Growing up in Richmond, I always flocked toward the coast because there were so many cool things to do in Virginia Beach and the Tidewater area.
This guide showcases some of my favorite Virginia Beach attractions, activities, and places to eat. Some are lesser-known and some are touristy.
Not everything on this list is in Virginia Beach – many visitors come down to the beach and never leave… but others want to explore!
There are many cool parks and getaways in the local area that you can explore and we put some of them in this guide! The getaways are perfect if you have more than just a weekend in Virginia Beach!
If you’re looking for what to do in Virginia Beach, we hope that this guide helps you plan that trip! Let us know what you think are the best things to do in Virginia Beach in the comments!
Best Things to do in Virginia Beach, VA
Explore History at First Landing State Park
First Landing State Park is one of the most important historical locations in the United States. In 1607, English colonists landed at this site for the very first time.
Aside from its history, First Landing State Park is the most visited park in Virginia and has more than 20 miles of some of the best hiking trails in Virginia Beach. It is also home to a Chesapeake Bay beach where you’ll find 1.5 miles of sandy shoreline, lagoons, bald cypress swamps, and many other wonderful natural spots worth visiting.
In addition, it’s a perfect family and friends destination where you can rent a cabin or have a picnic in the forest and enjoy many other relaxing activities. There are also many fantastic places to camp in First Landing State Park if you’re traveling on a budget.
Address: 2500 Shore Dr, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Insider Tip: First Landing State Park is home to some famous rainbow sheen as seen in the photo. It is not present every year, but if it decides to show, it usually happens in mid-February.
Go Hiking in Virginia Beach
People tend to associate hiking with mountainous destinations but there are several hikes in Virginia Beach and the surrounding area that are great for all skill levels and are worthy of doing!
While many of the best hikes are in First Landing State Park, you will find several spread across other city parks, state parks, and wildlife refuges. You can check out our guide to the best hikes in Virginia Beach for more.
Check Out the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse
Old Cape Henry Lighthouse is located near the southern entrance to the Chesapeake Bay on Smith Island. It was built in 1792 and was the first lighthouse built with U.S. government authorization and funding.
The impressive and very photogenic Old Cape Henry Lighthouse is located approximately 12 min (5.6 miles) from Virginia Beach and attracts thousands of visitors annually. It is one of the most famous lighthouses in Virginia.
The structure is 55 feet tall and used to be an important lighthouse for ocean-faring vessels. Nowadays, it’s a tourist sight that you can’t miss out on during your visit to Virginia Beach.
Address: 583 Atlantic Ave, Fort Story, VA 23459
Insider Tip: There is also the new Cape Henry Lighthouse that sits beside the old. It is worth checking out, as well (and is rather pretty, in my opinion).
Go Jet Skiing in Virginia Beach
Jet Skiing is one of the most popular things to do in Virginia Beach and it is actually one of my favorite things to do when there!
You can rent a Yamaha or Waverunner jet ski with multiple seats that will show you how to jump across waves with the help of instructors from local companies. If you’re experienced, of course, you can rent your own and cruise along.
Insider Tip: If you are renting from the Bay, be aware of the jellyfish. They are so prevalent and it will probably be a bit frightening. Do go slow until you get out into the open water.
Visit the Great Dismal Swamp
Travelers visiting Virginia Beach can take a short road trip to one of Virginia’s most hidden gems and can even join a tour in Suffolk to learn about the swamp’s history (which is extremely fascinating).
Spanning an area of 112,000 acres, the Great Dismal Swamp was once a refuge for maroons. It also has one of Virginia’s two natural lakes inside of it called Lake Drummond.
The visitor will have a chance to see the amazing flora and fauna of the park take boat tours, drive in the lake drive area, and many other activities.
Insider Tip: I saw a bear here! You likely won’t (it was far away from my car) but keep an eye out. Also… bring bug spray.
Virginia Beach may not be on everyone’s surfing radar, but we definitely enjoy the sport, and the East Coast Surfing Championships are held there annually.
