living Museum and its ¾-mile elevated boardwalk, which features animals native to Virginia in their naturalized habitats. The boardwalk crosses Deer Park Lake and winds through woods and a wetlands area. Along the boardwalk, you’ll see red wolves, the most endangered animal in North America. You’ll also see beavers, river otters (who love showing off for visitors), bald eagles, vultures, bobcat, deer, wild turkeys, opossum, gray fox, red fox and coyote. In addition to the animals on display, visitors can see fish in the stream, turtles basking on logs or swimming in the lake, bullfrogs along the banks and many different kinds of birds.
Smithfield’s Windsor Castle Park at 301 Jericho Road has been described as 208 acres of “natural beauty, nestled along the banks of the Pagan River and Cypress Creek.” It features a woodland trail system, picnic and open-area space, a kayak/canoe launch, fishing pier, mountain bike path, scenic overlooks and the historic manor house, Windsor Castle.
Newport News may be considered more “urban” than “rural,” but you’d never know it after visiting our local farmers’ markets: Dean & Don’s Farm Market on Warwick Boulevard and Game’s Farmers Market on Harpersville Road. And, of course, Smithfield’s agricultural heritage is still very much alive, so much so that they offer a “Visit the Farms” brochure, available at their Visitor Center.
In its 53rd season in 2020, Dean & Don's Farm Market provides customers with fruits and vegetables right off the farm. The company, started in 1967 by two brothers, began as a roadside stand. The market, which is open from April through October, sells everything from apples to zucchini. They also carry local eggs, local honey, homemade breads, North Carolina barbecue, jams, jellies, juices, and salad dressings. The garden center sells many different varieties of bedding and vegetable plants, as well as hanging baskets, shrubs, trees, soil, and mulch. At the beginning of the season, most of the produce comes from Florida. As the growing season progresses, the owners purchase produce from farmers in the Carolinas while working their way north.
Darden’s Country Store and Smokehouse in Smithfield is a classic country store and smokehouse, where you can find hanging hams, side meat, country cheese, barbeque and peanuts. Darden's is also a working farm, growing peanuts, corn, cotton, soybeans, wheat and pumpkins, Darden’s has been curing hams and making sausage and barbecue since the early 1950s. A small grocery store on the farm sells homemade sausage, ham, cheese, peanuts and local honey.
Additional shopping includes the quaint mom-and-pop shops in Historic Hilton Village in Newport News and Smithfield’s Main Street, both of which feature local food, bakeries, local crafts that include jewelry and art, along with unique clothing and a picker’s paradise!
Al fresco dining
Dining al fresco has become even more popular since it’s the “safer” way to dine, according to the experts. As a result, even restaurants that didn’t offer outdoor seating have figured out a way to offer it today!
A few popular Newport News restaurants include Crab Shack on the James, where you can catch the most magnificent sunsets over the James River, and Smoke BBQ, a fun place for families. For more upscale fine dining, try FIN Seafood in Port Warwick or Circa 1918 in Historic Hilton Village. In Smithfield, you’re sure to find something you like at Smithfield Station on the Pagan River, Taste of Smithfield at 217 Main Street, or Wharf Hill at 25 Main St.
Since there are too many superb restaurants to name them all, we suggest you visit each city’s website for phone numbers to check on a particular restaurant’s outdoor dining opportunities. Click here for Newport News eateries and click here for Smithfield.
Breweries and distilleries
Cap off your “Where Urban Meets Rural” road trip with a sampling of an adult beverage, hand-crafted locally, or buy your own to take home as a souvenir.
Breweries range from Tradition Brewing Company on Thimble Shoals Boulevard and Twisted Knot Brewing Company on Canon Boulevard (both in Newport News) to Wharf Hill Brewing Company on Main Street in Smithfield. For those taking the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry, Billsburg Brewery is conveniently located on Jamestown Road, near the ferry.
And although Newport News doesn’t yet have its own winery, Smithfield has SummerWind Vineyard on Eagle Nest Lane.
In closing, the idea behind our “Where Urban Meets Rural” road trip is to give visitors a safe, close-to-home excursion that allows for plenty of social distancing and access to open spaces. After all, controlling how, when, and where you travel is more important than ever in the “new normal.” Happy exploring!