What can two late twenties new parents who really. really. really. need a vacation do in Virginia Beach in mid-May?
March 21, 2007 6:52 AM   Subscribe

What can two late twenties new parents who really. really. really. need a vacation do in Virginia Beach in mid-May?

Oh, forgot to mention, the baby won't be coming with.

We were shooting for East Coast, and Virginia Beach worked with the timeshare opportunity we were given as a gift. Never been there, don't know anything about the area.
We are very long overdue for a real vacation and want to make the best of this. 2 questions:

1. What can we expect of the weather?
2. What should we do (besides relax and have many drinks)?

The real goals here are a great time, stress relief, celebration of finishing graduate school (her), and a little bit of a relationship re-kick-start.
posted by bradn to Travel & Transportation around Virginia Beach, VA (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Virginia Beach is a nice place to have some fun, as long as you you stay on the good side of the sometimes overzealous police - they really like to keep the order and reinforce the concept that Va Beach is a family resort.

In May, the weather could be anything, but it will probably be in the mid-seventies to mid-eighties. The water will probably still be too cold to swim in, unless you're exceptionally hardy. The crowds won't really start showing up until the end of the month - that's a good thing.

As a beach resort, all the beachy activities are here: seafood restaurants, themed drinking establishments, miniature golf, etc. They are all fun if you're in the right mood.

Some other activities to consider:

1. Virginia Marine Science Museum Very nice. Right down at the beach, so easy and quick to get to.

2.Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge At the very south end of the beach, bordering NC. Nice place to see undeveloped beach habitat and lots of wildlife.

If you don't mind driving some, there's also the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton, and Busch Gardens in Williamsburg.

That's just a few suggestions. In between, I highly recommend relaxing and having many drinks.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:40 AM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Virginia Beach.. uh.. It's a Navy town, and I've spent way, way too much time there. Lots of sailors (often drunk). Lots of industries catering to sailors (bars, car dealerships, raw bars).

And the water will probably be COLD. COLD COLD COLD. The whole beach will possibly be COLD. Once you get off of the beach its self (wind), it will generally be OK (bring a light-medium jacket).

Anyway, there are some fun things to do:

- Purple Cow restaurant, not high class but cute, poodle-skirt themed, diner-like... and you can order purple milkshakes. Stop by there for one of your quick meals or just a milkshake.

- The Marine Science Center Aquarium (warning: closes at 5, which is way too early). Highlight would be petting the sting rays (de-stung). Making sure you're there around feeding time is also pretty nice, since you get to see interesting behavior. They also have trails if you're into hiking.

- Seashore State Park also has some nice trails (they're across the road from the parking, I can't remember how well it's signposted).

- Walking along Atlantic Ave. (this is the first street off the beach that parallels the beach, once you're there it's blatantly obvious) can be amusing, but touristy. Most of the shops will be rubbish but every so often you'll come across a few rides (expensive) or mini-golf or something. Many of these things may be closed due to how early in the year it'll be. There's also a bus, really cheap, which does nothing but go up and down the beach, useful if you're half way down and don't want to walk back.

- There are rent-a-bike places, so you can bike on the paved walk along the beach. I haven't felt an urge to do this myself, but it seems to be popular.

Also, a word of warning, if you are driving, there is this thing called "bridge and tunnel traffic". Basically, a lot of the major bridges are draw bridges and a lot of big ships pass through. Also there is (another) big navy base in Hampton and a lot of the sailors live in VA Beach, connected by bridges and tunnels, so the rush hour is fierce. Add an extra half hour to hour to travel time for crossing the major bridge-tunnels. Also note that there's a little information pavilion on the Hampton side, which is your last chance to get out of the car and use the rest room (I speak from unpleasant personal experience).

Depending on how long you stay, you may also be there during Memorial Day, at which point everything picks up a lot and there are fireworks on the beach. (The fireworks are really good.)
posted by anaelith at 8:01 AM on March 21, 2007

Seashore State Park -- the trails are across the road from the park parking. (Nothing like proofing for readability and making-sense-ness.)
posted by anaelith at 8:03 AM on March 21, 2007

I never know what to recommend to people who come to visit VB since the place is just so generally "different" than most vacation spots. We have the largest population in the state, yet there's quite a hometown, neighborhoody feel to everything. The strip has several large chain hotels, but so many little rinky dinky motels. We have miles and miles of oceanfront shopping, yet nothing really "good." It's all just kind of a paradox.

I always recommend the Virginia Aquarium (formerly the Marine Science Museum), but there's nothing entirely "special" about it. You'll learn a lot about the region's marine biology, which is interesting if you're into that kind of thing. They currently have 6 penguins on loan from the Baltimore Zoo living in (what appears to my scientifically uninformed mind) a cramped enclosure. They stand around and doing nothing all day. (Here's a penguin picture my gf took.)

Just down the road from the Aquarium, is Ocean Breeze, a big water park that also has go-karts and mini golf. The last time I was there was when I was 12, so I have no idea what it's like these days.

And like Benny mentioned, Back Bay is a nice way to get away from man-made objects for a while -- it's a little far from the oceanfront (it's the extreme south-east of the area), but you can find places and rent kayaks if you're interested. There's also First Landing / Seashore State Park at the opposite end, which offers trails, etc.

Here's just some random stuff I put together for the last person to contact me via AskMe about VB:

The oceanfront runs what's called "Beach Street USA" every night which can be pretty nice. VB has this history of attracting what the city calls "undesirable people" (and what the rest of us call "African-Americans") who cause trouble at nights. To curb it, they figured they could saturate the place with families to overwhelm the undesireables. So on every corner, they have street entertainment: musicians, jugglers, etc. Additionally, they have other groups (a band, etc) that travel up and down and put on short shows. I doubt it's anything that somebody would think "Gosh, let's go down to see the Beach Street people!" but it adds to the experience.

