What to See and Do at Virginia Beach

Old and New Cape Henry Lighthouses in Virginia Beach
ShoreTie / Getty Images

Virginia Beach is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Virginia with nearly 450,000 residents. With a total of 14 miles of beach that are free and open to the public, the resort area attracts visitors to enjoy its white sandy beaches, oceanfront hotels and restaurants, historic landmarks and family-friendly attractions. Virginia Beach offers a wide variety of recreational activities including hiking, kayaking, biking, fishing, golf, and whale- and dolphin-watching. The region makes a great vacation destination for families, couples, and outdoor enthusiasts.

Getting There

Virginia Beach is the easiest beach resort in the region to get to by using public transportation. Amtrak provides train service to Newport News with continued bus service to Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Greyhound and Trailways Bus Lines also operate in the area.

Driving from Washington DC: (approximately 4 hours) Take I-95 South towards Richmond. Take I-295 South toward Rocky Mt, NC. Merge onto I-64 East toward Norfolk/VA Beach. Take I-264 East toward VA Beach. Follow signs to the resort area.

Reasons to Visit

  1. The region has many things to do beyond the beach. There are parks, museums, and cultural activities that are available year-round. With two state parks and a national wildlife refuge, you can enjoy nature and plenty of outdoor recreation. (See more information below)
  2. A wide range of accommodations is available including affordable hotel rooms and campgrounds, condominiums, and a variety of rental properties. Stay in the Resort Area if you want to be in the center of activity. For a quieter retreat, rent a house in Sandbridge or go camping at First Landing State Park.
  3. The area offers excellent restaurants featuring fresh seafood from the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay and fresh produce grown and harvested by local farmers. Read more about Virginia foods.
  4. You can bicycle on the boardwalk. Other beach resorts have restricted hours for biking. Virginia Beach has a separate, dedicated bike trail available all of the time. You can also rent a surrey (a 4 wheel, 4 person bicycle with a fringe on top).
  5. With the area’s close proximity to Colonial Williamsburg (an hour’s drive), you can easily take a day trip to visit one of Virginia’s most famous historical attractions.

Exploring Virginia Beaches

The Resort Area is the lively area along the beachfront and boardwalk that features live music, street performers, outdoor cafes, a bustling boardwalk and beautiful, sandy beaches. The 3-mile boardwalk extends from Rudee Inlet at 1st Street to 40th Street.

Sandbridge is a relaxing beach community, located 15 miles south of the Resort Area, with rental homes and the open waters of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park.

The Chesapeake Bay Area (Chick’s Beach) provides a tranquil atmosphere along the beach. Visit the original Cape Henry Lighthouse or First Landing State Park.

Major Attractions

  • Virginia Aquarium - Virginia’s largest aquarium and one of the most visited in the nation showcases the state’s various aquatic and marine environments throughout time and features more than 800,000 gallons of aquariums and live animal habitats, as well as an IMAX® 3D Theater. With more than 300 hands-on exhibits, visitors experience the wonders of harbor seals, river otters, sea turtles, sharks, an aviary and more.
  • Ocean Breeze Waterpark - The 19-acre water park is a Caribbean-themed family destination boasting 16 water slides and water features, a million-gallon wave pool, a children’s area, and a lazy river.
  • Cape Henry Lighthouses - Located on the Fort Story military base, the original Cape Henry Lighthouse is open to the public. Across the road, you’ll find the new Cape Henry Lighthouse. Built in 1881, it’s the tallest iron-encased lighthouse in the country and is still operated by the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • First Landing State Park - The park contains 2,700 acres of protected salt marsh habitat, bay and dune maritime forests and freshwater ponds. A registered Natural Landmark, it fronts the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge - Located at the southern end of Virginia Beach, the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge contains more than 9,000 acres of barrier islands, dunes, freshwater marshes, maritime forests, ponds and ocean beaches that provide a protective habitat for a variety of wildlife including migrating waterfowl and endangered species. Visitors can hike and bike along the scenic trails and participate in educational programs. Sharing a border is the 4,321-acre False Cape State Park, featuring six miles of unspoiled beaches in an ocean-to-freshwater bay habitat.
  • The Old Coast Guard Station - Housed in a 1903 former U.S. Life Saving Station, this oceanfront museum features rescue equipment used by turn-of-the-century surf men to save shipwrecked crews from a watery grave. Learn about shipwrecks that occurred off the Virginia Beach coast and the history of lifesaving service from World War II to the present.
  • Military Aviation Museum - The museum houses one of the largest private collections of vintage military airplanes in the world. Almost every airplane in the collection has been restored to mint condition and is capable of flight.
  • Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum - The museum displays art and artifacts documenting migratory wildfowl that pass through Eastern Virginia. Enjoy on-site wood-carving demonstrations, decoys dating from historic times to present day and a collection of exhibits covering the history of Virginia Beach.
  • Sandler Center for the Performing Arts - The 1,300-seat performance venue hosts regional and national artists in dance, music, and theater. The state-of-the-art facility offers cultural performances, art exhibits, and educational programs.
  • Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art - The museum highlights contemporary art through regularly scheduled changing exhibits, studio art classes, and special events. Exhibitions include painting, sculpture, photography, glass, video and other visual media from internationally acclaimed artists as well as artists of national and regional renown.
Was this page helpful?