It’s one of the best things to do in Virginia Beach for adrenaline junkies and those that enjoy water sports. One of the most popular beaches in Virginia for surfing is Croatan Beach which is located in Virginia Beach.
Even for beginners, local surf companies organize short classes to help newbies stand on a board and catch their first wave.
If you don’t have your own board, it is not a problem as the companies will provide you with the board, wetsuit/rashguard, and all the necessary equipment so that you can have the best time of your life!
Insider Tip: Also, don’t miss out on stopping into 17th Street Surf Shop and WRV to bring some clothing or memorabilia home. They are two very popular Virginia Beach surf shops.
Visit the Harrison Opera House
Get cultural and visit the Harrison Opera House which was built during the Second World War in 1943. It has a beautiful interior with sweeping staircases, glittering chandeliers, and an area where you can enjoy Champagne and other drinks.
Don’t miss out on an outstanding performance by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra if you are a lover of classical music.
Address: 160 W Virginia Beach Blvd, Norfolk, VA 23510
Get Scared at Nightmare Mansion Haunted House
If you are a fan of the horror genre and not scared to put yourself to the test, then you need to visit the famous Nightmare Mansion Haunted House in Virginia Beach.
The house opened over 30 years ago and is one of the oldest haunted houses on the East Coast (and definitely is the most popular one in Virginia).
Nightmare Mansion Haunted House is one of the best haunted house attractions where you will experience moments of fright before heading back for a swim in the Atlantic. They even have a souvenir shop. This is one of the best things to do in Virginia Beach for kids.
Address: 2008 Atlantic Ave, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Another fun and adventurous activity that you can do is to go parasailing in Virginia Beach.
This thrilling experience can be one of the highlights of your beach vacation because you will be flying with a parachute connected to a motorboat that glides you through the air, giving you a bird’s-eye view of the entire Virginia Beach boardwalk and vicinity!
If you are visiting with friends, there are several deals you can get when you book a parachuting trip. The local tour companies have professional staff and all of the necessary equipment to offer a thrilling trip!
Visit the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art
For art enthusiasts and especially lovers of contemporary art, Virginia Beach offers a great opportunity to check out the wonderful collection at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art.
Each year, over 1,500 artists’ work is put on display at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. One of the most fascinating and well-known works on display is Dale Chihuly’s chandelier, a 16-foot glass artwork.
And if you are visiting Virginia Beach in October, you can see the Boardwalk Art Show that takes place on the VB Oceanfront.
Address: 2200 Parks Ave, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Visit the Lynnhaven House on Wishart Road
Go back in time while visiting the Lynnhaven House which was built in 1725 and has remained relatively unchanged. It is one of the best-preserved homes in the United States.
You can join a tour where you will be dressed as an 18th-century person and professional guides will show you how people lived during that era.
The interesting and impressive tour lasts 50 to 60 minutes. There is also a souvenir shop at the end of the tour.
Address: 4409 Wishart Rd, Virginia Beach, VA 23455
Check out the Military Aviation Museum
Don’t miss out on a chance to see the world’s largest collections of war aircraft in Virginia Beach at the Military Aviation Museum. Many pieces are still in mint condition and are extremely impressive!
The fascinating museum of warbirds includes warplanes from different countries such as Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and other countries that participated in World War One and World War Two.
The range of the impressive collection goes from the 1910s to the first part of the 1950s. This museum is a great place to visit with kids as they can learn a lot of history in a hands-on and interactive way.
Address: 1341 Princess Anne Rd, Virginia Beach, VA 23457
Stroll Down the Virginia Beach Boardwalk
One of the most popular places and attractions in Virginia Beach is the famous VB Boardwalk.
There is always something happening on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk regardless of the season and there is always something to entertain visitors.
If you want to wake up every morning and see a gorgeous ocean view, also consider booking your hotel or renting a Virginia Beach timeshare along the Boardwalk.
