Picture this: The warm sun is shining bright from a crystal-clear sky as it slowly paints tan lines around your bathing suit. Your toes are floating in cool, crisp turquoise water while local birds sing a melodious tune seemingly made just for you. Somewhere off in the distance there is the tranquil hum of music that makes you want to extend this moment forever. You open your eyes to survey your harmonious surroundings, and what do you see? You’re probably thinking of a far-off Caribbean Island or Hawaiian stretch of sand, but in this case, you’d be quite wrong! Let’s take an easily accessible road trip, efficient light jet flight, or even a high-tech helicopter flight (yes, some choppers can travel 300+ miles now!) down to Virginia Beach, VA! Please allow me to show you why close to home might be a viable substitute for far away adventures during this summer’s highly anticipated beach season.
In talking with a lot of NYC families, it seems most typically vacation somewhere within New York, Connecticut, or New Jersey given their proximity and ease of access to these locations. If you happen to be looking for a new spot to unwind along the East Coast that is easily drivable with beach friendly temperatures much longer than we have at home, then look no further than Virginia Beach! I recently had the opportunity to take this small road trip to visit an old high school buddy of mine who now calls the bay side of Virginia Beach home. And what a treat it was not only to catch up, but also to be shown around the area by a local so I could get a taste of all the best things to do, eat, and see while in town!
The first clue that you’re soon to be arriving to your destination is setting across the ominous Chesapeake Bay Bridge. This bridge is composed of two separate tunnels connected by three sections of bridge that collectively span approximately 19 miles of open water. Travelers can pull off to lookout points and observe the tranquility of the Chesapeake Bay without a single point of land in sight. However, I happened to be traversing this architectural masterpiece in the rain, so I chose to keep trucking along to my destination. Our suggestion for those who do not wish to stop along the bridge is to swap drivers on arrival and departure so that everyone in the car has the opportunity to check out the serene surroundings. I did snap a quick picture through my window on the way across the bridge, though. Make sure to check out how vast the ocean looks from this vantage point – there’s no land in sight!
Once you head into town, direct your car towards the regal Cavalier Hotel, part of Marriott’s esteemed Autograph Collection of luxury properties. This historic hotel has hosted 10 US presidents over its time and was recently completely renovated to enhance its elegance and hospitality while still highlighting its impressive historic roots. The property boasts many well-appointed guest rooms and suites, the indulgent SeaHill Spa featuring Himalayan salt rooms and hydrotherapy pods, 3 distinctly delicious restaurants, and the signature Tarnished Truth Distilling Company bourbon distillery on site. We recommend choosing an ocean front suite as the property sits high atop a lofty hill in town, providing its guests with unencumbered views of the Atlantic Ocean from nearly any level of the hotel.
Ok, so we have arrived and gotten settled in at our luxury hotel – but now what can we do? Well, the possibilities are really quite endless on this stretch of land. Our first stop was the beach – specifically the bayside shores as these are much less crowded and the water much calmer than on the oceanfront side of the island. Here it is perfectly normal for beachgoers to bring not only the expected Tommy Bahama backpack chair and matching umbrella, but also giant floats that can fit the whole family and practically any variety of non-motorized water sports. To your left you might spot someone balancing precariously on a paddleboard as a kayaker deftly maneuvers around them, while to your right you might see children bouncing on a floating trampoline as adults windsurf in the distance. It is the quintessential family friendly space with entertainment and simple pleasures in mind. The atmosphere is relaxing and respectful – no one sat too close to us or invaded our personal space in anyway while on the sand or in the ocean. Personally, I opted for some sea kayaking and body surfing – neither of which I was particularly great at, but hey at least I could stay afloat! We highly recommend venturing to this section of sand for some much-needed family-oriented fun in the sun!
If you happen to have an overcast day or simply want a reprieve from the endless sunsets and lapping tides of the Chesapeake shores – then look no further than the expansive Norfolk Botanical Gardens. I would consider myself somewhat of a botanical garden connoisseur at this point (given that I seek them out wherever I go), and this one surely did not disappoint! With over 60 gardens spread across 175 acres, it is not hard to get lost in the beauty of the blooms and the fragrant perfumes emanating from around every corner. The Bicentennial Rose Garden housed many varieties of traditional and modern thorns, while the pathways leading to the Virginia Native garden were lined with flowering magnolias, which happen to be the state flower of Virginia! Depending on the time of year, there is likely to be a special display set up amongst their expansive lawns. On one of my previous trips, we wiggled in and out of hundreds of frolicking flamingo topiaries scattered amongst the natural vegetation!
