Virginia Beach, Virginia is a vibrant coastal city on the Atlantic Ocean, and one the most popular beach destinations on the east coast. With miles of sandy beaches, cool cultural attractions, incredible natural areas, and amazing adventure opportunities, it’s no wonder this is a favorite spot for vacationing families.
My family and I are lucky enough to visit Virginia Beach often, and one of things that we love about it, is that there’s something to do in every season. Of course, we all enjoy relaxing on the beach during the hot days of summer, but there is so much more to Virginia Beach than sand and surf.
Here are the five of my family's favorite things to do in Virginia Beach.
Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center
The Virginia Aquarium is one of those places that you can visit again and again and still have a different experience each time. When my kids were young, they would make a bee-line to the touch pools, where they would stroke stingrays and starfish. Now that they are older, they enjoy spending a little more time with each exhibit, but we’re particularly fond of the otters and the sea turtles.
Many of the animals and exhibits have been around for as long as we can remember, but there’s also special exhibits and events throughout the year. Be sure to catch a movie in the National Geographic 3D theater, and don’t forget about the outdoor exhibits.
Details: The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center is open daily from 9 to 5. Tickets are $15 for children (3 to 11), $22 for adults, and $20 for seniors. Children under 3 are free. Movie tickets are $8 each.
Virginia Beach is 90 minutes drive from Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown. Get our tips for a Williamsburg day trip HERE.
The Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium
The Adventure Park is on the grounds of the Virginia Aquarium, offering an exciting tree-top adventure for kids (age 5 and up) and adults. Check out swinging bridges, swings, and zip-lines through the forest, as well as a special adventure labyrinth for younger kids (ages 5 to 9). Easy trails are suitable for young kids and unsure parents, but there are also challenging trails for advanced climbers.
Give yourself a couple of hours to explore the park, and if you really want an adventure, spend the day at the aquarium, and then hit the Adventure Park after dark. The tree-top trails are a little more challenging, and beautiful to behold when the sun goes down.
Details: The Adventure Park is open every day except Monday. From Tuesday to Thursday you can visit from 12 pm to 9 pm. On the weekends, the park is open from 9 am to 9 pm. Check the Adventure Park website for off-season hours.Two and three-hour tickets range in price from $37 to $52. 5 and 6-year-olds are free with a paying adult.
Dolphin Watching on the Rudee Flipper
There are a few different dolphin and whale watching tours in Virginia Beach, but we loved our excursion on the Rudee Flipper. Each tour is just 90 minutes, and guests can view dolphins from an upper and lower deck, or from inside if the weather isn’t cooperating. Staff on board the Rudee Flipper are incredibly knowledgeable and great with kids. Each tour is approximately 90 minutes, which is the perfect attention span for younger kids. Dolphin sightings are guaranteed, and there’s a snack bar on board to keep the littles happy.
Details: Dolphin watching tours run every day during the warmer months, and less frequently in the winter. Whale watching tours are available from November through January. Cost for the 90-minute dolphin tour is $21 for adults and $16 for kids (4 to 11). Tours can be booked directly on the Rudee Tours website.
Oceanfront Resort Beach
And sometimes, a day at the beach is just what the doctor ordered. Virginia Beach’s 3-mile boardwalk and white, sandy beach is the perfect spot to be a beach bum, and there’s truly something for everyone here. If you want to bask in the sun with your favorite novel, there’s a patch of sand for you. Families can also rent surrey bikes and tour the boardwalk, dine in one of several waterfront cafes or restaurants, fish from the oceanfront fishing pier, or take a surfing lesson.
Don’t forget to visit King Neptune on the boardwalk at 31st street, and if you’re into sand castles, you have to head to Virginia Beach in October for the Neptune Festival. This world-class sand sculpting championship is one of Virginia Beach’s most popular events.
Details: Municipal parking areas and metered parking is available on Atlantic Avenue. Lifeguards are on duty from mid-May through mid-September. Dogs are welcome on the beach in the off season, from Labor Day through Memorial Day.
First Landing State Park
For a taste of nature and a lovely workout, grab your bike or your hiking boots and head out to First Landing State Park. The name commemorates the landing of the Virginia Company on Cape Henry in 1607. The company landed here before eventually heading north and settling in Jamestown. Another distinction of First Landing State Park is that it is the northernmost east-coast habitat for both subtropical and temperate plants. 19-miles of trails criss-cross more than 2,800 miles, and the 1.5-mile bayside beach is a great place to find critters, watch birds, or swim. The calm waters are especially nice for families with small children.
Details: Grounds and trails are open from 8 am until dusk every day throughout the year. Camping is also available, with more than 200 campsites and cabins. Cost is $4 per vehicle during the week, and $5 on the weekends. Leashed dogs are permitted.
Featured photo credit: Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center
How else can we help?
Need a place to stay in Virginia Beach? There are lots of great Virginia Beach hotels and vacation rentals. Check out rates and reviews for top hotels on TripAdvisor. Or, look for family-sized beach condos at HomeAway. Get Katie's expert tips for picking a great vacation rental HERE.
Need a rental car? Having your own vehicle is the easiest way to get around Virginia Beach. Find the best rates from dozens of agencies at RentalCars.com. Get our top tips for saving money on your rental car HERE.