The promenade is full of cozy cafes, restaurants, and hip coffee shops like Waterman’s Surfside Grill or Mahi Mah’s Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Saloon.
There are also many sculptures and monuments on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk that you can admire throughout your walk.
Insider Tip: Rent a bike and cruise along the entire boardwalk! It is such a great place to ride a beach cruiser!
Play a Round at Hell’s Point Golf Club
For avid golfers, Virginia Beach has many great golf courses and one of the most popular is Hell’s Point Golf Club, rated one of the top 100 designed courses in the United States.
Constructed in 1982, the rates are pretty affordable and there are out-of-season rates and senior discounts. Click here to learn more.
This course is definitely a place to visit in Virginia Beach for golfers or those wanting a break from the madness of the beachfront and Atlantic Avenue.
Address: 2700 Atwoodtown Rd, Virginia Beach, VA 23456
IFLY Indoor Skydiving
Yet another fun and full of adrenaline attraction to visit in Virginia Beach is the IFLY Indoor Skydiving Center.
If you are not afraid of heights and are a fan of skydiving and want to give the experience a go, the FLY Indoor Skydiving is worth visiting.
The professional instructor will equip you and show you how real skydiving feels with 4 powerful fans (1600 horsepower) keeping you suspended. This is a unique activity and something to do in Virginia Beach for the more adventurous soul.
Address: 2412 Pacific Ave, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Drive Across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
Experience one of the most scenic drives in Virginia Beach by driving across the 17.2-mile bridge-tunnel, one of only 11 bridge tunnels in the world!
Completed in 1964, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel had a mission of replacing ferries that took cargo and passengers from the Virginia mainland to the Eastern Shore across the Chesapeake Bay.
There are several stops along the way and it truly is one of the coolest things to do in Virginia Beach and the Tidewater area.
Once you’re on the Eastern Shore, you can visit Cape Charles, one of my favorite places in Virginia. You can even rent one of the historic homes that serve as an Airbnb in Cape Charles and stay somewhere a bit quieter than Virginia Beach.
Insider Tip: If you make the journey same-day, it is MUCH cheaper!
Visit the Virginia Beach Rock Gym
Going on vacation doesn’t mean not keeping yourself in shape and if you like rock climbing or want to challenge your climbing skills, then visit Virginia Beach Rock Gym and train your grip!
Professional instructors will teach you how to start rock climbing if you are a beginner and they will prepare you for real rock climbing, in case you want to give it a go one day.
If you are familiar with rock climbing and are not a novice, then they will provide you with all the necessary equipment to climb on the climbing wall with varying levels of difficulty.
Address: 5049 Southern Blvd, Virginia Beach, VA 23462
Go Whale Watching In Virginia Beach
Thousands of tourists visit Virginia Beach to relax on the beach and chill in local hip cafes and restaurants, but not everyone has the chance to enjoy whale watching in Virginia Beach!
If you are dreaming of witnessing whales in their natural habitat and plan to visit Virginia Beach simply for that, then plan a trip to Virginia Beach in winter until mid-March, when whale watching season takes place.
You will experience a boat tour in the Atlantic Ocean and will have a chance to see dolphins quickly swimming by. And, of course, you’ll have a chance to witness huge humpback whales going about their daily routine while you admire them from afar.
Taking a whale watching tour is definitely something worth doing in Virginia Beach!
Insider Tip: Winter in Virginia Beach can be nightmarish on the sea – so do put on some sea bands if you’re prone to seasickness.
See King Neptune At Neptune’s Park
Stroll along the beautiful boardwalk to one of the most famous sculptures in Virginia Beach – the King Neptune statue next to Neptune’s Park.
Every year since 1973, the Neptune Festival takes place and it is one of the most iconic festivals in Virginia Beach.
In fact, the Neptune Festival has been ranked as one of the top 100 festivals in the United States – all the more reason to go!
Indulge at Virginia Beach Restaurant Week
Each year, Virginia Beach transforms into a foodie’s paradise when many Virginia Beach restaurants and upcoming businesses participate in Virginia Beach Restaurant Week.
