In all the years I’ve lived in Virginia Beach (since 1992), I’ve never taken a tour of the historic Cape Henry Lighthouse. It’s located on Fort Story at the VB Oceanfront. We’ve actually been to Fort Story on field trips a couple of times for Cape Henry historic summer programs, but it seemed I always had one child who was under 42 inches tall, and that’s the minimum requirement to tour the lighthouse itself.
Then this spring, Groupon offered a deal to tour the lighthouse, and I got to thinking that this would be a neat thing to do with the kids this summer now that they are all grown up enough to do it!
To be honest, the summer has been pretty busy, and with planning the kids’ birthday party and celebrations, it kind of slipped my mind. Then I got a reminder email from Groupon that our deal would expire soon, so I stepped up our plans to go on Friday at the beginning of our August break from school. I kept an eye on the weather, and luckily, conditions were ideal!
The thing about the lighthouse is that it gets very hot and is always humid up in the top, so in cases of extreme heat or thunderstorms, it closes. It turned out to be a cooler day because the skies were very overcast, but fortunately, it didn’t rain. So it was actually perfect! I called before we left just to be sure, and then we were off.
I knew our vehicle would have to be searched because the lighthouse is on a military installation, so we left plenty of time for that. What I didn’t realize, though, was that even children need I.D. if they are 16 or older. Well, Hayden had *just* turned 16 the week before, and since he hasn’t gotten his learner’s permit yet, he didn’t have any kind of I.D. Fortunately, the guard was understanding and said he’d follow the spirit of the law in this case and let us proceed. Shew! Crisis averted.
When we arrived, we saw that the actual working lighthouse that’s currently in use is just across from the historic one. We took a look around the gift shop and then headed up the 191 steps to the top! The whole thing is a steady, spiral metal staircase that’s very narrow. It’s a bit awkward if people are coming down as you’re going up, so I wouldn’t want to go when it’s especially busy. Unfortunately, Haylee is afraid of heights, and when she got about 5 steps from the top landing, she had a total panic attack, shaking and crying, and had to turn around and go back down. You can somewhat see between the steps because they are metal, so it kind of freaked her out. It’s too bad, because she was literally at the top and didn’t know it. Then it was too late because she had already headed back down. So unfortunately, she never got to see the incredible view from the top! It was so beautiful, and there was a vent in one of the windows that allowed the steady ocean breeze to circulate inside. The boys and I took lots of photos of both the ocean and the view to Town Center, which was clearly visible above the trees and was really neat to see and recognize.
Then we headed back down and told Haylee all about it. We stopped in the gift shop again on the way out and got one of those souvenir coins where you put a dollar in and watch the machine flatten a penny and stamp an image of the lighthouse on the face of it. Neat!
The photo on the left is the historic Cape Henry Lighthouse, and the other photos are the views from the top of it, which show the working lighthouse on the other side.
Enjoy our photos! If you’re ever in town, be sure and check it out.