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Virginia Beach Travel Tips: How To Explore Beyond The Sand

By Michele Herrmann

Looking for Virginia Beach travel tips that take you beyond the sand? Get ready for an entire guide showcasing lesser-known experiences. Situated along the southern tip of Chesapeake Bay and meeting the Atlantic Ocean, Virginia Beach makes for a nice sand and surf vacation. However, this coastal city is more than beaches. It has seven distinct districts, a growing arts scene and restaurants showcasing a farm-to-fork focus. Plus it’s gotten a big push through Something In The Water, a music festival created by Virginia Beach native Pharrell Williams that made its debut in April 2019. Ready to explore the best of Virginia Beach beyond the actual beach? Keep reading.

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Top Things to do in Virginia Beach Beyond the Sand

Where To Stay In Virginia Beach: The Cavalier, an Autograph Collection Hotel

Along with being a foodie destination — as you’ll learn below — this opulent Virginia Beach hotel dating back to 1927 has hosted 10 presidents and is full of history. Not only that, but its location perched on Virginia Beach’s highest hills means impressive views. Enjoy their onsite bourbon distillery, three delicious restaurants, sumptuous spa, relaxing pool, and private beach access. If you’re planning a trip to Virginia, you won’t be disappointed with this property! ultimate travel planning kit

Virginia Beach Travel Tips & Tourism Guide

1. Feast On The Farms Of Pungo

A rural farming community within the southern part of Virginia Beach, Pungo gives a small taste of country living. And you can eat what is grown from here, too. A favorite in Pungo is The Bee & The Biscuit, a charming breakfast and lunch spot inside a circa 1919 cottage with an emphasis on Southern cuisine. Warning: The biscuits here are big. Really big. Daily flavors are paired nicely with homemade preserves and local honey butter, or enjoy a bunch in what’s called the Bee Biscuit Basket.
The Bee & The Biscuit

Virginia Beach’s The Bee & The Biscuit shakes up this classic Southern dish. Photo by Michele Herrmann

Menu choices can go from hearty to healthy. For example, there’s a selection of eggs benedicts and omelets — try the Bay Crab Benedict, with poached eggs on herbed lump crabmeat — as well as a grains section featuring their popular A+ Acai Bowl. Or you can choose to go hearty with entrees like the Big Farm Truck or Papa Joe’s Breakfast Tostada. [socialpug_tweet tweet=”One reason to visit #VirginiaBeach: The food. Check out these delicious options, from giant biscuits to fresh seafood and beyond! #VirginiaIsForLovers” display_tweet=”One reason to visit #VirginiaBeach: The food. Check out these delicious options, from giant biscuits to fresh seafood and beyond! #VirginiaIsForLovers”] Once full, explore local farm country to get to know your meal’s ingredients. You’ll find 16 pick-your-own places in Pungo. Recommendation: In Pungo Ridge, which is just slightly more elevated than Pungo, the multi-generational-owned Cullipher Farm has “u-pick” opportunities at its patch. You can also visit their market to pick up ready-to-go produce.
Creative ViBe District Virginia Beach

Take a tour of the over 50 public art murals within Virginia Beach’s Creative ViBe District. / Photo by Michele Herrmann

2. Get Good Vibes From The ViBe Creative District In Virginia Beach

Along with being Virginia Beach’s source for street art, the ViBe Creative District is an inspiring hub for all types – from artists to small business owners. This Virginia Beach district near the ocean was founded by residents and entrepreneurs who wanted to see the city’s Old Beach District become revitalized. Their efforts still flourish. [socialpug_tweet tweet=”The artsy ViBe Creative District in #VirginiaBeach is worth the trip in itself! #VirginiaIsForLovers” display_tweet=”The artsy ViBe Creative District in #VirginiaBeach is worth the trip in itself! #VirginiaIsForLovers”] First Fridays is an ongoing series of Friday night happenings, where businesses host pop-up events and artist presentations. See art for yourself by following along a self-guided, one-mile walking route of more than 50 public art murals just as colorful and different as what’s found in the district. Artist galleries and design studios are located here, as well. There is also the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), which holds rotating exhibits regularly, with works by Virginian, national and international artists.
Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art

