Located along the Atlantic Coast at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, fun-loving Virginia Beach is most often characterized by its bustling three-mile boardwalk.
Constructed in 1888 as a simple wooden promenade, the boardwalk was single-handedly responsible for transforming this sleepy backwater into one of the region's top Victorian seaside playgrounds. The city has since expanded to become the largest in the state, but the boardwalk has remained its social heart and main thoroughfare. Nowadays, the modern 28-foot-wide walkway, watched over by a massive bronze statue of King Neptune, is home to the vast majority of Virginia Beach's cultural offerings, from nightly summer Beach Street U.S.A. concerts to a coastal Christmas light display, complete with surfing Santa.
Perhaps most important of all, the boardwalk offers access to the world's longest pleasure beach, a 14-mile stretch of sand perfect for sunbathing, fishing, whale watching, and boating. Though the boardwalk can trace its history back to the 19th century, the Virginia Beach waterfront has technically been attracting visitors for much longer: In fact, when John Smith and the Virginia Company colonists arrived in April 1607, they first set foot on American soil in what is now Virginia Beach, before finally settling in Jamestown. Established on that very spot, First Landing State Park now comprises nearly 3,000 acres of carefully protected swamps, beaches, and cypress forests for hikers, bikers, and nature lovers. But Virginia Beach is by no means stuck in the past, thanks to area attractions such as the state's largest contemporary art museum, an eco-minded aquarium, and a state-of-the-art maritime museum in neighboring Norfolk.
Get deals from Virginia Beach and other top timeshare
destinations straight to your inbox.
Springtime means tee time in Virginia Beach, which boasts a whopping 198 holes of golf, including five public courses. Flanked by mature loblolly pines, the recently renovated Red Wing Lake Golf Course features new wetland areas and lakes that are as challenging to maneuver around as they are beautiful. Stumpy Lake Golf Course runs through a 1,400-acre nature preserve where golfers often encounter deer, foxes, eagles, and ospreys. And while the Virginia Beach National Golf Club hosts the annual Virginia Beach Open, the area isn't only for pros: In fact, just next door is The First Tee of Hampton Roads, a kids' golf school comprised of a nine-hole course, a driving range, and a putting green.
Built in 1888 as a simple wooden promenade, the Virginia Beach Boardwalk has always been the town's thriving heart. Since then, the city has blossomed into the most populous in the state, and the boardwalk has grown to match. At 28 feet wide, three miles long, and watched over by a 34-foot-tall bronze statue of King Neptune, the modern incarnation might not be immediately recognizable to those early Victorian visitors — though the rentable surrey bikes certainly call to mind that Gilded Age glamor. Throughout the summer, you'll be sure to stumble upon jugglers, magicians, and street musicians playing all along Beach Street U.S.A. But you can also plan ahead, thanks to regularly scheduled daily shows at the 7th, 17th, 24th, and 31st street stages, plus weekly fireworks displays and weekend music, arts, and food festivals.
Virginia Beach's thriving nightlife scene runs the gamut, from dance clubs to after-dark comedy shows to dueling piano bars. Unsurprisingly, the boardwalk is just as hopping — or even more so — after the sun sets, so the slower fall shoulder season is a much more pleasant time to check it all out. For something a little more indie that still places you smack dab in the middle of the action, Waterman's Surfside Grill stands apart from the swanky hotels that border the beach. The family-owned restaurant serves up coastal fare such as she-crab soup and fish tacos by day, then transforms into a local hot spot by night with weekly DJ sets, frequent drink specials, and unobstructed ocean views. Blend in by ordering the local drink of choice, the bar's signature Orange Crush, made with fresh-squeezed juice, orange vodka, triple sec, and a splash of Sprite.
Good things come to those who bundle up — at least for area animal lovers during the winter. From December through March, the annual southbound whale migration means the chance to get up close and personal with majestic humpback and fin whales just off the Virginia coast. On an excursion with the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, you'll examine artifacts, such as real whale bones, with an aquarium educator as you ride out to see the real deal. Along the way, brown pelicans, northern gannets, and double-crested cormorants may swoop down to feed on fish. Sightings aren't guaranteed, but there are always the 800,000-plus gallons of tanks and more than 300 species of resident sea creatures waiting back at the aquarium for you.