If action is more your style, consider some water sporting options, like renting a jet ski for the afternoon or chartering a company to take you and your family parasailing. During our visit, we contacted Pirate Parasail for the latter and all I can say is wow! This had been my first crack at parasailing, so I took my time researching exactly what to be mindful of when selecting an outfitter. I chose this company as they are licensed and certified by the US Coast Guard to carry out these excursions – as always, safety is our #1 priority. Once we were harnessed up and secured to the parasail, the 1,000-foot rope was released, and we leisurely sailed high into the sky. I’m not sure exactly what I had been expecting, but the level of serenity and pure tranquility once you reached the final altitude was incredibly surprising to me. There was seemingly no wind at all – just a gentle breeze cooling you off from the hot sun as you took in breathtaking panoramic views of the Virginia Beach coastline. At one point we were even lucky enough to spot a pod of bottlenose dolphins below us while the expert team managed to dip us into the refreshing waters of the Atlantic alongside these curious water mammals!
If you’ve been following my other posts, you should know that the food scene is one of my top priorities when exploring a new place. It’s probably also no surprise that I happen to eat as much with my eyes as I do my belly, meaning that the aesthetic of the venue and the plating both matter to me as much as the taste of the food itself. Granted, we didn’t choose to dine in any high-end steakhouses or Michelin starred establishments on this outing – after all, it is the beach! Instead, we set out to find the best freshly caught seafood that could be casually served under the stars with a cool breeze and a spectacular waterfront view.
Chick’s Oyster Bar on the bay offered all these amenities, plus deliciously tasty bites. This is your quintessential waterfront bar with seafood taken directly from the fishing boats and good, strong drinks set against a backdrop of vibrant orange and red hues as the sun retires for the day. Not to mention, you can choose to walk, drive, or sail up to this fine establishment. Yes, that’s right – the serving staff will bring you libations directly to your boat (assuming there is space to park your vessel, as its popular among walk-ins and sailors alike!) What it lacks in traditional luxury it more than makes up for in atmosphere. We highly recommend the warm blue crab dip (served with the most amazing old bay seasoned soft tortillas) and the firecracker shrimp tacos (don’t worry – they aren’t too spicy!) Wash it all down with an orange crush and head back to the hotel satisfied. There is no shortage of waterfront dining at Virginia Beach, so for some close options to The Cavalier with great reviews and even better views, check out any one of the restaurants at Rudee’s Inlet.
In addition to all the options reviewed above, there are myriad other activities to entertain you or your family while at Virginia Beach. Some of our favorites not described here include renting jet skis for an afternoon or hiring a private fishing charter, climb the 191 stairs to the top of the Cape Henry Lighthouse (America’s first ever lighthouse!), have a picnic in one of the many state parks, explore Sandbridge via Stand-Up-Paddleboard, or go zip-lining through the canopies of the Adventure Park next to the Virginia Aquarium that houses over 800,000 gallons of aquatic activities. When the weather doesn’t cooperate, check out indoor skydiving at iFly Virginia, learn about our high-flying history at the Military Aviation Museum, or sip some wine while painting your own personal masterpiece at Muse Paintbar. During the drive itself, make sure to stop at either Assateague or Chincoteague Island, home of the wild horses that call the coastal landscape home. As I’m sure you can see, the possibilities here are truly endless! When you are looking for a break from your standard summer vacation, we encourage you to add Virginia Beach to your list of family-friendly destinations, alongside tried and true New York favorites like the Hamptons and Finger Lakes regions.
As always, Your Concierge NYC is happy to help you plan and book your personal and corporate travel to any destination you can dream of. We have extensive experience traveling across the country and throughout the world, as well as a demonstrated history of serving our clients’ many travel needs. If you feel you could benefit from letting our skilled and travel savvy team plan your next getaway, please click here to submit a request for more info. Thanks for reading!