Referred to as MOCA, the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art rotates exhibits regularly. Photo by Michele Herrmann

Other creative endeavors extend to cuisine: The Old Beach Farmers’ Market happens on Saturdays throughout the year in the parking lot of Croc’s 19th Street Bistro. Commune, a farmer-owned restaurant serving lunch and dinner, sources their produce directly from their New Earth Farm in Pungo and their backyard garden at their Creative ViBe District location. Along with roasting and pouring single-origin and blended coffees, Three Ships Coffee prepares biscuit sandwich combos, handpies stuffed with cheese or other yummy fillings, and open-face toasts. The coffee shop shares location space within a strip of stops called The Alley. ultimate travel planning kit Its neighbors include North End Bag Company, which produces handmade canvas bags and leather goods using vintage sewing machines, and Igor’s Custom, a hand-painted sign and banner service creating nostalgic signage reminiscent of another era of advertising. For shopping in Virginia Beach, 17th Street Marketplace is a fun boutique store carrying local artisan products and refurbished furniture. Many items have nautical themes.
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge Virginia Beach

Explore Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia Beach by foot or on wheels. Photo by Michele Herrmann

3. Explore Outdoor Activities In Virginia Beach

Sure, this resort city is home to many beaches, as well as the three-mile oceanfront Virginia Beach Boardwalk. And it also holds the current Guinness World Record as the world’s longest stretch of pleasure beach — with 35 miles of beach. The truth, though, is Virginia Beach’s outdoorsy scene is versatile. Here is where to start: At Cape Henry, on the north end of Virginia Beach and at Fort Story at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, Cape Henry Lighthouse was the first U.S. federally-funded works program commissioned by President George Washington. In 1881, a newer black and white-striped lighthouse was constructed near the original one, but the first one has been preserved. You can go inside the elder lighthouse and walk up to its observation platform.
Cape Henry Lighthouse Virginia Beach

See two versions of Virginia Beach’s Cape Henry Lighthouse; this black and white striped one was built in 1881. Photo by Michele Herrmann

Additionally, the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a protected freshwater sanctuary for water birds and aquatic vegetation that extends to a strip of barrier island coastline and various habitats. See more of the refuge onboard the seasonal Blue Goose Wildlife Tram, or on two wheels via biking excursions with Surf & Adventure. Their guides can take you up as far as neighboring False Cape State Park. [socialpug_tweet tweet=”Beaches aren’t the only option for getting outside in #VirginiaBeach! Check out these other incredible outdoor attractions! #VirginiaIsForLovers ” display_tweet=”Beaches aren’t the only option for getting outside in #VirginiaBeach! Check out these other incredible outdoor attractions! #VirginiaIsForLovers “] North of the refuge, Little Island Park in Sandbridge Beach has a fishing pier, while First Landing State Park marks the spot where the English colonists made their arrival before moving on to where they would establish Jamestown. At the park, find just over a mile of beachfront and interpretive trails winding along all kinds of ecology, from salt and tidal marsh to dunes and cypress swamp. If you’re seeking relaxing beach time, head along Chesapeake Bay Beach, noted for its laidback vibe and gentle waves. Neptune Park along the waterfront is where the city’s well-photographed King Neptune statue stands along Atlantic Avenue. Pro tip: Extend your stay in the state and up the adventure by booking an Eastern Shore getaway, which you can reach in less than an hour-and-a-half by car.
Atlantic on Pacific Virginia Beach

Atlantic on Pacific in Virginia Beach serves up seafood from both coasts. Photo by Michele Herrmann

