Looking for fun things to do in Virginia Beach, Virginia? With about 35 miles of beachfront property – made up of the three distinctive sandy strips of Chesapeake Bay Beach, Virginia Beach, and Sandbridge Beach – the area known as Virginia Beach is one of the best beaches in Virginia. It offers a boatload of fun for families, couples, and solo travelers.
The largest city in the Old Dominion, the sunny city of Virginia Beach, is about 18 miles east of Norfolk and Naval Station Norfolk, the headquarters and home port of the U.S. Navy’s Fleet Forces Command. It’s the world’s largest naval station (it’s the home port for 75 warships and submarines as well as five of the Navy’s 12 enormous aircraft carriers). If you’re a military, maritime, or naval enthusiast, this is one of the best places to visit in Virginia, nay, the United States!
Virginia Beach offers the waterfront options of both the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay, along with Norfolk. Even if you’re not a fan of sand and surf, you’ll find that this coastal city features historic Virginia Beach attractions, arts and culture, amusement parks, outdoor recreation, eco-adventure, boat tours, and other fun activities.
Visit Virginia Beach for events like the East Coast Surfing Championships, art shows, wine festivals, volleyball tournaments, Virginia Beach Restaurant Week, and the Something in the Water music festival. Developed by Virginia Beach native Pharrell Williams, Something in the Water features performances by artists like the Wu-Tang Clan, Machine Gun Kelly, Third Eye Blind, Mumford & Sons, Skrillex, and many more.
So yeah, Virginia Beach has got it going on. Now you’re free to take my word for it, but if you need a little more convincing, read on for the very best of Virginia Beach!
TL;DR: A Local’s Picks
|Best Park||King Neptune Park (often known as Neptune’s Park)|
|Best Free Activity||Virginia Beach Boardwalk bicycling and walking|
|Best Activity for Kids||Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center and Adventure Park|
|Best Activity for Adults||A Craft Brewery Tour|
|Best Food||Waterman’s Surfside Grille|
|Best Place to Stay||Holiday Inn & Suites – Virginia Beach North Beach|
Fun Things to Do in Virginia Beach, Virginia
1. Virginia Beach Oceanfront
Anchored by the Virginia Beach Boardwalk, which is approximately three miles long and about 28 feet wide, the main beach strip runs from 2nd Street at Rudee Inlet in the south to 40th Street in the north. The boardwalk was built in 1888.
Originally wooden, Virginia Beach’s boardwalk was replaced with concrete in 1927. The boardwalk is an excellent spot for walking, bicycling (there’s a separate bike lane), and running. You can also go fishing at the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier.
Along the boardwalk, there are hotels, restaurants, and several parks, including Grommet Island Park and King Neptune Park. Take a selfie or groupie with the King Neptune Statue and his array of sea creatures.
Grommet Island Park is at the far south end of the beach. This surf-themed park is a fun Virginia Beach attraction for the youngsters in your crew. Other boardwalk attractions include the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum, the Navy SEAL Monument, and the fishing pier.
For a unique experience the kids (and probably you) will love, head to the boardwalk during the holiday season. The city hosts a drive-through Christmas light show along the boardwalk.
Yes, you get to drive down the boardwalk. How fun is that?! Rhetorical; it’s exceptionally fun.
If you’re searching for where to stay in Virginia Beach, you’ll find a variety of family-friendly options along the boardwalk. My personal favorite is the Holiday Inn & Suites – Virginia Beach North Beach, one of the best Holiday Inns I’ve ever come across. Located at the north end of the beachfront, it’s in a less congested area than the central section but still excellent for beach activities.
The hotel has an outdoor pool and an indoor pool with a lazy river. I enjoy visiting Virginia Beach in the off-season, so that indoor pool (and accompanying hot tub) is my favorite amenity. Other hotel amenities include a movie theater, an on-site restaurant, and a kid’s activity room with two (live) resident turtles.
See Related: Virginia Beach vs Ocean City: What’s the Difference
Along with the main and most popular section of beach along the boardwalk, there are a couple of other places to enjoy a more secluded beach day.
