Virginia Beach, Virginia is a vibrant coastal community where culture and creativity thrive. A premier East Coast vacation destination, Virginia Beach is a laid-back oceanfront getaway that many families and couples enjoy each year. Of course, the city is more than just a tourist destination. Home to nearly half a million people, Virginia Beach has been on a mission to create its own unique presence independent from other coastal cities.
A Coastal Community for Creatives
High tides, boardslides, and creative vibes– Virginia Beach is a vibrant coastal community where the surf, skate, and art culture thrives. Home to three large skate parks, the world’s longest-running surf competition, and an Oceanfront painted in murals; the resort city has become a canvas for creatives.
East Coast Surfing
For many, the phrase “surf culture” conjures up images of sun-drenched beaches in California or Hawaii. Virginia Beach is home to a thriving surf scene of its own. The city’s long coastline and variety of waves make it a popular destination for both pro and amateur surfers alike.
Since 1963, the Virginia Beach Jaycees have hosted the annual East Coast Surfing Championships (ECSC). The 60th ECSC was held last summer, making it the longest-running surfing competition in the world. Trace the roots of East Coast surf culture at the Virginia Beach Surf and Rescue Museum. Efforts to create the Virginia Beach International Surf Museum are underway, too.
Virginia Beach Skate Scene
Skateboarding culture has always been about community and expression. For many, it’s a way to connect with others and create art. In Virginia Beach, skateboarding is having a moment. The city’s long history of surfing has created a ready-made culture for skateboarding, and the community is growing every day.
With three premier skate parks and an abundance of skate shops at the Oceanfront, skaters are never far from their next thrill. Whether you’re an old pro or just finding your way into the sport, there’s no shortage of excellent spots to enjoy. A cruise down the boardwalk always hits the spot, but the new Woodstock Skate Park offers a two-level bowl with waterfalls, a quarter pipe with extension, and a range of exciting ledge runs, stair sets, and wall rides.
A Canvas for Creatives
Nestled between the bustling boardwalk and inland Virginia Beach is the lively ViBe Creative District. From 16th to 22nd Streets, you’ll find boutiques, restaurants, artisans, and fitness studios adorned with colorful murals. It’s the embodiment of eclectic Virginia Beach at its best; take a walking tour to soak up the aesthetic. The murals make for excellent backdrops for your next profile pic!
What could a creative district be without an art museum? The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, or MOCA, exhibits some of the most powerful art of our time, featuring a diversity rarely found in the arts community. Modern pieces from artists like Maya Lin combine artistic intuition with scientific research to make a statement on the climate crisis. A visit to the museum will surely leave you changed for good.
Beyond the Virginia Beach Boardwalk
While the Virginia Beach boardwalk offers no shortage of fun, there’s so much more to the city than sand and sea. You don’t have to travel far to discover opportunities for relaxation, adventures, and delicious food. You can design the perfect day without ever straying far from the Oceanfront.
Foodies will delight in the area’s plethora of exciting culinary opportunities. Head to Aloha Snacks to dine on Chef Jesse Wykle’s twist on Hawaiian flavors. Wykle was featured on Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay – and won! Vegans will rejoice at the taste of his “fo-ke,” a plant-based poke with pickled beets, sticky rice, sweet salad, pineapple, and teriyaki.
If you’re craving something sweet, give Lolly’s Creamery a try. Featuring exciting flavors like lemon gingersnap, coffee cookies, and cream, there’s truly something for everyone. Kids will especially love the cotton candy flavor! Fresh ingredients and bold tastes have locals and tourists alike returning over and over again.
Ask any local about their favorite local cocktail, and they’ll probably answer: the crush. Traditionally made with orange juice, sprite, vodka, Triple Sec, and crushed ice, this drink is Virginia Beach in a glass. Head to Waterman’s Surfside Grille for a cold one with a waterfront view. This local hangout will have you wishing you could live where you vacation!
