Virginia Beach Vacations
Your Virginia Beach vacation
Outside the boundaries of its popular Oceanfront enclave, Virginia Beach looks like many other American towns filled with strip malls and tidy subdivisions. But the tourists aren't coming for the suburban experience – they're looking to escape, and the Boardwalk and its many distractions bring that much-needed relief.
With wall-to-wall beachfront hotels, amazing seafood restaurants, casual beach bars and less-populated beaches like Chicks Beach and Sandbridge, Virginia Beach beckons out-of-towners to savor the laid-back lifestyle. As one of the oldest resort towns in the country, it lives up to its reputation for family fun, whether you're combing for seashells or snaking down water slides. The best part: It's only a few hours from several of the nation's colonial treasures. Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Charlottesville are only a few hours away.
Virginia Beach Hotels
Best time to take a vacation to Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach is a classic summer town. Hotel rates are typically higher from Memorial Day to Labor Day, as folks take advantage of the warm weather and beach access. From older seaside motels to higher-end hotels bearing mainstream brands and added amenities like convention space and well-designed pools, the Oceanfront hotels are the main draws. The city also hosts a marquee surfing event at the end of the summer: The East Coast Surfing Championships.
High temperatures often linger into fall, the perfect time to catch the annual Neptune Festival, a fitting tribute to the god of the sea and the city's love affair with the ocean.
Insider tips for Virginia Beach travel
One Fish Two Fish
You could stroll the Boardwalk for a hotel restaurant overlooking the crowded oceanfront, or you could book at table just in time for sunset at this local favorite. Regulars dig the panoramic views of Chesapeake Bay, and the plump "Deviled" crab stuffed flounder.
The Neptune Festival
Fall doesn't leave the Oceanfront a Ghost Town. In fact, the marquee event of the year – The Neptune Festival – is a reason to hit the beach, when thousands descend upon the shores to ooh at sand sculptures (think castles and mermaids the size of small SUVs), live bands, art and triathletes.
The Jewish Mother
For piled-high Jewish deli sandwiches, lox and bagels and great live bands -- like John Oates, Elliott Yamin -- check out The Jewish Mother in the Hilltop area. The 9,000-square-foot venue replaced the crayon-scribbled original Mother's that used to call the beach home.
Cities have some playful and bizarre names for street signs. This one -- Witchduck Road -- ties to local lore. Back in 1706, Grace Sherwood was ducked in the Lynnhaven River to 'test' if she was a witch. She survived the trial and lived to be 80. Her legend is echoed around these parts, from a bronze statue at Sentara Bayside Hospital to Witch Duck Point.
17th Street Surf Shop
You aren't a surfer or skater – you just want to dress like one. Hit 17th Street Surf Shop – a Virginia Beach institution – for classic t-shirts, hoodies, flip-flops and all the gear you could ever need to rip through your first wave.
Virginia Beach highlights
Virginia Beach Oceanfront and BoardwalkVirginia Beach takes pride in hosting thousands of summer tourists who have made the trek from Delaware, New Jersey and other East Coast states for its classic beach town feel. The main draw: a 3-mile boardwalk fronted by hotels at every price point and plenty of stores to buy that perfect tchotchke (sun visor, anyone?). Expect a mash-up of people, from the stroller set to surfers, and plenty of art, music and water-focused events throughout the season.
First Landing State Park
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, Virginia's most-visited state park is meant for a lazy (or active) getaway. The grounds boast 20 miles of trails on 2,888 acres, picnic spots, cabins for overnight stays and camping areas complete with water and electric hookups. Round up the crew for fishing or crabbing, or rent a canoe or kayak for a leisurely ride by the Chesapeake Bay. Breathe in the salty air, and be on watch for turtles and finches.
Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
If you're going to be stuck indoors on a rainy day, it might as well be inside this funporium devoted to all things nautical. With an IMAX theater and tons of cuddly (and not so cuddly) critters such as otters, owls and Komodo dragons, the space will mesmerize the tykes. And just watch their faces light up when you upgrade to a premium experience – observing an actual training session with Harbor Seals.
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
So this is what a real landscape looks like. That's what you'll be saying after an afternoon at this 9,250-acre refuge, a habitat for endangered species the likes of loggerhead sea turtles and bald eagles. Come December, thousands of snow geese and ducks migrate to these wetlands, dunes, beach and marsh. Plenty of scenic trails capture the serenity, while designated areas allow hunters to engage in their sport.
It is precisely what it sounds like: a mountain constructed of compacted layers of solid waste and clean soil. How is that a Virginia Beach attraction? For one, it's an ecological feat. Locals know it – and use it – as a picnic area (with plenty of shelters available), playground and volleyball venue. Seasoned skaters also perform aerial feats in the 7-foot-deep bowl and 13.5-foot vertical ramp. Stop by before rolling down the side of the hill.
Adam Thoroughgood House
Colonial Virginia -- on a smaller scale -- lives on at Adam Thoroughgood House, which sits on land granted to an indentured servant and member of the House of Burgesses in the late 1600s. The brick property, designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960, brims with period touches, from extensive wainscoting to a turned staircase. Historians credit Adam's great grandson as the likely builder and resident.
Ocean Breeze Water Park
It's all about the numbers: 16 water slides, a million-gallon wave pool and the throngs of families who can't wait to barrel down pipes and falls. For the tots not yet tall enough to zip down shoots, the safer version is Buccaneer Bay, a pirate ship designed for little ones under 48 inches.
The Town Center of Virginia Beach
Before The Town Center, Virginia Beach had no official downtown. This 17-block retail, office and entertainment complex fueled a new spirit into the Pembroke area with live musicians, upscale boutiques and salons, plus restaurants and bars for the after-work crowd.
Virginia Beach Fishing Pier
Nothing says vacation like a fishing trip. You don't have to charter a boat for fresh catches. Simply drop a line at the pier between 14th and 15th streets, and pray for a bucket full of Spanish mackerel, bluefish and trout. The pier is open from April to October.
Cape Henry Lighthouse
The lighthouse towers over the gateway to Chesapeake Bay, a quiet reminder of its role in colonial commerce for Virginia and Maryland. The historical landmark, a beauty in bronze and copper, is closed during winter and peeks out to its 1881 replacement, which is still used to navigate ships safely into the harbor.
More on Virginia Beach from AOL Travel
Virginia Beach is for lovers, of course, but families, singles, surfers, cyclists, golfers and history buffs will also fall head over heels for this coastal city. The old-fashioned boardwalk attracts all kinds of people-- many during the summer months. Summer on the Virginia Beach boardwalk means free outdoor entertainment and plenty of people watching, but some prefer the laid-back atmosphere of the boardwalk on the off-season, while the weather is still quite mild. Cyclists and pedestrians alike praise the two-mile stretch for its separate bike path, and on days when vacationers are looking for something different, the Military Aviation History museum features vintage airplanes, both inside the museum and, when the weather is fair, in the air. The hotels that line the beaches range from high-priced luxury to affordable, modest rooms with an ocean view. Virginia Beach offers all kinds of eateries, but visitors rate the seafood restaurants highest--and no wonder, with the Atlantic Ocean just steps away and the Chesapeake and its famous blue crabs just up the coast. There’s steamed crab, crab cakes, crab soup, crab risotto and just about any other crab creation imaginable on the local menus. Those who aren’t seafood lovers can enjoy non-seafood steakhouse specialties and Italian, Asian, Mexican or Greek cuisine. And, of course, vacationers will find plenty of shopping at Virginia Beach’s gift shops, consignment shops, antique stores, art galleries, surf shops, a farmer’s market and two nearby shopping malls.