Virginia Beach is a perfect summer destination, with a coastline brimming with adventure and fun. Whether it’s boardwalk trekking or botanical gardens, there’s a self-guided tour for everyone.
Many visit the city of Virginia Beach for its abundant coastline and popular beachside boardwalk. But there’s still lots more to discover in this area! If you’re looking for a few unique places and considering a self-guided tour, cue up your sense of adventure! From historic relics to impressive underground caverns, there’s plenty to explore close to this beachside destination.
Tour the Bustling Boardwalk
This 3-mile oceanfront promenade is one of the city’s favorite attractions. So it’s worth setting aside a couple of hours to visit what’s been called one of America’s Best Beach Boardwalks. You can enjoy the long stretch of restaurants, shops, arcades, and fun spots that line the walk. Scan the QR codes that appear along the way with your phone or tablet for a self-guided tour. If you’re going with your family, your kids will be happy to play in the surf, or spot the sculptures that line the boardwalk.
Those include the 24-foot statue of King Neptune at the entrance to the Neptune Festival Park. There’s also the Atlantic Fun Park, if you’d like to ride the midway or take advantage of the go-kart track. The boardwalk area can get pretty overcrowded in the hot summer months, but there are plenty of fun stops that make it a memorable destination!
Take a Tour Through Local History
A tour along the boardwalk can be a fun, laidback way to start a Virginia Beach adventure. Fortunately, it’s also a great place to find out about the area’s rich history. Begin at the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum, where your kids can learn about wildfowl artifacts and the history of hunting. This museum is housed in the de Witt Cottage, a structure built in 1895 that showcases the area’s past. For a tour the whole family will enjoy, get in the car and drive for twenty minutes to view the 157-foot Cape Henry Lighthouse.
From there, travel 40 minutes to the Thoroughgood House to learn about one of Virginia’s first colonists, Adam Thoroughgood. In addition to providing a unique look at early times, this home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. Though the entry fee is a bit pricey, it can be a great opportunity to learn about colonial times in the state of Virginia.
National Parks are a Great Tour Opportunity
There’s nothing like heading to a national park to tour the great outdoors! First Landing State Park is an ideal spot to enjoy nature and explore the varied vegetation of the region. There are seven different ecosystems that can be glimpsed along 19 miles of trails. So visitors to the park can spend a couple of hours or even a whole day exploring this seaside park. You may want to walk along the beachfront or trek through the trees. Just make sure you spot one of the most endangered habitats in the world – the maritime forest.
For information about the park and the habitat, head to the Environmental Education Center. There you can get a self-guided tour brochure. Whether you pack a picnic and go crabbing with the kids or play a game of geocaching, you’ll have a blast! Though trail markings of this park can be difficult to decipher, the natural splendor of the wilderness will make for a memorable journey.
A Different Type of Tour: Coastal Caverns
The boardwalk and the beach may be teeming with summer vibes, but a few hours drive from Virginia Beach offers up an experience a world away! You may need to stay in a hotel closer to the area for this adventure tour, but it’s worth it! Start out at the national landmark of the Luray Caverns to explore stunning stalactites with names like Frozen Fountain and Giant’s Hall, check off all the items from your Search & Find Adventure card as you weave your way through the caverns.
If you’re in the mood for more, get in the car for a 25-minute drive to nearby Shenandoah Caverns. There, you can start your tour with an elevator ride into the underground. Be sure to visit famous sites like Rainbow Lake. There, you can see the iridescent glow of geological formations on the water, which will be sure to inspire the curiosity of your children. The caverns can get very busy during the tourist season, so go in the morning for a one-time experience.
Head for an Oceanside Hike
Located in Southeast Virginia Beach, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is an ideal hiking ground and a great place to spot animals native to the area! Whether for an hour or a day, this 9,108-acre refuge has everything from loggerhead sea turtles and bald eagles to peregrine falcons. You can also collect shells with the kids along the beach or canoe on the marshes. For more information about trails in the area and to better plan your tour, head to the visitors contact station.
It’s worth noting that you’ll need to follow some rules during your tour, since it’s a wildlife refuge. So if you’re looking for a little more freedom, you may want to keep hiking down to False Cape State Park. You can trek along 3 miles of hiking trails, or 6 miles of beachfront in this largely untouched park area. While there may not be an abundance of facilities, and you’ll have to hike through the refuge to get there, spotting the unique animals can make the journey worthwhile.
Bring on the Butterflies at Norfolk Botanical Garden
From caverns to hiking trails, there are plenty of places to indulge in nature around Virginia Beach. But for those who are looking for a more understated adventure, the botanical gardens can be ideal. Just a 30 minute drive from the oceanfront, the Norfolk Botanical Garden showcases the more delicate side of nature.
You can tour one of more than 430 varieties of flowers in the rose garden, walk through 12 miles of paths or observe the butterflies in the Bristow Butterfly Garden. The kids will love the WOW Children’s Garden where they can participate in interactive exhibits or play in the dirt! If the noise from the adjacent airport is too much, head to the Miyazaki Japanese Garden in Virginia Beach for some solitude. Here you can spot goldfish in the ponds and see cherry blossom trees in the springtime.
Self-Guided Tour: Summer Entertainment for Everyone!
This coastal destination offers endless opportunities for summer fun. It’s so much more than just the beach and boardwalk! Learn some history, go for a hike, or take an overnight trip to the underground caverns. There are plenty of possibilities to create your own adventure!
What are your favorite things to do in Virginia Beach? What did we miss? Sound off below or on the FamilyApp!