Family-friendly, full of entertainment options and easy to reach from many of the Eastern Seaboard's largest cities, Virginia Beach proves that you don't need to go to Florida or the Caribbean to enjoy a wonderful beach vacation.
If all you want is a tan and a few days of relaxation in the sunshine, Virginia Beach is the place to do it. Rent a sun lounger and set yourself up on the beach, and you'll be bronzed in no time.
Then again, if dozing on the beach isn't your thing, Virginia Beach is packed with attractions, from the fun-filled family amusement park to the opportunity to kayak in Broad Bay, take whale-watching trips or dance the night away at clubs like Peabody's.
You can shop for luxury brands at Lynnhaven Mall, dine on fresh Chesapeake seafood at restaurants like Tautogs or spend the night enjoying a few beers with friends at Catch 31. Whatever you want to get out of your next beach vacation, Virginia Beach is the perfect place to go.
Virginia Beach is built around an almost 5-mile long boardwalk. Backed by Atlantic and Pacific Avenues, the beach isn't just a place to relax. It also regularly hosts music events like July's Sandstock Rock and Roll Festival, and even monster truck rallies. There's always something happening to entertain visitors.
There are 8 affordable and high-quality public courses in Virginia Beach itself and more than 20 in the surrounding area. Coupled with the pleasant climate during spring and summer, this makes the resort heaven for amateur golfers.
Seafood is king in Virginia Beach, and there aren't many better places to dine on fish tacos or crab cakes. Try the crab soup at Blue Seafood and Spirits, dine on shrimp at the seafront at Tautogs or fill up on fish tacos at Big Sam's.
The area around Virginia Beach isn't a new development. In fact, Cape Henry was one of the first places English settlers visited in the early seventeenth century. Nowadays you can visit historic landmarks like Cape Henry Lighthouse or see the First Landing Cross which shows exactly where the Europeans arrived in 1607.
Virginia Beach is also a vibrant beach resort. Head to clubs like Peabody's where dance DJs keep people on the floor until the morning. Make a date to watch the Americana acts at the American Music Festival in September, or be there during Spring Break to sample one of the East Coast's liveliest party venues.
The seafront is Virginia Beach's major draw, and with the 4.8 mile long Boardwalk you will always find somewhere to unroll your towel. With lifeguards on duty all summer long and safe swimming conditions, few beach resorts are as family-friendly.
The sea offers much more than a place to swim or sunbathe. Virginia Beach has plenty of companies specializing in canoe or kayak rental along with over 120 miles of inlets and lagoons to explore. Who knows, you might even find yourself paddling next to a dolphin.
The golf courses of Virgina Beach place it up in the top ranks of American golfing destinations. There are 8 public courses in the city itself, all of them maintained to a high standard and offering affordable green fees. Be sure to check out Redwing and Honey Bee, two of Virginia's best links.
The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center is vast, with 700,00 gallons of water and enchanting exhibits for kids and adults to enjoy. See the sea turtles, visit the Adventure Park play area or take dolphin watching tours with the center's resident marine experts.
Cape Henry has had a federally maintained lighthouse since the 1780s in an effort to protect Chesapeake fishing vessels against the sandbanks and rocks of the estuary. Nowadays, you can walk up Atlantic Avenue to the current structure (built in 1881) which is located at one of the first places English settlers touched North American soil.
Summer is the best time to visit Virginia Beach if all you want to do is lounge on the sand. However, the high humidity and heat of July and August isn't for everybody. If you want to visit the attractions, walk the coast and play some golf try booking a visit in May or September - times of year when the weather is pleasant and the crowds aren't so dense.
If you are flying into Virginia Beach, the best option is to touch down at Norfolk International, around 20 miles to the west of the resort. From there, you can take shuttle buses provided by James River Transportation or arrange a taxi into town. Taxis cost around $35-40, depending on the size of your travel group.
Although there is no Amtrak station in Virginia Beach itself, you can get pretty close to the resort by train. Both Newport News and Norfolk are connected to Boston, New York and Philadelphia via the Northeast Regional service, and you can easily take a taxi from either city to Virginia Beach.
