Top 12 Attractions in Virginia Beach

Last Updated on February 6, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Known for its beautiful beaches, Virginia Beach offers far more for visitors to see and experience. This vibrant city on the Atlantic coastline provides plenty of exciting attractions from scenic parks and wildlife refuges to fascinating museums and performing arts venues.

AttractionDescription
Virginia Beach BoardwalkA three-mile oceanfront walkway with shops, restaurants, and entertainment.
Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science CenterFeatures aquatic exhibits, a variety of marine animals, and interactive displays.
First Landing State ParkOffers hiking trails through diverse ecosystems and historical significance.
Chincoteague IslandKnown for its wild horses and natural beauty.
Cape Henry LighthouseHistoric lighthouse offering tours and panoramic views.
Chrysler Museum of ArtHouses a vast collection of art spanning various periods and styles.
Sandler Center for the Performing ArtsHosts a variety of performances in a state-of-the-art theater.
Military Aviation MuseumDisplays an extensive collection of military aircraft.
Edgar Cayce Association for Research and EnlightenmentFocuses on the life and work of Edgar Cayce with resources on holistic health and spirituality.
Old Coast Guard StationMuseum dedicated to Virginia Beach’s maritime history and coastal rescue operations.
Mount Trashmore ParkA park created from a converted landfill, featuring recreational activities.
The Historic Cavalier HotelA restored historic hotel known for its architecture and luxury.

Virginia Beach overflows with fun activities the whole family can enjoy.

Explore the Virginia Beach Boardwalk

Name and Location: The Virginia Beach Boardwalk is a 3-mile oceanfront walkway located in the Resort Area of Virginia Beach, Virginia along Atlantic Avenue.

History and Significance: Originally built in 1888, the boardwalk has been an iconic tourist attraction for over 130 years, offering oceanside promenading, entertainment, restaurants, and amusement park rides.

What to Expect: Visitors can walk, jog, or bike along the boardwalk with views of the beach and Atlantic Ocean. The paved path is lined with eateries, gift shops, amusement park rides, a fishing pier, outdoor entertainment stages, and more family fun attractions.

Visitor Information: The boardwalk is free and open to the public 24 hours a day year-round. Summertime is peak season with all attractions open. Select bars/restaurants and rides are open during the off-season as well.

No trip here is complete without a stroll along the three-mile oceanfront boardwalk. This popular pedestrian walkway lined with shops, restaurants and amusement park rides hugs the sandy Atlantic beaches. Visitors can soak up stunning views of the Chesapeake Bay while enjoying lively street performers, tasty food and seaside recreation. The boardwalk comes alive with summer concerts and events at its main hub referred to as 24th Street Park.

See the Marine Science Museum

Name and Location: The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center is located at 717 General Booth Boulevard in Virginia Beach, Virginia, just south of Rudee Inlet.

History and Significance: Founded in 1986, the aquarium features more than 800,000 gallons of aquatic exhibits highlighting marine animals and ecosystems found in Virginia as well as from around the world, emphasizing education and conservation.

What to Expect: Visitors can see interactive galleries displaying seals, sea turtles, sharks, jellyfish, river otters and more marine species. An aviary, touch pools, tour boats, and outdoor marsh trails offer additional encounters with coastal creatures and habitats.

Visitor Information: General admission tickets start at $11 for children and $22 for adults. Annual passes, special programs, behind-the-scenes tours, dining, and a gift shop are also available on-site.

To delve into Virginia Beach’s unique marine environments, pay a visit to the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. This fascinating museum contains over 800,000 gallons of aquatic exhibits populated with sharks, sea turtles, stingrays and thousands of fish. Guests can observe river otters playfully swimming or watch a diving bird demonstration in an outdoor aviary. The museum also showcases more than 100 hands-on science exhibits exploring Atlantic shoreline ecology, tidal ecosystems and marine animal behaviors.

Hike First Landing State Park

Name and Location: First Landing State Park occupies over 2,900 acres along the Chesapeake Bay shoreline in coastal Virginia Beach, Virginia. It offers multiple hiking trails through marsh, forest, and beach ecosystems.

History and Significance: Originally called Cape Henry, the site is notable as the first landing place of the 1607 Jamestown colonists. Recreational facilities were added starting in the 1930s, creating the park which now hosts over a million annual visitors.

