24 Things To Do in Virginia Beach Beyond the Sand

Virginia Beach Surf & Rescue Museum exterior

Locals nicknamed it “Vah Beach,” and anyone who calls it Virginia Beach is undoubtedly a tourist. If you want to experience the city like a local, you've got to get beyond the sand. Many tourists don't realize Virginia Beach is an eclectic city offering five distinct districts to explore. Go beyond the oceanfront and experience the city like a VBer with these 24 things to do in Virginia Beach beyond the sand. 

It's a city where the preferred mode of transportation is a skateboard, you always hear military jets overhead, and fish tacos are the street food of choice. There's an attraction named Mt. Trashmore (yes, that's a real place), and Neptune is the city's mascot. That's your quick introduction to the quirky side of Virginia Beach, but you'll have to trust us that it's an Atlantic Ocean city worth visiting. There's a never-ending number of attractions to enjoy, which are the must-dos. 

24 Best Things To Do in Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach VA
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Five districts in the city extend beyond the oceanfront: Pungo, Town Center, Vibe District Sandbridge, and Chesapeake Bay. Pungo is where to find the local farms; Town Center offers upscale lifestyle areas with shopping and dining. Sandbridge has wildlife preservation areas; Vibe District is where all of the art lives, and, last but not least, Chesapeake Bay offers calm waters with bridge views. 

The districts complement each other and comprise the city of Virginia Beach. You can plan your beach vacation itinerary in just one area of Virginia Beach or use the districts to see even more. Decide on several Virginia Beach attractions that interest you. You can easily add one per day, in addition to relaxing on the beach. Some of the attractions are even within walking distance from the oceanfront hotels.

1. Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center 

Photo taken at the Virginia Aquarium
Image Credit: Virginia State Parks staff – AlbertHerring, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons.

When you visit the Virginia Aquarium, enter a world of wonder and enchantment. It's home to hundreds of species; you'll learn something new every visit. Get up close and personal with animals and animal educators to learn more about the underwater world. Check out the Guest Quests at the Virginia Aquarium, which are little interactive games that allow young tourists to explore everything the aquarium offers—like an educational scavenger hunt!

2. Adventure Park at the Virginia Aquarium

Adventure Park at Virginia Beach Aquarium
Image Credit: Virginia Tourism Corporation.

Yet another great offering from the Virginia Aquarium, The Adventure Park, offers aerial excitement for kids. It's the best Virginia Beach attraction for kids who want a birds-eye view on the ropes course and tree-to-tree zip lining. They offer low-ropes and high-ropes courses so kids of all ages can participate without fear. It's located at the aquarium, so you can double up on things to do with one trip!

3. Virginia Beach Whale Tours

Virginia Beach Whale Watching
Image Credit: Virginia Beach CVB.

There's nothing more magnificent than seeing the beauty of a whale with your own two eyes. Take the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a whale by booking a Whale Watching Tour. Join a marine educator to learn about humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins, seabirds, and waterfowl. You're not guaranteed a whale sighting (even though there's a good chance), but I promise it's boatloads of fun. The Whale Tours run from mid-December through March.

4. Cape Henry Lighthouse

Both Cape Henry Lighthouses, 1881 on left and 1792 on right, Fort Story, Virginia Beach, Virginia
Image Credit: PumpkinSky, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Enjoy 360 coastal views from atop the Cape Henry Lighthouse. There are two lighthouses—the original (dating back to 1792) and a newer one built in 1881. They're just 350 feet apart from each other. The original lighthouse is open to the public if you're up for a little workout to climb to the top. It's a great spot for history buffs, but everyone enjoys the views at the top of the lighthouse.

5. Virginia Beach Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)

Chihuly Glass Sculpture at Virginia Beach Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
Image Credit: Virginia MOCA.

Admire exquisite and unique art pieces at the Virginia Beach Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum cross-pollinates art with education, culture, and community under one house. MOCA offers several hands-on opportunities for kids to explore art, and they're one of the only art museums in the U.S. that sponsors an outdoor art show: Virginia MOCA's Boardwalk Art Show (which happens annually in October). Discover new traveling exhibits or one of their staple exhibits housed in MOCA.

6. Virginia Beach Boardwalk 

Recreational life along the Boardwalk of the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, featuring the King Neptune Statue.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

You didn't vacation in Virginia Beach without taking a photo with King Neptune! The Boardwalk is one of the best free things to do in Virginia Beach. Aside from the beautiful beach, he's the main attraction on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk. Even in the winter, plenty of tourists snapping photos with him. The twelve-ton statue stands twenty-four feet tall and is an Instagram-worthy photo opportunity. There's also nightly entertainment to enjoy during the summer while you stroll.

