Dorothy Gale taught us some valuable lessons. One: don’t steal ruby slippers from witches, even if they’ve been crushed by a flying house. Two: There’s no place like home.
I ponder both notes very carefully when I find myself planning a vacation. We can consider ourselves all in luck that we have a slice of heaven away from the hustle and bustle that is life right in our backyards.
Virginia Beach has been quickly climbing the ranks of tourist destinations, with numbers in the range of $1.4 billion in tourism revenue in 2015, a figure that is continuing to trend upward. The average return rate for tourists was around 75.3% in that year’s study, which speaks to the fact that our little oceanfront town must have something to offer. Typically, the peak season is when prices skyrocket, and crowds are dense, but the season traditionally is considered active between Mid-May and Mid-September, leaving plenty of free beach space and sunshine for the taking to us locals in the end of Summer and early Autumn.
That’s right folks, the Virginia Beach Oceanfront is not just for out-of-towners, so pack up your ruby sandals (not acquired via witch-theft) because it’s time to steal a piece of that sunshine.
If old school VB charm is what you seek, look no further. The Belvedere Beach Resort has been tastefully updated, but still retains the vacations of years past in its bones. Beechwood planks and nautical-themed artwork gracing the walls create the perfect setting to breath in the salt and peace of the ocean. Prices range from $142 – $317.
Bonus: The staple of Virginia Beach’s breakfast scene is located right beneath you if you choose to rest your head at this spot. The Belvedere Coffee Shop & Diner has aged gracefully, and has remained a beloved local landmark for a reason. It’s a perfect spot to watch the sunrise with a hot cup of coffee from one of its only 27 seats.
When in doubt, AirBnB it out. There are many options available that back right up to the sand, and who can deny the lure of all the conveniences of home. One such option, Beach Nut Studio, is a stellar option for a couple that loves sand between their toes, but a crystal-clear pool to take a dip in and a hot tub to steam it up in on hand as well. This particular property begins at around $90+, but there are plenty of other bargains and splurges at other AirBnB properties available.
Another Bonus Track: One of the most intimate and delectable fine dining experiences is situated immediately below this beachfront studio. Eat. An American Bistro opens daily at 5 PM and offers a carefully curated array of mouthwatering menu options, as well as a meticulously selected wine list. The ants on a log starter (basil-fed escargot, roasted bone & marrow, garlic, parsley and butter grilled baguette) is a top pick for those looking for some palatable excitement, but their meatballs with fresh mozz are a decadent staple. If you’re craving a burger, go for the Hasselhoff — so good it’ll make you wish you could sloppily eat it off the floor while you film yourself. This burger is as rich-blooded as they come, with wagyu beef, house brioche bun, P.L.T., truffle mayo, cotswold double Gloucestershire & pommes frites. The never-fail go to for an entrée is my mom’s crabcake. The perfect crab to cake ratio is a difficult one to find, but Eat has solved this math problem time and time again.
Another beloved accommodation in VB allows you to become one with the beach — really — by renting a campsite or cabin at the ever gorgeous First Landing State Park Campground. Single campsites are a bargain starting at $27, and 2-bedroom, climate controlled cabin will cost you $118+. The scenery alone will bring your mind to peace, but conveniently there are miles and miles of beautiful trails to stroll along near campsites and directly across Shore Drive on which you can find your true zen. Kayak rentals are available and biking trails are clearly marked, making this an outdoor lover’s dream spot. This is set back just slightly from the Virginia Beach Oceanfront area, but convenient enough to grab a bite to eat before returning to bask in the moonlight and listen to the sounds of wildlife.
Your best bet to start your day is with an aromatic pour over or locally-sourced seasonal Pungo Latte in Virginia Beach’s more recently designated arts area, the ViBe District, at Three Ships Coffee, a true caffeinated vision by the ever-energetic Brad and Amy Ewing. Be certain to visit their neighbor, North End Bag Co., for leather goods unlike you’ll find anywhere else, a real treat yo self to remember.
Once your mind is truly awake, the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art is a must experience. The rotating exhibitions never cease to be enlightening and enticing, and you’ll find yourself wandering for far longer than expected.
