Top 12 Things to Do in Virginia Beach, Virginia

Last Updated on February 8, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Known for its beautiful beaches, Virginia Beach offers visitors plenty of things to see and do. From relaxing on the sand to exploring local parks and attractions, Virginia Beach is a wonderful destination for travelers of all ages and interests.

ActivityDescription
Virginia Beach BoardwalkA vibrant area with scenic views, restaurants, and entertainment options.
Sandbridge BeachA quieter beach area ideal for relaxation and nature walks.
First Landing State ParkOffers hiking trails, beaches, and historical sites.
Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science CenterShowcases marine life through exhibits and interactive experiences.
Cape Henry LighthouseHistoric lighthouse offering panoramic views of the surrounding area.
Military Aviation MuseumFeatures a collection of vintage military aircraft from World Wars.
Ocean Breeze WaterparkA family-friendly waterpark with slides, pools, and a lazy river.
Adventure ParkAn outdoor adventure park with zip lines and rope courses.
Back Bay National Wildlife RefugeA sanctuary for migratory birds, offering trails and wildlife viewing.
Neptune’s ParkA beachside park known for its live music events and the iconic Neptune statue.
Virginia Beach Fishing PierPopular spot for fishing and scenic ocean views.
Mount Trashmore ParkFeatures a large man-made mountain, playgrounds, and skate park.

This guide covers the top 12 things you absolutely must experience when visiting Virginia Beach.

Enjoy the Beach

Name and Location: With 35 miles of free public beaches, Virginia Beach offers ample coastline to bask on warm sand and enjoy refreshing Atlantic surf.

History and Significance: Iconic for its classic boardwalk, candy striped lighthouse, and family-friendly coastal attractions, Virginia Beach has been a beloved summertime retreat ever since the railroad opened access from Norfolk in 1883.

What to Expect: Stretch out on sandy Atlantic strands with abundant space to relax, swim, build castles, braving chilly surf. Lifeguarded stations ensure safety and rentals are abundant for fun additions like bodyboards or umbrellas. Firepits welcome nightly gatherings.

Visitor Information: Beachfront is publicly accessible with free parking at designated cross street lots. Nextdoor residential parking restrictions apply in some neighborhoods closest to the oceanfront.

With miles of free public beaches, enjoying the sand and surf is easily one of the top things to do in Virginia Beach. Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge protects unspoiled beaches that provide excellent opportunities for swimming, fishing, kayaking and wildlife viewing. At the more popular Oceanfront, the boardwalk and lively resort area beckon with restaurants, amusements, concerts and street performers.

Catch a Wave

Name and Location: With consistently surfable waves for beginners through advanced riders, Virginia Beach is a hotspot for East Coast surf culture thanks to swells created by offshore hurricanes traveling northward along the Atlantic seaboard each summer and fall.

History and Significance: Originally pioneered by military personnel stationed in Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach’s rideable waves have attracted surfers since the 1960s heyday although organized competitions trace beginnings to the 1980s. Now local surf culture is quintessential to the coastal lifestyle.

What to Expect: Bid crowds but friendly vibes at summer’s peak with rideable waves for short and longboarders although hurricane season through October summons daredevil experts. Surf shops offer lessons plus gear rentals to newcomers.

Visitor Information: Year-round wave potential, best during summer and fall. Free beach access, parking permit not required inland of oceanfront. Surf near lifeguard towers and respect rules.

The consistent waves and sandy beaches of Virginia Beach make it one of the most popular surf spots on the East Coast. At the southern end, Sandbridge Beach offers bigger swells for more experienced surfers. Those looking to ride for the first time can take lessons from a local surf school at the Oceanfront. With perfect conditions for all levels, Virginia Beach is a top destination for surfing.

Explore First Landing State Park

Name and Location: First Landing State Park occupies over 2,800 acres of woodland, marsh, and beach environments where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic just below Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel along Shore Drive in coastal Virginia Beach.

History and Significance: Marking the historic 1607 landing site of Virginia Colonists, the park preserves some of the last protected maritime forest habitat on Virginia’s coast, which early settlers would have encountered. Recreational facilities were added by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

What to Expect: Outdoor enthusiasts can hike 20+ miles of scenic woodland trails to bay overlooks, enjoy boat tours through marshland teeming with birds and wildlife, camp in shady sites, picnic and fish from quiet shorelines at this scenic refuge from bustling beaches. Interpretive programs showcase natural and cultural heritage.

