Virginia Beach is a bit tougher to write about, just because we lived barely ninety minutes away for so long, and my family lives right in the city. So most of our time here was spent with family and friends, as if it were home, and not so much a vacation. However, we did a few fun getaways and were able to pinpoint some cool spots (aside from my parent’s house and our friend’s favorite brewery, of course).
Best Times to Visit:
- Since I lived in Virginia for so long, I feel pretty confident in saying you can find plenty of awesome things to do regardless of the time of year you visit. However, a more obvious answer is that visiting a coastal community during the warm summer months makes the most sense, and you’ll get the most bang for your buck as far as outdoor and beachy activities.
- I also recommend Virginia Beach over the winter holidays, just because the tourists all clear out and all the fun stuff that’s super crowded over the summer, like the aquarium and aviation museum, are much more enjoyable. Plus, Christmas on the beach is always a winner even if it’s a bit chilly out.
- The Cavalier. The Cavalier is one of my all-time favorite hotels. It just has such a cool, old school vibe. I feel like I’ve been transported back to the 1920s when everything was classy and sophisticated. The hotel itself is stunning, and the rooms are all very modern and lux while still maintaining that vintage vibe. Their indoor pool is peaceful and beautiful, and the whole hotel is dotted with cute little areas where you can tuck away for a quiet conversation, or just to curl up and read a good book. Plus it’s right across the street from the beach which is very convenient, and there are several great restaurants. They also have a high tea that rivals the one at the Ritz.
- Hilton Oceanfront. This is by far our favorite spot in VAB when we want to be right on the beach. It’s very sleek and modern, and the ocean view balcony rooms can’t be beat. They have a great rooftop pool and bar that will occasionally convert into more of a club atmosphere at night. It’s really fun being up there for holidays and seeing people set off fireworks along the beach. They also have a great seafood restaurant called Catch 31, and it’s walking distance from my favorite oyster bar.
- Atlantic on Pacific. Atlantic on Pacific might actually be in the running for my favorite restaurant of all time. It’s primarily an oyster bar, but they also offer an extensive small plate menu with just about every kind of seafood snack you can think of — plus some non-fishy options as well. They run a happy hour every day from 3-6, so you can get $1 oysters. That includes any of their fried, baked, or grilled oysters, and a rotating selection of raw oysters. From their full menu, the caviar and blini plate is honestly my favorite thing. It’s the absolute perfect bite. Their lobster Mac and cheese is a close runner up, and their mini rolls and butter are delicious and a great value.
- Becca in the Cavalier. Becca is a really lovely spot for a brunch or dinner. It’s right in the Cavalier (which is especially convenient when staying there) and the restaurant itself is beautiful on the window side. It’s light and open and airy, albeit a bit noisy because of the high ceilings and all the glass. Their menu is all farm to table so it rotates quite often, but most winters they will have a sweet potato gnocchi dish that is absolutely phenomenal. Plus they have a unique list of house made juices and lemonades that are very fun to try.
- Norfolk Waterside District. This isn’t just one restaurant, it’s more of a dining and entertainment complex, like a smaller and classier Union Market. It’s really cool to grab small bites from all the different vendors there, and then pop out front to listen to live music on the water.
- The beach! This one is a given. When you’re in Virginia Beach, you go to the beach. However, while the oceanfront and boardwalk is a fun, I actually recommend only spending a day or so there, and focusing the rest of your time on Sandbridge, or the beaches along the bay side. Sandbridge has the big waves people want for boogie boarding and whatnot, but barely 1/4 the amount of people. Plus there are tons of cute little farm to table restaurants and fresh seafood joints right in that area. I also like the bay side for just sun bathing and paddling around in a less aggressively wavy environment.
- Skydive Suffolk and iFly. Of course I have to mention the two spots that were pivotal in my skydiving progression. Skydive Suffolk is where I did my first conscious tandem jump (long story, ask me later) and iFly is where I learned to suck less in freefall. I can’t recommend Suffolk enough for a beautiful tandem skydive (or solo jump!) and iFly is just a blast whether you want to get into skydiving or not. Who doesn’t want to have the experience of flying all on their own, without actually having to jump out of a plane?
- Norfolk Botanical Gardens. These gardens are really fun and beautiful, and I especially love them when they have special events going on. Lanterns Asia is an absolutely stunning event to check out, and the Million Bulb Walk around Christmas time is also beautiful. Of course the garden is pretty any time of the year, with or without a special event, I just really like when it’s all decked out in twinkling lights and cool art installations.
- Never leaving the oceanfront. Don’t get me wrong, the oceanfront is great. But there is SO much more to see and do than swimming near the Neptune Statue. If you’re only there for a couple days, I get it. But if you are there for more than a short weekend, please do yourself a favor and explore Virginia Beach in it’s entirety. Remember, Virginia Beach is an entire city, not just a strip of beach.