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Hometown Series: Where to Eat, Sleep, and Play When Visiting Virginia Beach

Intro: Last year, we explored cities around the world, big and small, in the hometown series. With the COVID pandemic raging at that time, one of the purposes of the series was to inspire local, hometown travel and to open up our eyes to the great wonders that lie right in our backyards. Over the past year it has become more evident than ever that travel is in part a state of mind and that the destination doesn’t so much matter as long as we have a heart open to experience something new and the desire to see all that Mother Earth has given to us, whether across the world or across the backyard. Soo…..

You guessed it! The hometown series is back and kicking off the reboot is Alex from Wander With Alex to introduce us to all the great things to do when visiting Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA.

Virginia Beach coastline , top things to do when visiting Virginia Beach
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Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Photo Credit: Wander With Alex.

Virginia Beach, located in southeastern Virginia, is a great place to visit or vacation with the family or a significant other! Whether you are looking to relax by the water, go sightseeing, explore the outdoors, or try local cuisine, there is something for everyone when visiting Virginia Beach! Check out our list of favorite things to do and see while visiting Virginia’s most populous city!

Things to Do When Visiting Virginia Beach

1.       Virginia Beach Oceanfront

Virginia Beach’s number one attraction is, of course, the beach! Did you know that Virginia Beach holds the Guinness World Record for longest pleasure beach at 35 miles long? The best time to visit Virginia Beach, for the beaches, is from May to September when the water and the weather are just right. Popular activities include swimming, sunbathing, stand up paddle boarding, skim boarding, sand volleyball, and a great deal more!

If you’re looking for a water adventure, head over to Rudee Inlet. You can go on dolphin cruises, fishing charters, and even go parasailing! But let’s not forget all of the shore activities Virginia Beach has to offer as well! Take a stroll down the boardwalk and the strip and check out the sculptures, restaurants, and souvenir shops! Be sure to head down to 31st street and get in a photo op with the iconic King Neptune sculpture. Then head over to the Atlantic Fun Park on 15th Street and enjoy the amusement park rides with the kids!

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Atlantic Fun Park. Photo Credit: Wander With Alex.

2.       ViBE Creative District

The ViBE Creative District, located near the Oceanfront, is one of the best places to go when visiting Virginia Beach. It was created to promote local art and culture. Many of the businesses along 18th Street, and neighboring streets, have beautiful murals painted on them by local artists. You can see sculptures, painted parking lots, sidewalk art, and even painted parking meters! It’s beautiful and vibrant and is a must-visit if you’re looking for photographic places to visit in Virginia Beach.

3.       Virginia Beach Search and Rescue Museum

The Virginia Beach Search and Rescue Museum is located on 24th Street and Atlantic Avenue. The museum is only open on the weekends from 10AM to 4PM. This museum celebrates the area’s coastal and maritime communities. Here you can learn all about the area’s waterways, our military, shipwrecks, rescue efforts, and a great deal more. The Virginia Beach Search and Rescue Museum is quite unique and is a great place to take the family for a little bit of history when visiting Virginia Beach.

4.       First Landing State Park

First Landing State Park, located at the north end of the oceanfront, is Virginia’s “most visited state park.” This gorgeous outdoor park offers several fun things to do and see. Sunbathe on secluded beaches, go hiking or birdwatching, or take the boat or kayak out on the water. There are several access points with paid parking available. The main entrance is on Shore Drive, but to get to the boat and kayak launches you’ll need to head over to the area called “The Narrows” on 64th Street. If you’re an outdoors lover, you’ll really enjoy a day exploring First Landing State Park!

5.       Cape Henry Lighthouse

Also located on the north end of the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, you’ll find two beautiful lighthouses on the Fort Story military base—the original Cape Henry Lighthouse and the newer lighthouse. The original lighthouse, dating back to 1792, is the 4th oldest lighthouse in the United States! While the newer black and white striped lighthouse is not open to the public, the original sandstone lighthouse is. Take the family on a tour up to the observation platform and enjoy all the beautiful views of Virginia Beach!

Cape Henry lighthouses, top things to do when visiting Virginia Beach
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Cape Henry Lighthouses. G Wayne Rhodes, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

6.       Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center

Take the kids to the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center—they will love you for it! This highly rated Virginia Beach attraction offers tons of exhibits and hands-on activities for you to enjoy. Mosey on through the many indoor exhibits available for you to see, and then head outside and pet the stingrays! There is even a whale watching boat tour available from December to March. If whale watching isn’t your thing, then maybe you’ll enjoy the Adventure Park! The Adventure Park at the Virginia Aquarium offers a variety of activities for all ages including ziplining!

7.       Ocean Breeze Waterpark

Can’t get enough of the water? Then head on over to the Ocean Breeze Waterpark which is less than 10 minutes from the Virginia Beach Oceanfront! The first thing you’ll notice when you walk in is the massive wave pool called Runaway Bay! So, if you aren’t a fan of sand, this is the perfect place to catch some rays and wade in the water. There are also water slides and rides, and it even has an adventure river! Rent a cabana and enjoy a splash filled day at Ocean Breeze Waterpark!

