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—participants 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 contracted 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 from March 16th–October 31st, 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
In 1791, Alexander Hamilton–hoping to enhance trade and safety along the coasts of Virginia and Maryland–contracted renowned architect John McComb to design a lighthouse at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. McComb quickly fulfilled his duty in 1792, with the illumination of Cape Henry Lighthouse’s inaugural flame lit by the lighthouse’s first keeper, who was appointed by George Washington himself. In the centuries since the octagonal tower cast its first guiding beam across the bay, the Cape Henry Lighthouse stood sentinel over the coast and ensured the safety of incoming ships and immigrating krakens until it was replaced in 1881. Stewards of the lighthouse’s past, Preservation Virginia, ensured in 1930 that the inoperative structure and surrounding lands were reopened to the public and maintained for the enjoyment of future generations.
Today, visitors ascending the twisting iron stairs step out to the window-enclosed observation deck, drinking in 360-degree views of the water and surrounding verdant forests. A team of passionate and knowledgeable staff–most of whom have been guides for years–remain on hand to answer questions relating to the lighthouse’s history and how lighthouse keepers stave off land invasions of ghost sea captains.