When searching for affordable vacation destinations, it’s important to look at places that offer multiple free or low-cost things to do. Although known for its beautiful beaches, Virginia Beach, Virginia, has a wealth of activities at any time of year for all kinds of travelers.
From laying on the beach to kayaking, hiking, biking, or enjoying its famous local oysters, Virginia Beach is great for a short trip or a longer stay.
Recently, we had a chance to sit down with Charli Sharp, Public Relations Director with the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, to get the lowdown on all the affordable activities the city offers from a local’s perspective.
What brings the most tourism to Virginia Beach, and what are some of the can’t-miss attractions?
“We have 35 miles of sandy beaches and three beach areas (Chesapeake Bay Beach, Resort Area Beach, and Sandbridge Beach), so the beach is, of course, one of our biggest draws, though we have more to offer beyond the beach. We have a flourishing craft beer and culinary scene, and plenty of on-the-water and off-the-water activities from standup paddle boarding to hiking our state parks (First Landing State Park and False Cape State Park) and visiting our historical sites and museums.
What’s the most popular time of year to visit Virginia Beach?
“We’re a year-round destination, though summer is naturally the most popular time since kids are out of school, and we see a lot of families visiting during this season.
But the fall, winter, and spring are also perfect times to visit us when the weather is cooler. There are plenty of year-round activities, and in fact, visitors can only go on whale watching tours (November until March) and horseback riding on the beach (October until May) outside of the summer months.”
What are some of your personal favorite things to do and see in Virginia Beach that are free or inexpensive?
“One, of course, is the beach. When looking for budget-friendly vacation spots, beach destinations and cities with sightseeing opportunities are great and won’t break the bank since they’re usually free. Our parks and trails are free, and visitors can go for hiking, biking or walking. We also have several museums and historical sites that are free and open to the public. During the summertime, we have a lot of free outdoor entertainment and concerts right on the beach.”
What are some popular local dishes to try and restaurants that won’t break the bank?
“A lot of people still don’t know this, but one of the first-ever food reviews was here in Virginia Beach when Captain John Smith landed with his crew.
Shortly after they landed, they discovered the Lynnhaven oyster, which is indigenous to Virginia Beach and grown in the Lynnhaven River. The oysters are popular her and most of the local restaurants serve them. Pleasure House Oysters even offers oyster tours where you go out on the water and pick your own.
Aside from oysters, being a coastal city on the Atlantic Ocean means we have several types of fish that are caught off our shores. And If you go about 20 minutes away from the Oceanfront, you’ll find our farmland area called Pungo. Many of the restaurants in the area will source their produce from there.”
Do you have any advice for tourists looking for affordable lodging in and around Virginia Beach?
“Weekend stays are, of course, in higher demand, and therefore more expensive in any destination, so booking mid-week is a more affordable option. There are also vacation rental homes that are available in the Sandbridge area. If you have a big family or a group, it can sometimes be more cost-effective to look at a vacation home and divvy up the cost.”
What do you think makes Virginia Beach stand out as a tourist destination among other American cities?
“We have the best of both worlds – we’re a year-round coastal city and we have great beaches, couple with the fact that we also get to experience all of the seasons, given our mild weather. Our locals live here year-round so there’s always something to do beyond the summer months. On top of this and all of the activities, we have a lot of breweries that are popping up and a great foodie scene.”