Sandbridge Beach is about 15 miles south of the main Virginia Beach oceanfront. Sandbridge Beach offers about five miles of sand dunes in a more laid-back setting than Virginia Beach.
You’ll find oceanfront cottages, condos, pet-friendly beach cottages, and small hotels among the dunes at Sandbridge Beach. It’s near Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
Located where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, Chesapeake Bay Beach (known locally as Chic’s Beach) is west of First Landing State Park. This is a secluded beach area away from the more touristy section of the main beachfront. It’s within sight of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, which leads to Virginia’s Eastern Shore and Cape Charles, Chincoteague, and Assateague Island.
While hanging out at Chic’s Beach, head to Bubba’s Seafood Restaurant and Crabhouse, Chick’s Oyster Bar, or Buoy 44 Seafood Grill for a bite to eat.
3. Lighthouse Love
Address: 560 Cape Henry Road, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23459
Even if you’re not into climbing lighthouses while visiting Virginia Beach, they’re fun landmarks to add to your Insta account or family photo album. Cape Henry Lighthouse (a National Historic Landmark) and New Cape Henry Lighthouse are both located within Fort Story Military Base. They provide navigational aid to Norfolk, Newport News, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.
Authorized by the one and only George Washington and overseen by his right-hand man Alexander Hamilton, the original stone lighthouse was built in 1792. The uniquely adorned lighthouse features alternating strips of black and white in an elongated checkerboard pattern.
New Cape Henry Lighthouse was built in 1881 after the original was found to have structural damage. It’s not open for climbing, but Cape Henry Lighthouse, the old original one, is.
Delta Hotels by Marriott Virginia Beach Baymont Suites is a terrific choice for accommodations near the Cape Henry Lighthouse. Located on the beach, it’s about six miles from the lighthouses.
It’s near Marina Shores Marina, Virginia Beach Town Center, Chesapeake Beach, and First Landing State Park. The pet-friendly hotel offers a pool, laundry facilities (which is always a nice option, especially if you’re traveling with kids or messy teens and adults), a restaurant, a bar, and a fitness room.
4. ViBe Creative District
For a beachside foray into arts, culture, and technology, check out the ViBe Creative District. Bounded by 16th and 21st streets and Arctic Avenue, Cypress Avenue, and Parks Avenue, the area extends across 22nd Street to the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art.
Throughout this eclectic area, you’ll find boutique stores, coffee shops, health food stores, ice cream stands, and the Vibrant Shore Brewing Company. Take a self-guided mural walking tour to snap pics of colorful murals, street art, unique architecture, and other artsy landmarks.
Peabody’s nightclub is near the ViBe district and is a great place to go as you wind down your artsy afternoon. Since 1967, this lively spot is the place to be for happy hour, D.J. entertainment, dancing, and special events such as college night and ladies’ night. The menu includes pizza, hot dogs, sandwiches, salads, and wings.
Barclay Cottage Bed and Breakfast makes a relaxing stay in the ViBe district. This cozy Va Beach b&b has a spa, free parking and Wi-Fi, a garden, and a complimentary full breakfast.
You can also borrow complimentary bikes to peddle about the ViBe district. Small and intimate, there are five rooms arranged over two floors.
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5. Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Address: 4005 Sandpiper Road, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23456
Located in the southeastern corner of Virginia Beach, between Back Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a terrific day trip from the beachfront. Enjoy hiking and biking trails, birdwatching, kayaking, and surf fishing.
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1938 as a protective ground for migrating and wintering birds. It’s home to more than 300 species of birds as well as mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Habitats include dunes, freshwater marshes, forests, and beaches.
The nearby False Cape State Park works with the refuge to offer tram tours. These fun and informative tours meet at the wildlife refuge parking lot, travel through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and then into the state park.
Along the way, you’ll see the historic Wash Woods community (a former home to Native Americans) and learn about the history, conservation efforts, and wildlife management of the refuge and park. You can also take a one-mile hike to a church and steeple. This is an excellent way to see both locations on a Virginia Beach vacation.
