Virginia Beach vibe is fun, sun
Performers and entertainers liven up boardwalk
From ground level to the top of the hill is 75 steps. Then it's 14 steps up to the lighthouse entrance, 84 steps up a steep spiral, nine steps up a small ladder and, finally, nine steps up a smaller spiral at the top.
While the view from atop the lighthouse is breathtaking, the area has just as much to offer for those who want to keep both feet planted on the ground.
The area is famous for arts and entertainment along its 14 miles of beaches. Visitors can walk along the 3-mile concrete boardwalk or hike or kayak through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge or step into one of the area's many shops or restaurants.
A number of hotels line Virginia Beach's main drag offering beachfront views — the resort area has some 12,000 hotel rooms. Vacation rentals are popular, too, especially in the Sandbridge area on the peaceful south shore.
Hampton Inn Virginia Beach Oceanfront North, 3107 Atlantic Ave., 800-292-3297; hamptoninnvirginiabeachoceanfront.com. The Hampton Inn bills itself as all-new, and like many of the hotels along Virginia Beach's shores, all of the rooms face the ocean. Yet unlike many Hampton Inns across the country, this one features its own restaurant with outdoor dining. Timbuktu offers such delicacies as crab cakes, oysters, prime rib and duck breast. All rooms include a private balcony, a 32-inch, flat-screen television, microwave and refrigerator. Rates start at $209-$289.
The Newcastle Hotel, 1201 Atlantic Ave., 800-346-3176, newcastlehotelvb.com. Scour the list of amenities of this hotel, and one stands out: whirlpool tub. All of the rooms feature the whirlpool tubs, with two-person Jacuzzis in the deluxe rooms. Some rooms have a fireplace and a canopy bed. Rates start at $159.
The Westin Virginia Beach Town Center, 757-557-0550, westinvirginiabeach.com. One popular area that's not on the water is Town Center, a 17-block mix of eclectic shopping, dining and entertainment that is Virginia Beach's downtown. Towering in the heart of the downtown skyline, the 508-foot-tall, 38-story Westin is the tallest building in the state. That means that in addition to an indoor heated pool and state-of-the-art exercise room, the hotel offers some of the best views in the city. Rates start at $125-$145.
Pocahontas Pancake House and Waffle Shop, Atlantic Avenue and 35th Street, 757-428-6352; pocahontaspancakes.com. The restaurant, voted "Best Pancake House in Virginia Beach" in 2002 by The Food Network, boasts pancake dishes with cherries, chocolate chips and organic multigrain. Entrees are under $10.
Warriors Grill, 401 N. Great Neck Road, 757-498-0323; warriorsgrill.com. A family-owned and -operated Mongolian barbecue buffet. Patrons serve up their own meats, vegetables and spices, and then pass them to a chef who cooks them on an oversize grill. Dinner buffet starts at $10.95.
Pi-zzeria, 33rd Street and Atlantic Avenue, 757-213-0600; pi-zzeria.com. An oceanfront restaurant that serves classic and specialty pizzas, including chicken bacon ranch and shrimp scampi Parmesan.
First Fridays ArtWalk, 222 Central Park Ave., vabeachtowncenter.com. The Town Center will host the event from May to October, from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Local artwork on display along Town Center sidewalks, and painting demonstrations are available.
Sail Aboard Iggy Biggy, 17th Street and Atlantic Avenue, 757-358-5800; iggybiggysailing.com. Ride a 51-foot yacht and watch marine life up close during a two-hour cruise led by captains licensed by the Coast Guard.
Billabong Surf Camp, 4th Street at the oceanfront, 757-965-9659 http://www.billabongcamps.com. Former professional champion surfer Jason Borte and a team of instructors teach fundamentals of surfing and water safety in this three-day camp. Equipment is included.
Beach Street USA, on Atlantic Avenue from 17th Street to 25th Street, 757-425-3111; beachstreetusa.com. Street performers and entertainers line Atlantic Avenue, offering puppet shows, juggling, music, concerts and more. About 1,000 free shows are slated for this year.
Virginia Beach Amphitheater, 3550 Cellar Door Way, 757-368-3000; virginiabeachamphitheater.net. A 20,000-seat outdoor concert venue that hosts more than 30 events a season. This year's schedule includes the Dave Matthews Band, Tim McGraw and Brad Paisley with guest Darius Rucker.
Angelo's Murder Mystery Dinner Theater, 2809 Atlantic Ave, 757-587-3883; maverickmurdermystery.com. Angelo's By The Sea, an oceanfront restaurant that serves seafood as well as Greek and Italian dishes, offers a mystery dinner theater, a whodunit that patrons can watch from their tables while dining.