Going to the beach before the beginning of summer is often more rewarding because there is less; less traffic; less people; less spending. When less pertains to a family vacation, it really means more. The “Sweatshirt Season” is the vacation value season for families with savings on Virginia Beach hotels and attractions. Assembled below is an activity menu worth a look and a visit.
Kayak the Back Bay. To experience the change of seasons, wild rushes, migrating waterfowl and golden leaves the Sandbridge Eco Sports provides both guided and unguided tours of the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Their location provides a backdoor entry to the Refuge and immediate access to the water trails that weave throughout the more than 9,000 acres of protected wilderness. They have an experienced, professional staff dedicated to providing a unique experience for each participant. Kayaking is an ageless sport and no two trips through the Back Bay will ever be the same.
Hike the through Back Bay. Remarkable because of its habitat diversity, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge covers more than 9,000 acres on a strip of coastline typical of barrier islands found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The east and west trails frame the impoundment system making it easy to hike or bike within the Refuge. Each season more than 10,000 snow geese as well as Canada geese, tundra swans, and many duck species return to the Refuge. The Refuge also provides a home to piping plovers, peregrine falcons, and bald eagles. Other trails weave through beach, dunes, woodland, farm fields, and marsh.
Beach comb at False Cape. One of the last undisturbed coastal environments on the East Coast, the Cape has more than 10 miles of non commercial beach, acres of bordering dunes, marshland and woods to provide visitors with a sense of wild space. The beach is well populated by gulls, piping plovers, sandpipers and tiny crabs. There are a wide variety of programs conducted within the park. From stargazing and night hikes, birding walks, canoe trips and seining. Some of them are in partnership with Virginia Marine Science Museum, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. To get to the beach visitors bike or hike through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge to the edge of the sea or ride the beach transporter called Terra Gator, a low impact method of transport. The “Gator” as tykes call it is an experience all by itself. Need to know: Terra Gator runs only on weekends from November 1 through March 31. Departs 9am and returns 1pm.
Pet a ray. Exploring the marine environments presented at Virginia Marine Science Center on the south side of the city is a tactile thrill. A visit will take the greater part of a day. There are two separate sections and plenty of activities in between. The Atlantic Ocean Pavilion and Main Building contain the 300,000-gallon Norfolk Canyon Aquarium. There is also a 70,000-gallon sea turtle aquarium and a sea turtle hatchling laboratory. One of the most popular touch tanks allows visitors to pet a ray. A short walk through a partially shaded pathway connects visitors with the Owls Creek Marsh Pavilion where life in a salt marsh is showcased. Exhibits include aquariums and terrariums featuring river otters, seahorses, and fiddler crabs. Bonus points: A thrill for kids is the macro-marsh section where animals and plants are ten times larger than their normal size.
Go whale watching. Imagine touring the Atlantic Ocean as a majestic whale breeches. This winter, jump on board a whale watching boat trip to search for fin and humpback whales migrating off the Virginia Beach coast. Marvel at these enormous, graceful marine mammals as they feed, flipper-slap, lobtail and breech. Sponsored by the Virginia Marine Science Center, these two-hour boat trips run from early January to mid-March. Museum staff on board will guide and educate you as they explain the biological history and behavior interpretation of these amazing creatures. They’ll also give you a “local’s view” as they comment on Virginia Beach landmarks and the marine life found off the resort coast. Bonus points: There are with many special hotel packages available.
Blade the boardwalk. With the cooling of the season the boardwalk along the beach becomes an even better transit strip for rollerblading and in-line skating. In any season pedal powered surreys may be rented along the boardwalk but during the cooler months the one designated as peddler also enjoys the trip. Parallel to the smooth-paved boardwalk Atlantic Avenue shops still purvey bargains.
Bike at First Landing. In addition to more than 15 miles of hiking trails First Landing Sate Park has designated biking routes and allows bikes and hikers free use of the interior roads. Rent bikes at the camp store near the Chesapeake Bay Center or bring your own, either way the area offers a safe beautiful habitat for active outing. The Bay Center, an environmentally focused interactive facility created for visitors, is the location of the Bay Lab, an outpost of the Virginia Marine Science Museum. Featuring wet labs, touch tanks and aquariums, it is also the meeting place for day adventures within the park.
Tour the Chesapeake. Paddling the Chesapeake in a kayak is both invigorating and just plain fun. Chesapean Kayak Tours based at First Landing provides guided or self-guided tours through the park's wetlands and maritime forest. First Landing State Park is an "easy-going" adventure. The tour introduces the rich habitat of the wetlands and lush maritime forest. See great blue herons fishing in the shallows and ospreys circling high above. This is a neat spot to enjoy with kids. Halfway through the tour take a short hike to explore a hidden lake and enjoy a light snack.
Shop ‘til you drop. Virginia Beach offers a trolley route to and from Lynnhaven Mall, one of the largest malls on the East Coast. Anchored by Hecht’s, JC Penney and Dillards, with oodles of connecting shops and restaurants there are is plenty to tempt even a resolved shopper. In addition to the extensive shopping menu there are also many unique kiosks designed to stop shoppers in their tracks and conclude an impulse buy.
Chill at the beach. Off-season it is much easier to relax and enjoy time away. Sleep late, prowl the night or curl up with a good book, Virginia Beach has more or less depending on the family doing the vacationing. It is an ideal destination for anyone needing a place to unwind and regroup.
Basically Virginia Beach offers a change of pace and plenty of options for customized family fun. For the big picture www.vbfun.com or call 1-800-VA-BEACH begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-VA-BEACH end_of_the_skype_highlighting (1-800-822-3224).
Virginia Marine Science Center: 717 General Booth Boulevard, Virginia Beach, 23451. 1(757) 385-FISH or www.vmsm.com
Sandbridge Eco Sports: 577 Sandbridge Road, 23456. 1(757) 426-6262 or 1-800-933-4800 or www.sandbridge.com/ecosports.htm
Back Bay Wildlife Refuge: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, 4005 Sandpiper Road, 23456-4325. 1(757) 721-2412 or https://backbay.fws.gov
False Cape State Park: The Terra Gator is operated by reservation only; it departs Little Island City Park in Sandbridge daily during the warm season and on weekends from Nov. 1 through March 31 each year. 4001 Sandpiper Road about 5 miles south of Back Bay. 1-800-933-7275, 1(757) 426-7128 or www.dcr.state.va.us/parks/fctrgatr.htm
First Landing State Park: 2500 Shore Drive, 23451-1415, 1(757) 412-2300, 1(757) 412-2320, 1-800-933-PARK or www.dcr.state.va.us/parks/1stland.htm
Old Cape Henry Lighthouse: 583 Atlantic Ave, Fort Story, 23459. 1(757) 422-9421 or www.apva.org/capehenry
Lynnhaven Mall: 701 Lynnhaven Parkway, Virginia Beach 1(757) 340-9340 or www.lynnhavenmall.com
Content researched and created by FamilyTravelFiles.com. Images provided by Virginia Beach Tourism. Copyright 2008.