The restaurants in VB will create a few signature dishes and promote them at special prices for hungry customers.
The list of participating restaurants is extensive but some of the more well-known names are Hot Tuna Bar and Grille, Ice House Restaurant, Cobalt Grille, Swan Terrace Grill, Coastal Grille, and more.
Take the Spirit Of Norfolk Cruise
One of the best and most romantic things to do in Virginia Beach is to spend time with your significant other or family and friends on the Spirit of Norfolk Cruise.
There are various ships departing the harbor and the bigger ships can accommodate more than 450 people on board. Expect to be entertained with drinks, food, and more while sailing along.
This is definitely one of the most relaxing things to do in Virginia Beach if you’re looking to be on the sea!
You can book an exciting Virginia Beach cruise here.
Picnic at Mount Trashmore Park
Formerly just ‘Mount Trashmore’, this Virginia Beach park opened in 1974 and is actually a landfill repurposed as a park. It spans over 165 acres and has so much to offer all visitors! There are picnic shelters, playground areas, volleyball courts, restrooms, and much more!
There are also several walking trails at Mount Trashmore Park. Three of the most popular trails there are the Perimeter Trail (1.95 miles), the Lake Trail (1.45 miles), and the Mountain Trail (1.30 miles).
The park receives over a million visitors annually and is the most popular park in Virginia Beach since its opening.
Get Wet at Ocean Breeze Waterpark
Less than 2 miles from the oceanfront, you will find Ocean Breeze Waterpark, one of the most popular things to do in Virginia Beach for kids and families (and I love them even as an adult)!
With over 30 waterslides, this Virginia Beach Waterpark dates back to 1974 and remains open from Memorial Day until Labor Day and is an absolute blast.
Address: 849 General Booth Blvd in Virginia Beach.
Take a Kayak Nature Tour
Kayaking in Virginia Beach on a warm summer evening during the golden hour is one of the best experiences to enjoy when visiting the coastal city.
Virginia Beach has a wide range of places to kayak such as Knotts Island, Blackwater River, Dismal Swamp Northwest River, and more.
Kayaking is a great way to explore the natural spots in the area, connect with nature, watch the life of the flora and fauna, and also learn how to keep the balance on the water.
You can book yourself a Virginia Beach kayaking tour here.
Connect with Nature at False Cape State Park & Back Bay NWR
One of the most underrated state parks in Virginia is False Cape State Park in Virginia Beach.
This underdeveloped area along the Atlantic Ocean is a fantastic place for wildlife spotting, hiking and biking trails, and primitive camping. It has 6 miles of beaches and the park is only accessible by foot, bike, tram (from Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge), or boat.
There are many things to do in False Cape State Park and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge for outdoor enthusiasts and the top thing to do is enjoy some of the hiking trails that connect the park to Back Bay.
There are the East and West Dike trails. They are flat and manageable for any skill level of a hiker.
The park is open daily from 8am until 7pm. The visitor center is open from 9am until 4pm.
Visit the Norfolk Botanical Garden
Virginia Beach is home to some really outstanding parks but one of my favorite places to visit in the area is actually in Norfolk! The Norfolk Botanical Garden is the largest botanical garden in Virginia.
The land was turned into a botanical garden in the late 1930s and is even on the National Register of Historic Places.
You can find a rose garden, a desert plants garden, a Japanese garden, and much more! It really is one of the best things to do in Norfolk VA (and the perfect trip from VB).
Address: 6700 Azalea Garden Road in Norfolk.
Take a Ride on Captain Jack’s Pirate Ship
Jump aboard the Pirate Ship as it takes you on a sea adventure in search of lost treasure. Your friends and family will enjoy Captain Jack’s Pirate Ship cruise, also known as “Lost Pearl”.
The ship passes by the Virginia Beach oceanfront (if you’re sitting on the beach… trust me, you have seen this pass by several times) and is a popular attraction in Virginia Beach.
