Today, I’m throwing it back to my last trip of sweet summer—Virginia Beach.
Before I dive in, I want to say that my heart goes out to all the victims of Hurricane Irma. It’s been hard watching two areas of our country be devastated by natural disasters over the last couple of weeks—I can’t imagine what it would be like to actually be in the areas of the devastation. My heart also goes out to all of those who lost loved ones or were deeply affected by the terrorist attacks that happened on that September day 16 years ago. As the wall on the 9/11 Memorial Museum says—no day shall erase you from the memory of time.
To provide you some escapism from this day of heavy hearts, I wanted to talk about the fun trip I took to Virginia Beach, Virginia a few weeks ago with my best friend, Molly. I won this three-day trip back in March at an event the Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau hosted with Coastal Living magazine. Y’all, I never win anything—let alone a fun weekend trip for me and my bestie!
Prior to this trip, I’d only been to Virginia Beach once on family vacation four years ago. It rained the entire time we were there, so I don’t think we got the full experience and we weren’t dying to go back. This trip changed my entire perception of VB—it is way more than your standard beach town, filled with so much culture and such a bourgeoning food scene. It’s a perfect weekend trip from the DC area, and I look forward to more trips there in the future!
If you’re interested in planning your own trip to see what it’s like to live the life, I’ve rounded up some thoughts on where to stay, where to eat, and what to do below.
HOW TO GET THERE /
From DC, the easiest way to get to Virginia Beach is to drive. Molly and I left after work on Thursday and I won’t lie to you—there was a lot of traffic. It took us about six hours to get there when all was said and done. During the summer beach season, I think this is the norm because I-95 just gets so crowded. To avoid as much traffic as we hit, I’d recommend leaving the DC area during the middle of a week day and trying to return from Virginia Beach at night. (Of course, we did neither of those things—but just trying to help y’all out!)
Another option if you’re coming from somewhere on the East Coast would be to take the Amtrak into Norfolk, and then take a bus or Uber or rent a car to drive into Virginia Beach.
If you’re looking to fly, there are smaller airports in Norfolk (ORF) and Newport News/Williamsburg (PHF)—both are less than an hour away from VB. If you need a larger airport, I’d recommend flying into Richmond (RIC) and renting a car to drive the rest of the way—about two hours.
GETTING AROUND VIRGINIA BEACH /
Virginia Beach is a very car-friendly town—most restaurants and shops have free surface-level parking. During the day, we drove everywhere we wanted to go, and didn’t have a problem finding a parking spot anywhere. We did have to pay to park our car at the hotel, but I think this is pretty par-for-the-course in a beach town.
In the evenings when we wanted to have a cocktail with dinner, we would Uber to our restaurant. We never had to wait more than two or three minutes for our driver to arrive, and our rides were very affordable—all of them were less than $10. Because the restaurants we wanted to eat at were relatively close to our hotel, we actually opted to walk home from the restaurants each night along the Boardwalk, which was a lot of fun—and a good way to get some exercise on vacation!
WHERE TO STAY /
Molly and I loved our oceanfront room at the Hilton Garden Inn right on Atlantic Avenue. We even got up early enough one morning to see the sun rise from our balcony—it was breathtaking.
The hotel opens right up to Virginia Beach’s famed Boardwalk, which leads right to the beach. Our hotel had very affordable beach rentals once we got down there—only $13 for a beach chair!—meaning we didn’t have to lug a ton of stuff to and from the beach, which is always a huge treat. There also was a cute restaurant on-site, which would be perfect for a lunchtime break for the beach. We never made it there for food, but I did grab a nightcap there one night and everything was very affordable.
I definitely recommend our hotel to anyone looking for one—but regardless of where you stay, definitely make sure you opt for an ocean-front hotel on the Boardwalk. The energy is just so great, and there’s no shortage of places to eat, drink, and shop, making for a great vacation experience.