If you’re in town to hit the greens, you’re in luck. Hell’s Point Golf Club is within Bay Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Designed by Rees Jones in 1982, it features a natural setting backed by the Virginia Beach coastline.
6. False Cape State Park
Address: 4001 Sandpiper Road, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23456
The 4,321-acre False Cape State Park is located along the Currituck Banks Peninsula. This one-mile-wide sliver of land between the Back Bay of Currituck Sound and the Atlantic Ocean is near the North Carolina border at Carova Beach and the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge in the Outer Banks.
False Cape State Park is not accessible by vehicle, only by foot, bicycle, or kayak. It’s a great destination for primitive camping, kayaking, hiking, and bicycling. If you plan on camping at False Cape State Park, remember that this is a truly natural habitat.
Campers must park and then walk five to nine miles through the Back Bay Refuge to the campsites. There isn’t any electricity, and there are only pit toilets. Make sure this is your thing before making reservations (which are required).
Searching for accommodations near False Cape State Park? Consider this Cottage on Back Bay. With two bedrooms and one bathroom, it’s the perfect size for a small family, a couple, or two couples traveling together.
It’s located on the water and has a private dock. There’s lots of comfy outdoor seating to enjoy the waterfront views. The community clubhouse has a pool.
See Related: Best National Parks in the USA to Visit
7. Hunt Club Farm
Address: 2388 London Bridge Road, Virginia Beach, Virginia 2346
For a rural retreat in the middle of the coastal plain, head to the 35-acre Hunt Club Farm. The original home on the Hunt Club Farm property dates to the 1760s and was built by British loyalist Captain Jonathan Moore.
It’s in the process of being restored. But it’s more than just a stuffy historic home!
Offering both fun and an educational experience, the farm promotes agriculture and supports local businesses with its farm market. Seasonal markets include items like Virginia-grown Fraser firs, pumpkins, flowers, plants, and homemade preserves.
Hunt Club Farm has a petting zoo (sheep, goats, ponies, alpacas, donkeys, and pigs), a bird aviary, a TreeWalk adventure, animal education, and seasonal events. Check out the Haunted Hunt Club Farm, have s’mores with Santa, or participate in a Spring Fling Easter Egg Hunt. The Harvest Fair offers hayrides, carnival rides, and pony rides. Giddy up!
8. First Landing State Park
Address: 2500 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451
You might not know this, but the 2,888-acre First Landing State Park is the site where Jamestown colonists arrived from England in 1607. Today, it’s home to a 1.5-mile-long Chesapeake Bay Beach and 20 miles of trails on the northern end of Virginia Beach at Cape Henry. Originally named Seashore State Park, First Landing State Park was the first planned state park in Virginia and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Go picnicking, swimming, bicycling, kayaking, fishing, and camping (there are cabins and campsites). Go hiking along trails in a protected salt marsh habitat as well as by dunes, a cypress forest, and freshwater ponds. First Landing State Park has restrooms, an educational center, a visitor’s center, and a park store with bicycle rentals.
For easy access to First Landing State Park, Delta Hotels by Marriott Virginia Beach Bayfront Suites is an excellent option. The hotel has an outdoor swimming pool, a private beach area, a fitness room, and two on-site restaurants. Guest suites offer separate living areas, a microwave, a mini-fridge, and a coffee maker.
See Related: Most Famous Historic Landmarks in the USA
9. The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center
Address: 717 General Booth Boulevard, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451
The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center is one of my favorite Virginia Beach attractions. It’s always fun to spend a few hours with otters, sharks, sea turtles, harbor seals, and Komodo dragons. Marine habitats on display include the Chesapeake Bay, wetlands and watersheds, Africa, Asia, and prehistoric Virginia.
The Virginia Beach Aquarium is one of the top Virginia Beach attractions for families, couples, or solo travelers. It offers experiences and eco-tours like dolphin watching, whale watching, twilight cruises, conservation sessions, behind-the-scenes turtle tours, and nature activities on the coastal deck.
If you’re ready for more adventures after visiting your favorite ocean animals, head to the adjacent Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium. It’s in the aquarium’s south building (the main aquarium is the north building).
