Things to do in Virginia Beach PLUS Planning Guide

The sun was shining and traffic hadn’t been too bad as we headed out of Washington, D.C. towards Virginia Beach one Friday morning. I needed to smell that salty sea air and hear the ocean pounding the shore. We knew there were plenty of things to do in Virginia Beach, no matter the weather, so it was time to put those things to the test.

Things to do in Virginia Beach Virginia

We pulled the kids out of school (you’re never too young to learn how to play hooky, right?) so we could get a jump on the weekend beach traffic. Even though it was the shoulder season, the temperatures were still warm enough for outdoor activities on the East Coast.

Nice weather means everyone in the United State’s Mid-Atlantic heads to the beach, and Virginia Beach with kids was the place to be this weekend.

Things to do in Virginia Beach Boardwalk

Virginia Beach Vacation Ideas

It’s not easy to get my kids off the beach. We are a fair skin, lobster-looking family when we’ve spent too much time in the sun. Baking for eight hours a day is not an option, even on a cloudy day.

It’s not hard to find things to do in Virginia Beach, VA that don’t include the sand and surf, however. You just have to know where to look.

Things to do in Virginia Beach Virginia

Virginia Beach Packing List

  • Sunscreen
  • Swimsuits
  • UV shirts
  • Goggles
  • Sand toys
  • Beach towels
  • Shorts, tank tops and t-shirts (hot weather clothes)
  • water shoes and flip flops
  • Lots of layers (off-season)
  • Good walking shoes

Fun things to do in Virginia Beach

There are loads of things to do with kids when you travel to Virginia Beach, but also plenty for adults to enjoy on a weekend getaway. Let’s dive into your options, of which there are plenty.

Virginia Aquarium - Virginia Beach

Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center

  • Address: 717 General Booth Blvd, Virginia Beach, VA 23451

A must on a sunny or rainy day in Virginia Beach, the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center is just the right size to occupy a morning or afternoon. Get there first thing in the morning when the aquarium opens to avoid the crowds.

Drag your kids kicking and screaming (yeah right!) to the shark tank and mini sub where they can flip switches and move the underwater video camera all by themselves. Touch a ray or watch the seals do a few tricks as the turtles swim lazily through their tank.

If you have a budding oceanographer in your group, check out the behind the scenes tours.

Virginia Beach Virginia

Dolphin Watching Boat Tour with Rudee Flipper, Virginia Beach Fishing Center

  • Address: 200 Winston Salem Ave, Virginia Beach, VA 23451

Hop on board this steady moving boat as it heads out into the open seas in search of dolphins. Babies on up to grandma are welcome on board. You will find plenty to gaze at as you cruise past the Virginia Beach pier and see the city from a different perspective as you leave the crowds behind.

The dolphins may or may not put on a good show, but you are guaranteed to see a little fin.

Whale watching in Virginia Beach, VA is also a really big deal. Some winters are better than others, but this annual whale migration is worth keeping an eye on. Lucky for you, winter is low season in VA Beach, so you can easily grab a hotel room or Airbnb at the last minute to see the whales.

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Address: 4005 Sandpiper Rd, Virginia Beach, VA 23456

South of Virginia Beach and just past Sandbridge Beach, you will find Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. In winter months, you can see thousands of tundra swans and a large variety of ducks and other waterfowl visit this refuge during the their winter migration. The Back Bay Refuge is an important part of the Atlantic Flyway, for migratory birds. Guests can access about 8 miles of scenic trails, a Visitor Center, interpretive programming and group educational opportunities (advance notice required). 

False Cape State Park

  • Address: 4001 Sandpiper Rd, Virginia Beach, VA 23456

While you are at the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, you can also wander around False Cape State Park. This stretch of land can not be accessed by car, only kayak and bike. If you do drive, you can park at the refuge and walk or park at Little Island City Park. The park offers guided kayak trips, primitive camping, interpretive programs, hiking and biking trails, and 6 miles of pristine Atlantic Ocean beach.

Things to do in Virginia Beach- Cape Henry Lighthouse

Cape Henry Lighthouse

  • Address: 583 Atlantic Ave, Fort Story, VA 23459

Surrounded by a military base, but accessible to the public, Cape Henry Lighthouse marks the southern entrance to Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. You must bring a government-issued I.D. in order to pass through the military base gates. General admission to the Cape Henry lighthouse includes access to the lighthouse’s visitor plaza at the base of the tower. 

Parental warning: All climbers must be at least 42″ tall. Parents are not permitted to carry their children up to the top. Pan accordingly, and maybe skip the lighthouse if you have babies and toddlers who can’t go to the top yet.

