Virginia Beach has a special place in my heart. It’s where John was stationed while we were dating. It’s where he deployed from and returned to. And it’s the place we first lived as a married couple. It’s where we found many new roads as individuals and as a couple, and so we decided it would be the perfect place to go, thanks to the #ChevySalutes #FindNewRoads campaign!
Chevrolet is a huge supporter of military and veteran families. In addition to many initiatives (including discounts specific to the military), Chevy supports the Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans, Cell Phones for Soldiers, and is the Official Vehicle of the Army-Navy Game.
They graciously lent us a tricked-out Chevy Equinox for our roadtrip. And let me tell you, it was a blast!
We spent the whole weekend revisiting favorite haunts and finding new ones. If you’re thinking about visiting Virginia Beach (which is a great place for military families to vacation at), you’ll want to check out these places–
Navy Lodge/ Navy Gateway Inns and Suites
There are a ton of military installations in the Virginia Beach/Hampton Roads area. A ton. Which means that there are a ton of lodging options. If you are looking for a clean, budget-friendly place to stay, you’ve got to check out the Navy Lodge and Navy Gateway Inns and Suites. In a beach town, over Memorial Day Weekend, for a 2-night stay, we spent $116. Total. (Did I mention that was for 2 nights? We were blown away.)
Cape Henry Lighthouse
Located on Fort Story, America’s oldest federally fudned lighthouse is a great place to check out. When I first visited John in Virginia Beach, the Cape Henry Lighthouse was one of the first places we went. It was finished in the late 1700s and the view is absolutely beautiful.
Pungo Strawberry Festival
Every Memorial Day weekend the small town of Pungo (which is just a few miles away from downtown Virginia Beach) has a strawberry festival. Don’t let the small town fool you. It’s the third best of its kind in the nation… and this year they expected 120,000 people in two days. Still, the festival keeps it’s small-town feel with free admission, local groups and vendors, and down-home entertainment from around the area. John and I enjoyed eating strawberry shortcake from the local Rotary, roasted corn, and strawberry tacos from the Methodist youth group. It was great! And it didn’t seem too crowded at all!
The Baker’s Crust
The Baker’s Crust is a southern Virginia chain… and it is delicious. We had a delicious breakfast on our first day at Virginia Beach which healed my sinus headache. (I’m looking at you, magically delicious cinnamon raisin bread!)
Avoid Oceanfront (the main public beach in Virginia Beach) during heavy tourist times if you hate crowds and tough parking situations. The Oceanfront gets very crowded during the day in the summer. The best times to visit and enjoy without huge crowds? Fall, winter, spring, and early in the morning or late in the day.
If you’re looking for a restaurant right on the beach (with outdoor seating!) that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, RockFish is your place.
When John and I lived in Virginia Beach together, I really wanted to try a Cinema Cafe— it’s only in the Hampton Roads area! At Cinema Cafe, you are able to have dinner with your movie– it’s both a full-service restaurant and a movie theater. We just ran out of time and never got a chance. On this trip, we were able to finally make it to a showing of Pitch Perfect 2 and were blown away by how much fun it was (and how great our dining experience was). If you’ve never done it, you’ll want to try it at least once. Make sure that you arrive at least 40 minutes before the show begins (doors open at 30 minutes before and seats go quickly). And it doesn’t hurt that Cinema Cafe also has a military discount– just bring your ID.
Watch the sunrise
If you really want an experience that is completely yours, go watch the sunrise at the beach. It will be deserted and you’ll be able to enjoy a quiet, beautiful start to the day. If you go to the Oceanfront to watch the sunrise, make sure you pay attention to parking restrictions so you don’t come back to a towed or booted car.
Walk the boardwalk
The Oceanfront boardwalk is very family friendly and regularly has festivals, entertainment, and exhibits. Many of the most interesting ones take place on off-weekends. When we lived in Virginia Beach, we had a great time seeing an international sand sculpting competition and exhibit and a sidewalk art display. And even if there’s nothing official happening, keep your eyes peeled– John and I once saw whales swimming and surfacing just beyond the shoreline while we were walking the boardwalk. It was magical.
Make sure you take some time to check out the Farmer’s Market in Virginia Beach. It’s a year-round, open-air market that features local produce, foods, meats, and handicrafts from around the area. There’s also a restaurant!
The Naval Air Station Oceana Dam Neck Annex beach is where you want to be. (I’m totally biased– it’s our favorite beach in Virginia Beach.) It’s located on It is never as crowded as the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, parking is free, and the natural dunes are absolutely beautiful. There are also a few amenities close to the beach in Dam Neck including a small commissary (perfect for grabbing forgotten sunscreen, snacks, and cold drinks), a restaurant called Shifting Sands that offers a daily buffet for lunch, and beach showers to quickly rinse your feet before you get back in the car.
Town Center is located inland from Oceanfront and is really the commercial heart of Virginia Beach. While there’s not a lot of “local” flavor, there are a lot of top-line chain restaurants and stores including The Cheesecake Factory, PF Chang’s, Bravo, Lululemon, and Anthropologie. Across the street from Town Center is a mall within walking distance. Town Center also has a summer outdoor concert series and many festivals and activities going on throughout the week. It’s worth a look, especially if you want a change of pace from the beach.
Blue Star Museums
Don’t forget to check out the local museums in the area (including the Old Coast Guard Museum)! Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, enjoy free admission for your military family through Blue Star Museums. Even if the museum does not advertise their affiliation, make sure you ask– many museums are participating even if it’s not announced.
And while these places aren’t IN Virginia Beach, you’re close to…
- Colonial Williamsburg (which has a military discount and free military appreciation days)
- Williamsburg (which has an awesome weekend farmer’s market and shopping)
- Norfolk (which has a burgeoning local restaurant scene and lots of museums)
- Hampton (which hosts historic Fort Monroe and the Emancipation Oak)
- Busch Gardens (which offers free tickets to military members and their dependents)
Ready to go on a trip yet?
Join a bunch of military spouse bloggers for the #ChevySalutes Twitter party on May 27 at 9 PM EST as we wrap up Military Appreciation Month. 2 iPad Minis and 4 $100 Visa gift cards are up for grabs– just for participating. Put it on your calendar!
If you’ve been to Virginia Beach, what are your favorite places to frequent? I can’t wait to hear your advice! Share in the comments!
PS. Make sure that you don’t start a single day of your vacation without these 48 Travel Discounts and Services for Military Families.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Chevrolet via MSB New Media. The opinions and text are all mine.