If you board the ship, you will get to sail along the oceanfront, sip on cold drinks, and play pirate games on the ship.
While I don’t recommend this for adults necessarily, it is really one of the best kid’s activities in Virginia Beach and is always a great thing to do for families.
See the Norwegian Lady statue
If you’re visiting Virginia Beach, be sure to check out the Norwegian Lady Statue along the boardwalk.
This statue commemorates the shipwreck from 1891 for the Norwegian ‘Dictator’ – it wrecked off the VA Beach coast and lives were lost, but due to valiant efforts of the United States Lifesaving Service (now the US Coast Guard), 8 of the 17 passengers ended up saved.
The other Norwegian Lady Statue sits in Moss, Norway.
Address: Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Stop into a Virginia Beach Coffee Shop
There are some insanely good coffee shops in Virginia Beach and we recommend spending your morning at one regardless of whether you’re there during the high season or low season.
As mentioned before, so many people fail to remember that Virginia Beach is not just a seasonal resort – it is actually Virginia’s most populated city! With that being said, you can find some amazing cafes there.
Some of the most popular are Pourfavor (located on Lynnhaven Blvd), Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii (Oceanfront Area Library), Roast Rider (Hilltop East Shopping Center), and Three Ships Coffee Roasters (19th Street).
Our guide linked above has the lowdown on all of our favorites, so be sure to check it out!
Stand-up Paddleboarding with Ebbing Tides
If you want to be on the water but get bored easily by just laying beside it and taking a dip every so often, try stand-up paddleboarding with Ebbing Tides.
This company offers rentals, day camps, and ACA-certified lessons in the Chesapeake Bay, Lynnhaven Inlet, and the river marshes around Virginia Beach. It is definitely a different way to soak up the sun and enjoy yourself!
Head over to their Facebook page to learn more!
Enjoy Atlantic Fun Park
If you are visiting Virginia Beach with the family, Atlantic Fun Park is a place that you have to visit because it offers a break from the ocean and the opportunity to enjoy small rides and games, and more.
Attractions like Sea Dragon, Gravitron 100-foot-tall Skyflyer, and Flying Bob’s will make your adrenaline rush to the max!
Also, you will have the opportunity to see Virginia Beach from above from Virginia Beach’s tallest Ferris wheel.
And, of course, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to eat a lot of sweets, chill in local cafes, and just have fun.
Address: 233 15th St, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Stop into the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum at De Witt Cottage
If you’re looking for something truly unique to do in Virginia Beach, look no further than the Atlantic Heritage Waterfowl Museum at De Witt Cottage.
This museum has been in existence since 1995 in a historic cottage that dates back to 1895.
The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988 and today you will find a museum dedicated to bird decoys, bird art and sculptures, hunting memorabilia, and a history of Virginia Beach through photos.
You can find the Atlantic Heritage Waterfowl Museum at 1106 Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach. Check out their website for more information.
Stop by JT’s Grommet Island Park
Another family-friendly attraction in Virginia Beach is JT’s Grommet Island Park, an ADA-accessible and cozy green space in the city.
The 15,000 square-foot beach park is surrounded by a beautiful beach, palm trees, sculptures, watersport activities, and more.
Address: Boardwalk &, 2nd St, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Visit the Coastal Virginia Magazine WineFest
Wine lovers will have a unique opportunity during their vacation to visit the Annual AT&T Town Point Virginia Wine Festival which takes place during the fall and is one of the most anticipated festivals in Virginia.
During this massive wine festival, you can try a wide range of wines – there are over 200 high-quality, local wines to choose from!
Visitors also can enjoy live music concerts and will have an opportunity to try food from local food vendors cooking right at the festival.
Click here to learn more about the Coastal Virginia Magazine Winefest.
Drink Craft Beer in Virginia Beach
One of the best things to do in Virginia Beach is to check out the craft beer scene!
There are many places to enjoy craft beer in Virginia Beach and you can enjoy it at a taproom or at a bar that specializes in the stuff.