Driving to Virginia Beach from nearby cities is the easiest way to get there. Take I-95 from Washington D.C., New York or Philadelphia and switch to I-64 at Richmond. I-95 also links the resort to southern destinations like Atlanta and Miami.
There is no Greyhound stop in Virginia Beach, but the city is connected to regional locations via the Sprinter Bus service. This handy service runs from New York via Arlington and Alexandria and stops right in the heart of town.
Beach resort hotels are the place to stay in Virginia Beach, and this destination has accommodation options that rival anywhere else in the USA. For example, Turtle Cay Resort has beautiful Art Deco architecture, while the Oceanaire Resort Hotel offers four large swimming pools within walking distance of the center of town. More affordable alternatives include the TownePlace Suites Virginia Beach and Angie's Guest Cottage, the only hostel in town.
The Seafront – The centerpiece of Virginia Beach is the beach itself - miles and miles of sand fringed by nightclubs, restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues. Check into hotels along Pacific Avenue like the Comfort Inn to enjoy sea views, and be close to vibrant clubs like Peabody's - the city's major dance venue.
Downtown Virginia Beach – A few hundred meters inland from the seafront you'll find Virginia Beach's major cultural institutions as well as major business venues like the Virginia Beach Conference Center. Check out the Museum of Contemporary Art, which always seeks to involve visitors with workshops and performances, or relax in cafes like Zoe's, on 19th Street.
Bird Neck Point – Tucked away on its own peninsular, Bird Neck Point is an exclusive residential district with some of the city's most luxurious homes. If you want to rent an apartment or home during your vacation, this is the place to look. You can also rent boats to sail in Linkhorn Bay, play tennis or enjoy a round at the Cavalier Golf and Yacht Club.
Getting around Virginia Beach by bus isn't easy and there is no tram or light rail system either. You can travel up and down the seafront with Hampton Roads Transit buses for $1.50 a ride, but getting to suburbs by public transit isn't a reliable option. Renting a car or taking cabs is always preferable.
Taxis are a convenient way to get from your hotel or resort to the beach. Prices vary according to the company and type of car you choose, but typical fares are $3.25 for the meter drop, then $2.40 per mile and $0.50 for extra items of baggage. Getting around with Uber is a good way to save money as their basic fare is $0.70, then $0.60 per mile, so significant savings are possible.
Many visitors to Virginia Beach find that having their own automobile is essential. Getting around the streets shouldn't be hard. The resort is fairly compact around the major tourist areas, and attractions are well signposted. Parking is cheap in the center of town as well, with lots on Atlantic Avenue charging a maximum of $10 per day.
If you want to mix sunbathing with shopping, Virginia Beach is a fantastic place to do so. There are two major shopping malls within five minutes of the beachfront district. Lynnhaven offers stores like Apple, Forever 21, H&M and Vans, while Hilltop North offers a similar mix of brands along with plenty of restaurants and up-market grocery stores. If you just want ocean-themed souvenirs like postcards, the stores on Atlantic Avenue will be ideal - but don't expect any bargains.
Staying in self-catering accommodation is a good way to keep your costs low while staying in Virginia Beach, and there are a number of grocery stores in the middle of town. Options include Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Farm Fresh, while further out you can find a Walmart Supercenter and Kroger's. The city isn't expensive. Expect to pay $2.60 for a gallon of milk and $2.30 for 12 eggs.
Dining out is one of the highlights of a Virginia Beach vacation, and you can find great restaurants from almost every corner of the world. If you want fish tacos stuffed with freshly caught local seafood, Gringo's Taqueria is the place to go, while for crab cakes Croaker's cannot be beaten. Tautog and Catch 31 are popular seafront restaurants with great ocean views while Il Giardino is the finest Italian in town. And prices aren't too high at all. Expect to pay $6 for a fish taco, $15 for a mid-range meal and $30 or more for a high-quality night out.