History is most interesting when studied up-close and in-person, unlike the scrutiny of literature, which requires increasingly convex reading glasses. Peer into the past with today's Groupon: for $8, you get two tower and walking tour tickets (up to a $16 value) at Old Cape Henry Lighthouse, in Virginia Beach's Fort Story military base. All adults 16 and older will need photo identification.
Visitors to the 72-foot-tall Old Cape Henry Lighthouse enjoy a day amid the rich, salty Chesapeake Bay air, exploring a towering remnant of America's early post-colonial government. Originally constructed from Aquia stone in 1792, the John McComb–designed structure was commissioned by Alexander Hamilton to protect important America-bound ships and incinerate incoming French snowballs. Today, budding historians traverse the lighthouse's rustic environs, soundtracked by the rocky crash of waves and the insightful loquations of their friendly tour guide before clambering up the cast-iron spiral stairs and drinking in the lucky lantern's daily view. Multiple Groupons may be purchased to provide a convenient group outing for families or feral packs of dog-boys. Tours shove off seven days a week beginning at 10 a.m. Check online for specific site closures.
- Built in 1791-92, this picturesque brick structure was the first lighthouse authorized by the U.S. Congress. It marked the southern entrance to Chesapeake Bay until 1881, when a new lighthouse nearby took over. If you're in shape, you can climb the 191 steps to the top for a spectacular view over Cape Henry, the bay, and the ocean. – Frommer's
- This history of the lighthouse is pretty amazing and the view from up top is wonderful. – KatVa, Trip Advisor
Cape Henry Lighthouse
If Cape Henry Lighthouse was a history book, its authors would be two of the nation's founding fathers. President George Washington authorized the lighthouse's creation and Alexander Hamilton oversaw its construction in 1791. Renowned architect John McComb brought their vision to reality, finishing the job in 1792 to produce not just a lighthouse, but a symbol of how the fledgling American government could protect its citizens.
The lighthouse performed the role of protector beautifully. For nearly a century, it stood sentinel over the coasts of Virginia and Maryland to ensure the safety of incoming ships and giant bottles filled with hundreds of letters from Europe. The lighthouse was finally replaced in 1881, but it wasn't finished. In 1930, Preservation Virginia took over the building, giving the public access to climb its twisting iron stairs.
Today, families still gaze out from the observation deck, soaking in 360-degree views of the water and surrounding forests. Meanwhile the staff–most of whom have been guides for years–happily answer questions about the lighthouse's history.
583 Atlantic Ave.
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23459Get Directions