By Avery Stone

If you’re dreaming of a beach vacation this summer, Virginia Beach should be at the top of your list. From three — yes, three! — beach areas (that add up to more than 35 miles of coastline) to farm-fresh cuisine and exquisite local art, the summer scene at this historic East Coast escape is heating up, fast. And here are seven reasons why.

1. It’s super easy to get there (and stay).Just one hour from New York City by plane and a little over three hours from Washington, DC by car, Virginia Beach is the ideal weekend getaway for any East Coast-er. And from the moment you touch down in Norfolk, the vacation vibes set in — the Norfolk Airport is nestled into a gorgeous botanical garden, and Virginia Beach’s historic, three-mile boardwalk is just 20 minutes away by car. From there, if you crave being in the middle of the action, book a room at one of the many hotels along Resort Beach, like the Ocean Beach Club, where each room includes its own kitchen. For a more intimate vibe, choose the darling Barclay Cottage (also on Resort Beach), or the rustic Church Point Manor, a renovated 1860s farmhouse just minutes away from Chesapeake Bay Beach.

Beyond the Beach: 3 Creative Ways to Explore Virginia Beach’s Coastline

Stunning views of from the Ocean Beach Club.

2. So. Many. Beaches.When you think of Virginia Beach, your mind likely lands on the boardwalk — but, in fact, the city boasts three gorgeous beach areas. Head 15 minutes south of Resort Beach and discover the serene Sandbridge Beach, nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Back Bay Wildlife Refuge. And, just north of Resort Beach on the other side of the peninsula, the chilled-out Chesapeake Bay Beach is close to dockside haunts like Bubba’s Seafood Restaurant and Crabhouse, the perfect place to watch the sunset while sampling fresh seafood (like the regional classic She Crab Soup).

3. It’s the perfect place to explore the great outdoors.It’s not just about sunbathing on the beach, y’all. Strike a balance between fun and fitness by taking a SUP Barre class (invented by local Whitney Lee and located on the water in the city’s lush First Landing State Park), or kick your paddle game up a notch with Surf & Adventure Co.’s Sunset Dinner Tour, a four-mile kayak excursion through the serene Back Bay Wildlife Refuge that ends with a scrumptious seafood dinner at Blue Pete’s restaurant. And if learning about nature is more your style, discover how to pickle vegetables and make kombucha, among other cool culinary projects, at New Earth Farm Food Lab in nearby Pungo, or book an oyster-farm boat tour on the gorgeous Lynnhaven River with Pleasure House Oysters.

The 3 Best Ways To Experience Art + Culture In Virginia Beach

4. It’s a hot culinary destination and getting hotter by the day.Over the past year, a host of uber-talented chefs have set up shop in the city’s emerging ViBe Creative District, located mere minutes inland from Resort Beach. Commune, the city’s first farmer-owned restaurant, is a destination in its own right; the bright, bustling breakfast and lunch spot could easily go toe-to-toe with farm-to-table restaurants in New York and Los Angeles. At dinnertime, the scene shifts next door to Esoteric, which sources from a garden out back that it shares with Commune to create fresh, European-influenced fare. Pay homage to the man who is credited with starting the culinary revolution in Virginia Beach—chef Rodney Einhorn—at Terrapin (near Resort Beach), his elegant restaurant that features elevated, farm-fresh dishes (see: the perfectly-produced duck with farro, pickled fennel, charred bunching onions, and an organic kale lemon-chicken demi-glace) and confidently-crafted cocktails that more than stand the test of time.

5. Coffee, coffee, buzz, buzz.A quality coffee spot is essential to every destination, and Virginia Beach is overflowing with them. Leading the movement: Three Ships Coffee Roastery & Coffee Counter (in the ViBe District) roasts a variety of seasonal beans daily and offers a diverse array of coffee and espresso drinks (see: the unique Pungo Latte, seasonally sweetened with local ingredients like strawberries) in an industrial space decorated with nods to the area’s first settlers (like paintings of ships and a globe). Just minutes away at Roast Rider Coffee + Tea, curl up on an expansive brown leather couch and enjoy coffee brewed from small-batch beans.

6. Endless ways to drink up.Wind down after a sun-filled day (or perk up for a fun-filled night!) with inspired, garden-infused cocktails at Esoteric. Or, get in on the city’s fast-growing craft beer scene by visiting a brewery: try the Duck Dive Pale Ale at the immensely popular Back Bay Brewing Co. (founded by a group of friends from Virginia Beach), or head over to the tasting room at local favorite Commonwealth Brewing Company, located in a charming old firehouse near Chesapeake Bay Beach.

Our Favorite Ways To Experience Virginia Beach’s Farm-Fresh Food Firsthand

7. Your next piece of art (or furniture) is waiting for you.Searching for a statement piece to spruce up your digs before fall rolls in? The ViBe District is the perfect place to do so. In “The Alley” (tucked right behind Three Ships Coffee), score stylized, retro (yet utterly modern) hand-painted signs at Igor’s Custom, or head next door to Benevolent Design Co. to find the perfect barstool or table crafted entirely out of reclaimed materials. And, one more door down at North End Bag Co., you’ll find exquisite handmade canvas and leather totes (plus other goods like aprons) that are works of art in their own right.

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The 3 Best Ways To Experience Art + Culture In Virginia Beach

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