The wonderful independent coastal city of Virginia Beach is located in southeast Virginia. Despite being primarily suburban and having a strong resort vibe, it is Virginia’s most populous city.
It is located within the Hampton Roads metropolitan area, on the mouth of Chesapeake Bay on the Atlantic Ocean. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it has the world’s longest pleasure beach, which is hard to beat!
There are numerous places to visit in Virginia Beach, ranging from free activities such as parks and beaches to more expensive offerings such as museums, aquariums, special tours, and amusement parks.
1. Things To Do In Virginia Beach: First Landing State Park
At this lovely park, history and nature come together. English colonists arrived in America for the first time more than 400 years ago at First Landing State Park.
The park is now a popular destination for both locals and visitors. You have the option of unwinding on the beach, hiking through the forest, kayaking, learning about the early history of the first settlers, camping by the ocean, or even renting a cabin in the woods.
1.5 miles of wide beach extend along Chesapeake Bay, and behind it, tucked into the tangle of vegetation that lines the water’s edge, are campsites with ocean views.
Shore Drive divides the park into two sections: the beach side and the forest side. Camping cabins and a vast network of trails wind through towering pine and cypress trees, sand dunes, and along Broad Bay’s shoreline on the inland section of Shore Drive. Every trail presents a different view.
2. Back Bay Wildlife Refuge
The Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is located behind Sandbridge Beach and encompasses over 9,000 acres of beach, freshwater marshes, dunes, and forested areas. The refuge not only protects important migratory bird habitat, but it is also a pleasant place for a stroll along nature trails or paddleboarding in the still waters.
The visitor center offers a panoramic view of Back Bay’s waters and islands. Walking paths lead to some excellent wildlife viewing opportunities, and spotting scopes are available throughout the refuge. Back Bay is home to a variety of birds, as well as deer, bobcats, otters, muskrats, and other wildlife. From here, you can also get to False Cape State Park.
3. Things To Do In Virginia Beach: Military Aviation Museum
This museum is dedicated to military aircraft, as the name implies, and houses planes from all over the world. Approximately 60 aircraft from WWI and WWII are on display, with nearly all of them still capable of flight.
The museum’s goal is not only to display these planes, but also to restore them to working condition. The planes are typically flown during airshows, but for an additional fee, you can take a short ride in some of these aircraft.
4. Lighthouses to visit in Virginia Beach: Cape Henry Lighthouse
On the Chesapeake Bay, the Cape Henry Lighthouse has long been a well-known landmark. George Washington gave the go-ahead for its construction in 1792, making it the first lighthouse financed by the US government.
For stunning vistas of the coast, ascend the stairs to the top of this National Historic Landmark.
At Cape Henry, you can see both lighthouses because one was built nearby in the late 1800s. Visitors must go through a security check to visit the Cape Henry Lighthouse because it is located on the grounds of the Fort Story military base.
5. Places to visit in Virginia Beach: Norfolk Botanical Garden
The 175-acre Norfolk Botanical Garden, which has 14 miles of paths throughout the property, is only a short drive from the beach. There are many paved paths for convenience.
Gardens include year-round blooming areas like the Renaissance Garden, Japanese Garden, and sensory gardens where visitors are invited to take in not only the sights and smells of the flora but also the tastes, sounds, and even textures. Seasonal areas vary in what they offer depending on the time of year.
This is a family-friendly attraction as well, with a butterfly house and a three-acre Children’s Garden. A variety of engaging and instructive natural exhibits, such as a dirt factory and a plant safari that explores plants and their environments as well as the animals that call the habitat home, can be found in the World of Wonder children’s garden.
6. Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center
The Virginia Aquarium is one of the best options for a fun day away from the beach. The aquarium is admirably situated, with picturesque outdoor areas and decks overlooking the water, along the banks of Owls Creek.
Sharks, seals, sea turtles, otters, rays, and a wide variety of other marine life can be found at this popular tourist destination. Additionally, it contains some surprising sights, like Komodo dragons.
With displays showing what Virginia might have looked like thousands of years ago and the kind of life the area may have supported throughout the ages, the large complex, split between two buildings, is thoughtfully laid out. Additionally, it’s a great place to learn more about the marine life that presently resides in the lakes, streams, and coastal regions.
7. Mount Trashmore Park
Mount Trashmore is a sizable former landfill that has been transformed into a city park. With 165 acres of land, the park has a lot to offer. Along with 2 sizable playgrounds, there is a skate park and vert ramp. On the property, there are 2 lakes and 2 artificial mountains. 800 feet long and 60 feet high make up the largest mountain. Layers of clean soil and solid waste were compacted to create it.
The former landfill boasts a water-wise garden that makes use of xeriscaping to ensure minimal water use, making it a true environmental achievement. The smaller peak is referred to as Encore Hill. Picnic shelters, charcoal grills, volleyball courts, outdoor exercise equipment, and horseshoe pits can be found all over the park’s grounds.
8. Boardwalk Amusement Park
The Boardwalk Amusement Park, also known as the Atlantic Fun Park, is situated in Virginia Beach on 15th St. The park provides a selection of go-kart tracks, kiddie rides, family rides, and thrill rides. The largest Ferris wheel in Virginia Beach is the popular Gravitron ride, which is capable of frightening even the most ardent thrill seeker. Not everyone should use the Gravitron. Riders can lean against padded, angled panels on this enclosed, circular ride. Riders are lifted off the ground and pinned against the wall once the ride starts rotating at a high speed. Inside the Gravitron, riders experience centrifugal force that is three times as strong as gravity.
9. Chesapeake Bay Beach
Chesapeake Bay Beach is a popular spot that is located to the north of the main beach. Compared to the boardwalk neighborhood to the south, this area has a more subdued and quiet atmosphere. This is a good place for kids and families because the waters are usually calm and shallow.
There are numerous access points off Shore Drive, as well as First Landing State Park, which is located along the beach and has showers and restrooms for day visitors. At the end of the day, there are several excellent dining options nearby.
10. Boat Tours and Water Adventures
The location of Virginia Beach along the coast makes it the ideal location for water-based activities, such as kayaking and paddleboarding as well as whale watching tours and charter fishing trips.
Ocean boat trips are provided by a variety of different companies and establishments. Even whale and dolphin watching excursions are offered by the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center.
If you’re looking for a guided kayaking tour, consider the Sunset Dolphin Kayaking Tour, which offers a chance to see bottlenose dolphins along with a lovely two-hour paddle at sunset.
The season for whale watching lasts from early to mid-January to late February. There are several locations where you can rent jet skis and other non-motorized watercraft, including one inside First Land State Park.