The high-rise condos and the ocean take turns chewing up the scenery in Virginia Beach. Because it's all about the beach here, and both locals and tourists want to get as close to it as possible. However, there are plenty of things to do in between swimming, too. And plenty of Virginia Beach vacation deals to be had - if you know where to look.
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With Jamestown close by, you know one of your Virginia Beach souvenirs is going to be "knowledge." There's just as much history to soak up as sun. Sprinkle in some kid-friendly fun, and you've got an extremely well-balanced vacation on your hands. Here are the best and cheapest "must sees" and "must dos":
For Outdoor Lovers
- Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, 4005 Sandpiper Rd — Hike through sand dunes, marshes, and woodlands, and spot birds ranging from Canada geese to bald eagles, along the way.
- Virginia Beach Boardwalk — There's no bustling downtown scene here. It's all about the ocean, which means it's all about the Boardwalk. Go for a 3-mile stroll, watching the roller bladers skate by, and the dolphins swim by. Bikers can easily make their way down the Boardwalk, too, thanks to the extra pathway for bikers.
- First Landing State Park, 2500 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach — If you're feeling more like watching birds than people, try First Landing State Park. Far from the crowds, you'll feel like you're on your own private beach here.
For History Lovers
- First Landing Cross, New Guinea Rd — Move over Plymouth Rock. In the early 1600s, the first batch of English settlers landed on the Cape Henry shore and planted a cross there, in gratitude. You can still see this centuries-old cross today.
- Cape Henry Lighthouse, 583 Atlantic Ave, Fort Story — A little north of Virginia Beach on the Chesapeake Bay, stands an 18th century lighthouse authorized by none other than George Washington. For $5, you can make your way up to the very top, but be careful - in the summertime, temperatures can climb to 100 degrees up there.
- Old Coast Guard Station, 2401 Atlantic Ave — For just $4, get to know Virginia's martime history. The 1903 Life-Saving Station, where you'll find thousands of artifacts and photos, is an attraction all by itself.
- Lynnhaven House, 4409 Wishart Rd — This beautiful 18th century home of Francis Thelaball and family is now a beautiful museum.
- Adam Thoroughgood House, 1636 Parish Rd — One of Virginia's very first colonists, Adam Thoroughgood, lived here in the 1700s. The house-turned-museum was built by the Thoroughgood family and features a stunning staircase. On a tour, you'll also see photos of how the home evolved over time.
- Military Aviation Museum, 1341 Princess Anne Road, Virginia Beach — If you love planes, or you've got little ones who do, check out the aviation museum over by the local airport. Most the air crafts here are in flying condition, so don't be surprised to catch an air show during your visit.
For Museum Lovers
- Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, 2200 Parks Ave — $7.70 gets you access to great modern works of art, via exhibits that are always changing, and always fresh, making this gallery always worth a visit.
- Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, 717 General Booth Boulevard, Virginia Beach — If you love the natural world but want to see it a bit more objectively, this is a great place to do just that. The main attraction is a 300,000-gallon tank. Out of all the Virginia Beach vacation deals out there, this might be the best. For $27, you can see an iMax show, as well as the aquarium.
- Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum, 1113 Atlantic Ave — This small, but surprising museum has a huge collection of carved duck decoys, as well as other art works and historic documents dedicated to the local birds.
For the Kiddos
- Mount Trashmore Park, 310 Edwin Dr — What do you do with an abandoned landfill? Turn it into a park, of course! The 165-acre Mount Trashmore is one of the world's more creative attractions, as it's a 100% recycled, manmade effort, providing playgrounds, volleyball courts, trails, a skate park, and more.
- Jungle Golf, 302 22nd St — The 18-hole mini golf course is the highlight here, but there's also a snack bar and an indoor game room to keep your crew happy. A regular pass costs $11, but kids get in for $9.
Virginia Beach has something affordable for every appetite.