What to Expect: 19 miles of scenic hiking trails traverse diverse coastal habitats, including Cypress Swamp Trail, Osmanthus Trail, and more, offering opportunities to observe wildlife and explore nature. Some trails access beach and bay areas for water recreation.

Visitor Information: The park is open year-round with a $5-10 per vehicle parking fee. Amenities include trails, campgrounds, cabin rentals, kayak/canoe launches, visitor center with gift shop.

First Landing State Park occupies over 2,800 acres of coastal forest and Chesapeake Bay shore teeming with wildlife. The park contains 19 miles of hiking trails, including a 1.5 mile accessible trail, which wind through marshes, freshwater lakes, cypress swamps and pine woodlands. As you explore the trails, listen for birds calling and keep eyes peeled for white-tailed deer, foxes, osprey and even bald eagles. Interpretive displays recount fascinating history about the first English colonists who landed here in 1607.

See Wild Horses on Chincoteague Island

Name and Location: Chincoteague Island is a small coastal island community located off the eastern shore of Virginia known for its population of feral Chincoteague ponies, descendants of colonial livestock.

History and Significance: The “wild” ponies have lived on Assateague Island for centuries but are managed by the local fire company, with foals auctioned annually to control the population. This helps fund the fire company, maintaining local tradition.

What to Expect: Visitors can see ponies roaming freely in certain areas of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Assateague Island National Seashore. Schedule a beach trip or swimming hole visit to spot them by the shoreline.

Visitor Information: The best times to spot the ponies are early morning or late afternoon, especially during the summer months. Follow leave no trace principles when observing them to respect these special island inhabitants.

Take a day trip north of Virginia Beach to view the famous wild horses of Chincoteague Island. Located off the Eastern Shore, this barrier island refuge contains over 150 feral Chincoteague ponies descendants of colonial livestock. Through a volunteer fire department, foals are annually rounded up and some sold at auction to control the population. Visitors can spot these small, shaggy horses grazing marshes and beaches of the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Nearby Assateague Island located across the state line in Maryland also hosts a herd of wild Chincoteague horses.

Explore the Cape Henry Lighthouse

Name and Location: The Cape Henry Lighthouse is located on the grounds of Fort Story, a U.S. Army base in Virginia Beach, Virginia situated at Cape Henry at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

History and Significance: Completed in 1792, Cape Henry Lighthouse stands 88 feet tall. It is the oldest lighthouse still in use in Virginia and an iconic landmark near the First Landing site where Jamestown colonists came ashore.

What to Expect: Guests can take guided tours showcasing panoramic views from the top of the lighthouse. The on-site museum highlights Cape Henry’s history. Nearby beach access, walking paths, and picnic areas provide additional recreational opportunities.

Visitor Information: Lighthouse tours must be scheduled in advance online or through the Cape Henry Lighthouse Keepers gift shop. A government ID is required for base access. Ticket prices start at $10 for adults.

Standing tall near the point where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, this historic lighthouse has guided mariners for over 250 years. Completed in 1792, the Cape Henry Lighthouse still actively warns passing ships with an automated beacon. The distinctive red and white barber pole style tower now forms part of Fort Story military base. Members of the public can access the exterior grounds, learn about lighthouse history in a small museum and climb to the top on special open house days held throughout the year.

See Chrysler Museum of Art

Name and Location: The Chrysler Museum of Art is located in downtown Norfolk, Virginia along the Hague inlet, north of Virginia Beach. It holds an extensive collection of over 30,000 pieces of art.

History and Significance: Founded in 1933, the museum was established by a donation from automobile pioneer Walter Chrysler Jr. It houses important collections spanning history from ancient to modern art such as Renaissance, Victorian, American, and glassworks.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore galleries showcasing paintings, sculpture, photography, glass, and more notable works. Interactive exhibits provide opportunities to create art. The museum also hosts events, lectures, children’s programs, concerts, and classes.

Visitor Information: General admission is free. Public parking garages are located nearby. Guided tours, museum store, and glass studio demonstrations available on-site along with a cafe. Open Tuesday-Sunday.