7. Virginia Beach Surf and Rescue Museum

personal items donated to the Old Coast Guard Station museum in Virginia Beach, Va., by Lt. Cmdr. Kerry Karwan
Image Credit: Petty Officer 3rd Class Jasmine Mieszala, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

It might be small in size, but the Virginia Beach Surf & Rescue Museum is full of interesting (and quirky) history about the area. They keep the maritime roots alive and honor the water-related history of the local communities. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places, and it's even said to be haunted. It's a great rainy day activity, and you can glimpse the past and how Virginia Beach became what it is today!

8. Virginia Beach Hiking

False Cape State Park in Virginia
Image Credit: Virginia State Parks, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons.

If you're looking for an adventure on foot, check out the Virginia Beach hiking trails. The area has several wildlife refuges and state parks to explore. First Landing State Park and False Cape State Park offer designated areas for hiking and miles of scenic sandy beaches to explore. There are over 20 miles of hiking trails between the two parks.

Tourists can even earn rewards for visiting Virginia State Parks by participating in the Trail Quest program. Log into the State Park Adventures app and record your visit. The app keeps track of the parks you visit. You'll earn five unique collectible pins. Receive one for your first park visit and then more after visiting 5, 10, 20, and all parks completed. It's a program open to all ages.

9. Military Aviation Museum

Stearman Kaydet, Military Aviation Museum
Image Credit: Michael Rehbaum, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

If your fascination with transportation extends beyond childhood, you must visit the Military Aviation Museum. It has 100+ acres of hangers and exhibits. The museum is home to one of the world's largest flying collections of World War I and World War II-era military aircraft. You can see the planes up close and even hear the roar of a few engines. The museum offers special events throughout the year that uniquely examine collections and their impact on history. The craftsmanship of these beautiful aircraft will leave you in awe.

10. Jerrassic Park at the Military Aviation Museum

Jerrassic Park metal dinosaur sculpture in Virginia Beach, Virginia
Image Credit: Atlas Obscura.

If you ever needed another reason to visit the Aviation Museum, the Jerrassic Park (yes, that's how they spell it to differentiate themselves from the film of the same name) is the coolest bonus to your visit. It's a unique collection of dinosaur sculptures at the entrance to the Virginia Beach Airport and museum property. It's a great place to bring your kids if they're dinosaur-obsessed. You can walk right beside the sculpture and take the most incredible photos!

11. East Coast Surf Championship 

ECSC East Coast Surfing Championships Virginia Beach
Image Credit: C Watts, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Every August, the East Coast Surf Championship becomes the must-watch Virginia Beach attraction that brings thousands of visitors to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. It's an action-packed week of sun, surf, and sportsmanship that tourists will love to watch. If you've never seen professional surfers – this is your chance to see the best! Grab an Orange Crush cocktail and enjoy the surf views. 

12. Virginia Beach Fishing

More details Rudee Inlet Bridge and boats at the Virginia Beach Fishing Center. The boat on the left is named "GIT*R*DONE"
Image Credit: PumpkinSky, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

So many fishing charters leave out of Rudee Inlet, which is part of the Oceanfront district. Seasonal and year-round fishing charters take guests out on guided fishing tours. Reserve your spot on a fishing charter and catch a big one! Tuna or marlin are well-known catches in the VA Beach area. Full-day and half-day trips are available, but prices depend on which type of charter you pick. Let your captain know your fishing experience and what kind of fish you can catch, depending on the time of year.

After your fishing charter, check out Murphey's Irish Pub, and they'll cook your catch! All you have to do is bring your fish to the restaurant after your fishing trip. Leave the fish and your name with the hostess; then, they keep it on ice until you order. Order it fried, grilled, or blackened, and it's served with coleslaw, french fries, & hush puppies.

13. Virginia Sports Hall of Fame

Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Portsmouth, Virginia
Image Credit: Faithlessthewonderboy, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Check out the athletic achievements displayed through memorabilia and family-friendly exhibits at the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. Families can “Walk The Hall,” a free pedestrian tour showcasing the great coaches and athletic administrators from the Commonwealth. If you're a VATech fan, this is a must! You'll leave feeling inspired, and it's another rainy day activity. 

14. Virginia Beach Parasailing

Parasailing
Image Credit: PumpkinSky, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

There's no better way to get a thrilling rush and see the best views than to go parasailing. Parasail over Virginia Beach and float 1,000 feet above the water. Get a birds-eye idea and see the oceanfront from a different perspective. Book with Pirate Parasail or Air America Parasail at Rudee Inlet.

15. Chesapeake Bay Brock Environmental Center

More details The Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach, VA
Image Credit: Jwallace72, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Families love the hands-on learning that the Chesapeake Bay Brock Environmental Center has. Learn how to save the bay and the simple conservation efforts we can all do, which start at home. Visual representations of the local ecosystems fascinate guests, and touch tanks are also popular. Leave with a little more knowledge of how we can all respect the environment.