Breakfast & Coffee
- Fruitive, 1624 Laskin Road, Virginia Beach — With a wide open floor plan and a built-in library, the varied menu isn't the only thing you'll remember from this restaurant. To boot, if you have trouble eating vegetarian or vegan on vacation, this is a great way to open up your options without breaking the bank.
- Daily Grind Coffee House & Cafe, 168 Central Park Ave — Go with a classic cup of coffee, or cool off with an iced tea or smoothie.
- Sunnyside Cafe & Restaurant, 508 Atlantic Ave — While you can order a burger or sandwich here, the star of the show is the breakfast, which ranges from cereal to omelets to "large farm eggs" to belgian waffles.
Lunch & Dinner
- The Route 58 Delicatessen, 4000 Virginia Beach Boulevard, Virginia Beach — If you love NYC delis (think corned beef and pastrami), you'll love Route 58. Despite the reasonable prices, the sandwiches served here are big and delivious enough that you can save half for later.
- Burtons Grill, 741 First Colonial Road, Virginia Beach — If you feel like hitting a steak house, this is a very reasonably priced option. Choose from burgers, steaks and seafood. The best part is a meal averages in the $20-40 range, making it one of the better Virginia Beach vacation deals out there.
- Tony's Hot Dogs, 412 Newtown Rd — When it comes to hot dogs, locals will tell you it doesn't get any better than this. Be warned, though: as far as friendly service goes,Tony's Hot Dogs is not known for that.
- Bella Pizzeria, 2029 Lynnhaven Pkwy — New York-style pizza and calzones taste even better when you're visiting the beach and not New York, don't they?
- Side Street Cantina, 205 11th St — Fill up on nachos, quesadillas, fajitos, or tacos at this popular Mexican food restaurant.
- Mahi Mah's, 615 Atlantic Ave — You can't pass up fish when you're visiting the coast. So, if you only go to one seafood restaurant, this is the one to go to! Expect all the standard fare - oysterys, shrimp, freshly caught fish - as well as sandwiches, burgers, and pasta. Oh, and don't forget about the sushi! They've got that, too.
- Jakes Smokehouse BBQ, 1784 General Booth Blvd — Enjoy everything from barbecue sandwiches to smoked ribs.
Another way to save on your food budget is to cook meals in your vacation home. With a full kitchen, this is easy to do and can be a great activity for the family. You can even pick up some fresh fruits, veggies and meats at the Virginia Beach Farmers Market to prepare at home.
Staying in a Virginia Beach vacation rental home is far better than staying in a hotel because you get a lot more space and amenities for a lot less. Why cram your group into a tiny, overpriced hotel room with a microwave and ironing board, when you can sprawl out in a spacious pool home with a full kitchen and washer and dyrer?
In addition to sticking to the cheaper attractions, restaurants, and accommodations, you can save even more money with these tips:
- Rent your car near the airport so you can easily pick it up and return it without burning extra gas unnecessarily.
- On the other hand, ditch the rental car. Find out what part of of the Virginia Beach oceanfront you want to stay (consider the neary attractions and restaurants) and then just walk to and from the beach!
- Choose a vacation rental with a washer and dryer and free Wi-Fi, saving you money by not having to pay for laundry and Internet access.
- If you can sacrifice ocean views, you can save a lot of money. While beachfront houses have their appeal, staying a little outside the beach has appeal, too - like really cheap rental rates.
- If you have a pet, look for a vacation rental that is pet-friendly, so you can bring your pet on vacation and avoid pet-boarding fees.
- Pack along bottled water and snacks so you're not paying out of pocket for these must have items while you're out and about.
- While Virginia Beach is a summer destination, it can be visited year-round and you can enjoy off season rates when you avoid the peak summer months. Bird watching in the winter, and plenty of indoor attractions make Virginia Beach appealing any time of year. Plus, in the early fall or late spring, it can get warm enough for a swim, with highs in the 70s.