Boasting an impressive 30,000 piece collection, the Chrysler Museum of Art encompasses one of the largest art museums in the South. Spanning giant open galleries, this museum houses extensive exhibits of European old master paintings along with ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman relics. Additional wings feature intricate glasswork displays including 10,000 pieces of Venetian and American glass. As the principal visual arts forum in the Hampton Roads region, the Chrysler Museum hosts dynamic rotating exhibits plus creative family programs.

Attend a Performance at Sandler Center

Name and Location: The Sandler Center for the Performing Arts is a major performing arts venue located near the Virginia Beach Town Center area at the corner of Sabre Street and Discovery Park Boulevard.

History and Significance: Opened in 2007, the Sandler Center provides southeastern Virginia with a state-of-the-art cultural facility to host major theater, music, and dance performances and productions, filling a regional need.

What to Expect: The Sandler Center features a 1600-seat performance hall with excellent acoustics and views. Patrons can enjoy touring Broadway shows, concerts, symphonies, operas, comedians and local performing arts groups at the venue.

Visitor Information: Show tickets can be purchased online through the Sandler Center website or box office. Prices vary based on performance type and seating section, ranging $25-$100 on average. Parking garages are located adjacent to the center.

As the main performing arts venue in Virginia Beach, the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts brings nationally renowned Broadway shows, concert tours and entertainers to town. This 1,300 seat state-of-the-art theater located near Town Center opened in 2007 through generous donations by the Sandler Family. Throughout the year, the Sandler Center calendar fills with comedy shows, musical guests ranging from classic rock to country genres, lively dance performances and more. Guests can enjoy amazing talent in an architecturally captivating setting.

See the Military Aviation Museum

Name and Location: The Military Aviation Museum is an aviation history museum located next to the Norfolk International Airport displaying one of the world’s largest private collections of WW1 and WW2 era military aircraft.

History and Significance: Founded in 1999, the non-profit museum contains memorabilia and rare restored planes from WWI, WWII, and the Korean War era. Its goal is to educate people on the technological advances and sacrifices made during early military aviation history.

What to Expect: Museum displays include over 50 vintage aircraft, aviation artifacts, uniforms, engines, photographs, models, and more related to 20th century military flights. Aircraft rides, educational programs, and facility rentals are offered as well.

Visitor Information: The museum is open daily except major holidays, 9am to 5pm. General admission is $18 for adults. Active military and age discounts available. Group/senior rates offered. Website provides directions and visitor tips.

Located just south of Virginia Beach in Pungo, the Military Aviation Museum houses an astounding collection of over 60 restored military aircraft. Ranging from vintage WWI biplanes to helicopters and fighter jets, these aviation artifacts provide a living history of military air power advancements. Visitors can climb aboard certain aircraft like the 1944 Douglas C-47 Skytrain while exploring detailed exhibits relaying aircraft provenance and capabilities. This nonprofit museum started by a retired Navy pilot continues expanding exhibits along with ever-growing restoration projects.

Visit the Edgar Cayce Association for Research and Enlightenment

Name and Location: Located in Virginia Beach, the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) was founded in 1931 to facilitate research based on the psychic readings of Edgar Cayce and provide educational resources based on this work.

History and Significance: Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) was a psychic who gave “readings” to thousands of people while in an unconscious trance-like state. The A.R.E. aims to encourage research into spiritual growth, personal transformation, intuition, dream interpretation, and extended human capacities.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore the grounds including a meditation garden, labyrinth, and pyramid structure. The on-site library and conference center provides resources related to consciousness research. Lectures, workshops, retreats and online programming facilitate further study.

Visitor Information: The non-profit A.R.E. welcomes memberships. Free tours are offered on weekdays. Conferences, retreats, and personalized intuitive counseling can be scheduled. Visit EdgarCayce.org for details.

Called the “Sleeping Prophet,” Edgar Cayce garnered fame for intuitively accessing medical cures, ancient civilizations and future events while in a trance state. Cayce made Virginia Beach his home for over 25 years until passing in 1945. Visitors can learn about his storied life along with theory on vibrational healing and the Akashic records at the Association for Research and Enlightenment. Features include a healing/meditation room,dream interpretation resources, a health center and one of the world’s largest metaphysical libraries open to the public.

See the Old Coast Guard Station

Name and Location: The Old Coast Guard Station at 24th Street in Virginia Beach, Virginia is both a National Register of Historic Places site and active U.S. Coast Guard training facility located along the Chesapeake Bay front walkway.

