Thursday, February 29, 2024

These localities are becoming more ‘Instagrammable’

Visitors at City Center in Newport News pose for photo with wings painted onto a storefront. (WYDaily/Courtesy City Center at Oyster Point)
Visitors at City Center in Newport News pose for photo with wings painted onto a storefront. (WYDaily/Courtesy City Center at Oyster Point)

Angel wings painted on the side of city building used to be considered nothing more than art, now, in the age of social media, the works are a common sight as cities make themselves more “Instagrammable.”

For localities, this means creating art, designing buildings or promoting themselves on social media to appeal to a younger generation.

Here’s how areas in the Peninsula are hoping to appeal to the millennial tourists or social media enthusiast.

York and James City County

Attracting the next generation of tourists is important to localities throughout Hampton Roads and the Peninsula, but especially in the Historic Triangle where tourism is such a large part of the local economy.

In York County, the locality has stepped up its social media game to attract a younger audience, said Jessica Wauhop, the county’s content marketing specialist. Wauhop said the county’s Tourism Development Office launched an Instagram site more than two years ago and started using Facebook even more to make the county more visible to millennials.

“These young couples and groups of friends will one day…be the families returning for summer vacations, driving in for a day at the beach, or booking their anniversary and birthday dinners,” she said.

Wauhop said Yorktown is already filled with opportunities for social media content. There are museums and battlefields that are set against a naturally photogenic landscape.

“Our picturesque images, witty copy, and use of video and GIFs is to inspire millennial and GenXers to come and see all Historic Yorktown has to offer,” she said.

James City County has made photography its primary goal, with features of local spots on its social media pages and annual photography contests. (WYDaily/Courtesy James City County)
James City County has made photography its primary goal, with features of local spots on its social media pages and annual photography contests. (WYDaily/Courtesy James City County)

Currently, the most popular spot for Instagram photos is the LOVE letters on the Yorktown Waterfront. The letters are on loan from the Virginia Tourism Corporation and have been decorated for the holiday season. Wauhop said the county has switched the decorations multiple times to match with holidays and events since they arrived in November.

In James City County, Laura Messer, the county’s tourism and marketing director, said the county makes it a priority to keep photography on its social media accounts up-to-date. In addition, the county does a photo contest each year since 2017 to highlight the local landscape.

Some of the more popular locations for social media pictures are the statue of Captain John Smith at Historic Jamestown, Busch Gardens and the sunsets at Jamestown Beach Event Park and Chickahominy Riverfront Park.

The city of Williamsburg did not immediately respond for comment.


Known for historical sites like Point Comfort at Fort Monroe where the first enslaved Africans landed in 1619, Hampton goes through ongoing improvements ensuring historical preservation while keeping up with how people take in the attractions.

Tourists cover ground at Fort Monroe on Segways giving them a unique photo opportunity, said Leslie Baker, a spokeswoman for the Hampton Convention & Visitors Bureau. 

A picturesque park area to commemorate the slaves who landed there 400 years ago is also in the works at Fort Monroe where visitors can learn the history while also capturing scenes for social, Baker said.

Downtown Hampton has also been known to capture the attention of social photographers. 

“The Historic Post Office has a huge mural on the back of the building…there are different locations in Downtown Hampton with murals and bright colors to take pictures,” Baker said. 


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 And, Baker said city departments are working to recruit artists to revitalize other murals in the area. 

Even more color was added to the city’s this fall with its “From the Sea to the Stars” safety bump-out near City Hall, creatively adding separation between pedestrians and vehicles on the corner of Lincoln and Eaton streets. Another safety bump-out is painted with a baseball theme outside the Phoebus Little League field at County and Curry streets. 

The city also unveiled its traveling mini-park as a trendy and colorful meeting place in Phoebus. 

RELATED STORY: You might want to visit this mini-park before it’s gone

Not to forget Hampton’s beaches which are scheduled to undergo improvements with extended boardwalks and seawall, Baker said. 

For more information on what’s to come in Hampton, click here.

Newport News

Bree Bever, web and social marketing coordinator for the city, said Newport News has adapted to the changing landscape using digital marketing techniques, specifically, user general content.

“What attracts people is what our peers are posting about a certain area,” Bever said, adding for the past five years, visitors and other people exploring the city use the hashtag #LoveNN.

An example is where people check out the “Love” artwork.

“It’s just big love letters that people can pose next to,” she added.

This year, the tourism department created a social media spread in the visitors’ guide. 

The most popular sites are Selene, a sculpture which sits on the water in the Mariners’ Museum and Park as well as Lions Bridge, located right along the James River, Bever said.

“It has some of the best sunsets in Newport News,” she added.

Other sites include Hilton Pier right off of Historic Hilton Village, which also features sunsets and Newport News Park, equipped with 8,000 acres, usually frequented in the fall or warmer months.

 There are also some hidden gems such as Causey’s Mill right off Warwick Boulevard near Riverside Regional Medical Center and the pier at Riverview Farm Park, near the visitor’s center.

Bever said she thinks this social media and marketing strategy shows both the authentic and best sides of what people “have to experience in the city.”

WYDaily multimedia reporters Alexa Doiron, Julia Marsigliano and Lucretia Cunningham contributed to this report.

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