At the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay, along the Atlantic Ocean in southern Virginia is a lovely seaside resort community called Virginia Beach. Popular with golfers, families, and college students on spring break, the resort is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as having the "longest pleasure beach in the world." Virginia Beach is home to approximately 400,000 permanent residents, but that number rises exponentially during the summer as vacationers flock to enjoy the area.
Virginia Beach offers myriad attractions and activities including golf courses, miles of white sandy beaches, historic attractions for families, sports enthusiasts, retirees, and college students on spring break. Among the area's highlights are:
- Virginia Aquarium - This modern aquarium, located just south of the city, is home to 800,000 gallons of aquariums, live animal habitats, and 300 hands-on exhibits. The aquarium is also very active in preserving and rescuing aquatic life in the region.
- The Boardwalk: This three-mile stretch is, in many ways, the heart of Virginia Beach. It is surrounded by some of the most popular restaurants, hotels, and shops, as well as historic sites, museums, monuments and more. It also features a walking path, as well as an area designated for bicyclists and skaters and an adjacent fishing pier. Other attractions include a Ferris wheel, video arcade, entertainment stages that often host live performances, and much more.
- Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art - Founded in 1952, this museum is located just six blocks from the ocean. It features a changing array of exhibitions, showcasing contemporary sculpture, glass art, textiles, paintings, and conceptual art.
- Whale Watching - One of the highlights of the area's winter season is the herds of fin whales, also known as the "greyhounds of the sea." The whales pass closely to shore on their way to their winter feeding grounds in South America. Visitors can take whale-watching boats and tours or watch from shore.
- Golf Courses - The city of Virginia Beach has eleven public golf courses as well as four country clubs and 36 holes at military installations. The city also hosts the annual national tournament, the Virginia Beach Open.
- Adam Thoroughgood House - This house, the original portion of which was built in 1622, was the home of Virginia Beach's first permanent resident, Adam Thoroughgood. Today it is a museum, filled with artifacts and memorabilia depicting highlights of Virginia Beach's history.
- Old Coast Guard Station Museum - This museum and former coast guard station was built in 1903, replacing an earlier structure on the site. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the museum houses a collection of shipwreck salvage, lifeguard apparatus, and coast guard memorabilia.
- Old Cape Henry Lighthouse - The Cape Henry lighthouse sits at the southernmost tip of the Chesapeake Bay. The lighthouse, built in 1792, was the first lighthouse commissioned by the United States government. Nearby is the First Landing Site, where the first Jamestown settlers landed in 1607.
There are many accommodation options in Virginia Beach. A few of the most popular options include:
- Cavalier Hotel: If you're looking for a truly unique, upscale lodging experience, consider staying at Virginia Beach's Cavalier Hotel. This historic 18-acre resort property opened for business in 1927. The original structure, Cavalier on the Hill, is open only during the summer season, while the more modern Cavalier Oceanfront is open year-round and offers free wi-fi. The resort features numerous activities, including clay tennis courts, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, game room, croquet lawn, beach volleyball, fitness center and more. There are also five full-service restaurants on-site, as well as a beach club where live musicians often perform. Babysitting service is available year-round, and special children's activities are provided during the summer months.
- Wyndham Virginia Beach Oceanfront: If you are looking for a luxury oceanfront hotel, you're sure to be pleased with this property. Located just a few blocks from the Boardwalk, it's a perfect home base to the area's many attractions and amenities. The hotel offers a free shuttle to the Boardwalk, making it easy for guests to get out and about. However, you can certainly keep yourself - and everyone in your group - entertained even if you don't leave the resort's grounds. That's because the hotel has a private beach area, indoor pool, game room, fitness center and on-site restaurant. Each room has a microwave and refrigerator, as well as a flat-screen TV and free wi-fi.
- Hampton Inn Oceanfront: At this Virginia Beach Hotel, every room has a private balcony with a view of the ocean as well as a refrigerator, microwave, flat-screen television and free wi-fi access. Daily local newspaper delivery is also provided. Guests are provided with free breakfast throughout their stay and dinner is available at an on-site restaurant. The hotel has a heated indoor swimming pool and a Jacuzzi that guests can use 24-hours a day, as well as an on-site fitness center. The hotel also offers bike rentals during the spring and summer months.
For more ideas on where to stay, see the Virginia Beach Hotel Association website.
- Beach Pub: If you're looking for a long-standing restaurant that is a favorite with locals, be sure to visit the Beach Pub. The restaurant has been open since 1978 and in 2011 was featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives program on the Food Network. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu features plenty of fresh seafood from the local area. Fried flounder is the pub's signature dish, but there are plenty of other seafood options, including hot crab meat in butter, seafood platters and more. The menu also features, steaks, burgers, other sandwiches. Daily specials are offered, some of which are all-you-can eat deals.
- Surf Club Ocean Grill: This Virginia Beach restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu features a number of seafood selections, as well as other casual dining favorites like ribs, steak and pasta. The Chesapeake Bay Seafood Feast is one of the of the restaurant's specialties. The Feast includes the fresh catch of the day, a broiled lump crab cake, oysters Rockefeller, broiled sea scallops, fried shrimp and more. The lounge at the Surf Club Ocean Grill is a great place to go for cocktails, offering affordable happy hour drink and appetizer specials every day from 2 - 7 p.m., with the exception of holiday weekends.
- Isle of Capri: If you're a fan of Italian cuisine, you're sure to find Isle of Capri to be one of the premier oceanfront dining options in Virginia Beach. This welcoming, family-owned Italian restaurant is open for dinner only, from 5 - 9 p.m. nightly. The menu features a wide selection of traditional Italian dishes. Pasta entree choices include lobster ravioli, manicotti, broccoli ziti and more. Additional options include seafood, veal, chicken and lamb dishes, as well as several salad, vegetable and antipasti selections.
Planning Your Trip
Virginia Beach is easily reached by car from all over Virginia as well as many major East Coast cities. The closest airport is in Richmond, which is a two-hour drive from Virginia Beach. The city is just 45 minutes from Williamsburg, VA and is about a three-hour drive from the Washington, DC metro area.
You can learn more about what there is to see and do in Virginia Beach by downloading or requesting a vacation planning guide from the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitor's Bureau.