WHERE TO EAT /
Virginia Beach has such a bourgeoning food scene—we didn’t have one bad meal while we were in town. Here’s where we ate:
- Bay Local Eatery—this place came highly recommended, and it lived up to the hype! When we drove up, I was a little hesitant since it is in a strip mall, but don’t let that deter you. We had to wait about 20 minutes for a table—even on a workday—but it was worth the wait. Bay Local is known for their mimosas with a scoop of sorbet in them and they offer those fun huge group cocktails with multiple straws. In addition to mimosas, Molly and I opted for the spinach and crab dip to start. She had the avocado toast and I opted for a BLT. Everything we had was delicious, and I’d definitely go back.
- Waterman’s Surfside Grille—probably the most famous restaurant in Virginia Beach, this was also our favorite meal. Since Waterman’s doesn’t take reservations, we had an nice 90-minute happy hour at their bar drinking their famed Orange Crushes, made with orange juice, vodka, sprite, and triple sec. We were lucky enough to snag a table outside and both opted for the burger—though they have all sorts of surf and turf options. The atmosphere and service here are both great.
- Commune—a cute coffee shop and brunch spot, we had a delicious breakfast here on Saturday morning. All of their food is local or sustainably sourced, and they offered a range of southern-style dishes and sandwiches. If you go here, definitely build in extra time—the service was extremely slow (it took us an hour and a half to get our drinks and two-egg breakfast), and lead to some hanger on my part.
- Esoteric—located right next to Commune—though owned separately—Esoteric is a contemporary eatery serving up new American fare. The atmosphere would be perfect for date night, as the space was really dimly lit with some unique fixtures. Molly and I shared the focaccia bread and a nice bottle of wine to start. For dinner, I ordered the spicy chicken sandwich with fries, and it was mouth-watering.
- The Bee & The Biscuit—over in Sandbridge Beach, about a 20-minute drive from the Oceanfront area, The Bee & The Biscuit is worth the drive. While the restaurant has an average of an hour plus wait on the weekends, the bar is first-come, first-serve. We were lucky enough to walk in and find two barstools next to each other. I had a breakfast burrito and Molly had a chorizo omelette—both were amazing, and we definitely want to come back here on our next trip to VB!
WHAT TO DO /
The obviously thing to do in Virginia Beach is to go to the beach! We absolutely loved spending two afternoons sipping a cold one by the ocean right outside our hotel. However, there is so much more to do in Virginia Beach than just relaxing on the beach.
Our first morning in town, we met up with Captain Chris Ludford of Pleasure House Oysters for a boat tour of his oyster farm in the Lynnhaven River. Hands down, this was one of the coolest experiences of my life. We took a boat from the marina out on the Lynnhaven—past Pharrell’s house—and when we got to the area of the river where his oysters were, we got out of the boat, into the water, and watched as he cleaned and counted the oysters by hand. He taught us all about how he grows the highest-quality oysters sustainably using no fossil fuels. In the middle of our trip, it began to downpour, so we took cover on the boat. When we got back to the marina, Chris shucked fresh oysters for us to try. If you’re in Virginia Beach, definitely add this tour to the top of your list. Heck, I’d even take a trip to town solely to do this again—especially during prime oyster season in the fall.
Another fun activity Molly and I did while in Virginia Beach was a kayak tour of the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge with Surf & Adventure. This activity definitely pushed our comfort zones, but the views were so worth it. To keep our phones safe, we kept our phones in the car, so you’ll just have to take the tour to see this hidden oasis yourself. Molly and I shared a kayak for our two-hour tour, and our guide, Emily, did a wonderful job helping us steer and turn as needed. We were able to see a lot of the beautiful refuge and a blue heron—and thankfully, we didn’t see a single snake!
I want to thank the Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau for hosting me on such a fun, well-planned trip. We loved our time “living the life” and can’t wait to get back! If you have any questions about our trip, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments below or shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.