Virginia Beach is a popular summer destination because of its beaches and boardwalk. However, Virginia Beach is a great place to visit any time of year. They have a thriving arts and entertainment culture, as well as great places to eat and shop.
Virginia Beach has a record in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest pleasure beach on the planet, with over 35 miles of fine, sandy beaches. The town and surrounding area are also known for producing big-name celebrities like Pharrell Williams, Gabrielle Douglas, Mark Ruffalo, and Missy Elliot.
Ready to explore this popular Virginia vacation spot? Here are 21 things to do in Virginia Beach that you’re going to adore.
Hike First Landing State Park
Locals and visitors love hiking at First Landing State Park. There are nine named hiking trails in the park that cover more than 19 miles. There is also a Trail Center where you can find maps, as well as small exhibits featuring local wildlife, park habitats, and geological and human history that have been found in the park. The trails go through different habitats including the beach, dunes, wooded areas, and wetlands. Check out the wildlife in the area — you may even see bald eagles.
Many people like to visit the beaches in the park because of their calm waters. Though there is no lifeguard here, it is popular with families with children. The beach also has a shower and bathroom area.
Read more: 19 of the Best Things To Do in Virginia Beach, VA
Visit Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach is known for being one of the best in the country. They house over 1,000 animals, including fish, reptiles and amphibians, mammals, birds, and invertebrates. Throughout the aquarium, you can see sharks, rays, eels, Komodo dragons, crocodiles, an Egyptian cobra, pythons, otters, and seals. These are just some of the animals you can view.
The aquarium is perfect for a rainy day or if you just need time out of the sun. Open daily from 9-5, the aquarium focuses on “conservation of the marine environment through education, research, and sustainable practices.” You have to purchase tickets online prior to arrival, and choose a time slot.
The aquarium also offers several “experiences” including behind-the-scenes tours, boat trips, and ziplines at the adventure park.
Stroll Norfolk Botanical Garden
The Norfolk Botanical Garden is the largest in Virginia and showcases over 60 different gardens. The main gardens include summer, fall, and winter gardens, year-round gardens, a WPA memorial garden, a butterfly garden, and a children’s garden. The garden is located in nearby Norfolk, VA.
The gardens are open 9-5, with the exception of the children’s garden, which is open from 9:30 to 4:30. The Norfolk Botanical Garden offers tram tours and boat tours, group tours, and virtual tours.
The Garden has several permanent collections including bonsais, ferns, roses, orchids, daylilies, and more. While strolling through the gardens, you may notice prominent art displays like sculptures and statues.
Drive Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
At nearly 20 miles, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is a system of 4 bridges and 2 tunnels that spans the lower part of the Chesapeake Bay. It connects Virginia’s Eastern Shore with South Hampton Roads, Virginia.
In 1965, the bridge was designated as “One of Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World.” While the bridge is used by commuters and travelers looking to cut down their driving time, the bridge is becoming a popular tourist destination. There is a scenic overlook and a rest area with a small gift shop.
There are 4 man-made islands along the bridge, that have become home to various birds. Birders can typically spot the American White Pelican, Brant, King Eider, Harlequin Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Peregrine Falcon, American Oyster-catcher, Little Gull, Black-tailed Gull, and the Northern Gannet. Seals and whales have also been spotted in the bay.
Sail On The Spirit Of Norfolk Cruise
Taking a cruise on The Spirit of Norfolk offers passengers a unique experience with a beautiful view of the city skyline, Norfolk Harbor, and the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet.
The Spirit of Norfolk offers various cruises including Lunch, Brunch, Dinner, Cocktail, Moonlight Cruises. They also offer special event cruises like Easter Brunches, Mothers Day Cruises, and an After Dark Dance Cruise.
Bike False Cape State Park and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Simply referred to as Back Bay, this national wildlife refuge has two trails that connect to False Cape State Park called East and West Dike. The trails are closed from November 1 – March 31, so you’ll have to walk or bike on the beach and you’ll want to do this at low tide to get to False Cape. The trails are well maintained, with flat gravel surfaces that make it easier for beach cruisers and mountain bikes to be used in the park.
Once in False Cape State Park, there are more than 15 miles of trails to explore. You can find an old cemetery and church as well as different habitats and wildlife. The park is home to many animals including herons, egrets, osprey, and cottonmouths.