Visitor Information: Year-round access with overnight camping seasonally. Vehicle entry fee of $5-$10. Some area restrictions may apply during seasonal and maintenance closures to protect habitats.

Boasting over 20 miles of trails from sandy dunes to maritime forest, First Landing State Park offers a wealth of outdoor recreation. Spot local wildlife like white-tailed deer, foxes, osprey and migratory songbirds from the scenic trails. Sign up for guided hikes and activities like kayaking on the park’s sheltered lagoons, Little Creek and Broad Bay.

Walk the Boardwalk

Name and Location Virginia Beach’s famed 3-mile concrete oceanfront Boardwalk stretches along Atlantic Avenue from 1st to 42nd Street featuring a lively scene of shops, attractions, entertainment venues and eateries alongside carnival rides and games.

History and Significance Constructed in 1888 upon the former seaboard railroad, the iconic Boardwalk came to epitomize the classic family-friendly Virginia Beach resort scene. Its carnival amusements and vibrant sights intertwine beach culture with hospitality traditions over a century running.

What to Expect A bustling pedestrian promenade welcomes all ages to stroll lap after lap passing local favorite restaurants, beach stores, the historic Cavalier Hotel, oceanfront resorts, street performers, summer events and the neon-lit hullabaloo of Atlantic Fun Park after dark.

Visitor Information Always open, year-round. Free access and entertainment. Pay for rides, games and individual attractions. Beach wheelchairs available courtesy of local businesses.

No trip to Virginia Beach is complete without a stroll down the iconic, 3-mile boardwalk. Lined with restaurants, amusement rides, arcades, live music venues and more, the Virginia Beach Boardwalk comes alive from Spring through Fall. Join visitors from around the world as you take in spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Visit Local Historic Sites

Name and Location: Virginia Beach proudly preserves landmarks narrating American history, including the Adam Thoroughgood House (1640) set upon farmland granted in 1635, within the residential Alanton community, and nearby Cape Henry Lighthouses (1792) standing vigil where the Chesapeake Bay meets Atlantic shoreline.

History and Significance: Among the oldest surviving structures in Virginia, their early English homesteads and stalwart lighthouses relay stories of America’s earliest European settlers braving Atlantic crossings into the frontier to carve out new colonies under great hardship as keepers monitoring dangerous shipping lanes along the East Coast frontier.

What to Expect: Tours of two restored historic houses built by early English families trace compelling human stories of colonial tidewater life conveying 17th century architecture and landscape. Docent-led programs in summer. Special events occur at both sites.

Visitor Information: Seasonal hours apply. Hours vary at each site. Nominal admission fee of $5 requested as donations. Special programs offered.

History buffs will appreciate Virginia Beach’s many well-preserved historic sites. Cape Henry Lighthouse, built in 1792 as one of the country’s first federally funded lighthouses, offers tours and magnificent views from the top. Head over to Princess Anne County Confederate Monument or Thoroughgood House, built around 1720, for a glimpse into Virginian history and culture.

Explore Chic’s Beach for Shells

Name and Location: Chic’s Beach refers to an unguarded Virginia Beach public access point spanning several blocks along Oceanfront Avenue near 84th Street known for prime seashell and sea glass hunting grounds at low tide thanks to its location far from commercial development attracting fewer beachcombers.

History and Significance: Nicknamed after the former small Chic’s Surf Shop (now Watermans) that anchored nearby strips for decades, this peaceful residential stretch retains abundant natural treasures along sandy Atlantic shorelines largely unaltered save for marine vestiges landing along its crescent edge morning and night.

What to Expect: Beach strollers here reap troves of whelk shells, sea pottery shards smoothed by the tide, occasional sand dollars and more deposited amid somewhat rocky walks to quieter waters inviting open views toward green bay horizon lines near Little Creek Inlet distant from boardwalk bustle.

Visitor Information: Year-round beach access with parking along nearby avenues. Come early before neighborhood spots fill. Please respect residents if accessing neighborhood parking closest to beach paths.

