With a name like Virginia Beach you already know what to expect from the city and it does not fail to deliver. With over 35 miles worth of sandy Atlantic beaches, the Oceanfront promenade and plenty of outdoor activities Virginia Beach is one of the United State’s prime tourist destinations. Although once known as the Redneck Riviera, Virginia Beach has worked hard to shrug off its past reputation and is now cleaner and more environmentally conscious than ever before.
Apart from the beaches there are also plenty of nice parks and other tourist attractions worth seeing as well as a few standout museums and historical sights. Here is our list of the 25 Best Things to do in Virginia Beach.
1. See some fish
The Virginia Aquarium which was formerly the Virginia Marine Science Museum holds 800,000 gallons of water and over 300 species. The animals you will see on a trip here include seals, loggerhead turtles and the North American otter. Themed exhibits include the Mediterranean sea, an Indoneasen Volcanic island and the red sea. There was also an impressive aviary exhibit at the aquarium but this is currently closed due to storm damage caused in February 2015. The aquarium is located on General Booth Boulevard.
2. Catch some fish
In a city with the word “beach” in its name, it would be odd not to spend some time by the sea. Virginia Beach’s oceanfront offers golden sand and a fishing pier as well as all the ice cream shops and restaurants you would expect to find. If you have the energy, why not walk the entire length of the 3 mile long boardwalk? Although, the oceanfront may have had a rowdy reputation in the past it has now cleaned up its act and is a great place to chill out on a sunny day.
3. Hike some trails at the First Landing State Park
The First Landing State Park has 20 miles of hiking trails weaving their way through 3,888 acres of Virginia woodland. The park is a great place for outdoor pursuits such as cycling, camping, fishing, canoeing and, of course, hiking. The park gets its name from the fact that the park occupies the spot where English settlers first landed in the year 1607. Throughout history, everything from the canoes of Native Americans to modern cargo ships have traversed the waterways found here.
4. Visit a lighthouse
The iconic Old Cape Henry Lighthouse was the first ever federally funded lighthouse. The lighthouse is situated close to the first landing spot where English settlers arrived in 1607 and was originally designed by the New York architect John McComb. The lighthouse was in use for about 100 years before being replaced by a cast iron lighthouse built nearby. The Old Cape Henry Lighthouse is the oldest surviving lighthouse in the United States and well worth a visit.
5. Spend some time at a landfill
Mount Trashmore is a former landfill site that has been transformed into a 165 acre park. The park includes two man made mountains, kids playgrounds, a skate park and half pipe and many trails for cycling or walking. The man made mountains were built from layers of solid trash, compacted and covered in clean soil. The park is well known for its environmental achievements and is also seen as a great place for a family day out. Fishing on the two lakes in the park is allowed but only from the shore and only with a license.
6. Visit a dismal swamp
The Great Dismal Swamp National Park is situated about 30 miles southwest of the city of Virginia Beach. The park covers an expansive area of around 115,000 acres and shares some of its border with North Carolina. The park is renowned for its wildlife and flora. Guests to the park may even see black bears or a bobcat. The park is also known for its varied and impressive birdlife with up to 200 species calling the area home. The terrain that you see at the park today is thought to be just a small remnant of what made up 1,000,000 acres in the area in the past.
7. Take flight at the Military Aviation Museum
The Military Aviation Museum, located just off Princess Anne Road, is home to one of the largest private collections of military aircraft in the world. Most of the aircraft at the museum are kept in tip top flying condition, so you get to see them as they were during active combat in the First and Second World War. The museum is open year round (except for Christmas and Thanksgiving) and plays host to a number of air shows throughout the year.
8. Visit the Old Coast Guard Station
Located on Atlantic Avenue, the Old Coast Guard Station pays homage to the coast guards and other maritime heritage of the city, past and present. The exhibits explore the Virginia Beach and Oceanfront community and the city’s relationship with the Atlantic Ocean. Current exhibits include paintings of the station and other artistic depictions of the landmark as well as a look at the history of Virginia Beach girl scouts.
9. Admire a colonial home
The quaint brick Adam Thoroughgood House in the Thoroughgood neighborhood of Virginia Beach is a National Historic Landmark. Although currently closed due to the construction of a new visitor center, the building usually offers public tours and was built in the early 18th Century. The house’s builder Argall Thorowgood died during construction of the building but his wife took over and completed the work soonafter. The house tells the story of the life of one of Virginia Beach’s first colonists.
10. Look for Loggerhead Turtles
The False Cape State Park lies on the barrier spit between Currituck Sound and the Atlantic Ocean and remains as one of the last undeveloped areas along the Atlantic Coast of the United States. False Cape is a popular place for kayaking, hiking, cycling and fishing along with many other outdoor activities. For animal lovers, the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge offers a chance to see rare birds such as the American Black Duck and the Tundra Swan. If you are really lucky (and visit during summer) you may even see nesting Loggerhead Turtles.
11. Visit the Ferry Plantation House
Ferry Plantation House is a Federal style brick house on Cheswick Lane, Virginia Beach. The house was formerly a tobacco plantation that used slave labor and the house pays its respects to these slaves with its current exhibits. The house also got its name from the ferry service that ran the nearby waterway crossing. The route of the ferry was marked with 11 cannons that sounded as the ferry passed but only three of these cannons have been located.
