5 Reasons I honestly like Virginia Beach
Updated: Jul 20, 2020
It’s one of those eternal questions: what’s a good day trip from Washington DC? In my opinion, there’s not a whole lot of choice.
Yes, there’s beautiful nature all around, from the rolling hills of Virginia to the beautiful Shenandoah National Park, but whenever the weather is just right it gets ridiculously crowded.
There are a number of cute towns like Annapolis and Gettysburg, Charlottesville and Fredericksburg, and there’s of course the Jamestown Settlement, but once you’ve seen it... and I can’t say I created lasting memories in any of those places.
If you don’t have demanding kids you can go wine tasting at Virginia wineries, but it’s probably not going to blow away your tastebuds.
If you want to have a real break, and the weather is right, I’d recommend Virginia Beach. It feels a world away from the DC metropolitan area and the beach is huge, clean, and the water is warm. I was there for a week and I literally didn’t experience anything bad—just happy people in a town that’s hopping but not overly crowded (which might be because of COVID, of course).
Per the usual, I was skeptical about going to Virginia Beach at first. What could be so great about a traditional beach resort with nothing but big, concrete hotels? Here are the things that won me over:
1. The water is warm
It’s only mid-June and the weather isn’t great but the water feels amazing. It’s not hot like in Florida, but even in cloudy, windy weather it’s really pleasant to just dive in and enjoy the wild waves. So far I also didn’t see pesky jellyfish or painful shells, just perfect sand.
2. It’s wayyy nicer than Ocean City
In case you haven’t read about my experience in Ocean City, Maryland, this place does not look trashy or feel chaotic; instead, it feels friendly and normal, despite the COVID-19 measures that won’t allow playgrounds and most hotel amenities to open. People here are clearly having fun, and on Saturday night it changed into a party town for sure, but without the public drunkenness, slash loud cars, slash getting-a-new-tattoo kind of vibe.
3. It’s nice and clean
It seems that the entire beach is a public space, and porter potties notwithstanding, it’s calm and clean wherever you look. There are Baywatch-style coast guard girls, albeit in sweaters and sweatpants (gets heavy in the water, no?) who keep an eye on the water, and mom-style “beach ambassadors” to keep an eye on anyone coming and going.
4. Affordable apartments
We booked a comfortable apartment (almost the size of our regular apartment in DC) in Beach Quarters Diamond Resorts. Was it overly luxurious? No. Was it totally perfect for our needs with almost unencumbered beach access? Yes! I’m not gonna say it was cheap, but I will say that finding oceanfront accommodation was easy and relatively affordable.
In some beach towns it’s a big deal to find something decent, but I'd say it's pretty straightforward in Virginia Beach. To save a few bucks we stayed at Ocean Suits a few weeks later; the apartment was far less luxurious but still had everything we needed.
5. There's stuff to do
You don’t have to wreck your brain about what to do, either. If it’s not a good beach day, you can head over to the Aquarium and Science Center or the Military Aviation Museum. Due to COVID the former was closed when I was there, unfortunately, but it gives us a good reason to come back at some point. And maybe I’ll give paragliding behind a speedboat another shot, too. And there are Premium Outlets nearby.
Restaurant tip: Zeke's Beans & Bowls (just a 10-minute walk inward from the Boardwalk). I had the fresh tuna bowl at least three times for lunch.