Things to do in Virginia Beach

First Landing State Park

  • Address: 2500 Shore Dr, Virginia Beach, VA 23451

Discover where English colonists first landed in 1607. Guests can access 20 miles of trails and 1.5 miles of Chesapeake Bay beach that is perfect for exploring with or without kids. One of the most unique aspects of this park you don’t want to miss are the bald cypress swamps, lagoons and maritime forest, home to rare plants and wildlife. You can learn more about the area in the Chesapeake Bay Center, where there are educational exhibits, very close to the parking lot.

Note: While not technically inside the military base, you may hear activity and training while exploring this Virginia state park.

Things to do in Virginia Beach Boardwalk

Virginia Beach Boardwalk

Walk, jog, bike or scooter along the Virginia Beach boardwalk. You will see people doing it all day, everyday. Morning jogs along the beach, or sipping a mimosa at one of the beachfront hotel restaurants is pretty normal in the summer.

You can also say hello to the King Neptune statue at 31st Street. At night, catch a free live show at the annual summer concert event with bands like Toad the Wet Sprocket or Gin Blossoms, showing up for you to sing along with. Summers also see volleyball and a giant inflatable slide just off the boardwalk for kids to zoom down.

The best thing to do on the VA Beach Boardwalk is the people watching though. Claim your spot on any number of the boardwalk benches and just watch the world go by. We love to grab a frozen custard and sit for a bit as the sun begins to set. It’s a great way to chill out after a long day on the beach.

Love beach weekends? Check out our things to do in Rehoboth Beach, DE

Virginia Aquarium - Virginia Beach
Back when my boys couldn’t help me pedal

Cheries Bike & Blade Rental

  • Address: 24th Street &, Boardwalk, Virginia Beach, VA 23451

You can’t miss the surreys and bikes zipping down the boardwalk of Virginia Beach. Parental warning: it is not easy to pedal a surrey with kids, especially if you are the only adult. Give it a test before you commit. Maybe opt for a bike instead.

Pedaling a surrey by myself with two kids in front was next to impossible. Or maybe I am just in horrible shape.

Things to do in Virginia Beach

King Neptune statue

  • Address: 31st street and the boardwalk.

This iconic statue is the perfect backdrop for that family photo you’ve been trying to get all year. Even if your kids can’t stand still for a photo, have them poke around the statue (no climbing please!) to see what sea creatures they can find and how many baby octopuses are hanging around.

Things to do in Virginia Beach

Sunrise at the Fishing Pier

  • Address: 1413 Atlantic Ave, Virginia Beach, VA 23451

If you can get yourself up early enough, watching the sunrise at the Virginia Beach fishing pier is worth the wake up call. At least half the photos of the beach are taken at the VA Beach Fishing pier. Getting that photograph of the sun between the wooden support pillars is a moment you will never forget.

Virginia Beach Virginia

ViBe Creative District

When the sun goes down and you aren’t sure what to do in Virginia Beach, especially during the off season, ViBE Creative District is the place to be. You will find local artists’ galleries, and cute shops like North End Bag Co., where you can pick up handmade canvas bags that are coveted by every fashionista in the area and for good reason.

The colors and durability of these bags can’t be beat. And yes, I bought one.

The ViBe is also home to some of the best restaurants in Virginia Beach, as well as Three Ships Coffee, our favorite spot to caffeinated when in town.

Military Aviation Museum

  • Address: 1341 Princess Anne Rd, Virginia Beach, VA 23457

World War I and World War II history lesson at the beach? Why not! This museum is a gem that not enough people know about. If you have kids like mine who will only go to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum back home in Washington, D.C., then the Military Aviation Museum is a blessed relief.

The docents are all military veterans who have a passion for planes and military history like no other museum curators I’ve ever met. They will sit for hours talking to you about each plane, and love it when kids ask questions.

And oh boy, did my kids come up with some entertaining questions… and comments about those planes.

Love military history? Make a trip to Norfolk, VA to see the USS Wisconsin.

Things to do in Virginia Beach- MOCA
credit Virginia Museum Of Contemporary Art

Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art

  • Address: 2200 Parks Ave, Virginia Beach, VA 23451

The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, lovingly referred to as MOCA, features changing exhibits that highlight 20th and 21st century paintings, sculpture, photography, glass, video and other visual media from internationally acclaimed artists, along with national and regional artists. Most artists exhibited are still living, with a few exception for those artists who created radical pieces in their time, and those who shone a different light on a subject not often seen.

There are several interactive areas where visitors can engage in hands-on activity. After all, art is wonderful to look at, but you understand it even more when you are able to interact, interpret or create your own in some way.

