Top 10 Attractions in Virginia Beach
The roots of Virginia Beach stretch to the 1600s, but it wasn't until the late 19th century that the now-largest city in Virginia began its modern history as a popular resort area. Many of the top 10 attractions in Virginia Beach pay homage to its past, but the thriving metropolis also includes 21st century nods to the future.
Virginia Beach Attractions: Top place for a stroll
The Virginia Beach Boardwalk stretches three miles along the Atlantic coast, offering ample space for runners, joggers and sightseers on its 28-foot wide concrete esplanade. A parallel bike path provides a separate route for bicyclists and skaters at Virginia Beach. Attractions on the handicapped-accessible boardwalk include The Atlantic Wildfowl and Heritage Museum, The Old Coast Guard Station and the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier. The boardwalk also hosts several festivals and celebrations throughout the year.
Virginia Beach Attractions: Top place to see a rocket launch
Florida's Kennedy Space Center doesn't have a lock on rocket launches from U.S. soil. More than 14,000 unmanned research rockets have launched from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility since its establishment in 1945. Just a couple of hours' drive north of Virginia Beach, the attraction includes a NASA Visitor Center and hands-on exhibits for all ages. And if a rocket is being launched during your visit, you can view it from a special area at the Visitor Center.
Virginia Beach Attractions: Top dismal spot for fun
The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, just a half-hour landward of Virginia Beach, encompasses 112,000 acres of forested wetlands, including 3,100-acre Lake Drummond, Virginia's largest natural lake. The refuge was established in 1974 to protect and manage the wilderness area's unique ecosystem. Nature is the attraction here, with such activities as hiking, biking, nature photography, bird and wildlife watching, boating and fishing. Areas of the park close to the public on certain days in October and November for hunting.
Virginia Beach Attractions: Top place to see the Old South
The Ferry Plantation House, named in 1642 after the local ferry service that used to dock there, is a restored three-story Federal Style home. The current house, built in 1830, encompasses what used to be the Princess Anne County Courthouse – the third courthouse built on the property; the second courthouse is where Grace Sherwood was infamously tried and convicted of being a witch in 1706. "The Infamous Witch of Pungo" was imprisoned on the property, but later released. This Virginia Beach attraction is believed by some to be haunted, though docents prefer not to use that word, instead telling visitors that "several 'spirits' have been seen."
Virginia Beach Attractions: Top place to get your culture on
For art lovers, the Chrysler Museum of Art is a must-see attraction in the Virginia Beach area, located in nearby Norfolk. Featuring both European masters and early American art in its permanent collection, the museum hosts traveling and on-loan collections. The best part? Admission is free, with the exception of some special shows.
Virginia Beach Attractions: Top place to climb a spiral staircase
The Old Cape Henry Lighthouse stands as a silent sentinel to the entrance of Chesapeake Bay and is seasonally open to visitors. The brick tower, built in 1772, lighted the way for mariners until 1878, when inspectors found it to be unsafe. In 1881, a new, cast-iron lighthouse was completed 350 feet southeast, but the old structure remained. In 1930, the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (now APVA Preservation Virginia) acquired the old lighthouse and added a new brick lining and an iron spiral staircase. Note that the lighthouse sits on the property of the Fort Story military base, and visitors must show proper identification and may go through other security procedures at the base entrance.
Virginia Beach Attractions: Top place to see undersea
One of the top Virginia Beach attractions for families, the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center offers visitors a chance to learn about life under the ocean waves. You can step into the water for a close encounter with harbor seals, watch sea turtles and sharks swim about in the 800,000 gallons of aquariums, or visit the Virginia habitats of four million years ago. Be sure to take the kids to the Chesapeake Bay Touch Pool, where they dip their hands into the water to gently touch shallow-water species like horseshoe crabs and sea stars.
Virginia Beach Attractions: Top place to conquer phobias
If you have irrational fears of bridges and/or tunnels, there's no better place to confront your phobias than on the 17.6-mile-long Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. The massive engineering marvel crosses the lower bay, connecting Virginia Beach with Virginia's Eastern Shore. It carries U.S. Highway 13 across a series of bridges and manmade islands and through a pair of mile-long tunnels under the bay's bottom. Don't worry about doing it all at once, though. There's a gift shop, a fishing pier and several scenic overlooks where you can take a break.
Virginia Beach Attractions: Top place to see a giant trident
The 34-foot-tall cast bronze statue of Neptune, Roman god of the sea, stands at the gateway of Neptune Park, the site of the annual Neptune Festival that takes place in late September. Created by sculptor Paul DiPasquale, the statue was paid for by donations made to the Neptune Festival and dedicated in 2005. The statue is popular with photographers, and live bands frequently perform at the waterfront park.
Virginia Beach Attractions: Top place to play on top of a dump
No list of the top 10 attractions in Virginia Beach would be complete without a mention of Mount Trashmore. What looks like a green volcano from the highway rises 60 feet and is more than 800 feet wide, with a combined area of more than 165 acres. Yes, Mount Trashmore Park started life as a landfill, created by alternating layers of solid waste and clean soil. Now it's an ode to environmental repurposing, featuring a xeriscape garden area, picnic shelters, playgrounds and a 24,000-square-foot skateboard park.
Photo by Phaesia2011on Flickr