Go climbing, ziplining, and soaring through the air at this fun and thrilling park. There are 17 treetop trails, more than 258 treetop platforms, and 33 ziplines. There are low-rope and high-rope courses for all levels and kid-friendly courses.
We’ve got a few recommendations when it comes to places to stay in Virginia Beach that are near the aquarium and Adventure Park. The Beach Quarters Resort and the Schooner Inn sit at the south end of the boardwalk. They’re both within easy access to the aquarium, Rockefeller’s restaurant, Rudee’s Restaurant & Cabana Bar, and Fisherman’s Wharf Marina at Rudee Inlet.
10. Atlantic Fun Park
Address: 233 15th Street, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451
Open seasonally, Atlantic Fun Park is a family-favorite amusement park. There are 16 rides, a go-kart track, concession stands, and midway games.
The whole group can enjoy thrill rides like a 100-foot-tall Skyflyer, the family fun of a Ferris wheel, and kiddie rides for the little ones. I recommend evening visits as that Virginia sun can be brutal during the day, especially during the height of summer.
Atlantic Fun Park is within walking distance of the beachfront. It’s about a block from the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier and Ocean Eddie’s Seafood Restaurant on Atlantic Avenue. Atlantic Fun Park is across from the Breakers Resort Inn, which has a beachfront heated pool, free Wi-Fi, and free parking.
The Sandcastle Resort on the Beach is another excellent choice for close access to the fun park. It has an indoor pool and hot tub in a glass-enclosed atrium. There’s also a business center, a fitness room, a gift shop, and laundry facilities.
11. Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum
Address: 1113 Atlantic Avenue, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451
The Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum is in the historic De Witt Cottage (also known as the Holland Cottage and Wittenzand), a lovingly preserved boardwalk cottage that dates to 1895. It became a museum in 1985 and features bird artifacts and exhibits about the local coastal heritage. While here, you can watch skilled artisans carving birds, attend art and artifact exhibits, and check out the gift shop.
The two-story brick structure has Queen Anne-style details and a wraparound porch, and it’s on the National Register of Historic Places. The Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum is conveniently located between Atlantic Avenue and the Virginia Beach Boardwalk. With gardens and the backdrop of the Atlantic, it’s a lovely venue for a more peaceful day trip or even a dreamy destination wedding.
If it’s the latter, Four Points by Sheraton Virginia Beach Oceanfront is just a block away. The hotel offers a pool, a children’s pool, free parking, free Wi-Fi, two restaurants, a bar, and meeting rooms, which also makes it a great choice for business travelers.
12. Ocean Breeze Waterpark
Address: 849 General Booth Boulevard, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451
Sometimes you just need a break from the sand, sun, and surf. We get it. For a fun, family-friendly excursion in Virginia Beach, spend the day sliding, splashing, and floating at Ocean Breeze Waterpark. It’s approximately two miles from the oceanfront, making it a convenient day trip from Virginia Beach. More than 30 rides and attractions include water slides, a tubing river, a wave pool, and kid’s activity pools, complete with spraying fountains and dumping buckets).
Virginia Beach’s Ocean Breeze Waterpark is highlighted by a giant gorilla named Hugh Mongous. This boardshort and Hawaiian shirt-wearing gorilla is 45 feet tall and weighs 11,000 pounds. Hugh has been on site since 1974, when the park first opened, and he’s an institution in his own right. Stay large, Hugh.
Ocean Breeze is near the Virginia Aquarium and Adventure Park, which makes it convenient to knock out two or three attractions in one day.
See Related: Best Water Parks In The USA
13. The Thoroughgood House
Address: 1636 Parish Road, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23455
The Thoroughgood House, a National Historic Landmark, is a brick house in the Thoroughgood neighborhood. Built in 1719, it was formerly known as the Adam Thoroughgood House (though it wasn’t built by Adam himself – his great-grandson was responsible for it).
