“Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.” – Sarah Kay
Recently, as some readers may recall, John, my husband, and I had the opportunity to visit Virginia Beach for its annual event, The Shamrock Marathon, Half-Marathon, and 8K event. Of course, the 2020 event was cancelled due to pandemic restrictions, and the 2021 event, in which I participated, was a hybrid virtual event–it could either be run virtually from any location, or ran any day of the designated three-day weekend of the event on-site via a self-guided route that was well marked and supervised. In spite of the not-so-cooperative weather during our stay, John, and I thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Virginia Beach so much that we have talked about returning. Therefore, as more families begin to travel again, I wanted to share our experience in this family and couple friendly town.
While we were there, we took in a few sites, but quickly realized that we did not have enough time to adequately explore this area of Virginia. Additionally, with a few clicks of the keyboard, while relaxing and taking in the view of the Virginia Beach boardwalk and beach from the comfort of our hotel room, I learned that there is so much more to Virginia Beach than just the boardwalk/town area in which we were staying! Therefore, I will share a few of the highlights from our visit as well as a few tidbits I discovered from a short bit of research.
‘‘In the planning and preparation to re-open the beaches of Virginia Beach, we believe we’ve defined the Gold Standard for beach safety and cleanliness, and our Hotel and Restaurant Associations followed suit with their own new protocols with the same important goals.’’–Virginia Beach CVB
To begin, John and I checked the usual sites, AirBnB and VRBO for budget friendly rentals. However, since we were hoping to stay in a place with an ocean view, we quickly realized that those homes came with a price–either out of our budget or the houses were nearly as small as a hotel room. We then compared home rental costs with oceanfront hotels and condos. Much to our surprise, it turned out that the latter were much more reasonably priced and conveniently located within walking distance to restaurants, shops, and the Virginia Beach boardwalk. Furthermore, due to the short nature of this trip, we knew we would not be taking time to cook, nor would we spend much time in the place in which we were staying. Therefore, the hotel seemed like the way to go.
“Together, we’ve all made a pledge to VB Smarter – and adhere to these protocols without compromise. It is Virginia Beach’s way to shine a light on our collective commitment to ensuring a safe, fun, and relaxing environment for all.”–Virginia Beach CVB
John and I were super impressed with the protocols throughout the oceanfront area of Virginia Beach. We felt safe, and likewise, did not feel restricted in our travel or experiences. The city definitely seemed to have the right balance. While we did walk to several of the restaurants and shops near our hotel, and we also enjoyed visiting other parts of the town due to the free parking that was in place until April 1.
Since our hotel’s back door literally opened out to the Virginia Beach boardwalk, John and I took full advantage of this area daily. This three mile long and 28 foot wide expanse, equally divided with lanes for biking versus walking, runs from 2nd Street to 40th Street. It is full of local attractions and numerous oceanfront restaurants and eateries. Highlights include the JT Grommet Island Park, a perfectly shaded park for active children to let off some energy while parents still remain oceanfront and near public restrooms/showers. Along the path are also two museums, the Atlantic Wildfowl museum, located in the de Witt Cottage, built in 1895, and the Surf and Rescue Museum, housed in a former U. S. Life Saving Station that is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Near our hotel was the well-known Virginia Beach Fishing Pier that does not require a fishing license. Finally, further down from the pier was the festive 31st Street Park, home of the iconic King Neptune which was also the start/finish line for the Shamrock Marathon events.
Of course, food was a big part of our short stay; however, restaurants can be a bit tricky for me due to the fact that I have celiac disease, so I cannot eat products with wheat and gluten. Additionally, I choose to eat plant-based. Virginia Beach, however, did not disappoint me or leave me feeling hungry. We serendipitously discovered a hidden gem within a short walking distance from our hotel, Side Street Cantina, filled with Peruvian-influenced Mexican fare. Located in a colorful building with vibrant and funky decor, the staff worked hard to accommodate my dietary needs. In fact, John and I loved it so much, we ended up dining there twice! The menu was lengthy and varied, portions were generous, the drinks were cold, and food was cooked to perfection. This is the perfect casual dining experience within walking distance from the beach.
Another restaurant within walking distance was Il Giardino Ristorante. Self-described as “upscale dining,” John and I found this restaurant to be the perfect place to celebrate the fact that I survived 12 weeks of half-marathon training and the extreme weather conditions of the actual event. Filled a wood-burning oven–creating a warm, aromatic scent emanating throughout the dining area–a wide variety of green plants, and an enormous wine collection lining the walls, the vibe of the restaurant felt clubby, and yet, relaxing. It turned out that the exceptional service and outstanding food ended up being the shining star! Wow, did we ever enjoy this meal.
One more exceptional dining experience that John and I discovered was Pocahontas Pancake House. Decked out in slightly cheesy Jamestown & Powhatan murals with a teepee, this family owned, super-clean eatery turned out to be gluten free heaven for me! Clearly, a local favorite based upon the crowd, this breakfast and lunch only diner, served up more breakfast and lunch gluten free options than I have ever before experienced. Their menu was more like a novella, and my choices ranged from waffles, pancakes, bagels, muffins, bread, and wraps! Plus, numerous vegan/vegetarian options, along with countless meat/egg-centric options for John. We dined here twice and relished every single bite!
“Whether you’re a history buff, outdoor enthusiast, or die-hard foodie, or you’re just looking to do little bit of everything, Virginia Beach is an adventure you just have to experience for yourself.”–Virginia Beach CVB
While John and I did take a quick trip to visit the Lynnhaven Mall, one of the largest malls on the East Coast, we spent the remainder of our time taking in the sights and sounds along the boardwalk and beachfront town areas of Virginia Beach. However, as I discovered with quick internet search, there is MUCH more to discover in the Virginia Beach area. From outdoor adventures throughout the beach and Chesapeake Bay areas to more inland adventures, from historic explorations to arts and cultural discoveries, from micro breweries and distilleries to Town Center adventures and family fun, and from Sandbridge to Pungo, the areas of Virginia Beach offer a wide variety of unique beach vacation opportunities. John and I look forward to exploring more of what this area has to offer especially since it is only a short six-to-seven hour drive away!
From our vaccinated family to yours, we wish you the return of safe and happy travels!