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PRECIOUS PLACES:Reasons to love Virginia Beach

Everyone knows the phrase “Virginia is for Lovers,” but it is not as well known that one of the first incarnations of the iconic slogan was “Virginia is for Beach Lovers.”

While the tagline was abandoned (or reshaped to be more precise) in 1969, the sentiment remains, particularly when it comes to state’s most famous stretch of sand, Virginia Beach – 5 km of Atlantic coastline that adjoins with two other beaches stretching south from Chesapeake Bay, all touching the warmest water on the US east coast (thanks to proximity of the Gulf Stream).

But beyond the sensational sand, which speaks for itself, there is much more to Virginia Beach than its beach in a region rich with history (dating to 1682), and which features diverse attractions ranging from the simple Cape Henry Lighthouse to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, considered one of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World.

Nature is close at hand, from dolphin- and bird-watching tours and wild horses to the Virginia Aquarium, and there is no shortage of physical activities, the likes of surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking, golf, and even indoor skydiving.

Meanwhile, First Landing State Park marks the 1607 arrival of the Jamestown colonists from England.

With seven different districts to discover, here’s a quick look at where to go and what to do when you reach the beach:

1. Oceanfront/ Boardwalk

The hub of hotels, dining and entertainment, the Oceanfront is where the action is: Live music, street performers on Atlantic Avenue, outdoor cafés, hot dog and snow cone vendors, the popular Rudee Inlet marina area, and the famed 5-km boardwalk, which runs from 2nd to 40th St. and features a separate bike path – ideal for strolling, rollerblading and biking. Nightly entertainment is offered during summer months at four oceanfront stages. 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, including King Neptune – a 12-ton bronze statue that stands at the gateway to Neptune Festival Park on 31st St.

2. Town Centre/ ViBe Creative District

Town Center is the place to be for high-end shopping, dining, and entertainment, while the ViBe Creative District serves as a centre for various creative industries and venues, such as artists’ studios at the Virginia Beach Art Center and world-class exhibitions at Virginia MOCA. It is also home to the weekly Old Beach Farmers Market.

3. Chesapeake Bay

For beachgoers looking for kinder, gentler waves, refuge can be found along the calm waters of the Chesapeake Bay, in the area’s northernmost community, known affectionately to locals as Chic’s Beach and considered “quintessential Virginia Beach.” From swimming and building sandcastles to dolphin-watching and volleyball, all the traditional beach rituals are here in a setting that has a decidedly laid-back vibe. Don’t miss out on an oyster farm tour and quick bite at the area’s dockside restaurants.

4. Sandbridge

Located a short drive south of the Oceanfront District, Sandbridge (banner photo) is a secluded beach hideaway of pristine sand dunes and dancing sea oats. It is a relaxing and peaceful community where visitors can truly slow down and unwind. Beachside is the Atlantic, and for those craving even more of the great outdoors, the marshes and open waters of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park make for great kayaking, hiking, and fishing.

5. Pungo

Pungo

Just a few minutes from the windswept dunes of Sandbridge, sits 9,300 hectares of farmland known to Virginia Beach locals as Pungo. A drive through this the expansive agricultural community delivers a rural serenity and countryside charm that feels worlds away from the bustle of the Oceanfront. Stop along the way at any one of the area’s roadside stands or, for a truly Pungo experience, pick a bushel of fresh berries, produce, or even a bouquet of wildflowers.

Virginia Beach is accessible in about a day’s drive from eastern Canada (12 hours from Toronto or Montreal), or a shorter fly-drive from Dulles/Washington DC, the latter making an ideal add-on, as does a visit to nearby historic Williamsburg (and Busch Gardens Williamsburg), Virginia.

First published at Travel Industry Today

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