Adam was an English lad who became an indentured servant to pay for his passage to the New World at the age of 17. He arrived in Virginia from King’s Lynn in Norfolk, England in 1622 and quickly became a community leader and a member of the House of Burgesses at Jamestown. After satisfying his contract and making some money, he returned to England. Then he sailed back to Virginia with a new wife and over 100 men to help settle the areas of Elizabeth City, Lower Norfolk, and Princess Anne (which is now Virginia Beach).
The Thoroughgood House has been used as a museum since 1957 and is a wonderful example of early colonial architecture and a window into America’s colonial past. Walk through the house and explore the beautifully landscaped gardens too.
For more of Virginia Beach’s historical abodes, check out Ferry Plantation House, Pembroke Major House, the Whitehurst-Buffington House, and the Andrew B. & Maude Cook House.
14. Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art
Address: 2200 Parks Avenue, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451
Indulge your artsy side with a visit to the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. Enjoy the property’s large collection of sculptures, paintings, drawings, photography, and other contemporary art. There are also artists in residence programs, youth art, and special event venues.
Exhibits at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art include abstract art, Mille Colori (which means 1,000 colors) glass art by Dale Chihuly, and a sculptural interpretation of water by Maya Lin, and American Appetite: Selections from the Chrysler Museum of Art. Admission to Virginia Beach’s Museum of Contemporary Art is free, making this one of the best free things to do in Virginia Beach.
Should you seek another art fix, head to the Chrysler Museum of Art in downtown Norfolk. Enjoy its collection of more than 30,000 pieces of ancient and contemporary art from Africa, Asia, Egypt, Europe, and more. Displays include Tiffany glass, sculpture, paintings, pre-Columbian pottery, and textiles.
15. Mount Trashmore Park
Address: 310 Edwin Drive, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23462
For a fun foray into the sustainable side of Virginia Beach life, head on over to Mount Trashmore Park. This 165-acre park opened in 1974 and has quite a unique story.
Anchored by the main mountain, which is 60 feet high and 800 feet long, Mountain Trashmore Park is a prime example of landfill reuse. Waste and clean dirt were compacted to turn this abandoned landfill into a park.
This unique Virginia Beach park has two man-made hills, two lakes, and a skate park. You’ll also find volleyball courts, picnic shelters with charcoal grills, horseshoe pits, and ADA-compliant playgrounds.
You can borrow cornhole boards, horseshoes, frisbees, badminton equipment, and other gear from the park office. There are restrooms and seasonal concession stands.
The Virginia Beach Antique Mall, Tupelo Honey Southern Kitchen + Bar, and Candlewood Suites Virginia Beach Town Center are near Mount Trashmore if you’re looking for something to do, somewhere to eat, or a play to stay near Virginia Beach.
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16. Norfolk Botanical Garden
Address: 6700 Azalea Garden Road, Norfolk, Virginia 23518
For a serving of garden inspiration (or maybe envy), head to the Norfolk Botanical Garden. With cobblestones, fountains, boardwalk paths, and more than 60 different garden areas, this attraction is a peaceful way to enjoy the day.
Check out garden styles from around the world in sunny and shady locations. There are rock gardens, perennial gardens, and tropical gardens with hibiscus, palms, succulents, and bird of paradise plants.
Stroll through oak, hickory, and pine forests while admiring azaleas, peonies, dogwoods, rhododendrons, native Virginia plants, and more than 450 varieties of roses. Mirror Lake features native orchids and ferns along with birds such as wood ducks, owls, and hawks. There’s also a children’s garden and a butterfly museum.
Tru by Hilton Norfolk Airport is a great choice for quick access to the Norfolk Botanical Garden. Enjoy free Wi-Fi, a fitness room, free parking, and proximity to Nauticus National Maritime Center, the Cape Henry Lighthouse, and the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art.
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17. Lake Lawson / Lake Smith Natural Area
Address: 5381 Shell Road, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23455
Want to enjoy an excursion away from the Virginia Beach surf, sand, and beating sun? The Lake Lawson / Lake Smith Natural Area, a 42-acre preserve in the Bayside neighborhood, is yet another spot to enjoy outdoor life and natural attractions in Virginia Beach. Enjoy canoeing, kayaking, or hiking trails along shady forests. Swimming and stand-up paddleboarding are not allowed.