Virginia Beach Virginia

Berry Picking at Cullipher Farms

Address: 1444 Princess Anne Rd, Virginia Beach, VA 23456

Yes, you can pick berries at the beach. Well, OK, not on the beach, but about 20 minutes from the boardwalk is Cullipher Farms, where you can pick strawberries in the spring and blueberries in the summer.

Grab a wagon at the entrance and a few buckets. Pack your camera, because you don’t want to miss pictures of your kids covered in those juicy red berries. Don’t panic when there ends up being more red on their faces and white shirts than in your basket. You are making memories, folks.

Things to do in Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach Events

Virginia Beach events are worth planning your vacation around, especially when food, music and art comes together. Here is just a sampling of the annual events you can take part in throughout the year.

  • Restaurant Week: JANUARY
  • East Coast She-Crab Soup Classic: APRIL
  • Something in the Water: APRIL
  • Atlantic Coast Kite Festival: MAY
  • Virginia International PAN Fest: MAY
  • Beach Music Cruise-In: MAY
  • Salute to Summer: MAY
  • Live! On Atlantic: Beach Street USA: SUMMER
  • Latin Fest: JUNE
  • Sandstock – A Tribute to Rock & Roll: JUNE
  • Stars & Stripes Explosion: JULY 4th
  • Chalk the Walk ARTsplosion: JULY
  • Neptune Festivale Boardwalk Weekend: SEPTEMBER
  • Chartway Federal Credit Union American Music Festival: OCTOBER
  • BayPort Credit Union Holiday Lights at the Beach: NOVEMBER
  • Holiday Parade at the Beach: DECEMBER

Neptune Festival Boardwalk Weekend

  • Dates: Last weekend in September
  • Location: across Virginia Beach

By far the largest event put on by the Neptune Festival (a non-profit), the Neptune Festival Boardwalk weekend brings in thousands of visitors each year. The purpose of the event is to promote a “spirit of community pride, fellowship, camaraderie and cohesiveness for the diverse elements of the Virginia Beach citizenry.”

There are more than 40 event, which include sporting activities such as golf, volleyball, tennis, an 8K run and surfing competition. An art and craft show featuring up to 300 exhibitors takes place as well.

The Boardwalk Weekend also includes the International Sandsculpting Championship, the Grand Parade that includes the Royal Court (includes the elected King Neptune, Tritons and Princesses), and three stages of entertainment.

Before the festival, you can enjoy the Wine Festival, Senior Citizens activities, the End of Summer Bay Bash, and many other events throughout Virginia Beach.

Something in the Water

Pharrell Williams, a Virginia Beach native, launched Something in the Water back in 2019, and it continues to thrive. Pharrell brings together musicians from across the globe, along with the brightest minds from the culinary world, technology, environmental sustainability, health & wellness and media. Plus, there is a pop-up church service. Keep an eye on this spring event, as it is always expanding.

Live! On Atlantic: Beach Street USA

  • Dates: Summer
  • Location: throughout the city along Atlantic Avenue

Atlantic Avenue comes alive as the sun begins to set. Street performers, not out for your spare change, set up shop to show off their skills.

Park yourself in front of break dancers, a jazz quartet or head to one of the many concert venues where if you are lucky, you will see bands like Toad the Wet Sprocket, or a great cover band to dance along with all night.

Check dates and times to confirm concert schedule.

Virginia Beach Restaurants

Virginia Beach Restaurants

  • Khor Brother’s Frozen Yogurt2204 Atlantic Ave, Virginia Beach, VA 23451 (plus 3 other locations). This cool frozen treat is very much like soft serve ice cream, but instead of just chocolate and vanilla, they have peanut butter, mint, strawberry and more. Try one, or two swirled together. Don’t forget to ask for chocolate jimmies on top!
  • Waterman’s Surfside Grill415 Atlantic Ave, Virginia Beach, VA 23451. The beach views are the main draw of this spot. Most of the menu is so-so along with the service, but the flounder tacos are worth the trip. Finish off with a slice of key lime pie and you will be good to go.
  • The Beach Bully BBQ601 19th St, Virginia Beach, VA 23451. Saunter up to this counter joint to order some decent BBQ with a side of vinegary coleslaw. High chairs and outdoor seating are available, or you can cool off inside when the sun heats up the town.
  • Chesapeake Bay Distillery, 437 Virginia Beach Blvd, Virginia Beach, VA 23451. Go in for a tasting of their craft vodkas & rums, plus mixed drinks & shooters. Don’t forget to buy a few bottles to take home.
  • Three Ships Coffee607 19th St, Virginia Beach, VA 23451. best coffee I’ve found in the state so far, with fresh ground beans, and well balanced flavored lattes. There is also a take out window on the side, with plenty of picnic tables to sit at and relax.
  • The Stockpot, 700 19th St #106, Virginia Beach, VA 2345. Pop in for homemade soups, broths & smoothies, plus patio seating
  • Commune, 501 Virginia Beach Blvd suite b, Virginia Beach, VA 23451. A perfect for brunch spot, but the the wait can be brutal. Dig into breakfast sandwiches, crepes and Hickory Bacon French toast.
  • Esoteric, 501 Virginia Beach Blvd Suite A, Virginia Beach, VA 23451. Grab a table inside or on the patio to enjoy high-end, farm-to-table entree options plus local beers on tap and delectable cocktails.
  • Bay Local Eatery, 2917 Shore Dr, Virginia Beach, VA 23451. Don’t be fooled by the stripmall parking lot. Bay Local makes fabulous French toast, omelets and chocolate chip pancakes for the kids.
Igor’s Custom: a quirky shop in ViBE next to North End Bag Co. and Three Ships Coffee