Here's the BeachEvents calendar for the upcoming season. And here's a nice Visitor's Guide PDF you can download with some more diverse things to do (state parks, etc).

This area is also jam-packed with history. If you're a history nut, you can see Cape Henry, the site of the first landing of permanent English settlers. It's also home to the Cape Henry lighthouses - the old one was the first lighthouse authorized by the U.S. government. (Note: Cape Henry is on the army base, Fort Story, but you're allowed on for free.) There are tons of museums and other opportunities in the area (Williamsburg, etc) -- the visitor's site mentioned above should point you in the right direction.

For bar-time fun, Virginia Beach has what's called "The Block," which is the collection of bars along Atlantic between 21st & 22nd streets. They're populated mostly by local surfer dudes and lifeguards, both of whom enjoy emanating elitist local attitudes. The list includes Peabody's, Chicho's, The Edge, and a couple others. They're all relatively small.

If you're up for a jaunt to Norfolk, here's a list of all the bars & stuff.

Jillian's (Norfolk) is called "A Playground for Grown-ups," and it's a pretty interesting place. Basically a big (place is huge) theme-park like place with video games, virtual bowling, a bunch of restaurants, and, well, plenty of booze. Time Lounge is your standard "Hi, we're in little old Hampton Roads but we really want to pretend we're in NYC" bar.

Colley Avenue and Ghent in Norfolk have some interesting little nooks & crannies, from the retro Naro Cinema to restaurants to a few shops. Stockley Gardens is always a nice walk through some older neighborhoods if you're into the history thing.

I'm confident that at the very least, walking around down at the oceanfront in the evening would be pretty enjoyable for anybody from out of town. A nice dinner, walking around in search of the treasures hidden behind the rest of all the touristy kitsch, strolling along the boardwalk, grabbing ice cream. The problem I always have is there's no *one* superfantastic thing I can recommend to people... it's more of the psychological aspect of feeling away from things and finding your own memories in the terrain that's presented. We don't have Broadway, nor do we have the Bellagio. But we do have a wonderful beach and plenty of opportunities to decompress. I have tons of Virginia Beach photos on my website (self-link, naturally), so between that and searching around on Flickr for Virginia Beach photos, you should be able to get an idea of what the place looks like.

One last tip: You might want to search Pollstar for a list of concerts in the area during your time of stay. And feel free to email me directly (address in my profile) if you have any more questions.
posted by Hankins at 8:39 AM on March 21, 2007

In addition to Back Bay as mentioned before, if you are willing to pay to drive across the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel, there is the Eastern Shore of Virginia & Fisherman Island National Wildlife Refuges (say that three times fast). When my wife and I drove across the Bridge-Tunnel a couple of years ago, an aircraft carrier happened to be going under one of the bridges as we were crossing. That alone made it worth the $12 fee to cross. Interestingly, they made everyone stop while the ship went under the bridge.
posted by na2rboy at 9:04 AM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

As a twenty-something year-old, and a resident of Va Beach:

The local restaurant guide is pretty handy, and usually right on-point.

The Beach Street, USA thing that Hankins mentions is very corny, but also interesting. It does, however, make for an awesome atmosphere when you're walking along outside. It's too early yet to get a good idea of the events going on in May, so check the local event guide later to get some ideas. If you're staying at the oceanfront, many of the hotels will inform you of local events, or have events of their own. The Virginia Marine Science Museum linked above is also a lot of fun.

The Pungo Strawberry Festival is at the end of May this year - if you're here for it, I recommend you go. They have fresh strawberries, a lot of different attractions, and fresh strawberries. Did I mention the strawberries?

If you widen your scope from just Virginia Beach to Southside Hampton Roads, you'll have quite a few more options. There's always Waterside, Ghent, and the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, or the history in Old Town Portsmouth, or Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, if you're up for the drive. Warning: public transportation here is pretty much non-existent, save for the bus line, which equates to a toilet on wheels. You will have to rent a car if you plan on going away from the oceanfront.

If you're looking for nightlife, I'd avoid The Block simply because it's not really worth it. For a good time for you guys, try Norfolk. I'd recommend Jillian's for laid-back fun, or Premiere if you feel like getting dressed up (but not if you have no tolerance for techno music). Premiere is interesting simply because it was converted from a theatre to a club.

In Town Center in Virginia Beach (don't let anyone tell you it's downtown VA Beach) there are a number of shops and restaurants. There's also The Funny Bone comedy club.

The Beach in mid-May is always iffy. We've had it warm, and sometimes we've had it cold. So far it's looking like it won't be bad (maybe beach weather, but not in-the-water-at-the-beach weather).

While it's a family oriented resort area, you'll have fun without children. Most people in your position come back the next year with the kids. Hope you have fun while you're here! Feel free to email me (in the profile) if you have any specific questions about locations of things or other events.
posted by sephira at 10:16 AM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

The Great Dismal Swamp NWR is less than an hour away, if you're into the hiking or birding thing.

Bikes are allowed on the trails too, but they can be full of thorns in some spots so I wouldn't recommend that unless you like patching flats.
posted by Opposite George at 10:19 AM on March 21, 2007

If you're into aviation, you can go plane-spotting for some great military aircraft at NAS Oceana.

You can also make the short drive down to Kitty Hawk in North Carolina to check out the Wright Brother's First Flight Memorial.
posted by matty at 10:24 AM on March 21, 2007

If you are history buffs, drive inland an hour or so to visit Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown.
posted by LarryC at 9:55 PM on March 21, 2007

I second the Back Bay. Get yourself a kayak and paddle around.
posted by Patrick Graham at 12:28 PM on March 26, 2007

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