There are picnic shelters, restrooms, playgrounds, fishing and overlook platforms, and a dock. A boat ramp is available for small-engine boats (no larger than 10hp).
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Virginia Beach/ Norfolk Airport is an option for accommodations near Lake Lawson. The hotel has an indoor pool, a fitness room, a business center, and complimentary continental breakfast. It’s within convenient access to Chic’s Beach and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
18. Virginia Symphony Orchestra
Address: 150 Boush Street, Suite 201, Norfolk, Virginia 23510
The Virginia Symphony Orchestra brings beautiful music to Chrysler Hall, Norfolk, the Ferguson Center for the Arts, and the Sandler Center. The orchestra’s home base, the Harrison Opera House at 160 W. Virginia Beach Blvd, was a USO theater during World War II. The 1,632-seat theater features stunning staircases, sparkling chandeliers, and floor-to-ceiling windows. The Virginia Opera is also anchored here.
The historic Harrison Opera House opened in 1943 and was renovated in 1993. It’s an intimate and elegant setting for musical, comedy, and drama shows like The Barber of Seville, Snow White, Rob Schneider, and Mania – The ABBA Tribute.
The World War II-era Harrison Opera House is near the Chrysler Museum of Art in downtown Norfolk. Consider the Wyndham Garden Downtown Norfolk should you seek a nearby hotel. There’s an outdoor pool, an on-site restaurant, free Wi-Fi, a fitness room, and a business center.
Guest rooms have a mini-fridge, a microwave, and a coffee maker. Norfolk State University and the Norfolk Zoo are nearby.
19. Military Aviation Museum
Address: 1341 Princess Anne Road, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23457
Military buffs take note; the world’s largest collection of vintage military aircraft, in flying condition, is on display at the Military Aviation Museum. Check out planes from World War I and II, including a Sopwith Triplane, a de Havilland Mosquito, an Albatross D.VA 1917, an FM-2 Wildcat, a Boeing-Stearman PT-17, a P-61 Black Widow, and a Supermarine Spitfire. There are also historical structures, such as an original German Luftwaffe Hangar and a control tower from USAAF Station #345 in Goxhill, England.
The Military Aviation Museum, situated on 130 acres at the Virginia Beach Airport, holds aviation and STEM camps for kids, unique displays, and flying demonstrations. You can even climb into the cockpit and take a ride in a vintage airplane at this Virginia museum!
But wait; there’s more. The mad brainchild of one of the driving forces behind the Military Aviation Museum, Jerrassic (sic) Park – Metal Dinosaur Park is just across the street. It’s a fun spot to take the kids after they’ve (hopefully) made it through the Military Aviation Museum without too many meltdowns.
The park features approximately 13 3/4-scale raptors, a T-Rex, a pterodactyl, and hatching raptors. All of the metal sculptures are made by metal artist Gilbert Ramos.
In case you’re wondering about that sketchy spelling, the park is owned by Gerald “Jerry” Yagen (which is where the “Jerr” spelling originates). Admittance and parking are free, so give it a whirl.
See Related: Best Unusual Museums in the U.S.
20. Learn to Surf
Learn how to shred, hang ten, and properly pop up on top of Virginia Beach’s gnarly waves. The Seth Brody School of Surf, the Jason Borte Surf School, and WRV Surf Camp & Lessons are terrific places to take Virginia Beach surf lessons. You’ll join expert surf instructors for fun and informative classes on technique, safety, and style.
Expert tip: head to the beach in the fall for the best surfing. There aren’t as many tourists in the water, which is still warm. You’ll be able to ride some terrific swells.
I’ve seen surfers in the water in December and January. These people are diehard. While East Coast beaches don’t have the mega waves that the West Coast boasts, you can get some good wave action for surfing fun.
Not into surfing but still want to live, and look, the surf life? There are plenty of surf stores to find cool surf gear, boards, apparel, and accessories at popular shops like 17th Street Surf Shop, Wave Riding Vehicles, and Coastal Edge 21st Street.