If beachcombing is your passion, head over to Chic’s Beach on the Chesapeake Bay. Just above the high tide line, this secluded beach bursts with gorgeous whelk, moon snail and cockle shells. This is also one of the only places in Virginia Beach where visitors can still find the elusive Scotch Bonnet shell. Early mornings after high tide tend to be best for shelling.

Marvel at the Virginia Aquarium

Name and Location: The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center occupies scenic shoreline along Owls Creek near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel leading into Virginia Beach.

History and Significance: Since 1986, the Aquarium has served as the state’s window into Atlantic marine ecosystems via one of the East Coast’s largest collections emphasizing regional habitats, wildlife conservation and research-based education programs. As a beloved fixture for visitors and locals alike, its mission connects people to waters they depend upon.

What to Expect: Step into aquatic worlds both familiar and strange housing harbor seals, loggerhead turtles, river otters, sharks, jellyfish and more than 800 species reflecting regional shorelines, tidal marshlands, sandy Chesapeake shores and open ocean environments using interactive exhibits, multi-story displays and outdoor habitats to inspire wonder and stewardship.

Visitor Information: Open daily year-round except select holidays. General admission around $25 for adults, less for children. Various upgraded tour options extra. Onsite cafe and gift shop.

With over 800,000 gallons of aquatic exhibits, the Virginia Aquarium allows visitors to come face-to-face with thousands of aquatic animals. Brave the shark tunnel, enter the shark cage, and get up close with seals, sea turtles, river otters and even Komodo Dragons. Fascinating marine shows and exhibits make the Virginia Aquarium a must-do attraction.

Explore Mount Trashmore Park

Name and Location: Mount Trashmore Park encompasses 165 acre site built upon a former landfill turned scenic green space off South Boulevard in Central Virginia Beach near I-264 and Independence Boulevard.

History and Significance: As Virginia Beach’s first city park created in the 1970s by capping and seeding layers of waste with soil and vegetation over decades, the inventive reclaimed eyesore-turned-asset set a leading example for dozens nationwide completing ambitious land reclamation efforts benefiting communities.

What to Expect: Two landscaped sides surrounding a 60 ft summit offer mature trees and rolling lawns for walking trails plus sights like playgrounds, athletic fields, skate park, an elaborate kids’ area and seasonal concert amphitheater hosting events from kite fests to movies under the stars open to all ages.

Visitor Information: Free daily access with regular park hours. Various onsite activity fees depend upon recreational amenities used. Selection varies seasonally.

A beloved piece of Virginia Beach, Mount Trashmore Park is quite literally a former landfill turned city park. Towering 165 feet high with two lakes and extensive woodlands, the park now boasts playgrounds, sports fields, walking trails and an outdoor amphitheater hosting concerts and festivals throughout the year.

Wander Through the Farmer’s Market

Name and Location: Located just off Shore Drive west of First Landing State Park, the Virginia Beach Farmer’s Market resides within an open-air pavilion offering locally harvested produce, artisan foods, crafts and more every weekend (plus Wednesdays from May through October).

History and Significance: Founded over 35 years ago in an empty supermarket before moving to its signature pavilion structure designed just for growers, the award-winning community fixture still privileges area farming traditions bringing just-picked flavors and regional bounty direct to consumers supportive of sustainable agriculture and small businesses.

What to Expect: Browse plentiful farm stands and indoor kiosks brimming with seasonal fruits and vegetables, fresh-caught seafood, artisan breads and cheeses, honey, jams, sweets, nursery plants, crafts and specialty items grown or created within the region. cooking demos and live music also occur.

Visitor Information: Open every Saturday, plus Wednesdays from May 1 through October 27 from 8 am to 1 pm in season. Free entry and parking. Pets welcome. ATMs onsite.

For fresh, locally grown produce, homemade goods and family fun, the Virginia Beach Farmer’s Market fits the bill. Featuring over 140 local vendors, the market hosts lively events like free concerts and fitness classes along with opportunities to pick seasonal fruits and veggies. Open year-round on Fridays and Saturdays, it’s easy to see why this farmer’s market is a local favorite.

Marvel at the Cape Henry Lighthouses

Name and Location: Adjacent historic lighthouses stand sentry over the Chesapeake Bay’s entry into the Atlantic Ocean along the scenic Fort Story coast guard base near Virginia Beach’s First Landing State Park.

