While our beaches are undoubtedly at the top of your list of places to visit, there is more to our coastal city than just sun and sand. With a history that dates back to America’s very first English settlers, there is much to explore in Virginia Beach. Here are some of our most popular landmarks that you won’t want to miss while you’re here.
First Landing State Park is a 2,888-acre park that fronts the Chesapeake Bay and features 1.25 miles of beach and more than 19 miles of interpretive hiking trails through protected salt marsh habitat, freshwater ponds, beach, dunes, forest, tidal marsh and cypress swamp. A registered Natural Landmark, First Landing is the most visited state park in Virginia and contains one of the most endangered habitat types in the world, the maritime forest community.
The original Cape Henry Lighthouse, located within the Fort Story military base, was the first lighthouse authorized by the U.S. government, dating from 1792. It was also the first federal construction project under the Constitution, for an original contract amount of $15,200 (an additional $2,500 was required to finish the lighthouse).
A newer structure stands nearby, so there are actually two lighthouses at Cape Henry. The older lighthouse was acquired in 1930 by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (Now APVA Preservation Virginia). A brick lining and an iron stairway have been added to the interior. The lighthouse is open to the public and a breathtaking view can be enjoyed from its observation platform. It was designated a National Historic Landmark on January 29, 1964. In 2002 the American Society of Civil Engineers designated the lighthouse a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
At the north end of Virginia Beach, the present-day granite First Landing Cross was placed in 1935 to commemorate the 1607 landing of English settlers who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on three small ships: the Discovery, the Susan Constant, and the Godspeed. Upon landing, the settlers from the London Company erected a cross on the newly-anointed Cape Henry in gratitude of God and to affirm England’s claim to the area. After exploring several days, they up the James River and established the first permanent settlement in the new world at Jamestown. Today, the monument is a registered national landmark.
The Virginia Beach Boardwalk, at the Oceanfront, is a 28-feet wide marvel that stretches three miles, and features a separate bike path, ideal for strolling, rollerblading and biking. Entertainment is offered nightly during the summer months and four oceanfront stages at 7th, 17th, and 24th and 31st Streets provide live musical acts. Along the boardwalk, there’s a variety of quaint outdoor restaurants and vendors offering bike and surrey rentals. Nautical sculptures adorn many of the side streets which lead to Atlantic Avenue.
This twenty-four foot, twelve-ton bronze statue that stands at the gateway to Neptune Festival Park on 31st Street, was created by acclaimed Richmond-area sculptor, Paul DiPasquale. Reigning over the Virginia Beach Boardwalk, the Roman God of the Sea is one of our most popular photo opportunities at the oceanfront. To capture the perfect photo, we’d recommend paying him a visit at sunrise.
The world-renowned Mount Trashmore Park encompasses 165-acres and is comprised of two man-made mountains, two lakes, two playgrounds, a skatepark and vert ramp, and multi-use paths. The main mountain, Mt Trashmore, now 60 feet in height and 800 feet long, was created by compacting layers of solid waste and clean soil. Recognized for its environmental feat, this former landfill features a water-wise garden that boasts xeriscaping, where you can enjoy a beautiful garden that requires minimal water.
The park also features a smaller mountain, Encore Hill, and two lakes. Lake Windsor (located along South Blvd.) is brackish water fed by Thalia Creek. Lake Trashmore (located along Edwin Drive) is freshwater and hosts various species of fish.
Reopening in 2018 after an extensive restoration, The Cavalier has regained its former magnificence with 62 beautifully-designed guest rooms and 23 suites, and ample on-site features including two restaurants, an onsite bourbon and gin distillery, an indoor plunge pool, a luxurious spa, and The Raleigh Room, where guests can grab an afternoon cocktail or tea. Guests can choose from 11 different types of rooms, including the Legacy Suites, each of which were designed in correspondence with the board members who helped make the renovation possible, so no two Legacy Suites are the same. No matter which room you stay in, however, the hotel’s rich history and the modern day are seamlessly blended with rich finishes and clean lines, as well as an uncanny attention to detail in amenities like clawfoot tubs and marble baths.
Connecting Virginia Beach with Virginia’s Eastern Shore, the 23-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is a renowned engineering marvel that crosses at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, the Hampton Roads harbor, and nearby mouths of the James and Elizabeth Rivers, showcasing both the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay. Whether you travel across the bridge tunnel on your way in or not, it is worth visiting for a quick photo-op. For the avid fishermen, Sea Gull Fishing Pier is located off of the bridge tunnel and will get you right out over the water where you can fish the rich waters of the bay.
Cover Image: @elzorrocr, Instagram