21. Take a Whale Watching Tour
Address: 200 Winston Salem Avenue, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451
One of my favorite Virginia Beach memories is the thrill of seeing humpback whales. Book a whale-watching tour with Rudee Tours or the Virginia Aquarium to experience the sight of these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. The double-decker Rudee Flipper boat takes passengers out from December through February.
Narrated by naturalists and researchers, this fun and informative boat tour leaves Rudee Inlet at the Virginia Beach Fishing Center. Come prepared for the cold. Seriously, do it.
January on the Atlantic is cold! There’s a climate-controlled cabin if you do get a chill. Whales tend to blow out of their spouts (lucky devils, wouldn’t we all like to do that?). If you happen to be nearby when this happens, as my people were, you’ll be glad you had those extra layers.
See Related: Best Whale Watching Places in the World
22. Go Horseback Riding on the Beach
Address: 26th and Atlantic Avenue, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451
If you happen to be visiting the oceanfront in the off-season (September through May), head to 26th Street. Virginia Beach Horseback sets up stables on the beach. Sign up for a 30-minute or one-hour ride on the sand.
Even if you don’t want to ride, it’s fun to watch others trotting up and down the beachfront. No worries if you’ve never ridden.
These horses are quite gentle and basically know their way up and down the beach. The time I went, the horses knew exactly where to turn around to go back to the corral. If only we humans were that intuitive.
The Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Virginia Beach is an excellent choice to be near the horses. It has a restaurant, a bar, an indoor and outdoor pool, free Wi-Fi, kid-friendly activities, a fitness room, and laundry facilities.
23. Take a Sunset Paddleboarding Tour
Glide along the calm waters of Linkhorn Bay with a sunset stand-up paddleboarding tour. You’ll receive instructions on the art of balance and paddling technique (it’s really quite easy once you’re accustomed to standing on the water).
Tours meet at the main entrance to Camp Ground First Landing State Park. Don’t forget the (waterproof) cameras for those stunning bayside views.
For easy access to paddleboarding tours near First Landing State Park, the Wyndham Virginia Beach Oceanfront is a wonderful option. It’s actually within walking distance of the state park.
Located at the north end of the beachfront, the pet-friendly hotel has a restaurant, a pool, a bar, beach sun loungers and umbrellas, free Wi-Fi, free parking, a business center, and meeting rooms. This area is more laid-back and less “touristy” (off the boardwalk), so if you’re looking for a secluded and quiet location, you’ll love it here.
24. Get Spooked on a Ghost Tour
Enjoy an evening learning about the spooky side of the beach with a Neptune Ghost Tour. Walk along the boardwalk and learn chilling facts about local paranormal hotspots such as the Virginia Beach Surf and Rescue Museum, the Naval Aviation Monument, and the Norwegian Lady Statue, a memorial to an 1891 shipwreck. Tours meet at the Norwegian Lady Statue at 2500 Atlantic Ave.
Want to stay in a hotel that’s convenient for ghost tours in Virginia Beach? The Hyatt House Virginia Beach / Oceanfront is near the Norwegian Lady statue. The pet-friendly hotel offers complimentary breakfast, a restaurant, a bar, a business center, a convenience store, and a pool.
It’s also convenient for easy things to do. The National Aviation Monument, Ben and Jerry’s, and King Neptune’s Mini Golf are nearby.
25. Reel ’em In on a Fishing Charter
If you’re hoping to reel in the big one in Virginia Beach, the best way to up your chances is with a charter fishing experience. Choose from an in-shore, off-shore, or wreck fishing boat tour.
Led by a USCG-licensed captain, fishing excursions cruise out to the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, where you can try your luck at catching king mackerel, flounder, sheepshead, black sea bass, tuna, mahi, and marlin. You don’t even have to bring your own gear. Virginia Beach charter boats have all the rods, reels, and tackle you might need.
If you prefer a laid-back and less congested area than the Virginia Beach boardwalk, consider an Inlet Condo. It has two bedrooms and one bathroom and can accommodate five guests. There’s a full kitchen, a washer/dryer, and free Wi-Fi.
