Insider Tips: Planning a Virginia Beach Summer Vacation

If you are wondering if Virginia Beach is a good place to spend your summer vacation, I would absolutely recommend it! As a native and travel writer who frequently covers tourism in the city, I can provide you with a few popular recommendations.

In this guide, you’ll find some of the best things to do in Virginia Beach during your summer vacation. The city offers tons of dining options, beach activities, museums, fun family spots, and shopping. 

While the Oceanfront is the main attraction, be sure to visit some of the other hidden gems I mention below for the full Virginia Beach experience! 

Where to Stay in Virginia Beach

If you are heading to Virginia Beach, Virginia, for summer vacation, my top accommodation recommendation is the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Here, you’ll find all your favorite chain hotels, historic hotels, luxury hotels, budget-friendly hotels, and resort-style hotels lining both sides of the strip from 2nd Street (South End) to about 57th Street (North End). 

If you want to stay where most of the action is, you’ll want to stay closer to the South End. For less crowded beaches and a quieter stay, the North End is where you’ll want to be. Over 70 hotel and resort options are within walking distance of the beach.

If you’d rather save a little money and stay inland, there are about 30 options spread throughout the city. The obvious downside to staying inland is that you’ll need to drive and find parking at the beach rather than being able to walk everywhere. However, if you do decide to stay inland, I recommend finding a hotel in the Town Center of Virginia Beach. 

Virginia Beach Oceanfront Activities

The things to do at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront are plentiful. From restaurants and bars to concert stages, museums, an art district, and the Atlantic Ocean, your family or friend group will have no problem finding activities and entertainment. 

Tip: Download the Freebee App for free rides in a Tesla around the Virginia Beach Oceanfront from 11 AM to 11 PM! Be sure to schedule your rides beforehand, as there are limited vehicles, and they tend to book fast!

Summer Festivals and Events

Live! on Atlantic offers free concerts at the 17th and 24th Street stages every Wednesday from June to early September. 

Other summer festivals and events include La Fiesta (a two-day Latin festival), July 4th celebrations, Beach Blanket Cinema nights, Funk Fest Beach Party, East Coast Surfing Championship (ECSC), and Labor Day festivities. 

Where to Eat and Drink

There are many restaurant and bar options at the Oceanfront, so here are a few popular spots locals and tourists love!

  • Rockafeller’s Restaurant: Family-owned seafood restaurant using locally sourced ingredients with covered outdoor seating and views of the Inlet. This is an excellent option for families.
  • Waterman’s Surfside Grille: Family-owned seafood restaurant known for serving freshly squeezed orange crush cocktails with an outdoor patio and great ocean views. While family-friendly, this is a good option for a relaxed night out with friends. 
  • Chix on the Beach: Great spot on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk serving burgers, wings, steaks, and seafood. Grab a table outside and enjoy free live music from the nearby 7th Street stage. 
  • Catch 31 Fish House and Bar: Located in the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront, it has an upscale feel, is located on the boardwalk, and has an outdoor patio with great ocean views and music from the 31st Street stage. 
  • Doc Taylors: This has been a local brunch favorite for many years. It’s a small spot serving hearty options that is usually slammed-packed. Be aware that they are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 
  • Dough Boy’s Pizza: Family-owned pizza joint with two locations at the Oceanfront. Skip the chain delivery options and try something local while in town!
  • Murphy’s Irish Pub: Laid-back spot where you can find live music (no cover charge) and outdoor seating, though not on the oceanside. You can also enjoy trivia nights or watch your favorite sports here.

This list of restaurants and bars at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront is in no way complete. There are so many great options; you can’t go wrong!

Family-Friendly Activities

  • Beach Fun: You’ll find options for dolphin-watching tours, parasailing, fishing excursions, surf lessons, kayaking tours, and more.
  • VB Surf and Rescue Museum: Located on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk, this hidden gem is a great place to learn about the history of VB surfing, the Coast Guard, and Virginia Beach in general. 
  • Grommet Island Park: A small park and playground on the beach that is 100% handicap accessible, perfect for “everyBODY.”
  • Atlantic Fun Park: This is a small amusement park that offers 16 different rides, a go-cart track, games for kids, and food stand options.
  • Flipper McCoys: Offers laser tag, tons of arcade games, air hockey, pool tables, and pinball. This alcohol-free environment is perfect for small children and teens.
  • Neptune’s Park: This giant statue of King Neptune is an excellent spot for a memorable family photo or the Instagram-lover in your crew. 
  • Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center: While technically not at the Oceanfront, it’s only a 5- to 10-minute drive away.
  • Atlantic Park: A massive indoor surf pack coming in 2025!