You can even bike or hike to North Carolina covering about 10 miles.
Tour Military Aviation Museum
The Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach is home to the world’s largest private collections of World War I and World War II-era military aircraft. A majority of the planes are able to fly, and are frequently used in air shows and demonstrations at the museum.
At the museum, you can actually take flight with a seasoned pilot in one of the planes and explore through Jurassic Park and go to the Goxhill Tower, built in 1940.
Learn To Surf At Croatan Beach
The stretch of beach between Rudee Inlet and Camp Pendleton is known as Croatan Beach, and it has two designated surfing areas. If learning to surf is on your bucket list, and it should be, this is the perfect place to learn. The beach has gentle waves and a soft, sand bottom. There are several surf schools that offer private and group lessons, camps, and rentals.
The surf culture is strong in Virginia Beach and is rumored to be the birthplace of East Coast surfing. They also host the East Coast Surfing Championship each year, which is super fun to watch even if you don’t surf!
See The Animals At Hunt Club Farm
The Hunt Club Farm is open on weekends from 10-4. Visitors of all ages have come to love the Petting Zoo, Pony Rides, Aviary, Farmers’ Markets, and The Tree Walk Adventure. They also put on special events like an Easter Egg Hunt, a Harvest Fair, and a Halloween Festival.
The farm is home to horses, goats, chickens, guinea hens, llamas, alpacas, pigs, donkeys, and more.
Picnic at Mount Trashmore Park
Mount Trashmore Park is known worldwide as an environmental wonder. It’s one of the first man-made parks converted from a landfill. The park features two man-made mountains, named Mount Trashmore and Encore Hill, and two lakes. One freshwater lake is called Lake Trashmore, and the other is Lake Windsor, which is brackish water. There are two playgrounds, a skate park with a vert ramp, as well as multi-use paths.
The park offers something for everyone, from kids to adults and all ages in between. You can land fish if you have a fishing license, kayak on Lake Windsor, play volleyball, and explore the 10 fitness stations planted around the paths.
There are also bathrooms, charcoal grills, shelters, vending machines, and seasonal concession stands. There is a park office where you can borrow badminton equipment, corn hole boards, and bags, footballs, frisbees, horseshoes, rubber playground balls, soccer balls, volleyballs, volleyball nets, and wheelchairs, as long as you have a photo ID.
Relax The Day Away at Sandbridge Beach
Referred to as the Outer Banks of Virginia, Sandbridge Beach is a place to get away from it all. While technically in Virginia, Sandbridge Beach is the start of the barrier islands known as the Outer Banks, the same ones that are synonymous with North Carolina.
Sandbridge Beach is 15 miles south of Virginia Beach and is more quiet and serene. There are 5 miles of untouched beaches where you can swim, beach comb, and relax.
Take a Whale Watching Tour
Going whale watching in Virginia Beach is a must-do. The best viewing months are December through February, when you’ll most likely be able to spot some humpback whales.
Atlantic Bottle Nosed Dolphins and seals are also common sights. There are various tour operators to choose from, as well as private charters.
Enjoy the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art
A great activity in Virginia Beach is exploring the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. Open 4 days a week, the museum doesn’t have any permanent exhibitions, instead, there are always new exhibits for you to enjoy. They change every few months and you can keep up to date on new ones by checking their website. Tickets to the museum are free and easily available online.
The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art also offers art classes and workshops for people of all ages and skill levels. They also put on an art show on the boardwalk every fall.
Go Old-School at Atlantic Fun Park
Voted the number one amusement park in Virginia Beach, Atlantic Fun Park has a mix of rides to match everyone’s thrill level. You can find the legendary Gravitron, Giant Ferris Wheel, dozens of kiddie rides, thrill-seeking rides, and a rock wall.
The Midway has a bunch of classic boardwalk games like the Balloon Toss, Frog Bog, and Water Race. The amusement park also has “water balls,” which are basically bumper cars in big balloons floating on a pool of water.
The park also features “Motor World” where you can find an adult speed track, mini-golf, and go-kart racing. It’s one of the most family-friendly attractions in Virginia Beach.
Climb Cape Henry Lighthouse
The Cape Henry Lighthouse on Atlantic Avenue is open to the public 7 days a week from 10-4. Technically there are two lighthouses on-site, but only the original lighthouse is open to climb. It was built in 1792, and was the first construction project put forth by the “new” United States after signing the constitution in 1776.