It’s two blocks from the beach and offers the convenience of boat tours and fishing charters. Rudee’s Restaurant and Cabana Bar, Rockefeller’s, and Big Sam’s Inlet Café & Raw Bar are easy to get to for your dining pleasure.
26. Get Merry on a Craft Brewery and Distillery Tour
A craft brewery tour is a super fun way to find new flavors and learn about the brewing and distilling process. A few properties that might be included on a tour include Tarnished Truth Distilling Co., Chesapeake Bay Distillery, and Back Bay Brewing Company. Tours meet at Catch 31 at 3001 Atlantic Ave.
When you need a fun place to enjoy a refreshing beverage, head to Waterman’s Surfside Grille on the boardwalk. Along with great food, they have a large menu of “crushes.”
This delightful (I don’t often use the word “delightful” to describe a beverage, so listen up) drink consists of vodka or rum (sometimes in flavors such as blueberry or citrus) and lots of add-ins like orange, lemon, pineapple, or cranberry juice. What really makes the drink (in my humble opinion) is the crushed ice. Crushed ice makes everything wonderful, don’t you agree?
The historic Cavalier Hotel and Beach Club is another place to enjoy fine dining, a beverage or two, and the on-site Tarnished Truth Distilling Company. It’s the first in-hotel distilling company in the nation.
Bourbon, rye whiskey, gin, vodka, and other spirits are created here (it’s also supposedly haunted, so there are extra spirits to contend with). Take a guided tour or enjoy the fruits of the labor in the tasting room.
Opened in 1927, the stunning structure sits on a hill at the north end of the beachfront. It’s not located beachfront, but there is a shuttle to take guests to its private beach and club. There’s an indoor splash pool, a full-service spa, nine restaurants and bars, and a gorgeous event space for destination weddings.
27. Nauticus National Maritime Center
Address: 1 Waterside Drive, Norfolk, Virginia 23510
Let’s get one more attraction for the naval enthusiasts before we head home. Nauticus National Maritime Center is a maritime museum on the waterfront in downtown Norfolk. Also known as the National Maritime Center, Nauticus is located downtown on the waterfront.
Learn about the maritime environment, industry, and the military at this comprehensive museum. Exhibits give details on Navy life, how the Navy protects the environment, and information on aquatic marine life in the Chesapeake Bay and the Elizabeth River. There are even exhibits specifically designed for the young ones in your group.
The highlight is a tour aboard the warship USS Wisconsin (an enormous Iowa-class WWII battleship), the last class of battleship ever built by the U.S. Navy. Inside the ship, get a look at medical spaces, the canteen area, the scullery (dishwashing), the ship’s store, the library, the barbershop, and the brig.
Go up on deck to check out the impressive 16-inch guns (or “rifles” in naval parlance) and enjoy stunning views of Norfolk Harbor. Book a Battleship Wisconsin and Virginia Zoo tour to combine these two attractions.
About 18 miles from the main Virginia Beach area, Norfolk makes an excellent day trip or even an overnight trip. The waterfront area around the Nauticus attraction is filled with restaurants, cafés, parks, and wonderful Elizabeth River views. Check out the Norfolk Waterside Marriott or Hilton Norfolk the Main if you’re searching for places to stay near Virginia Beach or Norfolk.
Norfolk is home to Old Dominion University and Norfolk State University, so if you’re headed to town for a college tour, make a side trip to Virginia Beach just for the fun of it.
What are the top attractions in Virginia Beach, Virginia?
Top attractions in Virginia Beach include the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, the 34-foot cast bronze Neptune statue on the boardwalk, and the Cape Henry Lighthouse.
What are the best places to eat and drink in Virginia Beach?
You’ll find a variety of restaurants and bars along the Virginia Beach Boardwalk and a block away on Atlantic Ave. A few to try include Waterman’s Surfside Grille, Chix on the Beach, and Abbey Road Pub & Restaurant.
Are there any unique experiences or local events I should add to my Virginia Beach itinerary?
The Something in the Water music festival, the Neptune Festival Art & Craft Show, and horseback riding on the beach are just a few of the unique experiences and local events to check out in Virginia Beach.