Discover First Landing State Park where Virginia’s earliest settlers first made land. (Photos: Andar Sawyers)
One of the most famous attractions in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is its three-mile boardwalk in the Oceanfront district. But if you were to spend your entire vacation here, you’d be missing the true flavor of the Virginia Beach.
That’s why you need to venture into the heart of the city, where you’ll discover ancient architecture tucked alongside modern construction in one of the oldest inhabited areas of the U.S.
Get off the beaten path and uncover hidden-gem neighborhoods missed by most tourists. Each has a story to tell and uncovers a snapshot of the city’s history.
One of Virginia Beach’s original seven boroughs, Lynnhaven, has transformed itself repeatedly through the years. As one of the state’s earliest settlements, it has reconstructed its identity as Henry Towne, Pleasure House Point, Bayville, Chesapeake Beach and Lynn Haven over the years.
A highlight of the neighborhood is First Landing State Park where Virginia’s earliest settlers first made land. Wiggle your toes in the sand on beaches flanking the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay or explore trails through cypress swamps, salt marsh and forests. The red brick Cape Henry Lighthouse at the site is one of the oldest surviving lighthouses in the nation.
Then, visit Lynnhaven House, an 18th-century example of Tidewater Virginia vernacular architecture, to uncover the craftsmanship of days gone by. Originally the plantation home of Francis Thelaball, the 1725 home features quality details like brick jack arches, ship’s lap floor construction and a closed-spindle staircase.
There’s nothing old about Lynnhaven Mall, completely redeveloped in 2014. With 200 stores encompassing more than 1 million square feet of indoor shopping, you’ll find all your modern favorites like Banana Republic, Bare Escentuals, and Bath & Body Works.
Take a walk in the open-air pedestrian plaza or see a show at the 18-screen cinema. The mall is also a hotbed for “mall walkers” who can enter the mall 1.5 hours before stores open at 10:00 a.m. to keep fit and meet new friends.
Chic’s Beach, Chix Beach or Chick’s Beach — no matter how you spell it, you’ll know when you’ve arrived in this beach neighborhood when you see a sign that says “Chesapeake Beach.”
That’s the neighborhood’s formal name, given when it originally formed in the 1940s. Although its name might sound like the perfect place to meet attractive young ladies, the nickname actually derived from a hot dog stand operating there for many years.
The neighborhood enfolds multi-story homes built since the mid-1900s ranging from cute cottages to sweeping multi-story homes. Green lawns and towering trees flank inland homes while those on the shoreline preside over a sandy beach. Head down Ocean View Boulevard to access the beach, which has a quieter, less-crowded ambiance than you’ll find in the Oceanfront district.
The Chic’s Beach neighborhood is most noted for its annual Chic’s Beach Festival in May. The one-day event features craft beers and gourmet food trucks alongside a full day of music. Sip brew in the beer garden, play corn hole or other garden games and buy some craft cold ones to take back to the hotel.
Like the name suggests, Town Center is the heartbeat of Virginia Beach. A site previously inhabited by wooded lots and a few old buildings now encompasses shopping, dining, culture and entertainment in 17 city blocks. Town Center fulfilled the need to have a city center, something Virginia Beach didn’t have at the time. The neighborhood employs pedestrian-friendly architectural trends to connect people to everything they need.
Discover the city’s tallest building in the bustling neighborhood, as well as the iconic fountain that makes an ideal backdrop for vacation selfies. Let the aroma of fresh peaches lure you to the farmer’s market on Ynot Wednesdays when pop-up farm stands sell fruits, veggies, flowers and artisan crafts.
Enjoy an evening out on the town with dinner at one of dozens of restaurants. See a concert or other live performances at Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, or laugh your socks off at Funny Bone Comedy Club. Another great bet: Town Center sponsors events and festivals throughout the year, including the Art & Wine Festival in May and National Chess Day Festival in October.
This article was published through a partnership with Visit the USA, inspiring travelers to explore America’s boundless possibilities.