With an infusion of arts, food, and drink, Virginia Beach takes its summertime game to a new level.
1. Work Out at Sunrise
Paddleboard yoga is so last year. Trade it in for Virginia Beach native Whitney Fulton Lee's genius hybrid—the strength and flexibility of barre paired with the balance of paddleboarding—and join her sunrise SUP Barre classes. Lee also offers sunset classes and occasional dog-inclusive, SUP With Your Pup sessions.
2. Grab Morning Coffee
Honoring the seagoing vessels that brought the Jamestown Colony's founders ashore in 1607, Three Ships Coffee Roasters maintains that local sense of discovery with carefully sourced micro-lot coffees that are roasted on the premises. The coffee-house is the cozy epicenter of Virginia Beach's creative district.
3. Eat a Big Breakfast
After your first visit to Commune, you'll lament that it is only open for breakfast and lunch. And yet that is part of the magic—its containment to daylight hours. Smart fans of executive chef Barry Smith know to make a meal here the central event of the day, whether for sweet potato morning buns, cornmeal waffles with pasture-raised fried chicken, or a pimiento-cheese-and-pickle board.
4. Learn to Surf
Steady swells make Virginia Beach an ideal place to learn to surf. Step into blue with the Seth Broudy School of Surf, in a four-day camp ($299, ages 6 through adult) or one- and two-hour private lessons (starting at $40).
5. Head to the Farm
One of Virginia Beach's little-known assets is Pungo: 8,000 acres of rolling farmland known for its roadside stands and sweet, small strawberries. In Pungo, New Earth Farm hosts cooking classes and "labs" in endeavors like making kombucha. It's also home to a new, year-round farmers' market with everything from local eggs, cheese, milk, and yogurt to meats, grains, and, of course, produce.
6. Go Bag Shopping
Seldom is shopping so soul-gratifying as a visit to North End Bag Co., a workshop/shop in a tiny industrial space filled with vintage Singer sewing machines and piles of waxed canvas and leather. The bags—from cross-body purses to totes that tread that nuanced line between nautical and urban—are hard to resist.
7. Take an Oyster Tour
The large, salty oysters pulled from the Lynnhaven River have served coastal Virginians and visiting dignitaries for centuries. Embrace that legacy at Pleasure House Oysters's Chef's Table Tour. Boat out to the working farm and enjoy fresh and roasted varieties at a table set atop oyster cages stacked in the river shallows.
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8. Hit a Museum
Beach-town museums are usually relegated to rainy days, but that would be doing a disservice to the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum's collection of antique and contemporary hunting decoys. The artifacts reveal the long associations between wildfowl hunting and this coast, and a cadre of volunteer carvers is always on hand to show and tell.
9. Go Out for Dinner
With its botanicals-forward cocktails and small plates with Mediterranean influences, Esoteric picks up Virginia Beach's culinary game when next-door Commune closes for the day. It's a perfect hand-off.
10. Post Up
Commonwealth Brewing Company is more than a pretty face (although its distinctive cans are off-the-charts cool). The beer list is creative and deeply drinkable, and the biergarten and 28-tap tasting room sit just steps from the beach. It's the ideal day's-end destination.
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The historic Cavalier Hotel, a grande dame that's welcomed 10 U.S. presidents, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, and other luminaries since it opened its opulent doors in 1927, has reopened in 2018 after a four-year renovation. With much of the historic detail restored, new pleasures have joined the fun, including an on-site distillery, a full-service spa, and a reimagined Beach Club opening on Memorial Day. Rates for the 62 rooms and 23 suites start at $189.
Stay for a Lifetime
Two neighborhoods for living your vacation year-round
Bookending the commercial Oceanfront area, the North End and Croatan neighborhoods are lined with single-family homes. The larger North End has 89 blocks of beachfront (compared to Croatan's five); homes a few blocks from the beach start at $600,000, while sprawling beachfront properties fetch as much as $5 million.
Pictured here: 556 S Atlantic Ave, 5 bedrooms, 5 baths for $2.95 million