You might know that Virginia Beach is the state’s most popular beach. But did you know it’s also the state’s largest city? Even with only 48 hours in Virginia Beach, you can pile up great memories, perfect a tan, and dine on delicious seafood at this watersports resort. Our suggestions include the best happy hours, oceanfront dining, entertainment venues, kayak and paddleboard spots. We’ve also thrown in a few secret ways to avoid the crowds.
Give the traffic a miss by getting off the interstate and coming into Virginia Beach on US 60, running along the north shore of the peninsula. Just past the Lesner Bridge, take a right on Vista Circle to discover several seafood restaurants overlooking scenic Lynnhaven Inlet. A dozen James River oysters on the half shell at Chick’s Oyster Bar will revive you after your trip.
A bit farther along US 60 brings you to the main beach area; Atlantic Avenue runs south and Pacific Avenue runs northbound on a parallel path. Beachfront hotels and condos are your best bet, especially for a short stay, so you can be near the boardwalk action. The deluxe 21-story Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront, with award-winning restaurants, a rooftop lounge and infinity pool, anchors the northern end of the strand. Near the southern end, the Ramada Virginia Beach Oceanfront houses one of VB’s top restaurants, Mahi Mah’s, famous with locals for happy hours, sushi bar and daily specials.
For an evening of (free) entertainment, simply step outside your hotel and into Beach Street USA, a nightly party with live music, street performers and family entertainment. It takes place at several spots along the Boardwalk and Atlantic Avenue nightly during the summer. Fireworks top off the celebration several nights a week. During other seasons, look for weekend festivals, and, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, the annual Holiday Lights at the Beach display.
Score a patio table next to the fire pits at Catch 31, in the Hilton Oceanfront, for oysters on the half-shell, Old Bay shrimp, steaks and seafood cooked on the hickory wood-fired grill. Live entertainment happens under the benevolent gaze of the 34-foot bronze statue of King Neptune.
For a morning (or early afternoon) meal, head over to Doc Taylor’s, a sunny breakfast-and-lunch place housed in an old cottage. Breakfast plates (most under $10) have fun names like the Nurse Ratchett Omelet and the Heart Attack, referencing the building’s previous life as a doctor’s office. Breakfast cocktails are a bargain.
Spend some time working on your tan, but if sun and sand aren’t for you, the 3-mile long Boardwalk has plenty to offer casual strollers. The Virginia Beach Surf & Rescue Museum, housed in the Old Coast Guard Station at 24th Street, extols the area’s history. Or enjoy decoys and other bird sculptures at the Atlantic Waterfowl Heritage Museum, housed in the last original oceanfront cottage.
Try standup paddleboarding or kayaking on the quiet waters of Broad Bay, an offshoot of Lynnhaven Inlet. The banks are lined with imposing residences, including one that housed a secret speakeasy and casino during Prohibition. Several outfitters offer guided tours and rentals. Or you can launch your own craft at the Narrows, part of First Landing State Park, at the west end of 64th Street.
Plan on lunch at the Lynnhaven Fish House, voted best seafood in the Tidewater numerous times by locals. Don’t miss she-crab soup, laced with sherry. Lunch is a real bargain, and the views of Chesapeake Bay, complete with Navy ships and barges passing by, is outstanding. The restaurant is situated on the Lynnhaven Fishing Pier, perfect for casting a line or strolling after your meal.
Take a breather at the Association for Research & Enlightenment (A.R.E), founded by Edgar Casey, known as the “sleeping prophet.” The institute’s health center offers treatments based on his teachings, as well as free tours, classes, a library and bookstore. Adjacent to the parking lot is a labyrinth (based on the one at Chartres Cathedral in France) and a peaceful meditation garden. Both are free and open to the public.
For great sunset views, head for Rudee’s Inlet at the far southern end of the Boardwalk area, just before the high-rise bridge. Recommended restaurants include the Tiki-tinged Big Sam’s Raw Bar and lighthouse look-alike Rudee’s, with drink specials and plenty of aloha. The fishing fleet docks here, and you also can sign up for parasailing or rent jet skis here too.
For an oceanfront dinner, head over to Waterman’s Surfside Grill, a family owned spot that began as a burger shack back in 1981. It’s known for an Angus patty topped with backfin crabmeat. It also makes the best Orange Crush on the beach. For a more romantic and upscale experience, seek out Italian specialties (and the extensive wine list) at the Isle of Capri, hidden away high above the waves, on the 6th floor of the Holiday Inn & Suites North Beach.
For live music, the beachfront has two excellent options. Abbey Road, a landmark on 22nd Street since 1982, offers music most nights, plus 80 kinds of beer, a late night menu, free wifi and tons of fun Fab Four memorabilia. Nearby at 30th Street, Murphy’s Pub serves Irish specialties and acoustic music until late. There’s no cover at either spot.
Take a dawn walk along the beach to watch the excellent grooming operation mounted daily by the city. Leave town via the southern route over the high-rise bridge to head to the Virginia Beach Farmers Market. It’s got far more than the usual collection of booths. The VB market has lots of shops open daily year-round, including a bakery, dairy, organic grocery and more, all featuring the huge variety of agricultural products from local farms. Get immediate gratification at the Princess Anne County Grill, serving farm-to-table breakfast and lunch daily year-round.