Location: Hampton, Virginia
Type of Venue: Off-site, museum
Nearby Accommodations: Hyatt Place Hampton Convention Center
The city of Hampton sits in the midst of one of the country’s most historic areas on the Virginia coast. But one of the city’s groundbreaking venues speaks the loudest of the city’s true impact in — and out of — this world. Hampton is the birthplace of the country’s air and space technology, and is the home of the Virginia Air and Space Center (VASC).
As the official visitor center for the NASA Langley Research Center, VASC serves as many visitors’ first step into the world of aerospace engineering. When the center opened in 1992, it offered more than 100 exhibits and an Imax theater with a five-story screen that showed documentaries. Today it stands as a testament to aerospace education and innovation by providing educational experiences for visitors through science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
More than 100 years of flight are represented throughout the center’s exciting aviation exhibits, where visitors can see up close authentic aircraft dating back to 1936, get hands-on entertainment through an interactive exploration gallery, view tons of genuine flight artifacts and go behind-the-scenes glimpses into the life of an astronaut. VASC is the only center in the world where visitors can view the Apollo 12 Command Module and the Orion PA-1 Test Vehicle and then get serenaded by the sounds of the sun while standing face-to-face with live images of the sun’s atmosphere.
Visitors of all ages are invited to get behind the controls of a space shuttle, program missions to Mars, take control as an air traffic controller and even peer inside a real World War II bomber. The original Imax theater was upgraded to include 3D capabilities and today is known as the Riverside 3D Digital Imax Theater.
The center strives to engage and inspire the public with interactive displays and exciting events, but the most memorable events that take place within the walls are the ones held for groups that choose to gather and commune within the four meeting spaces.
The Virginia Air and Space Center offers four venues for hosting small meetings. The Main Gallery is great for seated dinners, reunions and receptions for up to 2,000 guests, and the Aerospace Library, overlooking Hampton’s Historic Carousel, is geared toward more intimate dinners, smaller business meetings and teambuilding events for up to 100 guests. The Observation Deck is a good location to kick off an event with a cocktail reception for up to 200 guests beneath the covered deck, where views extend out onto the many waterways leading to the Chesapeake Bay. The five-story Imax Theater is suitable for lectures, presentations, or even grand-scale gaming experiences; it holds a maximum of 283 guests.
The meetings and events team at the Virginia Air and Space Center works exclusively with five catering companies that can each provide a variety of menu options to fit whatever theme the event takes. From formal holiday parties to vegan baby showers and even celebratory retirement ceremonies, guests will leave satisfied with the delightful flavors from Virginia’s best caterers. Choose from plated dinners, boxed lunches or passed hors d’oeuvres, or create your own menu for your group. Alcohol is allowed and is served by whichever catering partner the client chooses.
In addition to offering groups access to state-of-the-art audiovisual technologies, including the screen in the Riverside 3D Digital Imax Theater, the meetings and events team at the Virginia Air and Space Center also provides access to rentals and can arrange a variety of extra experiences for groups. Plan a visit to the Max Flight Simulator to test your group’s piloting skills in a 360-degree flight simulator that rolls, spins and loops in front of a grand 58-inch screen in the cockpit. Or treat your younger guests to goody bags with space ice cream, science kits and more from the on-site gift shop.
All meeting and event guests are free to roam the exhibit floor before and after events, where all of the interactive exhibits will remain on. While most groups decide to book DJs for the event to provide entertainment, the center itself provides a lively source of entertainment with its signature atmosphere for exploration. No less than 21 full-size aircraft hang overhead as guests explore, and many other significant aircraft are set right inside the meeting spaces themselves, from Apollo XII to the full-size DC-9 passenger aircraft.
The Virginia Air and Space Center was one of the first places in the world to show Imax movies in a digital format, and the theater continues to lead the way with its innovative programming. Not only are meeting groups welcome to book the theater for presentations, seminars, gaming experiences and even private film screenings, but the theater also offers a regular series of documentaries and films that are included in the price of admission for all guests. Grab a tub of freshly popped popcorn or snack — try the cranberry apple pecan salad or the roasted turkey sandwich with lemon aioli and sliced Gouda cheese — from the Cosmic Café before heading in to get the full experience.
Round out a trip to the Virginia Air and Space Center with a journey out on the town in Hampton. This historic city dates back to 1610, and visitors can get a full picture of the city’s history at the Hampton Visitor Center and History Museum or by walking through St. John’s Cemetery to see the original brick chapel of 1610. Tons of quaint shops line the streets of Downtown Hampton, from locally owned coffee shops to Coastal Virginia’s first waterfront brewer, the Bull Island Brewing Company. Active groups can enjoy a stroll along the harbor to walk by the same waters once stalked by the famous pirate Blackbeard.