Tips + Trends

Beach, Boardwalk, and Bridges: An Insider’s Guide to Virginia Beach

Slurp down oysters and rub elbows with locals at Chick’s Oyster Bar. (Photos: Andar Sawyers)

Nestled where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, Virginia Beach has long been a favorite Mid-Atlantic destination for sun-and-sand-seekers. And while there’s plenty of both here, this oceanfront city offers loads of other attractions as well, from wonders of engineering to serene seaside state parks. Come along, and explore!

What to Do

Experience the oceanfront: Virginia Beach has 22.5 km of beachfront that is free and open to public access. The most popular stretch of sand is along the boardwalk between Rudee Inlet and 40th Street.

A long ribbon of golden sand fronting the deep blue, family-friendly Atlantic, the beach is definitely the main attraction here, drawing sunbathers, swimmers, kayakers and even hang gliders.

If you didn’t bring equipment for your favorite water sport, no worries. You can rent everything from stand up paddleboards to jet skis from local vendors.

Wander Atlantic Avenue: Running parallel to the oceanfront, this street is the center of beach life. At night, Atlantic Avenue, particularly between 17th and 25th Streets, comes alive with the sounds of local bands, solo musicians, jugglers, street magicians and artists.

Among the top attractions are Atlantic Fun Park (check out the 30-meter Ferris wheel) and a series of street-side statues depicting everything from fish to mermaids. The most famous of these statues, the Norwegian Lady at 25th Street, commemorates the 1891 shipwreck of the Dictator.

things to do in virginia beach
Snap a selfie with the god of the sea at Neptune Festival Park.

A few blocks down on 31st Street, Neptune Festival Park hosts wine and beer events, golf tournaments, even sand-sculpting competitions.

Explore the Boardwalk: If Virginia Beach is known for anything, it’s the boardwalk. Technically a five-kilometer concrete walkway connecting hotels, shops, restaurants, clubs and amusements, it’s the most popular place to be besides the beach itself.

In fact, National Geographic named it one of the top 10 of its kind in the country. Rather take wheels? A separate bike path offers views of oceanfront hotels and eateries runs parallel to the boardwalk—along with a dozen bike rental facilities.

For beach cruisers, check out Cherie’s Bike and Blade Rental at 15 locations along the boardwalk.

SEE ALSO: Where to Strike a Yoga Pose on Virginia Beach

Things to See

things to do in virginia beach
Climb to new heights at the Cape Henry Lighthouse.

The historic Cavalier Hotel: Once upon a time, this hotel hosted some of the greatest names of the Big Band era, including Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Bing Crosby. During World War II, the hotel became a radar training site for the U.S. Navy. Today, you can still enjoy live musical performances at the hotel’s Cavalier Beach Club.

Cape Henry: Virginia Beach has a long history—the first English settlers landed at Cape Henry (now part of First Landing State Park) in 1607 before moving on to Jamestown.

Climb the stairs to the top of Cape Henry Lighthouse, which has watched over the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay since 1792. One of the oldest surviving lighthouses in the United States, it offers lovely views across the calm blue waters of the bay.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel:Thirty-seven kilometers in length, connecting Virginia Beach with the Eastern Shore, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel has been named one of the seven engineering wonders of the world.

If you choose to drive it, bring along your fishing gear and stop off for some deep sea angling at the Sea Gull Pier 5.6 kilometers from Virginia Beach’s shoreline. To drive the bridge-tunnel requires a one-way toll of $13.

Places to Eat

things to do in virginia beach
Enjoy funky fare, drag show brunches and eco-friendly perks at Croc’s.

Croc’s 19th Street Bistro: Located within a 15-minute walk of the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier, Croc’s is famous for its Five-Pepper Tuna and Sunday brunch drag show. Croc’s also has fame for being one of the first state-certified green restaurants in Virginia.

The restaurant sports an electric car charging station, solar hot water, rain barrel and on-site chef’s garden. Sleek and modern, the restaurant features beautifully plated meals in an atmosphere that’s far from pretentious, as its drag shows attest!

Chick’s Oyster Bar: A local favorite, Chick’s is a shack at the intersection of the Lynnhaven River and Chesapeake Bay, offering superb water views and Costa Rican tacos loaded with fish and all the fixins’.

The atmosphere is casual and fun, and if you bring your boat, you can tie up at the dock for dinner. It’s also only a 10-minute drive from First Landing State Park, where you can head after lunch for sunbathing and swimming.

Doc Taylor’s: Formerly a pink motel, this diner has seen a few upgrades, though stepping through its doors remains a bit like visiting your grandmother’s house—and that suits the clientele just fine.

Order the Ray Ray breakfast sandwich with fried egg, fried cheese, fried tomatoes and bacon—and don’t forget to include one of Doc Taylor’s famous Bloody Mary’s.

This article was published through a partnership with Visit the USA, inspiring travelers to explore America’s boundless possibilities.