Virginia Beach: Where to take the kids and what to check out this summer

For The Baltimore Sun

Situated where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, Virginia Beach is a collection of seven distinct districts lined with 35 miles of sandy beaches. Officials tout this populous city as one that offers “something for everyone,” including summer activities, entertainment, historical landmarks and festivities.

Where to take the kids

Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center

717 General Booth Blvd.; 757-385-3474;

From seals and sharks to sea turtles and a Komodo dragon named Sanchez, this center for marine life houses about 10,000 animals who represent more than 300 species. The aquarium also operates the adjacent Adventure Park complete with zip lining, treetop trails, bridge crossings, rope courses and more. There are also seasonal dolphin and whale watching tours.

Cape Henry Lighthouse

583 Atlantic Ave., Fort Story; 757-422-9421;

The fourth oldest lighthouse in America dates back to 1792; George Washington himself authorized its construction after the Revolutionary War. It’s now a National Historic Landmark that is open to the public and boasts 360-degree views.

Military Aviation Museum

1341 Princess Anne Road; 757-721-7767;

History and aviation buffs can view one of the largest private collections of World War I and II aircraft, all restored to flying condition. Visitors can peek inside these classic planes and even soar high in one. Rides are available from April to October.

JT’s Grommet Island Beach Park & Playground for EveryBody

Boardwalk & 2nd St.; 800-822-3224;

Josh Thompson, a Virginia Beach native and amateur surfer diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, inspired this accessible beach playground and park for children and adults with disabilities. It features 15,000 square feet of ramps and decking, soft play sculptures, accessible play equipment (special beach wheelchairs are available) and cushioned play surfaces. There’s also a shaded recreation area and picnic areas.

Ocean Breeze Waterpark

849 General Booth Blvd.; 757-422-4444;

Splish-splash through more than 30 water slides, rides and attractions at this island-themed water park, the largest of its kind in the region. When you emerge from the water, chill in a cabana (for rent) where perks include cable TV and poolside food and beverage service.

Atlantic Fun Park

233 15th St.; 757-422-0467;

From a 100-foot Ferris wheel to throwback fun such as a balloon toss, there are dozens of rides plus amusements aplenty here, not to mention fair-style eats.


2412 Pacific Ave.; 757-754-4359;

Kids and adults alike can experience indoor skydiving — sans the plane jump. The science behind it includes a vertical wind tunnel and super powerful fans.

Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)

2200 Parks Ave. 757-425-0000.

Located in the city’s ViBe Creative District, MOCA offers exhibits where the language of contemporary art is explored via exhibitions with painting, sculpture, photography, glass, video and other visual media. A series of family events offer kids the opportunity to create their own art.

Jungle Golf

302 23rd St.; 757-425-7240;

Eighteen holes of miniature golf meet a tropical-themed backdrop complete with faux jungle creatures. When the putt-putt is done, head to the arcade for a game of pinball or grab a bite at the snack bar.

Virginia Beach Fishing Center

200 Winston Salem Ave.; 757-491-8000;

Newly renovated, the center hosts the largest sport fishing fleet in the state. Charter boats run by world-class captains are available for on-shore and offshore fishing and cruising.

What’s new

The Cavalier Hotel, 4200 Atlantic Ave.; The Autograph Collection hotel reopened in March after a $75 million renovation. The property features three restaurants, a distillery and a five-star spa.

The Barnacle, The Narrows at 64th Street; 757-618-5778; The “food boat” opened May 1 with a menu almost entirely composed of cone-shaped offerings — think cone-shaped pizza, waffles and tacos made from scratch. Playing Reggae music, it serves landlubbers and boaters (who can pull up alongside) from the Narrows at 64th Street.

Back Bay's Farmhouse Brewing Co., 1805 Kempsville Road; 757-613-2737; Set to open this year, the renovated old farmhouse, built in 1912 in the Inland area of Virginia Beach, will become a full-service brewery, tasting room and garden. Two of the property's nine acres will be dedicated to growing pumpkins, figs, blueberries, cucumbers, peppers and strawberries. It will also produce beer and cider.

Auntie’s Tiki Bar and Restaurant, 4312 Holland Road; 757-500-4189; The restaurant, which opened earlier this year, serves island-themed cocktails with tiki-faced mugs, fruity garnishes and umbrellas, along with Filipino/Polynesian fusion cuisine.

YMCA JT’s Camp Grom; 757-961-4175; This day retreat was developed for wounded veterans and their families, the families of fallen soldiers and children and adults with differing abilities. The 70-acre site will feature an aquatic center, a lake for fishing, a gym/auditorium, picnic shelters, a sports field, a water spray park and more. It will be open to families and groups on select dates starting at the end of May.

What’s happening

Warbirds Over the Beach: The annual airshow takes off from the Virginia Military Aviation Museum (May 18-20), featuring “flying machines” from the first 50 years of aviation, restored and airborne. World War I- and II-era planes such as the famous De Havilland Mosquito roar back to life in the skies above the beach.

Pungo Strawberry Festival: Strawberries and growers are celebrated during the yearly festival (May 25-27) over Memorial Day weekend. Sample dozens of delicacies — from strawberry pie to chocolate-covered strawberries — even strawberry tacos. Games, live entertainment, pony rides, pig races and a parade add to the fun in this rural community just 20 minutes outside Virginia Beach. 1776 Princess Anne Road, K, Pungo;

Patriotic Festival: The three-day Patriotic Festival (June 1-3) celebrates America’s military personnel and their families (a major presence in the Hampton Roads region) with military expos, traveling displays and entertainment. The USO Show Troupe and U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Team are among the performers. So are country crooners Brett Eldredge, Cole Swindell and Brantley Gilbert. 13th to 21st streets;

Concerts at Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater: The venue hosts concerts in its 20,000-seat pavilion all summer. Top acts include: Imagine Dragons (July 3), Lauryn Hill (July 5), Dave Matthews (July 21), Janet Jackson (July 29) and Pentatonix (Aug. 5). 3550 Cellar Door Way;

Neptune Festival: The crowds come in abundance for this annual festival (Sept. 28-30), named for the Roman god of the sea. A parade, artisans selling handcrafted works, a volleyball tournament, surfing contests and a world-famous sandsculpting competition are just some of the 40-plus activities that await.

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