8.       Hunt Club Farm

Hunt Club Farm is another highly rated family activity to enjoy when visiting Virginia Beach. The farm is known to hold events for families during the holidays and even has a petting farm! Other attractions include the Birdwalk Aviary, pony rides, and the newly added TreeWalk Adventure! During Halloween, the farm is turned into a big outdoor haunted house and pumpkin patch. However, if you’re visiting during the holiday season, the farm has a popular holiday market for you to peruse. There is usually something exciting going on at Hunt Club Farm in Virginia Beach, so be sure to add it to the list if you are traveling with kids!

sunrise at False Cape State Park beach
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Sunrise at False Cape State Park. Virginia State Parks, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

9.       False Cape State Park

Now if you’re feeling extra adventurous, or are just an outdoors lover, put False Cape State Park on your Virginia Beach itinerary! Located near the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, where you’ll begin your journey. There is no vehicle access to False Cape State Park. Instead, you must hike, bike, or boat to the park. The hike to the False Cape State Park visitor’s center is roughly 4.5 miles. Once at the park, you’ll be greeted by a gorgeous beach, “untouched” nature, and plenty of Virginia wildlife for you to observe. This is more of a moderate to advanced adventure, so be sure to pack and plan accordingly.

10.   Take a Trip to Norfolk, Virginia

If you’re looking to venture out of Virginia Beach for a little while, check out Norfolk, Virginia! Did you know that Norfolk is home to the world’s largest naval base? Norfolk is also home to two universities and a bustling downtown area. Downtown Norfolk, located along the Elizabeth River, offers a completely different vibe from Oceanfront. Visit the Waterside District for a little music and food or go on a river cruise! 

Head over to Nauticus to learn more about our maritime industry and then tour the USS Wisconsin – a decommissioned U.S. battleship open for public tours. If you’re looking for a little art, the Hermitage Museum and Gardens and the Chrysler Art Museum (free) are highly recommended. And if you’re looking for something to do with the family, check out the Norfolk Botanical Gardens or the Virginia Zoo! There are lots of things to do and see in Norfolk,Virginia!

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Norfolk, Virginia.

11.   Shopping at Virginia Beach Town Center

If you’re looking for shopping, aside from the souvenir shops at the Oceanfront, you’ll want to head over to Virginia Beach’s Town Center! The area is filled with all types of local and retail shopping as well as restaurants. Across the way you have the Pembroke Shopping mall as well.

Where to Stay When Visiting Virginia Beach

As you can imagine, the Oceanfront is packed with hotel options. If you’re looking for luxury, you’ll love staying at the historic Cavalier Hotel and Beach Club. Although not on the oceanfront, you can still reserve a suite with ocean views. This hotel also offers spa amenities, an indoor splash pool, and even a restaurant set within a garden.

For a mid-range stay, check out the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront Hotel. The Hilton is located on the oceanfront and provides easy access to the boardwalk and other things to do at the Oceanfront. There is even a rooftop infinity pool and restaurant for you to enjoy.

If you’re looking for a family friendly hotel, you’ll want to stay at the Ocean Beach Club! This Caribbean inspired resort-style hotel has four swimming pools! So, if you’re looking to play in the water without the sand but with all the views, this is the perfect place for you to stay!

the Virginia Beach boardwalk, top things to do when visiting Virginia Beach
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Virginia Beach Boardwalk. Photo Credit: Wander With Alex.

Where to Dine When Visiting Virginia Beach

The culinary scene in Virginia Beach is fantastic. If you do a Google search, you’ll be bombarded with options. Here are a few of our favorite places to dine in Virginia Beach.

Breakfast

When breakfast time rolls around, be sure to stop by the Pocahontas Pancake and Waffle House, Sunnyside Café and Restaurant, or Java Surf Café for a delicious homestyle breakfast and a good cup of joe.

If you are looking for a local favorite, you ought to try Doc Taylor’s! Be sure to get there early if it is the weekend as there is usually a long wait time for brunch. And if you are staying at the Oceanfront and don’t mind traveling, the Bee and Biscuit, featuring local produce in a charming cottage, is another superb option for breakfast or brunch.

Lunch

When it comes to lunch options, the possibilities are endless. If you want a family friendly experience, you’ll want to try Beach Bully, a barbecue joint that’ll satisfy the entire family. If you venture away from the Oceanfront and onto Shore Drive, be sure to give The Leaping Lizard Café a try—you’ll love their sandwiches! Maybe you’re just looking for a good slice of pizza? Then you may want to try ShoreBreak Pizza and TapHouse. This sports bar has pool tables, outdoor seating and games, and TVs for all your sports needs.

Dinner

And when dinner time approaches, be sure to try fresh Virginia Beach seafood! Waterman’s Surfside Grille is an incredibly popular spot for locals. They also offer their signature Orange Crush Cocktail, which is a big deal! There is even an annual festival called Crush Fest that occurs in October of each year.

Rockefeller’s Restaurant at Rudee Inlet is also another popular spot for fresh seafood and fine dining. And let’s not forget the many breweries and distilleries Virginia Beach has to offer! Check out Pleasure House Brewing, Reaver Beach Brewing, or Back Bay’s Farmhouse Brewing Co., for a cold Virginia brew.

Visit Virginia Beach!

Virginia Beach is a family-friendly city with a great deal to see and do. Whether you are looking to relax on the beach, explore the outdoors, or go on a culinary escapade, Virginia Beach is a great place to vacation with the kids or your significant other!

About The Author

Alexandrea is a Virginia Beach native and spent over 20 years in the beautiful oceanfront city. She is a travel enthusiast who loves to wander and explore new places. Connect with Alex on Instagram or Facebook, and follow her blog at WanderWithAlex.com

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