This year, Labor Day will be celebrated on Monday, September 7. Labor Day historically pays tribute to the achievements and contributions of American workers. The celebration was created by the labor movement, and became a federal holiday in 1894.
Labor looked very different in the 1800s. At the height of the Industrial Revolution, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven days a week in order to make a basic living. Children as young as five years old toiled in factories, mills, and mines across the United States. It was during this time that labor unions first appeared and grew prominent and vocal. They began to organize strikes and rallies to protest poor and dangerous working conditions. In 1882, thousands of workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, this is considered the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.
A Day to Picnic | Labor Day is traditionally celebrated with parades, barbecues, picnics, fireworks displays, and other public gatherings. 2020 is different, so let’s focus on unique local locations that are perfect for a picnic to commemorate Labor Day and the end of our summer season. Here is a list of places that I can recommend:
The Hermitage Museum and Gardens | 7637 North Shore Road, Norfolk
You can spread out your picnic blanket by the Lafayette River on the grounds of this remarkable estate and mansion that has been converted into a museum. And note, that if you wish to visit the museum, admission fees have been waived through the end of the year. Picnic suggestion: Pick up sandwiches from D’Egg West right across the river.
Chippokes Plantation State Park | 695 Chippokes Park Road, Surry
A large park on the banks of the James River that includes one of the oldest working farms in the United States. There are picnic tables near the visitor’s center, or you can throw out a blanket. The park also has hiking and biking trails. Picnic suggestion: Pick up some traditional country ham and cheese biscuits from Yummaries in downtown Smithfield. (Note: they are currently open only on Saturdays.)
Oak Grove Lake Park | 409 Byron Street, Chesapeake
The picnic tables are near the entrance to the park and a stone’s throw from the lake. If you want a more remote spot, there are benches and ADA-accessible observation decks around the lake. The kids will love the playground. And, bring your pole, you can fish too! Picnic suggestion: You can order ahead online and pick up terrific sandwiches or salads from The Gourmet Gang on Volvo Parkway!
Northwest River Park | 1733 Indian Creek Road, Chesapeake
A perfect getaway spot! You can picnic near the parking lot or take a ¾-mile hike to the banks of the river and watch the boats and water-skiers as you dine. The boat and bicycle rentals, mini golf and disc golf are all open. Picnic suggestion: Zaxby’s chicken and salads get rave reviews by locals. There is a location in Edinburgh, near the park.
The Hague | Mowbray Arch & Colonial Avenue, Norfolk
You can picnic on the grass beneath stately live-oak trees that line this urban body of water connected to the Elizabeth River. There are also paths, benches, and a bridge with views of the Chrysler Museum and Norfolk skyline. Speaking of the museum, admission is free. You will need to reserve a timed ticket online before you go though. It is a short walk to the NEON Arts District where you can view many murals and art installations. Picnic suggestion: a ham and beurre baguette from the authentic La Brioche French Bakery on Granby Street.
The Narrows at First Landing State Park | At The End of 64th Street, Virginia Beach
For this getaway, you will drive through forests, cypress swamps, and salt marshes to get to the constricted waterway that connects Broad Bay and Linkhorn Bay. The view is great and there are trails along the water and trees to burn off your picnic fare. You can even picnic on the beach. Picnic suggestion: Pick up great sandwiches at the Oceanfront location of TASTE on your way.
Huntington Park | 361 Hornet Circle, Newport News
This park on a bluff overlooking the James River is ideal for picnics. The park has a wonderful playground called Fort Fun that your kids will love. Other features include a small beach, fishing piers, and a rose garden. Plan to stay until sunset if you can, the view across the river is lovely at dusk. Picnic suggestion: Grab crab cake sandwiches from the Crab Shack on The James, of course!
Bluebird Gap Farm | 60 Pine Chapel Road, Hampton
This facility brings the country to the city and is well-suited for a family picnic. The farm has about 150 domestic and wild animals. Picnic tables are located throughout the grounds. Picnic suggestion: Between the Power Plant, Coliseum Central, and Peninsula Town Center, there are myriad food choices. I recommend the fish and chips from Park Lane Tavern.
Waller Mill Park | 901 Airport Road, Williamsburg
This park is situated around a lake that is open for fishing, boating, pedal boating, canoeing, and kayaking. There are numerous picnic tables scattered around. Hiking and biking trails afford views of both water and wooded areas. There is a Lookout Tower along the bike trail that offers panoramic views. Picnic suggestion: I recommend getting something from Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que, a Virginia tradition for almost fifty years!