Beyond the Boardwalk Stops

  • ViBE Art District: Take a walk around the ViBE District and enjoy the work of local artists. You’ll find painted parking meters, murals painted on buildings, coffee shops, surf shops, and restaurants.
  • Virginia MoCA: Contemporary art museum with rotating exhibits. Kids under 12 get in for free. You’ll be greeted by a beautiful glass-blown chandelier created by Dale Chihuly.
  • Bad Ass Coffee: A beloved local coffee shop. Skip Starbucks and try something local!
  • Beach Bully BBQ: Family-friendly restaurant with great barbeque!

Hidden Gems on Shore Drive

Cape Henry Lighthouse
Photo Credit: [@SherryVSmith/DepositPhotos]

Shore Drive in Virginia Beach is more of a residential area, but it does have some hidden gems and is only a short drive from the Oceanfront. Here are a few spots worth visiting.

  • Cape Henry Lighthouse: There are two lighthouses on the Fort Story military base (be prepared for security checks). The original lighthouse is the fourth-oldest in the country. You’ll take a shuttle from the gates to the old lighthouse, where you can climb its 191 steps. The newer lighthouse is not open to the public. 
  • First Landing State Park: This fantastic park offers hiking and biking trails, camping options, and access to the Chesapeake Bay. The NARROWS 64th Street entrance has less-crowded beaches and a boat/kayak launch. Depending on the day, parking fees range from $7 to $10. 
  • Hot Tuna: This bar and restaurant is a local favorite. It offers happy hour specials and live music every Friday and Saturday night starting at 9:45 PM. There is indoor and outdoor seating and an all-around fun atmosphere. 
  • Shorebreak Pizza and Taphouse: This is an excellent place for casual bites, a game of pool, or to watch your favorite sports. 

Town Center of Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach Town Center
Photo Credit: Levi Luckenbach

The Town Center of Virginia Beach is an excellent place for shopping, dining, and entertainment away from the beach. It has an entirely different vibe. 

As mentioned, you can also make this your summer vacation home base. It’s about 15-20 minutes from the Oceanfront, where you’ll find casual and upscale dining options, high-end shopping, the Sandler Center for Performing Arts, and the Funny Bone Comedy Club. Many restaurants and bars host trivia, ladies’, and paint nights. Not too far down the road, you’ll also find Top Golf

Other Places to Visit in Virginia Beach

Bee and the Biscuit
Photo Credit: Alexandrea Sumuel

Virginia Beach is a large area with many other parts to explore. Here are a few other stops worth noting for those who want to explore beyond the beach. 

The Great Neck Road area has some great dining options. Citrus is a local favorite for brunch with family or friends. The Porch on Long Creek is an excellent place for a cocktail. It has outdoor seating and views of the Lynnhaven River. Terrapin is an upscale, farm-to-table restaurant perfect for date night. 

The Pungo area of Virginia Beach is a bit of a drive, but a few experiences are worth the trip. The Bee and the Biscuit is a family-owned brunch spot everyone loves. It offers valet parking, an outdoor bar, games to enjoy while you wait, and handmade biscuits! The Military Aviation Museum houses the world’s largest collection of operable warbirds. You can even take a ride in a 1941 Boeing Stearman! Blue Pete’s Restaurant offers creekside dining and live music. The highlight? You can take a dinner kayaking tour through the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge!

Your Virginia Beach Summer Vacation Guide

Virginia Beach ECSC 2022
Photo Credit: Alexandrea Sumuel

Virginia Beach is an exceptional summer vacation destination. It offers a perfect blend of coastal charm and vibrant city life. Whether looking for a lively beachfront experience or a more serene getaway, this city caters to all ages and budgets.

Virginia Beach isn’t just about its stunning coastline; the city also offers a variety of cultural and recreational attractions off the beaten path. Each neighborhood has its own unique character, and hidden gems await discovery!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandrea Sumuel - Groves is a nationally syndicated travel writer and founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog. Her work has appeared on MSN, YAHOO!, Euronews, and FOX, ABC, and NBC affiliates across the United States. 

Alex travels to experience, eat, explore, and occasionally escape! She collaborates with destinations, vacation property management companies, and hospitality technology firms to provide her readers with exclusive insights and information.