Sunday, August 22, 2010

Travel Notes: Virginia Beach

I'm needing a wee break from curriculum-writing (semester starts tomorrow!), so I'm going to make my notes for Jodi's friend about Virginia Beach.  I love when I can cross fun things off my To-Do list. :)

I'm writing it here, as I do with other things, so I have a ready-link to send in the future.

If you're vacationing in Virginia Beach, here are my suggestions - in order of priority, so you can tailor to how long you're here:

- See the ocean.  I know...duh, right?  But how many times have our parents come here and they left without seeing the ocean?  Nonsense.  Don't let that happen to you.   Those with young kiddos often prefer the bay beaches (no waves), but we like the hard-core tourism boardwalk area, with all the chaotic waves.  :)  Bring comfortable walking shoes, because it's fun to walk the boardwalk.  You can also rent bikes.  We like the boardwalk even when it's not swimming weather; we just wear sweatshirts and walk the boardwalk. 

- Norfolk Botanical Gardens.  We love this place.  Take the train around the park, and it will let you off at the children's area.  I like how it's all fenced off with one entrance, so it's easier to watch multiple kids.  Until October 15th, they have the sprinkler area in the World of Wonder children's area.  Make sure your kids wear clothes that can get wet, and they are strict that all kids *must* wear shoes (even the babies).

- Virginia Beach Aquarium.  This has recently been re-done, and we like all the updates.  A great place if the weather is a bit rough, as there's a lot indoors.  But on nice days, you can walk the trail between the two buildings.  If parking is bad, park at the Marsh Pavilion, which is about 1/2 mile from the main building.  There's never crowded parking there, and you can easily walk the trail over to the main portion.

- Virginia Air and Space Center:  This one depends a lot on the visiting exhibit.  When they're between temporary exhibits, we can usually only last about an hour or so.  But there are a lot of hands-on planes and space things that my boys enjoy.  It's in downtown Hampton, which is scenic and right on the water.  There's a carousel right next door, as well as an Imax to see movies.  Note that it's across the bridge-tunnel from Virginia Beach, so time your visit so the tunnel passage isn't rush hour.  It gets backed up quickly!

This is just the highlights list, if you're only here a few days.  But truthfully, there are sooooo many things to do here. Many things are temporary festivals or events, and they are often the highlights.  Some aren't unique to us, like water parks and go-kart places and such, so I didn't include them here - but they're still fun.  

There's also a zoo in Norfolk, but I wouldn't suggest it for a short trip.  There are better zoos out there; we like it for the chance to walk around outside, more than being a "must see."

I also didn't include anything about Williamsburg, which is 45min away. That city deserves a post of its own.

Free Things To Do (besides the ocean)

- Mount Trashmore.  It's a landfill turned into a park.  Weird, I know.  But it's the best place for kite-flying, and they have an amazing play structure.  It's big and difficult to track your children, so it's best if you have a co-parent with you. Or only one child. :)

- Animal Jungle.  It's "just" a pet store, but it's an interesting place to pop in and see some exotic (and not so exotic) animals.  Quite a variety!  Fairly close to Mount Trashmore, off Independence.

I know I'm missing some obvious ones, so feel free to include your thoughts in the Comments.  When your friends visit you in Virginia Beach, where do you take them?