The Virginia Beach-Norfolk area is one of the most assigned areas for military, with bases in Virginia Beach including NAS Oceana, NAS Dam Neck, Fort Story, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, and U.S. Coast Guard Little Creek.
This means: 1) You probably know a lot of people already stationed there; 2) There’s no shortage of doctors who accept Tricare; and 3) There are endless recreational activities for single servicemembers and military families of all ages.
If you’ve just received orders to Virginia Beach, here are top ten places not to miss:
The Virginia Beach Boardwalk
It’s actually made of concrete, not boards. But it lines one of the most pristinely cared for beaches on the East coast. With water fountains every block, it also makes a great place to run, and there are endless events year-round, from marathons to art shows to concerts.
The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center
It costs just a little more than the price of one admission to buy a season pass, and it’s well worth it, especially if you have kids. It’s exhibited The exhibits at the museum are housed in over 800,000 gallons of fresh and saltwater displays and include everything from sharks to seals to stingrays (yes, you can touch the stingrays). There is an IMAX movie theater, an incredible children’s room, a nature trail outside and an Adventure Park with a ropes course and ziplining.
Jump Trampoline Park
It’s not just for kids. They have fitness classes every weekend, and you can rent it out for (kids or adults) birthday parties or corporate parties. It’s also next to the Lynnhaven Mall, so you can shop and eat when you’re done.
For high-end dining, you can’t beat Terrapin, just a few blocks from the oceanfront. For a fun TexMex dining experience, you have to try Cowboy Neils – it has quickly become a Virginia Beach favorite. For breakfast, try Pocahontas Pancake House and Doc Taylor’s. For a waterfront experience, try Waterman’s Surfside Grill, Catch 31 and Rockafella’s.
If you’re going to be a local, you may want to consider a Sky Bar membership – the view from this exclusive Hilton rooftop bar just can’t be beat, and it’s always packed during warm nights.
Indoor skydiving is just one of those things that should be on your bucket list. It’s as fun as it sounds. And you can actually do it with your kids.
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
You’ll feel like a million miles away from the chaos of the Boardwalk in this wetlands refuge that’s home to thousands of amazing birds and other animals. Take a guided waterfowl walk or a tram tour, and don’t miss the winter festival.
Virginia Beach in unusual in that it has two “town centers” – the Boardwalk area and the “Town Center” area. Town Center is a relatively new development filled with shopping, dining and nightlife. Don’t miss Sandler’s Center for the Performing Arts, The Royal Chocolate chocolate shop, Tupelo Honey café, and Funnybone Comedy Club. A hidden gem: Just a short distance from Town Center, hidden away in a strip mall, is the best authentic Chinese food ever – Judy’s Szechuan.
They say this old hotel that dates back to the 1920s is haunted. Beautifully restored to its original condition just a few years ago, it’s one of the most astonishing buildings in Virginia Beach. F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Doris Day and Frank Sinatra are just a few of the celebrities to have walked through its halls.
If you’re looking for a getaway from the crowds of the Boardwalk, drive down to the quiet beaches of Sandbridge. There are very few shops and restaurants here – just a lot of rental homes and clean, quiet beaches.
Feature photo courtesy of Senior Airman Vernon Young, U.S. Air Force