16. Virginia Beach Biking 

Healthy Couple Biking resize scaled e1695305504283
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

The local state parks, wildlife refuges, and miles of beaches are perfect for exploring as a family on the bike. Virginia Beach has over 200 miles of bikeways and trails on top of the park areas. Local rental companies offer bike rentals depending on the site you'll be in. You can share a Surrey Bike as a group, take a leisurely ride on the Boardwalk, or rent a Fat Tire Bike and ride directly on the compact sands. Let the local experts guide you and help you decide what bike is best for your family adventure.

17. Theater in Virginia Beach

Tidewater Stage in Virginia Beach
Image Credit: David Polston via Visit Virginia Beach.

Whether it's a musical or comedy, there's always something to enjoy at Tidewater Stage – the home theater for the Regent University program. Stories are brought to life by passionate young artists, presenting audiences of all ages with dedicated theatrical performances. Some of the shows are free, too. Check the theater's seasonal calendar for show descriptions and to purchase tickets online.

18. Indoor Skydiving in Virginia Beach

iFLY Virginia Beach indoor skydiving
Image Credit: Virginia Beach CVB.

Have you ever wanted to experience the awe of skydiving without jumping out of a plane? That's how iFLY Virginia Beach gives you the thrill of skydiving but indoors. They have a massive wind tunnel that offers the same excitement of skydiving. Flyers must be at least 40″ tall to participate, but there are great STEM learning opportunities for kids at iFLY who are old enough to participate. 

19. Hunt Club Farm

Petting Farm at Hunt Club Farm in Virginia Beach, VA
Image Credit: Virginia Beach CVB.

Feel transported from the beach and visit a local farm. The Hunt Club Farm is a great way agritourism Virginia Beach attraction. They have a petting farm where kids can feed the goats, sheep, pigs, llamas, and donkeys. Pony rides are also available for kids of all sizes. Plus, depending on the time of year you visit, you can enjoy the local produce the farm harvests or participate in U-Pick to harvest your selection.

20. Mount Trashmore Park

Photograph of the front of Mount Trashmore Park in Virginia Beach, Virginia
Image Credit: Kubigula, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Believe it or not, Virginia Beach converted a 640,000-ton pile of garbage into the nation's first landfill park. It's one of the best inland things to do in Virginia Beach. It's 165 acres with two man-made mountains, two lakes, two playgrounds, and a skate park. Most notably, the skate park is next level with a 24,000-square-foot to ride on, two-level half pipes of 5′ and 6′ heights, and an attached quarter pipe. You'd never know there were years of trash under this beautiful green space.

21. The Neptune Festival

Neptune Festival in Virginia Beach, VA
Image Credit: Neptune Festival.

The Neptune Festival is a massive music, food, and cultural festival that attracts 500,000 people annually. The featured attraction of The Neptune Festival is Neptune's International Sandsculpting Competition, drawing a field of master sand artists from around the world; it is also the country's largest competition of its kind. In addition, there are four stages of musical entertainment: an art and craft show featuring over 275 artists and fireworks. 

22. Historical Virginia Beach Homes

West view of the Adam Thoroughgood House in Virginia Beach, Virginia
Image Credit: PumpkinSky, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Virginia Beach History Museums represents the diversity of Virginia's heritage in its historic homes spread throughout the city. Five historic homes, open to the public, showcase colonial life. The early 1700s colonial period comes to life with hands-on activities and seasonal events in the homes. The Thoroughgood House, Lynnhaven House, Francis Land House, Ferry Plantation House, and Upper Wolfsnare House are worth visiting if you want to dive into American history and see the lives of our first settlers. 

23. Kayak With Dolphins

St. Simons Island Kayaking
Image Credit: St. Simons Island.

If you're a marine animal lover, one of the best things to do in Virginia Beach is to kayak amongst the dolphins. The tour is only available from late April through October. Take it to the next level and see dolphins up close. Dolphin Kayak Tours allows groups to paddle calm water areas to see groups of dolphins for the ultimate experience. All levels of kayaking experience are welcome, and the tour includes all the gear you need. 

24. Check Out the Vibe District Murals

One example of the ViBe District Murals on Parks Avenue photographed by Maser
Image Credit: Virginia Beach CVB.

Works of art, whether sculptures, paintings, or statues, are located across Virginia Beach. Some of the most famous pieces are the art murals in the ViBe district. Take the ViBe Mural Walking Tour, a leisurely, one-mile walking tour, to see these colorful murals yourself. These Instagram-worthy murals are bright and colorful, each with a particular story behind them. 

Author: Kimberly Stroh

Bio:

Based in Atlanta, Kimberly Stroh is an established family travel writer. She owns Savvy Mama Lifestyle and contributes to Wealth of Geeks. She travels with her three children and enjoys exploring the SouthEast. Kimberly has been featured in People Magazine, Today Parents, Red Tricycle, and Baby Center. She's a firm believer that adventures in your own backyard can be just as exciting as extravagant trips. It's who you travel with that matters most.