History and Significance: Constructed in 1903, the station is significant for its role trainingsurfmen to pioneer lifesaving techniques on the Atlantic coast. Its Queen Anne-style main building is now a historic house museum interpreting the site’s maritime history.

What to Expect: Visitors can take self-guided tours of the Old Coast Guard Station Museum during open hours to view exhibits and educational materials showcasing the history of the life saving service, surfmen, and the station. Interpretive signage is also located along the exterior grounds.

Visitor Information: The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-4pm. Entry is free but donations are encouraged. Active military identification provides walk-on access to the adjacent training center portion of the site by coordination.

Built in 1903, the Seatack Old Coast Guard Station protected mariners from the many shipwrecks occurring offshore due to shifting shoals. Saved from demolition in 2002, this National Historic Landmark now serves as the Virginia Beach Surf and Rescue Museum. Visitors can spot artifacts from the Coast Guard’s history, see galleries of vintage surfboards and learn about daring ocean rescues. Guests can also explore boating safety through interactive exhibits. The museum lies adjacent to scenic Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge; perfect for anglers and kayakers to observe myriad migratory birds.

Stroll Through Mount Trashmore Park

Name and Location: Mount Trashmore Park is a 165 acre city park located in Virginia Beach, Virginia between Independence Boulevard and Edwin Drive, featuring various recreational facilities centered around a former landfill site.

History and Significance: The site originally opened as the Princess Anne County Landfill in the 1960s. As layers of waste reached over 60 feet high, it was converted to a park by 1974, with surrounding grounds added through the 1980s to create Mount Trashmore as it presently exists.

What to Expect: In addition to views from atop the central 60 ft tall Mount Trashmore mound, the park contains walking trails, playgrounds, athletic fields, skate park, basketball courts, a BMX track, and aquatic facilities including a wave pool and slides.

Visitor Information: The park is open daily from 7am to dusk. While the grounds are free to access, there are fees for the waterpark, sporting facilities rentals, etc. Parking lots situated throughout the park provide visitor access to various sections.

Towering 165 feet over Virginia Beach, Mount Trashmore resulted from the innovative idea to convert an old city landfill into a beautiful park space. After opening in 1974, vegetation and soil covered layers of waste below, allowing wildflowers and trees to take root. Today, the 60 acre site invites visitors to meander through fragrant rose gardens, picnic grounds, playgrounds and an elevated walking loop yielding panoramic views across this seaside city. Mount Trashmore also features a skate park, sports fields, concert venue and winter tubing hill.

See the Historic Cavalier Hotel

Name and Location: The Historic Cavalier Hotel is located at 4200 Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach, Virginia along the scenic shore drive looking out onto the Atlantic Oceanfront.

History and Significance: Originally constructed in 1927, the luxury Cavalier Hotel hosted notable guests like Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, and seven U.S. Presidents over its long history before falling into disrepair. The historic grand hotel reopened in 2021 after extensive restoration and expansion.

What to Expect: The rebuilt Cavalier features 85 restored historic rooms along with modern additions like a grand ballroom, restaurant, bourbon distillery, and posh suites overlooking the oceanfront. Public spaces display artifacts and images highlighting the iconic property’s history.

Visitor Information: Guestroom rates in 2023 start around $300, with seasonal variations. The on-site restaurants, distillery tasting room, spa, and indoor pool facilities are also available to non-guest visitors by reservation. Valet parking offered.

First opened in 1927, the iconic Cavalier Hotel hosted celebrities, royalty and seven US Presidents during its heyday. After falling into disrepair following decades of neglect, this National Historic Landmark reopened in 2021 after an extensive revitalization project. Visitors can see the restored grand lobby with marble fountain and still-glamorous guest rooms. Or enjoy cocktails at the hunt room featuring oak paneling, stone fireplaces and taxidermy reminiscent of early 20th Century elegance. Architecture tours offered Saturdays provide a glimpse into the glory days of this Virginia Beach icon.

Showcasing an array of cultural and natural attractions, Virginia Beach delivers memorable destinations for all interests. From windswept beaches and wildlife refuges to fascinating museums and performing arts, this vibrant coastal city brims with entertaining activities to fill any vacation itinerary.

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