There are 191 steps to the top, where you can see a stunning view of the surrounding area.
Splish Splash at Ocean Breeze Waterpark
Going to the Ocean Breeze Waterpark is a fun and exciting way to cool down. The park offers season and daily passes, so guests can enjoy the park at their leisure.
Operation Splashdown is designed to experience the waterslide with a group of friends and family. There are endless waterslides, ranging from thrilling, like Jungle Falls and The Hurricane, to more relaxing rides, like the Adventure River. The park also features a 1 million-gallon wave pool.
There are plenty of spots to fuel up on classic park food like pizza, hot dogs, pretzels, candy, funnel cakes, and ice cream. There is also a bar and grill for the adults.
Ocean Breeze Waterpark usually opens the weekend before Memorial Day and runs through the weekend after Labor Day.
Explore the Virginia Beach Boardwalk
The Virginia Beach Boardwalk is 3 miles long and packed with shops, food, entertainment, and novelty shops. It’s the number one tourist attraction in Virginia Beach, and the boardwalk sees thousands of visitors each summer.
The boardwalk lines the shores of the Atlantic Ocean with ramps leading down to the beach, making it easy for wheelchairs, strollers, and carts. Hotels suiting any budget also line the boardwalk, providing quick access to the beach and boardwalk at any time.
You can find amusement parks, a fishing pier, stages for live entertainment, arcades, a separate path for bikes, skaters, surreys, and the giant King Neptune statue. There is also a haunted house, mini-golf, museums, and playgrounds.
If you’re in town at the end of September, you’ve got to go to the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival’s Boardwalk Weekend. Starting on the last Friday in September, and lasting through the weekend, this annual festival is the largest annual event in Virginia. It features races, arts and crafts, food, live music, sandcastle building competitions, a volleyball tournament, a regatta, and so much more!
Grommet Island Park
Grommet Island Park is an oceanfront park and playground that is wheelchair-accessible, has raised sand tables for sandcastle building, and a sensory board for children who are autistic and visually impaired. You’ll find this located along the boardwalk.
Wheelchairs can be borrowed for free on a first come first serve basis. They have public bathrooms and during the summer months, they have an attendant on-site from 8-8.
Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum
This little museum is dedicated to the heritage and history of the local area. Throughout the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum, you can find various artifacts, art, and woodcarvers carving wood. There is also a small gift shop on site.
The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, and has a small parking lot reserved for visitors.
Surf and Rescue Museum
The Surf and Rescue Museum pays homage to the maritime history of Virginia Beach. Even the building itself is a historical monument. There are various exhibits that explore the history of this coastal community.
While the museum is closed during the winter months, you can set up a tour just by calling.
Enjoy the Art in the ViBe Creative District
The ViBe Creative District is a cultural arts enclave located near the Virginia Beach oceanfront. This is a fun area where art galleries, museums, shops, restaurants, a farmer’s market, and more can be found.
You’ll also find some of the best public art in the city in the ViBe Creative District. Local artists have turned roads, sidewalks, and building walls into a neighborhood canvas — and exploring the beauty here is a must!
Take a Walking Mural Tour, visit the Old Beach Farmer’s Market, or take a self-guided tour of all the public art to be found here. This is one neighborhood you don’t want to miss.
Virginia Beach FAQ
What is Virginia Beach popular for?
Virginia Beach is most popular for its amazing boardwalk, which is filled with things to do, as well as the Cape Henry Lighthouse, the ViBe Creative District, and First Landing State Park.
Does Virginia Beach have a lot to do?
Virginia Beach is a place that certainly has a lot to do. If you’re looking for the heart of the action, the Virginia Beach Boardwalk is home to museums, restaurants, shops, entertainment, festivals, and more.
What food is Virginia Beach famous for?
Virginia Beach is famous for its oysters and crab. Many restaurants in the area serve amazing dishes with these local ingredients.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR NEXT TRIP TO VIRGINIA
- YOUR VIRGINIA VACATION
- RICHMOND: 17 Things To Do In Richmond VA On Your Next Visit
- ALL THINGS VIRGINIA: 25 Things To Do In Virginia Everyone Will Love
- ALEXANDRIA: 17 Fun & Memorable Things To Do In Alexandria VA
WHERE TO STAY IN VIRGINIA BEACH
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