My favorite place is actually Esoteric. It is located close to the oceanfront in the ViBe Creative District (501 Virginia Beach Blvd) and they serve an array of local beers inside. The atmosphere was just cool. No other way to put it!
However, if you’re looking to stop by a Virginia Beach brewery specifically, you can try Wasserhund Brewing Company, Back Bay Brewing Co., Deadline Brewing Project, Reaver Beach Brewing Company, New Realm, and more!
Escape the Crowds at Sandbridge Beach
A great place to visit if you’re looking for a break from the crowds of the main beach in Virginia Beach is Sandbridge.
The beach is located in the northern part of the Outer Banks and on the Currituck Banks Peninsula.
One really cool thing about Sandbridge is that you have the Atlantic on one side and the Back Bay NWR and False Cape State Park on another side on the south.
At Sandbridge Beach, you will find 4.5 miles of beaches that will feel far more remote than the resort area up north.
There are lifeguards supervising things and they are on duty from 9:30am until 6pm from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day.
You won’t find hotels here but rather some houses and condos. It is much quieter and is a better option for those looking for a more ‘remote’ beach rather than the crowds.
Try Local Spirits with Tarnished Truth Distilling Company
Another can’t-miss place in Virginia Beach (especially for those who love trying local spirits and brews!) is the Tarnished Truth Distilling Company.
Located inside the famous Cavalier Hotel, Tarnished Truth was founded in 2013 and you can find everything from Rye Bourbon to 3-year-old straight bourbon whiskey and more!
This is a great place souvenir to take back from Virginia Beach if you’re looking for something a bit cooler than saltwater taffy or any of the stuff you’d find at the souvenir shops along Atlantic Avenue.
Eat at One of Virginia Beach’s Best Restaurants
And naturally, you will find amazing food in Virginia Beach and you will need to hit up some of the restaurants while there!
This will require a separate guide but I will list a few that are located close to the oceanfront for this solely because I believe it will be out-of-towners reading this guide and not locals!
Here are some top-rated restaurants close to the water:
- Chix on the Beach
- Waterman’s Surfside Grille
- The Atlantic
- Tautog’s Restaurant
- Rudee’s Restaurant and Cabana Bar
If you’re looking for what to order, you can never go wrong with the catch of the day (just ask what it is), Chesapeake Bay blue crabs, or oysters.
I always order the steamer bags when I am in town and they are available because I miss them and they offer a bit of everything.
Take the Kids to Hunt Club Farm
Connect farm life and your family at Hunt Club Farm – a fantastic attraction that kids visiting Virginia Beach will love.
Hunt Club Farm offers not only to see, feed, and play with alpacas, geese, goats, llamas, pigs, peacocks, and many other animals, but it also offers a wide range of other fun activities for families.
If you are visiting Hunt Club Farm during Easter time with your family, then get ready to enjoy an Easter Egg Hunt where your kids can hunt for eggs, ride carnival rides, and entertain themselves with other activities.
Address: 2388 London Bridge Rd, Virginia Beach, VA 23456
Where to Stay in Virginia Beach
Here are some top recommended beachfront hotels in Virginia Beach:
- The Cavalier by Autograph Collection (VB’s most famous hotel – my top pick!)
- Hilton Garden Inn VA Beach Oceanfront (4-star w/ pool and restaurant)
- Hampton Inn VA Beach Oceanfront North (3-star hotel w/ ocean views)
- Comfort Inn & Suites VA Beach Oceanfront (3-star on boardwalk)
While we could have gone on for days on this guide, we hope that you enjoyed our list of the best things to do in Virginia Beach VA for those not from the area!
Naturally, as this is a major city, there are several ‘non-touristy’ things to do and we will include that in a future guide… but if you’re heading there as an out-of-towner or first-timer, this guide should help you figure out some cool activities, restaurants, and more!
Let us know what to do in Virginia Beach if you have been and have a recommendation for an attraction or activity!