Virginia Beach offers plenty of fun for everyone in the family

By Steve Rocca, Contributor

Bay Creek Golf

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - People who vacation in Virginia Beach know about the 85 blocks of sand along Atlantic Ave., but what they don't often realize is just how much more there is to do.

The sun and the surf are attractive, and for many people that is all that is needed. But some of us get a little antsy after a day of "vegging out," and we get the itch to explore a little more. This destination guide to Virginia Beach should help you figure out where to go when you've had enough of the beach.

Whether it's golf you crave (see separate story), or museums or shopping or other entertainment, this tourism hotbed has it all. (Nearly 3 million visitors a year can't be wrong.)

Virginia Beach has some of the region's top ecological areas and marine life centers, including the Marine Science Museum, which is great for the kids. Other museums in the area include the Chrysler Museum of Art, Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum, and the Old Coast Guard Station Museum.

For history buffs, there's the Adam Thoroughgood House or the Cape Henry Lighthouse. Lovers of the opera can check out the Harrison Opera House, Contemporary Art Center of Virginia or the Virginia Beach Pavilion Theater. Families will love to spend a day at the Seashore State Park, where the kids can run, scream, fly kites and everything else kids do. Pack a picnic basket and enjoy lunch at one of the many scenic spots.

Harrison Opera House Kids and kids at heart can crack a home run at the outdoor batting cages, ride in water bumper cars, eat soft-serve ice cream or a snow cone, take a ride on the giant swing at Rudee Inlet (not for the weak of stomach), or meander through the famous jungle golf putt-putt course.

Here's a closer look at some of the great fun to be had in Virginia Beach.

Virginia Marine Science Museum (vmsm.com)

You can see the ocean wildlife from behind thick glass at one of the Top 10 marine science aquariums in the country. The facility also offers IMAX movies, whale watching tours, and nature trails. This is an awesome place for kids.

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge (backbay.fws.gov)

Eco-tourism is alive and growing in Virginia Beach. The Back Bay Wildlife Refuge is one beautiful example! The tranquil False Cape State Park (a location only accessible by foot or bike), is a great place to forget your worries in quiet broken only by the sounds of birds, dragonflies -- and some mosquitoes. Bring the insect repellant for this excursion.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (cbbt.com)

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

Acclaimed as one of the seven engineering wonders of the modern world, the 17-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel connects Virginia Beach with Virginia's Eastern Shore. For $10 you can cross, but it's only $4 on the return trip if you come back within 24 hours. Be sure to stop off at the gift shop in the middle to pick up some nifty and unique souvenirs. The fishing pier is accessible for the price of a one-way toll. Located on the southern- most island, the pier's location puts the fisherman out where the fish are. You' ll also get amazing views of the shipping traffic that runs through the channel.

Nightlife (beacheventsfun.com)

Atlantic Avenue provides nightly summer entertainment. There are bars open until 1:30 a.m. on every block, but 17th Streeet through 30th Street draw the biggest crowds. The streets are alive and entertainment (most evenings) can be heard coming out of the 17th Street and 24th Street stages. During the summer, fireworks are a regular Sunday night occurrence.

Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre (cellardoor.com/vba)

Check the schedule for the acts playing during your visit. Some of the hottest pop and rock bands have visited this venue. From rock legends Aerosmith and the Dave Matthews Band to pop sensations Britney Spears and N'Sync, this place has showcased them all. There are 7,500 seats beneath the roofed pavilion and room for 12,500 people on the lawn. Giant video screens accommodate everyone in the crowd, no matter where you are.

Parasailing and jet-skiing

Several companies let you view the beach from high above, if you dare. Go to the end of Mediterranean at Rudee Inlet, and you'll find someone willing to take you on a one- or two-person flight over the beachfront. Take the challenge and say hello to the birds. You also can rent Wave Runners, jet skis and ocean kayaks at this end (1st through 5th streets) of the beach.

Water slides

Virginia Beach Fishing Center

Ocean Breeze Fun Park (south of the beachfront on General Booth Blvd.) is the city's answer to swimming without the sand. A full-sized water park with water slides and raft rides -- plus go-cart tracks, batting cages and miniature golf -- is located about 15 minutes from the boardwalk.

Dolphin watching

Virginia Beach Fishing Center, located at Rudee Inlet at the south end of Pacific Avenue, has charter boats for fishing or sight-seeing and dolphin watching. You can see the dolphin from the shore, going up the coastline in schools of three, four or five, but an up-close view is much more exhilarating. Dolphin watching trips also are scheduled throughout the season. Check with the Virginia Marine Science Museum for dates and times.

Steve RoccaSteve Rocca, Contributor

Steve Rocca has 16 years of journalism experience, including stints at the Virginian-Pilot, the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Palm Beach Post and the New Orleans Times-Picayune.


Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Jungle Golf Birthday's

    Petrina wrote on: May 15, 2011

    5 Stars+ Rating
    We have enjoyed this course for years. Brianna (our party attendant), Katie, Tara and Kaitlyn made my son's birthday party such a blast! All we had to do was show up! Everything was done for us! The cake was wonderful looking and tasted fantastic! They even took the pictures and burned them onto a cd before we left! Can't say enough about the best birhtday party ever!! Signed the pickiest, need it to the best party on the earth kind of Mom! Great Job girls!!!! Thank you!!

    Reply