If a little bit of unique history is on your agenda instead, the kitschiest and coolest place to be is the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum. Nestled in a historically registered Queen Anne cottage built in 1895, this museum will show you all the historic hunting decoys, shotguns, and memorabilia that you never knew you needed to see, as well as a pictorial display of the history of the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.
Adrenaline junkies, don’t worry, The Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium has miles of zipline trails for the exploring, and iFly Virginia Beach has a heart-stopping indoor skydiving experience unlike anything you’ll find this close to the ground.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, The Stockpot will be waiting with open arms to warm your belly and heart. Ghentiles, have no fear, there will be a taste of home waiting for you here, with their bread coming right from the most delicious Norfolk museum of smells, Chelsea Bakehouse.
If you’re looking for another take home gift, Vinyl Daze will have what seems like miles of adoptable records in search of new homes. Their owner, Martin Snead, is as knowledgeable as he is enthusiastic, and tends to be able to make magic happen when searching for something seemingly impossible to find.
After your full morning and afternoon, a unique way to wind down is by making your way over to Chesapeake Bay Distillery. You can take a tour between 12 and 4 on Saturdays of the making of the incredibly smooth Blue Ridge Vodka, and of course appreciate a $7 tasting. Their ghost pepper infused vodka will set fire to your veins, but their pre-mixed fresh lemon liqueur will cool your buds right into sweet sedation. Only 4 oz tasters are allowed, so if you’re looking to wet your whistle a bit more, visit Esoteric, just a few short blocks east on 17th Street. The owners, Tim & Kristina Chastain, have passionately executed an aesthetically creative environment that truly makes you want to linger, with a beautifully selected craft beer menu that highlights local and harder-to-find national and international brews.
For another taste of Ghent in Virginia Beach, rejoice at the soon-to-be opened Smartmouth – Pilot House from Smartmouth Brewing Company, with grand opening planned for Fall 2017. Smartmouth Brewing Company — where, disclosure, I work — will be bringing good cheer and finely crafted Norfolk brews to the beach, with a small, yet mighty brewhouse on location for some smaller batch beverages in the making and a comfortable tasting room in which to enjoy them.
Local craft beer enthusiasts will find the rustic charm and enjoyable brews of Back Bay Brewing Company at their fingertips, as well, and will not regret raising a pint or two for stay-cation’s sake. With a range of rotating styles available at the 2011 founded brewery, there is a little bit of delicious for everyone.
If finding the boldest, full-bodied red or most effervescent, floral sparkling wines are more of your ideal, Marc Sauter at Zoës will have your glass filled with only the absolutely most palate pleasing selections. His incredibly diverse wine list has won the Wine Spectator Magazine Best of Award of Excellence from 2012 through 2016 for highly discernible reasons.
You wouldn’t be in Virginia Beach if you didn’t stop by Waterman’s for one of their signature orange crushes. Take one in while you watch the sun set over the waves, and consider it the fruit portion of the food pyramid, thus making it the perfect aperitif.
What is a stay-cation without some nighttime eats. Check out Pizza Chapel and fall in love with their slices, conveniently inside of a former wedding chapel. Or you can pay a visit to Big Sam’s Raw Bar for a gritty (as in oyster grit) raw bar experience.
The next morning, to seal the deal on your new love of VB, do it with a kiss at Drag Yourself to Brunch at Croc’s Bistro. This is truly an epic experience for the ages, with the emcee, the magnificent Victoria Foster, at the helm. Reservations are an absolute must.
If you prefer your breakfast with a bit less glamour yet all the taste, Mary’s Restaurant is another Virginia Beach staple that will bring the sunshine into your smile for the day. Try the spiced apples as your side dish. Thank me later.
This is just a taste of what a lovely weekend “away” could entail with a stay-cation at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. The most important aspect of it all is to enjoy and appreciate this place that is a huge part of where we all call home. Get out, try something new, and have fun, all without needing to renew your passport or follow a yellow brick road to do so.
About the Sponsor of this Post:
Rose & Womble Realty Co. was born and bred in Hampton Roads – our owners live and work here in the Seven Cities. We are a family-owned and operated business – with multiple generations working at all levels, from agents to managers.The leadership within the company is LOCAL – not out of state – but right here in Hampton Roads.