Old Dominion’s most famous city is probably the state capital, Richmond, but the oft-overlooked Virginia Beach is the state’s most populous city—and an amazing tourist destination. Combining all the attraction of a seaside resort with historical importance, pride and a bit of Southern charm, Virginia Beach offers visitors plenty to see and do on the shores of the Atlantic, where the ocean meets Chesapeake Bay. Whether your idea of a relaxing vacation includes lounging on a sunny beach, fishing in a scenic park or learning more about the aquatic creatures who make their home here, Virginia Beach is the place for you. Virginia Beach attracts thousands of visitors each year and it’s not hard to see why. With festivals, great regional shopping, and plentiful outdoor activities—including a boardwalk, hiking, camping and boating in state parks—there is something to whet every appetite and pique every interest. Here are just 10 ideas of what to include on your Virginia Beach itinerary.
10. Explore Aquatic Life at the Marine Science Center
Given Virginia Beach’s proximity to the Atlantic and the sea’s important role in the area’s history and culture, it only makes sense that it would be home to an aquarium funded by both the city and the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center Foundation. The aquarium is home to more than 800,000 gallons of aquatic exhibits in 4 different exhibit areas, including one focused on the Chesapeake Bay area. The exhibits are immersive and interactive, as part of the aquarium’s mission is to help educate the public and advocate conservation of vulnerable habitat and endangered species.
The Bay and Ocean Pavilion focuses on demonstrating the various types of aquatic ecosystems that occur in Virginia, from rivers to oceans. The exhibit includes a touch pool, where visitors can get up close and personal with some of the creatures. The Restless Planet exhibits are intended to show how aquatic forces have shaped Virginia over time. In the Marsh Pavilion, visitors can see river otters, seahorses and snakes. There is also an aviary, which showcases waterfowl and is home to about 70 individuals representing approximately 30 species.