Whether you want sun, sand, wildlife, or history, you’ll find it all at Virginia Beach. The popular getaway draws thousands of tourists every year, all attracted to the idyllic surrounds, vibrant nightspots, gorgeous beaches, and first-class attractions. Regardless of whether you’re visiting this classic seaside resort with a family or with friends, you’re guaranteed a good time… especially if you fill your itinerary with at least a few of our round-up of the 20 very best things to do in Virginia Beach.
20. Mount Trashmore
Want to see what happens when you apply a little creative genius to a former landfill site? Then check out Mount Trashmore, a city park that not only serves as a prime example of landfill reuse, but also give the residents of Virginia Beach (not to mention its hordes of tourists) a great place for a picnic, a hike, a game of volleyball, or even a spot of fishing. For families, there’s even the crazily innovative Kids Cove, a playground designed for kids, by kids. Just be aware that if you’re visiting during warmer weather, you may still get the occasional whiff of garbage.
19. ViBe District
Whether you’re of an artistic bent yourself or you simply want to watch other creative souls at play, the fabulously quirky ViBe District is guaranteed to delight. Known as the gateway to the “alternative” side of Virginia Beach, the neighborhood is awash with independent businesses, regular pop up events, and artisan markets. There’s also a host of weekly and monthly events – be sure to check the website for the latest updates before you plan out your itinerary.
18. Atlantic Avenue Trolleys
If you’re going to Virginia Beach, you need to grab a wave. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a surfer to do it. The Wave, otherwise known as the Virginia Beach Trolley system, is a fun, affordable way of getting around all of Virginia Beach’s best destinations, including the Boardwalk, the Virginia Aquarium, the Ocean Breeze Waterpark, and the Lynnhaven Mall and shopping outlets. Kitted out to look like something that’s straight out of the 1920s, the kitsch, open-air trolleys run frequently throughout the day, and are as much of an experience as the destinations they drive to.
17. Virginia Beach Surf and Rescue Museum
It may be small, but the Virginia Beach Surf and Rescue Museum is still worth a few hours of anyone’s time. With a range of exhibits chronicling Virginia Beach’s rich past, it’s the perfect opportunity to learn more about the area’s maritime efforts, coastal communities, and rescue services. Take a stroll down memory lane with the intriguing collections of photographs and relics that promise to entertain as much as they inform. Open from 10am through 5pm Friday- Sunday, and 12pm through 5pm on Sundays, admission is a budget-friendly $1 for adults, and free to kids aged 6 years or under.
16. Adam Thoroughgood House
For visitors who want to hear the story of Adam Thorowgood, one of Virginia’s very first colonists, a trip to Adam Thoroughgood House makes a very worthwhile endeavor. The house was built around 1719 by Argall Thorowgood, great-grandson of Adam Thorowgood, and today stands as one of the oldest surviving colonial homes in Virginia Beach. With its gorgeous wainscoting and dramatic turned staircase, it’s as fascinating for its architecture as it is for the glimpse it offers into the lives and histories of the wealthy colonists who once called it home.
15. Chic’s Beach
On a hot summer’s day, the gentle waves that lap the beautiful shore of Chic’s Beach are positively heavenly. Unlike some of the other beaches that populate the area, Chic’s Beach is quiet, unassuming, and perfect for families. It’s not the place for surfing (the waves are far too gentle), but for a relaxing day on the beach, it’s hard to beat. Pack a towel, a swimsuit, and some shades and get ready for some seriously relaxing fun.
14. Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
Whether you’re 5 or 85, Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center is guaranteed to appeal. Home to an amazing range of hands-on exhibits, nature paths, and marshlands (not to mention animals from over 300 different species), it offers the kind of fun day out that will educate as it entertains. Regardless of the day or time you visit, there’s guaranteed to be some type of activity going on, whether it’s a movie on the largest screen in Virginia, a keeper talk, or a boat trip. If all the activities leave you with an appetite, there’s even a choice of dining venues for a bite to eat.
13. Croatan Beach
If you want to escape the hordes, few places in Virginia Beach offer quite such a relaxing experience as the gorgeous Croatan Beach. Tucked away so well it’s almost impossible to find, this little hidden gem offers something for everyone: clean white sand for the kids to play on, rolling waves for surfers, and lifeguards for cautious parents. Parking is $5 and although facilities are basic, there’s a few shower areas and bathrooms for when nature calls.
12. Doumar’s Barbecue
On a hot summer’s day, there’s nothing quite like an ice cream from Doumar’s Barbecue to cool you down. The family-owned restaurant still uses the machine old Abe Doumar invented back in 1904 which also happens to the world’s very first cone machine) to roll their cones, giving you the opportunity to taste a little bit of history with each bite. For those in need of some heftier sustenance, Doumar’s also does a very fine line in barbeque, burgers, and sandwiches.
11. Virginia Beach Farmers Market
Virginia Beach Farmers Market has been enticing locals and tourists to its stalls for over 25 years, and for very good reason. Offering a huge selection of vendors selling homemade, locally sourced specialties, it’s a one-stop-shop for all your fresh produce, baked goods, meat, seafood, and home craft needs. Regardless of when you visit, you’re likely to leave with a groaning bag and a slightly emptier wallet, but for a true Virginia Beach experience, visit on a Friday from April through October for one of the celebrated hoe-downs.
