Heat washed over us as I pulled the boys out of the car. Sweat was already dripping down my neck. I heard the chatter of voices walking by as the sweet smell of an ocean breeze brushed across my face. We were in Virginia Beach, VA. It was time I found out why everyone headed down this way and what all the fuss is about.
“Virginia Beach? I love Virginia Beach! It is the best beach town around,” my friend Brookes told me as I mentioned in passing that the boys and I were headed that way.
As I sat by the pool with my friend Naomi later that week she confirmed that yes, “we love it down there.
Now I grew up on the east coast. I barely remember hearing about Virginia Beach, let alone ever going down there. Apparently I had been missing a key experience in my childhood. Rather than stay ignorant I figured we should pop on over as we headed down south to meet up with my husband. After all, we love the beach, I am a huge fan of boardwalks, and I heard there was a killer aquarium in those parts.
As anyone may tell you, kids and aquariums are a natural fit. My oldest, who is now 4, used to be bored to tears at the zoo as a baby. Yet, when we would step into an aquarium he would perk up. He could actually see the fish moving around. The splashes and constant movement were much more entertaining than a lion sleeping in a corner. Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center was the perfect way for me to entertain a curious toddler and a mobile baby.
This aquarium is not huge, but it does pack a punch. There is only one direction you can go through the main building of aquarium. If you want to revisit any of the exhibits you need to get your hand stamped. Surround yourselves with sharks, Komodo dragons, hands-on exhibits that teach you about volcanoes, sting rays and how echolocation works, as well as a section on a submarine looking into the shark tanks. The latter was the highlight of our time as I sat in front of the tank with the baby looking at the sharks and fish swim by, while my toddler flipped every switch and nob in the sub. He also found a station where you can direct the camera around the tank to see different angles. A learning experience and fun for all of us? Yup. That’s my kind of place.
Sun, sand, surf and sounds
Unfortunately you cannot spend all of your time at the aquarium. They do close at night after all. You can opt to hop aboard the Rudee Flipper, a 65-foot boat that takes you out on the ocean to see the local dolphins, or just take a peek as they swim by around sun rise each morning. If neither strikes your fancy, you can always grab your swim suits and towels to hit the sand and waves. This is why people come down here after all. The beach does get crowded, but the visitors are friendly and there is room for a few more bodies. The water is relatively calm, making it an easy spot to set up camp with little swimmers.
Alternatively you can enjoy the beach as you walk, or pedal your way along the boardwalk. Say hello to the King Neptune statue at 31st Street, catch a live concert by bands like Toad the Wet Sprocket or Longreef, or zoom down a gigantic inflatable water slide. Pick up a frozen treat to build up your strength before renting a bike or surrey from Cherie’s Bike Rental. Word of warning to any parent looking to rent a surrey- If your kids are not old enough to pedal, and you don’t have another adult with you, maybe opt for a bike. Pedaling a surrey by myself with two kids in front was next to impossible. Or maybe I am just in horrible shape. Either way test it out before you commit.
Every trip to the beach, no matter which one you choose, deserves its own special treat. After interrogating our hotel’s reception staff to find out where I could get Dek some ice cream, they instead pointed me towards Kohr Brother’s Frozen Custard. Now I’d only ever had vanilla frozen custard before. This did not sound promising or exciting at all. I was shocked when we walked up to the store front and found at least 10 flavors, some of which you could swirl together like a soft serve twist. Chocolate and mint anyone? There are no less than four Kohr Brother’s location along Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach. It really begs the question, why wouldn’t you stop at every one to sample a new flavor? I honestly don’t know the answer to that. We made it to two during our two-night stay. My favorite was the mint custard with chocolate jimmies. Dek’s was the strawberry of course, while poor baby Ty got nothing.
Custard isn’t the only treat you will find in Virginia Beach, but it is certainly my favorite. You can also grab salt-water taffy, fudge, pizza, crab cakes, and BBQ while you are in town. Just make sure you leave room for the frozen custard. You will regret it if you don’t.
After 2 days in Virginia Beach I was beginning to see what all the fuss was about. This was a vibrant beach town with tons of activities offered both day and night. Street performers set up shop as the sun went down. Moms and dads pushed tired kids in strollers as they watched the sun set, or in some cases rose if they were up early enough. There is a big bar scene, but it is easy to ignore as there is so much other stuff going on around you.
Do a little shopping, eat some custard, get sand in places you never knew possible, and simply kick back and relax as you get yourself a henna tattoo from one of the many, many stores offering them along with your surfboard, sand toys and new swim suit. This town is an eclectic kaleidoscope of fun for all ages. Now you just have to discover why you love going back.
Many thanks to Virginia Beach CVB for hosting my family during our two day stay in Virginia Beach. Although accommodations, some activities and food were provided, all opinions are my own; when they aren’t you will be the first to know.