History and Significance: America’s oldest and tallest operational lighthouse structure dates to 1792 following founder George Washington’s decree to construct towers guiding mariners past treacherous shifting shoals marking the eastern seaboard’s gateway traveled by merchant ships and navy fleets through the centuries.

What to Expect: Interpretive walking tours relay the vital beacon’s history alongside a second decommissioned lighthouse onsite. Guests can admire panoramic coastal views from tower overlooks and hear tales from volunteer veteran keepers about critical navigation aid supporting Atlantic coastal commerce prior to bridge-tunnel construction.

Visitor Information: Open year-round for self-guided grounds access. Guided history tours offered Fridays-Sundays Memorial Day to Labor Day. Combination tour tickets $15, senior and military discounts.

Standing together in a quiet park near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay are the historic Original Cape Henry and New Cape Henry Lighthouses. Climb to the top for sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. Displays inside provide an up-close look at giant Fresnel lenses along with exhibits detailing the vital role these iconic lighthouses have played in North American maritime safety.

Enjoy Watersports

Name and Location: Calm inland coves off Broad Bay near Virginia Beach’s First Landing State Park proffer prime settings for stand up paddleboarding, kayaking and boating along scenic shorelines abundant with wildlife and attractions like boat rentals or restaurants.

History and Significance: Developed in the 1960s following land annexation that dramatically grew the City’s size and amenities, today’s boating lake communities draw tourists and locals escaping beach crowds wanting laidback sightseeing, fishing or casual paddling excursions amid picturesque waterside scenery dotted with waterfowl, herons, osprey and jumping fish.

What to Expect: Paddle, cruise or trawl peaceful inland channels for different perspective of coastal habitats. Rentals and charters offer vessel choices – solo and tandem kayaks to pontoons. Nearby ramps, bait shops and eateries ensure full excursion support. Expect serene glides around bushy marshes whispering nature’s symphony.

Visitor Information: Accessible year-round. Some boat rentals, charters and launch ramps are seasonal. Know restrictions plus bring personal safety gear. Area dining and resort amenities available.

Kayaking through Back Bay, sailing on the Chesapeake Bay, stand-up paddleboarding off the coast – opportunities for watersports abound in Virginia Beach. Rent gear and equipment or join a tour for options to suit all ages and adventure levels. Picnic and swim on beachy islands only accessible by boat or try popular fishing charters in search of your own fresh catch!

Dine on Fresh Seafood

Name and Location: Thanks to a vibrant commercial fishing industry, many restaurants across Virginia Beach celebrate regional bounty from the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean showcasing fresh local catches across dining styles from casual market cafes to fine dining rooms plating grilled tuna, seared scallops and buttery crab cakes.

History and Significance: Channeling long-standing coastal foodways traditions tracing back centuries, Tidewater towns like Virginia Beach have perfected preparing delectable dishes spotlighting briny oysters, plump shrimp, summer flounder (fluke) and meaty conch finds – sometimes sourcing shellfish recuperated right from local waters the very same day through established culinary networks.

What to Expect: Menus proudly privilege Chesapeake blue crabs, Atlantic croaker, mako shark plus other daily catches seamlessly integrated across tacos, steam pots, sushi rolls and scratch-made sides through flavors marrying land and sea. Expect the area’s oceanic bounty to dazzle palates with its impressive freshness and sheer diversity.

Visitor Information: Year-round access to local seafood, with peak seasons in summer months. Reservations often needed at upscale venues. Take-away and markets offer casual options.

Virginia Beach boasts an array of seafood markets and restaurants to cater to every craving. Kick back with casual, beachfront favorites like Fish Bones Raw Bar & Grill. Cruise down “Dragon Alley” for authentic Asian street food or enjoy dockside dining at places like Waterman’s Surfside Grille. And don’t miss the legendary Lynnhaven Oysters, freshly harvested from local beds on Broad Bay.

Conclusion

Sunbathing on the sandy shores, hunting for seashells, biking scenic trails – these are just a sampling of incredible experiences awaiting in Virginia Beach. Mild weather, small town charm coupled with big city amenities make Virginia Beach a cherished destination – as these top 12 attractions prove, the possibilities here are endless!

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