4. Order Some Of The Best Seafood In Virginia Beach

You can’t explore Virginia Beach tourism without trying the seafood. Luckily, many seafood restaurants in Virginia Beach focus on what can be fished in the local waters — though don’t worry if you can’t have the daily catch, as most have a wide selection of land fare, too. The Atlantic on Pacific, a raw bar and cocktail venue, brings East Coast and West Coast seafood to one setting while also supporting local and regional fishermen, crabbers, oystermen, farmers and producers. Start off with their Roasted Virginia Asparagus, an appetizer adorned with a brown butter hollandaise, almonds, blue crab, and pickled ramps. Another recommendation: Originally a small country store and tackle shop in Virginia Beach’s Sandbridge community, Margie & Ray’s Crab House & Raw Bar is a local gathering spot with daily seafood specials. The family-owned business serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with everything from crab legs to clam strips — or for more carnivores, pork chops, and meatloaf — to order. On your way out, pick up a t-shirt from the souvenir shop to commemorate your visit.
A.R.E. Headquarters Virginia Beach

Walk the stone labyrinth at the Edgar Cayce’s A.R.E. headquarters campus in Virginia Beach.

5. Become Acquainted With Edgar Cayce

Edgar Cayce was a 20th-century clairvoyant who would give public readings while he was in a sleep-like state. Cayce is also tied to Virginia Beach, in that he settled and built a hospital here in the late 1920s. Today, this campus is the headquarters for Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.), which is open to the public. Its visitor center houses a gift shop and bookstore stocked with candles, crystals, self-improvement titles, and jewelry. Outside, do some personal reflection along a stone labyrinth in front of the A.R.E. Health Center and Spa or within a meditation garden.
The Cavalier, an Autograph Collection Virginia Beach

Lounge over cocktails in the Raleigh Room at The Cavalier, an Autograph Collection. Photo by Michele Herrmann

6. Feel Fancy At Virginia Beach’s Upscale Restaurants

Virginia Beach has fine dining options for those who like to order classic or creative dishes. Overseen by James Beard House acclaimed Chef Rodney Einhorn, Terrapin is all about contemporary regional cuisine that not only applies farm-fresh ingredients to their dishes but also some experimentation. While the menu changes at times, look for their meant-to-be-shared (though you suddenly might change your mind) Truffle Mac & Cheese and various homemade pastas. [socialpug_tweet tweet=”My. Mouth. Is. Watering! If you love exploring food while traveling, #VirginiaBeach should be on your list! #VirginiaIsForLovers ” display_tweet=”My. Mouth. Is. Watering! If you love exploring food while traveling, #VirginiaBeach should be on your list! #VirginiaIsForLovers “] The 1920s-era The Cavalier, an Autograph Collection Hotel is also a foodie destination in Virginia Beach. This was a major summer resort for the A-listers of the day. In fact, guests included 10 U.S. Presidents along with Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, and Frank Sinatra. These days, the majorly renovated property is also the location for the Tarnished Truth Distilling Company, where guests can sip on their spirits at their tasting room and rustic tavern known as The Hunt Room. Other options within the property: Order coffee or tea by day or cocktails by evening within the Raleigh Room lounge, or dine inside Becca, a garden-to-table restaurant with indoor and outdoor settings to match. ultimate travel planning kit

Do you have any Virginia Beach travel tips beyond the sand to add?

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The Best Things to do in Virginia Beach Beyond the Beach

About mherrmann

Michele Herrmann is a travel and lifestyle writer and editor who is based in New York. She contributes destination features and articles on travel trends and culinary finds to Fodor’s, Frommers, Budget Travel, Zagat Stories, Forbes, Smithsonian Magazine, and more. Additionally, Michelle provides editorial and marketing content to national and international media outlets and B2B and B2C companies. She previously led Twitter chats for Fareportal's OneTravel and CheapOAir, wrote blog posts for HomeExchange.com, managed article submissions for Pink Pangea, and contributed articles to amNewYork, Yahoo Travel, Time Out New York, TravelPulse, Travelzoo, RoamRight, and ShermansTravel.

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2 Comments

  1. Alex S. on at 7:29 am

    Great read and spots to visit in Virginia Beach! I am from Virginia Beach, the longest beach in the US! Stand up paddle boarding is big now. Chesapean Outdoors offers a stand up paddleboard dolphin tour! How cool is that?!

  2. Wayne W Walls on at 6:44 pm

    I had never heard of Virginia Beach before reading this post, but it has officially made my list of places I want to travel to! You’ve really sold me on it! It seems like a great place to vacation! Thanks so much for sharing!

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