3 hours, 30 minutes
Whatever you want, you’ll find it in Virginia Beach. The estuary is calm and low-key, with a locals’ vibe, while the halcyon waters of Sandbridge are filled with natural splendor for outdoor enthusiasts. The oceanfront is the pinnacle of it all, with activity à la Southern California’s famous stretches of sand. But that’s not surprising, considering the town (named the safest large city in the U.S. in 2020) is considered the birthplace of East Coast surfing. Should you feel inclined to step away from the shore, there’s a creative district, breweries, and shopping.
Perhaps it’s the result of a year spent indoors, but the city is basking in the glory of ongoing additions to its travel and lifestyle scene. The 295-suite Delta Hotels Bayfront Suites opened in March, marking the first beachfront destination of its kind on the Chesapeake—on a private stretch of sand, no less. About 15 minutes away and on the oceanfront, the second phase of the massive $350 million Cavalier Resort project was completed in June 2020 with the Marriott hotel and conference center. (The namesake 1920s-era Cavalier Hotel’s reno was finished in 2018 as part of the first segment; the final portion, which includes a third hotel and a motor court to connect the historic and modern destinations, is in the works for 2022.)
Meanwhile, the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center’s south building will be reintroduced this summer following a $25 million renovation, bringing with it otters, interactive exhibits, and a giant Pacific octopus. Budding marine biologists will also find a veterinary wing that offers an inside look at water quality, conservation, and animal care. A last splash? Charlottesville-based Three Notch’d Brewery is debuting its fifth watering hole in the Town Center district come summer and will fill your pint with fruity sours, hoppy IPAs, and exclusive offerings that rotate weekly.
Courtesy of More To See Photo
By the beach
The oceanfront is a popular spot for soaking it all in. Hit the 3-mile boardwalk in the morning (sunrise, if you can) for a run or a stroll with the kids. The sands will still be immaculate, not yet populated by colorful beach towels and umbrellas, and the sound of waves crashing provide natural mood music. You can’t miss the 26-foot King Neptune statue watching over the waters—glassy early in the day and varying in size as the hours tick by. Later, stretch out on the wide beach to catch a golden glow between dips in the sea. (If you’re staying at the Cavalier, take advantage of its club. Semi-private beach access, a towel and umbrella concierge, cabanas, and loungers—not to mention a sand-side bar—are among the perks.)
Because surfing is the soul of Virginia Beach, there’s never been a better time to partake in some lessons. The less-crowded Sandbridge, with its milder waves, is a good place to try your toes at hanging 10: Ocean Rentals Ltd. provides classes for the uninitiated, including two-hour private sessions for you and your family. The Chesapeake waterfront, known as Chic’s Beach, might just be the place to spot a dolphin or two. And a different twist on waterside adventure—best for families with older children or couples’ outings—comes by way of Moore to See Photo Expeditions and its private eco-tours led by certified guides on the North Landing River. The new River Crab Feast indulges with blue crustaceans on a remote dock.
Photo courtesy The Cavalier
Start your day with a healthy bite at CLTRE. The Black-owned vegan cafe in Town Center has earned serious accolades among Yelp reviewers. Kids will love the spelt-flour waffles with coconut bacon (trust us), and you’ll be all about that avo toast on gluten-free tostones. Carve out an evening away from the little ones at the Cavalier: Have a fancy cocktail amid the Raleigh Room’s eclectic art and furnishings in a cavalcade of colors. Live music is played on the weekends. For a one-of-a-kind experience, arrange a private tour and dinner at the onsite, underground Tarnished Truth Distilling Company. And don’t wander off without at least taking a peek at the indoor pool. It positively glitters against a backdrop of white walls, palms, and verandas.
In between? Head to one of the U-pick farm in Pungo; kids’ eyes will bulge at the size of the strawberries in the region’s agricultural hub. If COVID guidelines allow, partake in some fun and games at Apex Entertainment in Town Center. Expect a trippy hologram-inspired experience and throwbacks like bumper cars and mini-golf. The public art scene thrives in the ViBe Creative District. It’s filled with artisanal shops; restaurants; and eye-catching, community-driven installations, like The Birdhouse on 19th and Park. The yellow open-air structure was crafted by at-risk youth. And stop by North End Bag Company to pick up a tote for schlepping all those beach wares for you and your fam.
With its private beachfront and myriad amenities, the contemporary-cool Delta is the obvious choice—there’s really no need to leave its sparkling, new grounds, particularly during COVID. (The Marriott properties have enacted contactless services with mobile check-in.) There’s an outdoor pool and lounge, fitness center, bike and kayak rentals, and one- and two-bedroom suites, many of which boast balconies with bay views. The hotel’s Tin Cup Kitchen + Oyster Bar has a gently nautical, driftwood-inspired aesthetic, with curved, wood-beamed ceilings and a menu that capitalizes on local coastal cuisine. (Oysters are de rigueur.) On the beach: Delta has a chair and umbrella concierge as well as food and drink service.
Not into a hotel? Coastal Accommodations, a rental property and concierge biz, will set you up in one of its two- to five-bedroom abodes. Take note: A three- to four-night minimum is required during the summer. The team also handles your travel must-haves—grocery delivery, boat cruises, and baby-equipment rentals to make your beach life as breezy as you’d hoped.