Wineries and Distilleries
Speaking of Waterman’s, their recent foray into spirits has all the locals talking. Their distillery tasting room, set to open this fall, will feature vodkas intended to be enjoyed with freshly-squeezed fruit, light bubbly beverages, and natural sweeteners like agave or raw simple syrups. Their unique coral filtration process aims to raise the pH of the vodka for a cleaner, smoother-tasting spirit.
Tarnished Truth at the Cavalier Hotel offers a high-end tasting experience for visitors. One of only 10 hotels in the country to have a distillery on site, the Cavalier is ideal for date night, special celebrations, and for livening up your midweek slump. Sip on bourbon mash moonshine, Virginia bourbon whiskey, or delightful coastal cocktails like the vodka orange crush.
The winery scene is picking up too. Virginia Beach Winery offers small-batch wines and will even deliver to you if you’re within 10 miles of their location. The Mermaid Winery, Norfolk’s first winery, also has a location in Virginia Beach that is a must-visit!
Family Friendly Fun
When the kids grow tired of the sand and surf, head to the Cape Henry Lighthouse for a little history. Located on the southern entrance to the Chesapeake Bay, the lighthouse has stood stalwart since 1792, guiding shipping traffic in and out of the bay. It’s a scenic spot to let kids run off some energy while learning a bit about Virginia Beach history.
The Military Aviation Museum is sure to be a hit with little ones. Get up close and personal with one of the world’s largest private collections of World War I and World War II-era military aircraft. Each plane has been lovingly restored to the prior military condition – most are, in fact, airworthy. There are scavenger hunts, airshows, and even the opportunity to ride in an aircraft yourself. You’re certain to make memories that last a lifetime at this hidden gem of a museum.
Kiddos who dream about a career as a marine biologist will find the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center delightful. Meet fish, sharks, and rays in the aquarium section, or head on board a whale or dolphin watching cruise to get up close and personal with wildlife. An adventure park offers additional thrills – ziplines and treetop platforms will give you new perspective on the area.
For insight into the region’s agricultural offerings, head to Hunt Club Farms. The petting zoo is a hit year-round, but the Haunted Hunt Club attracts older kids, teens, and adults each fall. Pick from the pumpkin patch or explore a spooky maze. The thrills and chills are sure to keep the entire family coming back for more!
Virginia Beach’s natural beauty is the stuff of legends. Unspoiled beaches, pristine natural areas, and stunning trails keep visitors coming back year after year. Whether you hope to kayak, hike, or simply take in the views, there’s no shortage of adventure to be found just steps from the boardwalk.
First Landing State Park is Virginia’s most visited state park, and for good reason: it’s a real natural oasis amidst the urban hustle and bustle. It features more than 20 miles of trails and 1.5 miles of sandy beachfront access. Rare plants and wildlife call the bald cypress swamps, lagoons, and maritime forests home. Campsites and yurts provide the perfect place to spend the night in nature.
False Cape State Park is also worth a visit. Tram tours make it easy to explore some of the most undeveloped corners of the region. Hop on board for a guided tour through dunes, woodland, farm fields, salt marsh, maritime forest, and wooded swamps. If you prefer to cycle, miles upon miles of bike trails await you. Moonlit paddles through beautiful Back Bay are another option to create some truly unforgettable memories.
A Year-Round Vacation Destination
Once upon a time, Labor Day served as the unofficial end of the summer season. Tourists would head home, teenagers would head back to class, and the oceanfront would effectively shut down for the year. Nowadays, Virginia Beach is a true year-round vacation destination.
Even on the coldest of winter days, there’s always something new and exciting to do in town. Whether you’re craving delicious culinary adventures, a tour through local history, or simply want to take in the region’s natural beauty, you’ll find no shortage of thrilling and even life-affirming ways to enjoy the city.
If you’ve never visited Virginia Beach for yourself, now is the time to plan your trip. Whether you’re the outdoorsy type, a foodie, an aircraft enthusiast, a history buff, or marine biology nerd, you’re sure to find something you’ll love in this lively city. Make Virginia Beach your destination for beaches, food, art, history, culture, and fun.
Alexandrea Sumuel is a travel writer and the founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog, where she provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, news, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, and explore-- and, on occasion, escape! Alex’s mission is to help people travel a little easier.