The Perfect Day in Virginia Beach, VA

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IMG_0564Sunrise on The Beach

Having grown up in Virginia Beach, this coastal city on Virginia’s southern-most point is a frequent destination for our family. At least once a summer, once the ocean water has warmed in late August or early September, we make it a point to get up before the sun and down to the oceanfront to watch the sunrise and to take advantage of IMG_9974the empty beach. Early morning beach-going has the advantage of no-hassle parking, your choice of open blanket spaces along the waterfront and the peaceful calm of the ocean waters without the noise of the crowd competing. We usually build a giant sand sculpture and do build some castles with moats to watch them collapse with the waves. Watch carefully and you might see dolphins jumping or seabirds diving for fish.

We usually park near Neptune’s Park at 31st street and greet the King Neptune statue on our way down to the water. After a good soak and some sand-castles, we suggest you hit Pocahontas’ Pancakes (voted best pancakes in Virginia Beach by the Food Network’s “Best Of…” series) for hot chocolate and stacks of fluffy pancakes, or head up to the Hilltop area to have an organic green juice or smoothie at Fruitive – the oceanfront area’s first certified organic restaurant.

First Landing State Park

There’s so much to do at First Landing State Park (forever Seashore State Park in my mind) it’s hard to know where to start. You can put on your hiking shoes and explore the park’s various habitats such as the cypress swamp, salt marsh, a maritime forest, freshwater wetlands, dunes, and the bay shoreline, or head over to the beachside and enjoy the late afternoon tide pools.

On an overly warm day, cool off and enjoy the exhibits at the indoor Chesapeake Bay Center or borrow a “park pack” filled with binoculars, birding guides, field guides, birdsong players and more. We also were pleased to see wheelchairs equipped for the sand to allow disabled visitors to enjoy the beach – very nice to see accommodations.

We enjoyed breakfast on the beach while camping here and we couldn’t have been happier. Parking is $4 on weekdays and $5 on weekends unless you have a Virginia State Parks membership (we do!).

Mount Trashmore

Whether it’s a kite-flying day, a chance to watch the stars with the local star-gazing club or a roll down the hill (watch for duck poop!), Mount Trashmore is a Virginia Beach City Park built on top of, well…a mountain of trash. It’s been covered over for years, and bears not a scent of its former occupation. Open year round you can hike to the top and take in the surrounds. There’s a lake, a HUGE playground with equipment for all ages and skill levels, and a skateboard park. Parking is free and plentiful, but on a beautiful day, it may be crowded!

Plaza Middle School Planetarium

One of the best deals (and shows!) in town are the planetarium shows made available weekly at the Plaza Middle School Planetarium. Open to the public, the shows are put on year round on Tuesdays at 7pm and during the summer months, additionally on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2pm. Admission is $3 per person. We suggest you get there early to enjoy the panoramic murals on the inside walls of the planetarium.

Sundowners on the Beach

What better way to end the day you started on the beach, but to end on the beach? Whether it’s a sunset walk along the waterfront at First Landing State Park, which affords you a view of the sun setting over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, or enjoying a free concert at the 24th street amphitheater, you won’t be disappointed. Look for tide pools in the late afternoon and inspect fluid dynamics by moonlight (that’s what we do!). During the winter months, check out the annual Lights at the Beach all along the boardwalk or just take in the sounds of the gulls and the waves to lull you into a dreamy sleep.

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