There’s a unique and magical winter adventure waiting for you on the coast. Many see Virginia Beach as a summer destination and miss out on all that this place has to offer year-round. It’s home to Virginia’s most and least visited state parks, unique land and water adventures, impressive conservation efforts, and world-class wildlife. With so much to see and do, here’s the perfect winter weekend itinerary to show you that this coastal city doesn’t have an off-season.
First up on your weekend in Virginia Beach should be First Landing State Park, a spot packed with history and stories. It’s also Virginia’s most visited state park, which is no surprise since visitors can enjoy 20 miles of trails winding through the cypress swamps and 1.5 miles of sandy beach on the Chesapeake Bay. In the winter, you’ll find the mild temperatures make for a pleasant walk on a practically deserted beachfront. Additionally, the park offers cabins, yurts, water/electric hook-up campsites, and tent campsites if you want to make First Landing your home base.
After you spend your morning snapping pics of cypress trees and getting sand in your hiking boots, head to the ViBe Creative District for a foodie hotspot and towering murals. Then it’s on to Pleasure House Point Natural Area and the Brock Environmental Center to take in stunning coastal views and see firsthand the work organizations like Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Lynnhaven River NOW are doing. It’s a wonderful place to learn about and see the wildlife unique to the area.
It’s hard to go wrong with your choice for dinner. Whether you’re looking for locally-sourced seafood or cuisine inspired from all over the world, the options are endless. Once your belly is full, settle into your lodging of choice for the evening. This coastal city has something for everyone, from secluded campsites and cabins to beachside resorts and hotels.
The sun starts to rise later in the winter, making it easier to wake up in time to see it. Watch the sun rise up from the ocean and keep an eye out for pods of dolphins in the water!
Get a closer look at Virginia Beach’s wildlife with the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center or Rudee Tours. Both offer whale watching tours throughout the winter. The prime months to whale watch are January and February but these impressive animals have been spotted as early as December. There is nothing like seeing a whale in the wild, especially in Virginia. Afterwards you can warm up while continuing to feed your craving for wildlife knowledge inside the aquarium.
Since you were up so early to watch the sunrise, you’ll probably need a bite to eat and maybe a mid-day coffee. Drive outside of the city’s center to the communities of Sandbridge and Pungo for a taste of the countryside.
Finish the day right with a fat tire bike adventure through False Cape State Park. You can rent through Surf & Adventure Co. and ride over the secluded sandy beach with ease. In the winter, you’ll pretty much have Virginia’s least visited state park to yourself. Plan for a five to eight mile bike ride along the beach of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge as the internal trails are closed November to March to protect the habitat and wildlife during migration season.
If you prefer to pair your meal with a brew, the Virginia Beach Beer Trail can help narrow your choices. Or stop into the tasting rooms of Tarnished Truth Distilling Company and Chesapeake Bay Distillery to sample the magic of craft distilling before calling it a night.
Breathe in that fresh, salty air and discover new sights when you visit Virginia Beach this winter.
Cover photo by Shannon McGowan