Virginia Beach is home to many interesting historical landmarks and recreational areas. The First Landing Cross marks the spot where America's first permanent English settlers, the Jamestown colonists, reached the New World in 1607. The Old Cape Henry Lighthouse at Fort Story, built in 1791, is open for tours. The Old Coast Guard Station, one of the first life-saving stations in the United States, is one of several such stations along the East Coast that are still open to the public. Veterans are saluted by the Tidewater Veterans Memorial, complete with a flag display and waterfall. The Norwegian Lady statue, a gift from the people of Moss, Norway, commemorates the wreck of the Norwegian bark Dictator off the city's coastline.
Local historical houses include the Adam Thoroughgood House, built in the mid-1600s, which may be the oldest remaining brick house in America; the Lynnhaven House, one of America's best-preserved eighteenth-century middle class dwellings; Francis Land House and Historic Site, built in 1732, which is the largest and finest gambrel-roofed house in Virginia; and Upper Wolfsnare, a beautifully restored 1759 house that is a Virginia Landmark Home. The Princess Anne Courthouse, built in 1824, and the beautifully landscaped Municipal Building are among the 28 major buildings that house the executive offices of the local government.
The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center's more than 800,000 gallons of aquaria and over 300 hands-on exhibits offer visitors the opportunity to explore the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, walk under the waves of the Chesapeake Bay, view the life of a saltwater marsh, and stroll through a coastal plains river. A 3D IMAX theater, a nature trail, and traveling exhibits add to the fun. Located in a 1903 former Coast Guard Station, the Old Coast Guard Station displays photographs, nautical artifacts, scrimshaw, ship models, and other marine memorabilia about the Life-Saving Service. The Association for Research and Enlightenment Library and Conference Center documents the life work of Edgar Cayce, world-renowned psychic, through exhibits, lectures, and extrasensory perception testing. The center also has a meditation garden and labyrinth for peaceful contemplation. Family fun awaits visitors to Ocean Breeze Festival Park, home of a water park, a Formula One racing track, go-carts, bumper boats, miniature golf, batting cages and the new Skyscraper roller coaster. The Virginia Beach Farmer's Market, open every day of the year, offers 17,000 square feet of food stalls, craft items, and a country-style restaurant. In the warm months the Market has educational programs for students and Friday Night Hoe-downs. Guided tours are available at the Christian Broadcasting Network Center, which includes Regent University and state-of-the-art broadcasting facilities where the popular religious program "The 700 Club" is taped.
Within one hour's drive of the city are many attractions for culture-lovers and history buffs alike. The Virginia Air & Space Center and Hampton Roads History Center, located in historic Hampton, are housed in a nine-story wonder of a building on the waterfront that combines supermodern and traditional architectural styles. Visitors can view vintage aircraft suspended from the ceiling, the Apollo 12 Command Module with a 3-billion-year-old moon rock, plus an authentic Chesapeake Bay deadrise workboat. Based on the theme, "From the Sea to the Stars," this $30 million building reviews Hampton Roads' seafood and shipbuilding history, and its role as a military defense post and pioneer in aviation
Located between Virginia Beach and Williamsburg is the Mariner's Museum, which invites visitors to reflect on the lore of the sea and maritime exploration over the past 3,000 years. The museum's 11 galleries contain a unique collection of figureheads, paintings, small craft, ship models, and other marine artifacts. In addition, the museum offers demonstrations by costumed interpreters, films, and a 5-mile nature trail around picturesque Lake Murray. The nearby Peninsula Fine Arts Center provides changing monthly exhibits, a children's art center and adult classes, and the War Memorial Museum of Virginia traces U.S. military history from the Revolution to the first Gulf War.
Just one hour west of Virginia Beach, Williamsburg's Colonial Williamsburg helps tourists make the journey back to the early days of our nation. Visions of our colonial ancestors abound in the 173-acre Historic Area, which features over 30 buildings and craftsmen in eighteenth-century attire practicing industries of the era. Also in the area is Busch Gardens Williamsburg, where visitors can step back in time to life in old England, Scotland, Germany, Italy, and Ireland, while enjoying thrill rides, live shows, and animal attractions. The Williamsburg Pottery Factory has been offering bargain prices for over 60 years, and the water park Water Country USA contains one of the longest flume rides in the country. A trip to Yorktown allows one to look over the site of the 1781 battle that ended the Revolutionary War, and visitors to historic Jamestown can see full-sized replicas of three 1607 ships, recreations of the colonist' fort, and a Powhatan village.
The Virginia Center for Contemporary Art celebrates the work of both American artists and artists from around the world. The Artists At Work: Gallery and Studios is a working marketplace for the visual arts that provides views of the actual process of artistic creation. Many of the art works are for sale.
The Virginia Symphony Orchestra delights audiences with its classical music programs at Regent University Theater in Virginia Beach and at venues in Norfolk and Williamsburg. Concerts are also offered by Beach Events on the ocean-front. The Verizon Wireless Virginia Beach Amphitheater is a 20,000-seat venue hosting major musical acts from April through October. As a resort town, Virginia Beach also offers a wide range of jazz, blues, reggae, and rock at the many local nightclubs and dance halls. Virginia Opera performs in the Harrison Opera House and to thousands of school children every year. The Tidewater Winds, a concert band in the Souza tradition, performs all over the Hampton Roads area.
The Virginia Stage Company, the region's only professional troupe, brings its dramas and musicals to the Wells Theater in Norfolk. The Little Theatre of Virginia Beach is a community theater that produces five shows and a summer musical per year. Three full-scale musical comedies are presented at the Pavilion by the Virginia Musical Theater October through April.