12. Time travel
Lynnhaven House on Wishart Road, Virginia Beach, is a great example of what life was like for residents in the are in the early 18th Century. The house dates back to 1725 and is furnished as it would have been back then, allowing visitors to really get a feel for life back then. Guides of the home include explanations of what each family member was responsible for in the household as well as learning about life in Tidewater many years ago.
13. Get active
Slap bang in the middle of Virginia Beach you will find the Virginia Beach Sportsplex. The Sportsplex has football fields, tennis courts, track and field facilities as well as the renowned US Field Hockey Regional Training Center. The Sportsplex Stadium has a 6,000 seat capacity. Throughout the year Virginia Beach Sportsplex plays host to a number of entertaining events including the Dirty Girl mud run and the Color Me Rad fun run.
14. See a Norwegian Lady
Standing and staring out into the Atlantic Ocean from Virginia Beach is how you will find the Norwegian Lady statue. The twin sisters (one is found on the beach in Moss with her sister standing on a beach in Norway) are a touching tribute dedicated to the memory of the shipwreck that occurred in 1891. The Dictator vessel (registered in Virginia Beach) was heading to England with a cargo of lumber when a fierce storm sunk the ship.
15. Go Surfing
Croatan Beach is a stretch of well cared for beach just under a mile in length. The Croatan Beach community takes great pride in the beach and it is maintained to a high standard. As well as being tidy, the beach has two dedicated surfing areas and has been a favorite spot with local surfers for many years now. The beach is also popular for swimming and has lifeguards stationed throughout the year. Due to the popularity of the beach, it now has its own large car park which can accommodate over 500 cars.
16. Visit Harrison Opera House
Just a short ride from Virginia Beach in Norfolk is the Harrison Opera House. The Opera House is the official home of Virginia Opera. The venue is a great place to experience opera in a grand and elegant building. The opera house has over 1,600 seats, stunning chandeliers and swirling staircases, all of which make it a luxury place to be. Throughout the 2016 season, the main event is The Flying Dutchman staring Richard Wagner in a tale of a supernatural haunting on the coast of Norway.
17. Board a pirate ship
Captain Jack’s Pirate Ship in Virginia Beach is a somewhat unique attraction. The ship, known as the Lost Pearl, was built to strict US Coast Guard requirements and is a replica of a Spanish Galleon. Kids (and most adults) will enjoy sailing on the ship and attempting to sink a small rowing boat with the powerful water cannons onboard. The boat is a great place for a child’s birthday party but if you are an older traveler, why not get your party on at the club 21+ cruise.
18. Visit the fun fair
The Atlantic Fun Park is a old school amusement park and the arguably the best family attraction in the city. Classic rides include a Ferris wheel, the Crazy Surf thrill ride and the Sea Dragon. The park has something for all ages and, although the rides are not as modern as those that you will find at Six Flags parks, it is still a great day, or evening, out. The fair opens from 5pm on weekdays and from noon at the weekends.
19. Scare yourself silly
The Nightmare Mansion Haunted House, located on the resort strip in Virginia Beach, is one of the scariest haunted house attractions in the country. This is not a ghost train for children but a nightmare of an experience designed specifically for adults. Take a walk through the narrow hallways of the mansion which were once home to Dr Morgan and his family. The family loved the house so much that they never left: even after their early deaths.
20. Learn about Wildfowling
The Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum is housed in a historic De Witt cottage right on the Oceanfront in Virginia Beach. The museum is dedicated to educating visitors on the range of decoys used for wildfowling in the area. For those that don’t already know, Wildfowling is the name given to hunting duck and geese mainly on tidal estuaries and coastal marshes.
21. Go Ghost Crabbing
Ghost Crabbing is a popular activity for visitors to Virginia Beach and is a great excuse for night time frivolities at the beach. A great activity for all ages, ghost crabbing involves fishing at night because ghost crabs do not come out during the day. The best time to go ghost crabbing is during the summer months and the only bit of specialist kit you will need is an inexpensive Illuminet (a glow in the dark net).
22. See King Neptune
The newest attraction on the Boardwalk, and worthy of its own place on this list, is the King Neptune statue. The statue is 34 foot tall and made from bronze. The statue rises from the depths of the Atlantic to overlook Neptune Park and nearby Atlantic Avenue and 31st Street. Funds for the statue were raised by the organizers of the annual Neptune Festival which takes place in the city. The designer of the statue went all the way to China (with the statue) to have it cast in bronze.
23. Build a sandcastle
The Virginia Beach Sandcastle Competition has been an iconic event in the city since it began. The popularity of the event has grown in size so much that it now attracts competitors from all over the region. The competition takes place within a tent that is almost the size of a football field. More than 20 sculptures show off their skills at the art of sandcastle making and compete for the biggest prize for a competition of this kind in the entire United States.
24. Go Parasailing
A trip to the beach would not be complete without some watersports being involved. Parasailing along the Oceanfront allows you to combine the thrill of a speedboat ride with the excitement of parachuting and gliding: you can even manage to stay dry if you want to! The experience is reasonably priced and takes place regularly throughout the summer months.
25. See some art
The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art is without a doubt the city’s leading venue for contemporary art. The regularly changing exhibits here include art across a whole range of mediums such as sculpture, paintings and photography. The museum features artists known locally and nationwide and is open 7 days a week. There are also a number of events housed here throughout the year including popular outdoor shows and art classes.