AAA Magazines

Out & About in Virginia - Jul/Aug/Sep 2023

Every other Friday, Oyster Seed Holdings offers tours of its commercial hatchery on Gwynn’s Island. Photo by Eric Van Eyke

Mollusk madness

By Larry Bleiberg

Oyster Seed Holdings, one of the East Coast’s largest producers of oyster larvae and seed, welcomes the public to its Chesapeake Bay hatchery on Gwynn’s Island.

The company offers 6 small-group tours run by staff biologists every other Friday from 5 to 7:30 p.m., providing a rare opportunity to visit a commercial hatchery. It includes a 30-minute behind-the-scenes visit and a chance to look through microscopes at the tiny creatures that grow into full-size oysters. The tours cover the life cycle of the mollusks, which feed on algae and grow for up to 2 years before they end up on restaurant plates.

Fridays through Sundays, guests can dine on raw and cooked bivalves at the company’s new casual eatery, The Hatchery. Reserve a tour (adults, $20).

You may also like: 4 tasty takes on oysters by top Tidewater chefs

Specialty dog treats

Gangsta Dog dog treats

At Gangsta Dog,  you’ll find specialty dog treats such as the Old Fashioned, a barrel-shaped cookie with bourbon flavoring. Photo courtesy Gangsta Dog

By Lee Belote

When Gary Hughes received his dog’s DNA test, he was surprised to learn that his pup wasn’t a full Norwich terrier as Hughes was told. But instead of calling him a “mutt” when asked the dog’s breed, Hughes prefers to call him a “gangsta dog.” This also became the name of Hughes’ boutique dog store and bakery in Yorktown (he opened a second location in Norfolk last year).

Aside from dog food, accessories, supplements, and supplies (plus a small line for cats), Gangsta Dog also has a dedicated pastry chef who crafts an assortment of specialty dog treats, such as a barrel-shaped cookie with bourbon flavoring called the Old Fashioned. Its cookies have even been included in the stars’ swag bags at the Emmy Awards.

As Hughes puts it: “We’re here to make your and your dog’s experience the best possible of any pet store.”

Naturalization ceremony at Monticello


Every Fourth of July since 1962, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello has hosted an outdoor naturalization ceremony. Photo by eurobanks/

By Larry Bleiberg

At Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Independence Day means more than cookouts and fireworks. Since 1962, the UNESCO World Heritage Site has hosted an outdoor naturalization ceremony—open to the public—on the Fourth of July during which dozens of new Americans take their oath of citizenship in front of the mansion. Monticello says it’s the nation’s oldest continuously held naturalization ceremony that isn’t in a courtroom.

The morning event features a patriotic concert and a formal welcome to the new citizens. Past keynote speakers have included former presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, astronomer Carl Sagan, musician Dave Matthews, and actress Tracey Ullman. Several new citizens speak to the crowd as well. After the ceremony, free refreshments and activities for children are available to guests.

You may also like: Visit the homes of our country’s Virginia-born presidents

Norfolk is aglow

Glowline trail

Glowline, a section of the Elizabeth River Trail, is embedded with stones that absorb the sun’s rays during the day and glow at night. Photo courtesy Elizabeth River Trail Foundation

By Erin Gifford

The 10.5-mile Elizabeth River Trail connects 28 neighborhoods as it snakes from Norfolk State University to the Port of Virginia. Along the pathway, pedestrians and cyclists can make stops at breweries, colorful murals and other public art, and historic sites like the USS Wisconsin.

Last October, the Elizabeth River Trail Foundation unveiled Glowline, an 800-foot section of the paved trail that’s embedded with glow-in-the-dark stones (the stones absorb the sun’s rays to power the warm glow in the evening), making it the first luminescent trail on the East Coast.

New casino in Portsmouth

Rivers Casino Portsmouth

There are more than 1,000 slot machines at Rivers Casino Portsmouth, which opened in January. Photo courtesy Rivers Casino Portsmouth

By Lee Belote

Virginia hit the jackpot with Rivers Casino Portsmouth, the Commonwealth’s first permanent, full-service casino. Located in the new Entertainment District on Victory Boulevard, the casino opened in January.

Try your luck at the 1,446 slot machines, 57 table games, and 24 poker tables; lounge in luxury while wagering on big games at BetRivers Sportsbook; practice your drive in the Topgolf Swing Suite; let loose on the dance floor at The Sound Bar; and bring your appetite to Mian, the casino’s Asian-inspired restaurant. The casino also features an event center for weddings, conferences, and concerts.

Follow us on Instagram

Follow @AAAAutoClubEnterprises for the latest on what to see and do.

Read more articles

You'll find more of the articles you love to read at AAA Insider.

Travel offers & deals

" "

Hot travel deals

Get the latest offers from AAA Travel’s preferred partners.

" "

Travel with AAA

See how we can help you plan, book, and save on your next vacation.

" "

Entertainment savings

Save big with AAA discounts on tickets to your next adventure.

" "

Travel with confidence

Purchase travel insurance with Allianz Global Assistance.

back to top icon