Everything you need to know to have a successful trip to Virginia Beach, Va.
Best time to visit: While Virginia Beach is idyllic during beach season, winter is optimal for smaller crowds, whale watching and horseback riding along the deserted sands.
Worst time to visit: Spring break season, when throngs of students swarm the streets. Nights, especially, are often rowdy, so not the best time for a family getaway here.
Beach rules: No fires, glass containers, alcoholic beverages on the beach. No picnicking on sand dunes. No pets on public beaches or boardwalk from Memorial Day to Labor Day. No surfing outside designated surfing zones 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. weekends between 1st and 41st Streets
What to do if you're ...
People watching: "There's no better view into the local vibe than from our patio bar," says Ginny Zapar of Waterman Surfside Grille, which overlooks the boardwalk and beach.
Willing to drive: In Hampton, "Grandview Nature Preserve offers one of the few truly undisturbed natural beaches on the East Coast, filled with dunes and bird-nesting areas," says Hampton spokeswoman Robin McCormick.
Into beach sports: There are perpetual pickup volleyball, soccer, Frisbee and all-volley tennis matches on Resort Beach, advises Virginia Beach's Visitors Association. Oceanfront, 13th-37th streets.
Into marine life: Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is 9,108 sea-forested acres teaming with elusive and endangered loggerheads, tiger sand sharks, dolphins, sea horses and waterfowl.
Into fishing: License required except from private boat with Virginia boat license or private property or pier; or holding a reciprocal Maryland saltwater license. "Sea bass, tile fish, rose fish; we catch it all out there," says Capt. Skip Feller of Rudee Tours' Deep Drop, a 17-hour expedition, 70 miles offshore. Or just drop a line off the Virginia Beach Pier, 15th Street.
Into surfing: All day long, boarders hang 10 at Virginia Beach's First Street jetty, or along the northern boundary of Little Island Park.
Doing as the locals do: Shop regional purveyors, Saturday mornings at Old Beach Farmers' Market. Locals dodge tourists by doing their surfing and sunning at North End beach, 8800 Oceanfront Ave.
Looking for fresh, local seafood to cook: Cast a line. Then let a restaurant participating in VB's Catch and Cook program clean, cook and serve you your catch. It's vacation, after all.
New this year
ViBe Creative District, the neighborhood around 18th Street. Established last year in Resort Beach, the area encompasses an enclave of art galleries, museums, shops and restaurants that showcase local artisans working with canvases, jewelry, custom surfboards, artisan food and beverages. First Fridays here are a favorite of the artsy crowd.
TopGolf, 5444 Greenwich Road, 757-544-9217. This state-of-the-art golf entertainment complex opened late last year and provides real-time and virtual golf experiences through skills activities, games and classes. The super-cool micro-chipped golf balls measure your accuracy and distance.
Commonwealth Brewing Co., 2444 Pleasure House Road, 757-305-9652. This is Virginia Beach's newest brewery, residing in a repurposed landmark firehouse. They've got 15 brews pouring in the tasting room, but you can choose to "Cheers" in the outdoor beer garden. It's all about the suds here, so if you want snacks to munch, BYOF.
Strawberry Festival: Strawberries. every which way. In shortcakes, shakes, fresh off the vine, and pie-eating contests. Sweeter still, the fest features a parade, one of the largest carnivals on the East Coast, live music, pig races and a multi-million-dollar military display. May 28 and 29. 1776 Princess Anne Road, 757-721-6001.
Turn the Page: The First Ten Years of Hi-Fructose: This exhibit at The Museum of Contemporary Art is a 10-year retrospective of the avant-garde pop and counter-culture art magazine Hi-Fructose. May 22-Dec. 31. 2200 Parks Avenue, 757-425-0000.
East Coast Surfing Championship: More than 100 of the world's top professional surfers and some 300 amateurs compete in what's known as North America's Oldest Running Surfing Competition. For spectators, there is live music, food, and beach activities, including sand hockey and beach flag football. Aug. 21-28. 2nd Street and Atlantic Avenue.
American Music Festival: It's all here, in the East Coast's largest outdoor music fest: rock, jazz, country and R&B. Sept 2-4. Even better, concerts at three of the four stages are free to the public. The festival coincides with the 15th anniversary of the Rock & Roll Half Marathon, in Virginia Beach. Performances in various locations around town.
International Sandsculpting Championship: 12 solo and 10 double sand-sculpting teams from around the globe mold and etch spectacular works of art, from granules of Virginia Beach sand. Sept. 30-Oct. 9. The works are on view in oceanfront tents between 4th-10th streets.