Virginia Beach in spring was a much different scene than Virginia Beach in winter. Even though we were there in early May, the beaches were brimming with activity, and everyone was in full-on summer mode already. And, to be honest, I wouldn’t have known it was even the same town had you dropped me in the middle without a map (or rather, an iPhone).
As usual, we crammed far more than the average tourist might into a weekend as we were there with my travel squad for an #InstaMeetVABeach—you can search that hashtag on social media for even more tips from a wider variety of travelers, from Millennials to family bloggers—but here’s a quick little look at how to make the most out of 48 hours in Virginia Beach.
Explore the ViBe Creative District
In the time since I last visited, the ViBe Creative District has sprung up and created a vibrant hub for entrepreneurs to showcase their wares. I’m a sucker for a good coffee shop, and it’s a bonus if it’s also ridiculously photogenic as is Three Ships Coffee Roasters. The Punga Latte is a must, as is the giant rainbow Rice Krispie treat. Kid Augustine recommends the gourmet juice box.
From Three Ships, we wandered into some of the adjoining shops to check out the makers doing their thing—bag-making, sign-painting, you name it, they do it in ViBe—before eventually making our way to Chesapeake Bay Distillery, where we tasted flights of their spirits like the iconic ghost pepper-flavored vodka mixed up in Bloody Mary form (it was bloody delicious!).
That evening, we had the whole back patio reserved for dinner at Esoteric Craft Beer & Curated Provisions, a name that’s a mouthful but pretty accurately summarizes what you can expect from this food- and booze-forward restaurant.
The husband-wife chef-restaurateur team behind Esoteric who calls themselves “Yippies—somewhere between a hippie and a yuppie is where you will find our philosophy” took a 1920s building and morphed into their vision, one brimming with foodies and cocktail lovers who fill the inside and out every night they’re open. I’d definitely recommend a reservation if you’re hitting Esoteric during peak dining times.
Enjoy a quiet morning on Sandbridge Beach
The boardwalk isn’t the only beach in town. In fact, I prefer the quiet of Sandbridge, nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, to the buzz of the boardwalk. Just a half hour from downtown, Sandbridge draws more locals who live near its rugged dunes than it does tourists staying near the boardwalk. We arrived bright and early on a Saturday morning and had the beach virtually to ourselves.
SVV and I did a little acro while our friend Kristen buzzed the beach with her drone (Sandbridge is one of the few places in Virginia Beach where you can fly a drone).
And we saw DOLPHINS, guys. You can’t beat kicking off your weekend like that!
Go strawberry picking
I’m not sure I’ve been berry picking since I was a kid, and I’m also not sure I’ve had as much fun in ages as I did that Saturday morning out at Cullipher Farm. And no I don’t always try and match my scenery, but hey, it helped!
You pick your own berries by the gallon, but I’m pretty sure I ate as many as I picked (sorry, Cullipher Farm!) as they were so darn tasty right out of the ground. This is such a fun activity for big groups, as well as travelers of all ages. There are also swings and playground equipment and plenty of other draws for the little ones when they tire of berry-picking.
Cullipher Farm is also out right near Sandbridge, so you can plan the perfect beach morning, followed by strawberry picking then brunch at the Bee & the Biscuit.
Plan a self-guided brewery tour
On my first visit to Virginia Beach, we stumbled across Young Veterans Brewing Co., which had just opened, and spent a good afternoon there dodging the rain. In the years since, multiple breweries have joined the scene, and Commonwealth Brewing Company was my favorite, both for the space itself, the roomy patio area and the brews.
We also hit up Pleasure House Brewing with SVV’s old Navy roommate, Joe, and his wife Hillary, and while it’s much smaller, they had plenty of fun brews like key lime ale on tap, not to mention a shark mural. I regret that we couldn’t make a visit to Back Bay Brewing Co. happen due to their hours because many locals claimed that one as their favorite.
Dive into the Military Aviation Museum
This was, by far, my Navy veteran, plane-loving husband’s favorite part of the whole trip. We spent four hours browsing the many hangars comprising this expansive aviation museum, and he would have easily stayed four more (or possibly overnight) had I let him. The collection of vintage warplanes is just insane, and the docents—mostly current or retired military—are so knowledgeable about the history of every aircraft that this is a must-visit for any aviation nut (and even just enthusiasts like myself).
Take a Biplane Ride Over the Back Bay
I never knew that riding in a biplane was on my bucket list until I’d actually done it. But if you’re visiting the Military Aviation Museum from April through October, there’s the option to hop in a 1941 Boeing Stearman and go for a 15- or 30-minute flight over the Back Bay and the Virginia Beach coastline.
You’ll be seated up front in an open cockpit, and there’s no feeling like this in the world. It was a bit breezy the day I went up, so I recommend a light jacket. If you plan on taking a camera up like I did, make sure you have a mount or a wrist strap that cinches tightly, as the wind will whip it right out of your hand if not.
If you’re traveling in a pair, there’s also a three-seater Waco YMF-5 biplane that fits the pilot and two passengers.
There’s plenty more to do in Virginia Beach in spring and summer months—particularly around the boardwalk area—these are just a few of my favorite off-the-tourist-path activities. I’m very much a steer-clear-of-crowds kind of traveler, so I appreciate a large city like this one that has places for me to steal away to and not be crushed by people.
Have you been to Virginia Beach? What’s your favorite activity to do there in warmer months?