Plan Your Trip to Virginia Beach, VA with our weeend itineraries

2-DAY ITINERARY

DAY 1

  • Arrive in Virginia Beach
  • Rent bikes to cruise along the beach and get the lay of the land
  • Discover the many sea creatures surrounding the King Neptune Statue at 31st Street
  • Take a dip in the ocean
  • Dinner at PI-ZZERIA

DAY 2

  • Grab an early breakfast at your hotel or local restaurant
  • Head to the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
  • Lunch back in town
  • Swim a few laps in your hotel’s pool and unwind
  • Enjoy a Dolphin Watching Boat Trip with the Virginia Aquarium on the Rudee Flipper
  • Devour a basket of ribs at Beach Bully BBQ
  • Check out the local entertainment along Atlantic Avenue
  • Top off the evening with frozen custard
Things to do in Virginia Beach
North End Bag Company: try not to buy everything in the shop!

3-Day Itinerary

Virginia Beach is a family favorite for many who grew up on the East Coast of the U.S. The sand is smooth under your toes, the waves are great for boogie boarding, you can watch dolphins swim as you sip your morning coffee and there are plenty of things to do with your kids. There is so much that you may not know where to start. Check out our family-friendly itinerary below for ideas on how to start planning your own trip down to Virginia Beach, VA.

Day 1: Sand, surf and bikes

  • Arrive in Virginia Beach
  • Rent bikes to cruise along the beach and get the lay of the land
  • Discover the many sea creatures surrounding the King Neptune Statue at 31st Street
  • Take a dip in the ocean
  • Dinner at PI-ZZERIA

Day 2: Aquarium, dolphins and art

  • Grab an early breakfast at your hotel or local restaurant
  • Head to the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
  • Lunch back in town
  • Swim a few laps in your hotel’s pool and unwind
  • Enjoy a Dolphin Watching Boat Trip with the Virginia Aquarium on the Rudee Flipper
  • Devour a basket of ribs at Beach Bully BBQ
  • Check out the local entertainment along Atlantic Avenue
  • Top off the evening with frozen custard

Day 3: Head Home

  • Breakfast at your hotel or local restaurant
  • Depart Virginia Beach in the morning
Virginia Beach Virginia
Virginia Beach sunrises are worth waking up for

Best Hotels in Virginia Beach VA

Looking for a Virginia Beach hotel? Check out a few of our favorites!

Looking for more? Search for a great deal on Booking.com!

Virginia Beach Airbnbs

Reserve Our Favorite Virginia Beach Airbnbs

Looking for a rental instead? Check out a few of our favorite oceanfront Virginia Beach Airbnb options:

Need more? Search for a great deal on the Airbnb map below.

Virginia Beach Tips

Virginia Beach is a big family destination, but it also has its fair share of bars on the main strip. The city doesn’t get loud until the sun goes down, so you can avoid exposing your kids to drunken behavior pretty easily.

Walk down the boardwalk if you want to avoid the bar hoppers after dark altogether. People are still out after the sun goes down, but you won’t have to deal with the bars and clubs.

Getting there

  • By Air: The nearest airport is in Norfolk, VA (airport code: ORF) about 20 miles away from Virginia Beach.
  • By Car: Driving to Virginia Beach is easy from I-95 (major highway that runs down the east coast). Traffic may slow you down after you turn off and start heading towards the ocean, so keep an eye on traffic reports and try to avoid driving in and out of town on the weekends when the vacation renters enter and exit the city.

PIN IT! And Start Planning Your Trip

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