Summer is upon us which means that it is time to make plans to head to the ocean. When it comes to beach vacations, why not go to one of the best…Virginia Beach? An award-winning beach where you will find one of America’s best boardwalks with oceanfront resorts and hotels to meet your every need, this beach city is also an ideal place for meetings and conferences. Who wouldn’t want to have their conference in a city where you can experience all types of beach pleasures and delightful entertainment to top off business meetings? Virginia Beach is a great getaway destination that is just a short distance from those living in the New York Tri-State area.
As the city is committed to keeping a clean and healthy beach environment, Virginia Beach is an excellent choice for sunshine vacations and conferences. Once listed in the National Geographic Traveler as one of America’s top beaches, the resort city has continued to receive rave reviews and top rankings. This year TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel website listed it as one of the Top Ten Travelers Choice Family Award Winning Great US Destinations. It is not only an ideal vacation spot for families, but also for co-eds, young professionals, travel enthusiasts, honeymooners, water sport lovers, baby boomers and even senior citizen group tours. The city has all the elements of a classic seaside resort where people from all walks of life line streets for oceanside fun.
A city that never sleeps, there are different festivals and events happening almost every weekend in Virginia Beach during the summer. Upcoming black culture events include the Panorama Caribbean Music Festival on the 6th and 7th of May. This is a musical event set to the soothing sounds of steel pan music of the Caribbean where you can also sample authentic island cuisine. A week later on the 13th and 14th of May is the Virginia Beach Gospel Festival. Held at the 24th Street Park, this event features inspiring sounds of Southern gospel, gospel hip-hop and praise and worship music from local and regional dance groups, quartets, choirs and vocalists. Other events lined up for the fall include the Funk Fest on the 26th and 27th of August and Blues at the Beach on the 10th and 11th of September. These musical events continuously get better and better each year.
When I visited last June, I had the time of my life which is why I am making plans to go again this year. Along with the gorgeous beaches, the lively boardwalk, and savory restaurants, there were plenty of nightspots along the oceanfront drive where you can dance the night away. The Annual Boardwalk Art Show and Festival was going on that weekend which lived up to its reputation of being the oldest and best outdoor fine art shows on the East Coast. More than 400 national and international craftsmen and contemporary artists displayed their paintings, ceramics, crafts, jewelry, sculptures and photography. During the festival, I enjoyed all types of musical entertainment as there were different bands playing everything from classic rock, jazz and country to soul and rhythm and blues every night.
Virginia Beach has something for everyone. Families can take the children to the amusement parks and picnic areas for fun and adventure. One such park is First Landing State Park, a 2,888-acre park on the Chesapeake Bay featuring 1.25 miles of beachfront and 19 miles of trails through salt marsh habitats, freshwater ponds, dunes, forest and cypress swamp. You can get your exercise in by jogging along the beach, or along the stretches of hiking trails. There are also bike lanes where you can enjoy riding and skating while taking in to the ocean. All types of boating and water sports such as sea kayaking, parasailing and, of course, boating and fishing are also available. Or you can wind down on a celebrated golf course located in the city and the surrounding areas.
I managed to dine at great restaurants on different corners of the city. I enjoyed Puerto Rican and Cuban food at Mojito Café, a small, quaint spot where there are always specials on Latin flavors, and the mojitos are made from scratch. I did lunch one day at Rockafeller’s restaurant, a favorite of locals and tourists where I enjoyed the panoramic view of Rudee Inlet and the scenic Virginia Beach marina while deciding on some of the finest seafood in the city. Every year beach-goers flock from near and far to sample the legendary cuisine at Rockafellar’s, and to relax in the rocking chairs on the covered deck of the restaurant. Another great place for seafood is Waterman’s, family operated since 1981, where you can enjoy your meal overlooking the oceanfront. I did breakfast at Doc Taylor’s where I became hooked on sweet potato pancakes that were served with sweet tasty sugar-free syrup, cinnamon and roasted nuts. This local hot spot, which was once a doctor’s office, has plenty of satisfied customers who return all the time as I plan to do.
I also got to visit some other places like the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. Ranked among the top ten facilities in the country, the aquarium has more than 6,000 new animals and 367 different species, and also about 300 hands-on exhibits. My water adventures included a Dolphin Watching Boat Trip from Rudee Inlet where I got to see the bottlenose dolphins in their natural habitat. And by all means, when in Virginia Beach, stop in at the world-famous Edgar Cayce Center. I had read about this man who was one of the world’s foremost psychics, so I had to stop by the Association for Research and Enlightenment center to learn about some of the thousands of readings he did for people. There is a Day Spa there where you can get all types of massages. I fell asleep during mine as it was so relaxing.
There is also much for history lovers to explore here. At the Old Coast Guard Station museum, you can learn about the roles of African-Americans in life-saving situations. Also visit the Virginia Beach Legends Walk at the 13th Street Park, that honors Virginians, by birth or residence, who made significant contributions to the nation and the world. Black Virginians whose names appear on the walk include Ella Fitzgerald, Pearl Bailey, Arthur Ashe and Booker T. Washington. Also located inside the Renaissance Academy on Cleveland Street is the Union Kempsville Museum. Once known as the Princess Anne County Training School, it is the site of the first high school for African-Americans in Virginia Beach. Established in 1938, the legacy of the school continues with the establishment of the museum where you can read about families, community and the importance of hard work and education.
While in the city, make plans to stop by the Adam Thoroughgood House, one of the oldest homes in America; Battle of Capes Monuments, a memorial to soldiers left standing against Britain in 1781 and Landing Cross, the site where the first American permanent settlers graced the shores. Other historic sites include the Lynnhaven House, an 18th century home with most of the original materials intact; the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum, where you can view wildfowl carvings, artifacts and pictures; and the Ferry Plantation an 1830’s farmhouse built by slaves. Along Virginia Beach’s boardwalk you must go see the King Neptune Statue, a site for sore eyes that stands 34 feet tall.
Virginia Beach is a great choice for summer vacations. But you don’t have to wait until the heat of the summer because it is wonderful place to visit any time of year. You can go during the spring and the off-season as the temperatures are mild and the town is less crowded, and you can enjoy the beautiful sceneries and sunsets. In fact at least half of all people visiting do so outside of the traditional summer vacation season. Even winter season tourism to Virginia Beach has steadily and significantly increased attesting to what a wonderful vacation city this is. So pick a season, any season and you will discover that Virginia Beach has much more to offer than sun and sand. I guarantee that you will love it as much as I do!