10. Dolphin Paddleboard Eco-Tour
If you’re headed to Virginia Beach, kill two birds with one stone by taking a Dolphin Paddleboard Eco-Tour- the perfect way to not only explore the high seas but, if you’re lucky, get up close with a few of the area’s famous bottlenose dolphins at the same time. As well as the dolphins, you can expect to see a wide variety of local bird and marine life, including pelicans, ospreys, cow-nose rays and sea turtles. The tours take 1.5 hours, and while you’ll need some degree of stamina to complete them, they’re easy enough for most people to master. A local guide will be on hand at all times to make sure you get the most out of the experience.
9. Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
If you like the idea of spending a relaxing afternoon gliding along calm waters, enjoying the sights and sounds of the many wintering waterfowl and native wildlife that call Virginia Beach home, don’t miss a visit to the delightful Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Full of migrating swans, snow geese and ducks, not to mention the rare loggerhead turtle and bald eagle, it’s the ideal place to beat a retreat from the crowds and enjoy the tranquility of nature.
8. Virginia Beach Fishing Pier
Regardless of your age or skill level, Virginia Beach Fishing Pier makes the ideal spot to draw up a chair and experience the delights of catching your own supper. In spring, the area is flooded with roundheads and trout, while the summer months bring scores of whiting and Spanish mackerel to the shores. Crabbing, meanwhile, is a year-round activity that’s guaranteed to keep the kids entertained for hours at an end. If you haven’t got your own rod, worry not – the handily placed tackle shop will be happy to rent you one for the day for just $8.
7. Kiptopeke State Park
If you’re willing to leave the delights of Virginia Beach for a short-day trip, Kiptopeke State Park makes a very worthy venture. Located on the southern tip of the Eastern Shore of Virginia and the Delmarva Peninsula in Northampton, the park is a great place for hiking, biking, swimming, and learning more about the area’s natural history, wildfire, and ecology. Even if you’re not up the challenge of the many outdoor pursuits on offer, it still makes a great place to simply relax and enjoy the endless tranquility on offer.
6. Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art
For art lovers, a trip to the sublime Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art is a must. Regardless of when you visit, you’ll find plenty going on, whether it’s an outdoor art show, an outreach program, an art class, or a screening. The regular exhibits, meanwhile, are just as exciting as the programs. Unlike most galleries where it’s very much a case of “look but don’t touch”, here, it’s the reverse. Thanks to its mission of creating an inclusive dialogue between the artist, the visitor, and the museum, there’s plenty of opportunities to get “hands-on” with the artwork – a rare opportunity and definitely not one to miss.
5. Military Aviation Museum
As home to one of the world’s largest private collections of World War I and World War II-era military aircraft (all of which are still in flyable condition), the Military Aviation Museum is a must-visit for anyone with even the vaguest of interests in military history. As well as getting the chance to tour the planes and learn more about WWII & WWI aviation, you might even be lucky enough to catch a flight demonstration or air show (check out the website before you go to see whether Lady Luck is on your side).
4. Cape Henry Lighthouse
As the first lighthouse ever authorized by Congress, Cape Henry Lighthouse occupies the kind of position in US history that makes it more than worthy of a few hours of your time. Built in the 1790s, the historic attraction offers first-rate views from the top (although just one word of warning – while the climb is relatively easy, the very young and the very old may find it a little challenging). Entry costs $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $6 for students. The attraction is open from 10 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. daily, but be aware that during storms, it’s closed to visitors.
3. Sandbridge Beach
Located around 15 miles south of Virginia Beach Boardwalk and Beachfront, Sandbridge Beach offers the ideal spot for visitors looking to enjoy beach life away from the hordes. Featuring 5 miles of rippling sand dunes and serene shoreline, it’s the perfect getaway for surfers and families alike. Despite its air of calm tranquility, there’s plenty of amenities and amusements to keep you entertained, including clean restrooms, picnic pavilions, sports courts, a playground, and a fishing pier. If you do happen to get bored of the beach, don’t miss a visit to the adjacent Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge while you’re in the area.
2. First Landing State Park
Visit the site where the first Jamestown colonists landed in 1607 at First Landing State Park. Although easy to access, the park feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of the main town, offering visitors the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind in some truly stunning surrounds. Featuring over 20 miles of trails and 1.5 miles of sandy beach, it’s the perfect place to pull on your hiking boots and get down and dirty in nature. For those who really want to get away from it all, there’s even the chance to rent a cabin for an overnight stay.
1. Virginia Beach Boardwalk and Beachfront
To leave Virginia Beach without taking a stroll along its famous boardwalk would be a travesty. Occupying a 3 mile stretch of thoroughfare, the boardwalk is THE place to see and be seen, not to mention the ideal spot to take in one of the various street performances, events, and festivals that take place there throughout the year. Check out the 24-foot-tall King Neptune statue at the Neptune Festival Park entrance on 31st Street, grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants and cafés that line the route, or simply take a seat on one of the cute little benches and soak up the atmosphere.