The Neptune Festival in September is the main festival of the year. It attracts more than 1 million spectators and features parades, an air show, a triathlon, art and crafts exhibits, wine tastings, live entertainment, a sand sculpting contest and more. In January the Pavilion plays host to the Virginia Flower & Garden Show. The Millennium Chess Festival draws players from all over to Virginia Beach in February, as does the Mid-Atlantic Sports & Boat Show. Dogs on Parade at the Associated Specialty Dog Show happens in March, as well as the Shamrock Marathon & SportsFest. The Virginia Beach and Princess Anne Garden Tours, the International Azalea Festival, the Atlantic Coast Kite Festival and the Mid-Atlantic Home & Garden Show happen in April. May brings in the Patriotic Festival, Big Flea Market, Strawberry Festival, and Beach Music Festival. June has the Annual Boardwalk Art Show and Latin Fest. July features a huge Fourth of July Celebration and the Mid-Atlantic Hermit Crab Challenge. The Soul Music Beach Fest is in August, as well as the American Folk Art Festival. Labor Day weekend brings the American Music Festival and the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon. October brings the city's Annual Historic Homes Tour and October Brewfest. The Countryside Christmas Craft Show and Home-town Holiday Parade happen in November; and December's Holiday Lights at the Beach, annual Nutcracker program, and New Year's Rock Around the Clock ends the year.
September's Professional Golfer's Association Virginia Beach Open takes place at Tournament Players Club in April. National athletic stars come to the city for the Shamrock Marathon and SportsFest, which takes place each March. Rudee Inlet is the site every August of the East Coast Surfing Championship. Sports lovers in the Hampton Roads region attend the baseball games of the Triple A Norfolk Tides (affiliated with the N.Y. Mets) and the matches of the American Hockey League's Norfolk Admirals. The Virginia Beach Mariners soccer team plays at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex. NCAA teams from Old Dominion, Norfolk State and Virginia Wesleyan are also popular with students and locals. Professional and amateur surfers head to the East Coast Surfing Championship held in August, which is free for spectators.
Virginia Beach's greatest asset is the 28 miles of golden shoreline that has attracted visitors for more than a century. The city's 3-mile-long boardwalk, with a parallel bike track, is enhanced with teak benches, lampposts, and colorful flags. The city's most popular beaches are the Resort Area, North End, Back Bay, Croatan, Sandbridge, and Chesapeake beaches. Mild weather year-round makes golf a tremendous draw for visitors. Nine private and two municipal 18-hole golf courses participate in the city's Golf Package Program, and many other courses dot the region.
The Virginia Beach Fishing Center offers half-day or full-day offshore sport fishing, as well as wreck fishing, and deep sea fishing is available from Lynnhaven Seafood & Marina. Freshwater fishing is enjoyed at Back Bay or Lake Smith, and pier fishing is possible at several sites around the city. Sightseeing, scuba diving and whale watching cruises can also be booked with the many charter boats at the Marina. Kayak rentals and tours of the area are offered by Back Bay Getaways and Kayak Nature Tours. Mount Trashmore is a mountain of compacted layers of soil and garbage within the city that has been transformed into a 162-acre park with bicycle trails, playgrounds, skateboard ramps, picnic facilities, and two lakes. A registered National Landmark, First Landing State Park offers more than 20 miles of hiking and biking trails through its 2,770 acres. Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge has 5,000 acres of beach, woodland, and marsh, where whistling swans, peregrine falcons, and bald eagles can be spotted in the wintertime. Hiking trails exist at First Landing and False Cape State Parks. Camping is permitted at False Cape State Park among the maritime forests and ocean dunes. Virginia Beach's jet observation parks permit spectators to watch the U.S. Navy's most advanced aircraft take off and land from Ocean Naval Air Station.
Virginia Beach boasts 194 public tennis courts, anchored by the Owl Creek Tennis Center. The resort area's other recreational offerings include boogie-boarding, wind-surfing, jet skiing, para-sailing, miniature golf, volleyball, softball tournaments, bowling, and roller skating. Most recreational equipment, including bicycles, can be rented near the beach. The city's 208 parks, encompassing 4,000 acres, offer such features as playgrounds, ball fields, dog parks, and picnic areas.
Numerous off-price outlets, such as the great American Outlet Mall and Loehmann's Plaza, make Virginia Beach a shopper's delight. The new Town Center has shopping ranging from major department stores to small boutiques. There are traditional malls, such as Lynnhaven, one of the largest malls on the east coast; Pembroke Mall, with large department stores and specialty shops; the various Hilltop locations and La Promenade; as well as the boardwalk and resort area's souvenir shops, surf shops, boutiques, and craft shops. The Virginia Beach Farmers Market is open year round.
Seafood in a wide variety of forms is the star of the culinary show in Virginia Beach. The oyster and the blue crab are local delicacies, and flounder, scallops, and numerous other varieties of fish tempt the palate at local restaurants. Ethnic dishes run the gamut from fajitas, to sushi, to Cajun jambalaya or Fettuccine Alfredo. Oceanfront cafes offer scenic dining opportunities, and eating establishments range from elegant to casual. The new Town Center development is becoming a hub for restaurants as well, with large national chain restaurants like P.F. Chang's and The Cheesecake Factory moving in.
Visitor Information: Virginia Beach Department of Convention and Visitor Development, 2101 Parks Avenue, Virginia Beach, VA 23451; telephone (757)437-4700; toll-free (800)700-7702; fax (757)437-4747