Best Things To Do in Virginia Beach
The beach and boardwalk are the main attractions in this top Virginia vacation destination. Although there are some spots (like Sandbridge Beach) where you can kayak and surf, the waters here are mostly too gentle for water sports enthusiasts. On land, Virginia Beach is home to multiple history-focused sights, including First Landing State Park, Cape Henry Lighthouse and the Military Aviation Museum. The city also offers nature parks and the kid-friendly Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center.
Updated January 10, 2020
- #1View all Photos#1 in Virginia BeachBeaches, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Rather than your traditional wooden planks, Virginia Beach's famous boardwalk is concrete. The 3-mile thoroughfare is lined with quaint benches, Colonial-style street lamps and biking and walking paths. The boardwalk also hosts various events and festivals at different points throughout the year, though street performers can be found entertaining passersby on most days. And similar to other East Coast beach destinations, you will find various restaurants and hotels along the boardwalk, as well as a white sand beach.
Travelers enjoy walking along this beautiful boardwalk year-round, citing it's less crowded atmosphere and well-maintained paths as highlights. Several visitors recommend checking out the 24-foot-tall King Neptune statue, which sits by the beach at the Neptune Festival Park entrance on 31st Street. And if you visit in winter, some say you can't miss the attraction's holiday light display.
- #2View all Photos#2 in Virginia BeachBeaches, Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The most visited park in Virginia is First Landing State Park, where the Jamestown colonists first landed in the New World in 1607. Today, it is a nice getaway from the shoreline crowds and a fantastic spot for enjoying the great outdoors. Be prepared to hike, camp, swim, bike or just picnic and watch the squirrels run around. The park features 20 miles of trails and 1½ miles of beach on its 2,888 acres of scenic land.
Former visitors loved walking along this park's well-maintained trails, adding that the paths are relatively easy to trek. However, a few travelers said some trails lack adequate markers, so download the park's trail map or ask a park ranger for detailed directions to avoid getting lost.
- #3View all PhotosfreeSandbridge Beach#3 in Virginia BeachBeaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Though Virginia Beach's main stretch of sand is situated next to its boardwalk, for a quieter option with fewer tourists, head 15 miles south of the city's resort area to Sandbridge Beach. This 5-mile swath of sand dunes, sea oats and shoreline lures swimmers and surfers, as well as families who desire more elbow room and close proximity to the area's vacation rentals. The beach also sits near Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge (where you can look for sea turtles and various bird species) and False Cape State Park (a protected area best explored by kayak, on foot and by bike).
According to recent beachgoers, this natural wonder is beautiful and relaxing. In fact, a few previous visitors said its sunrises and sunsets are some of the best you'll see on the East Coast. Others appreciated the facilities (think: restrooms, picnic pavilions, sports courts, a playground and a fishing pier) found at Little Island Park, which is located at the southern end of the beach.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Virginia BeachZoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDZoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, located a mile south of the downtown resort area, offers more than 300 hands-on marine exhibits, including two animal touch pools with stingrays and horseshoe crabs. The property also features the Bay & Ocean Pavilion (where turtles, sharks, Komodo dragons and more are housed), the Marsh Pavilion (which has otters, seahorses and more), a ropes course and a 3-D theater that screens educational films and Hollywood movies.
According to recent visitors, families will love exploring this fun attraction, although a few said that the property's admissions are high given its small size. Some also cautioned that older children may lose interest in the aquarium's exhibits.
- #5View all Photos#5 in Virginia BeachSightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDSightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Just north of First Landing State Park is Cape Henry Lighthouse, the first lighthouse ever authorized by Congress. The attraction still has connections with the government; located on the grounds of the Fort Story military base, you'll have to show ID (either a REAL ID Act-compliant driver's license or a passport) at the property's entrance. The brick lighthouse was constructed in the 1790s and was an important step for trade along the Virginia and Maryland coasts, as it made the Chesapeake Bay easier and safer to navigate.
Previous travelers had mixed feelings about the property's staff, but overall, many enjoyed exploring this historic attraction. Several were quick to praise the lighthouse's "amazing" views at the top and said that the climb up was fairly easy, although seniors and young kids may have a hard time.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Virginia BeachMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
History buffs and aviation enthusiasts alike will love checking out the Military Aviation Museum. As its name suggests, this museum is packed with military aircraft (more specifically, World War I- and World War II-era airplanes), which have been restored to their prewar condition. Noteworthy items from the private collection include a de Havilland Mosquito (a plane that's primarily made of wood) and a Messerschmitt ME 262 (the world's first jet-powered fighter plane).
Former visitors said this impressive museum offers an "amazing" assortment of planes, adding that the docent-led tour of the hangars (which is covered by the property's entrance fee) can't be missed. For an extra charge, travelers can go for a ride in one of the planes, but these flights cost as much as $375 per person and are only available between early April and late October. Another way to see some of the planes in action is to attend one of the museum's air shows; previous museumgoers raved about all three of the property's shows, especially the "WWI Biplanes & Triplanes" show that takes place every October.
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