|Virginia: Virginia Beach, Family Vacations for Grandparents and Grandkids - Harbor Seal Splash, Crabbing Classes, and a Boardwalk Surrey Ride. Virginia Beach meets the vacation needs for multilpe generations beacuse there are so many options from which to choose starting with the signature oceanfront boardwalk and 35-miles of additional beach. Add to that world-class sunrises, friendly people, great restaurants, and awesome entertainment and one-of-a-kind museum programs.
The location delivers on the good stff. We have assembled a few vacation activities to consider sharing with your grandkids during your holiday at the beach.
Live the beach lifestyle. It all begins with the beach with dramatic sunrises, calming waves, people watching, and quirky conversations and serene lavender-blue sunsets. If you need more, just take a stroll down the oceanfront boardwalk. The three-mile thoroughfare frames the waterside and provides space for bicyclists, in-line skaters, and strollers. Outdoor cafes and ice cream stops make the boardwalk tour a blast for all ages. The beach along the boardwalk is wide, clean and a “bored no more” kind of place. Bonus points: The atmosphere is festive with lively open-air and often free concerts that encourage spontaneous dancing for all ages.
Practice stargazing with a twist. Every Tuesday night at 7pm The Virginia Beach City Public Schools Planetarium presents a free planetarium program to the general public. The themes vary by month but always include interesting topics well suited to children ages 5-12 children. Count stars, learn about the constellations, track galaxies, listen mythological tales that describe familiar star clusters. Bonus points: During the coldest months of the year the topics relate the night sky to land based customs and celebrations providing a unique cultural connection that includes historical religious and cultural rituals practiced during the time of the winter solstice – not only Christian and Jewish, but also Celtic, Pagan, Nordic, Roman, Mexican, and Hopi.
Climb a lighthouse. The Old Cape Henry Lighthouse is a signature beacon for the area. Built in 1792, it stands guard where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. Kids love the spiral staircase and the narrow ladder that takes visitors to the observation platform at the top. Down below, is the spot where English settlers first landed in the New World in 1607.
See it to believe it. Without a doubt the Virginia Marine Science Museum, ranked among the top 10 most-attended aquarium facilities in the country, is not-to-be- missed. It is the ultimate family field trip. The world-class facility features 800,000 gallons of aquariums and live animal habitats representative of Virginia’s coastal rivers to the Atlantic Ocean as well as a six-story-high ABC Family Channel IMAX® 3D Theater. Bonus points: The touch tanks are awesome and the interactive kiosks fun for all ages. Thinking while having fun, what could be better?
Splish, splash, like taking a bath. There is no substitute for being part of the action. Extraordinary in every way, the Harbor Seal Splash created by the Virginia Marine Science Museum staff is all about action. The new two-hour in-water, interactive educational program is an opportunity for visitors to learn firsthand about the natural history of harbor seals. The mini adventure experience provides plenty for the next science report and hours of one-of-a-kind memories.
Meet history or take a crabbing class. Kids and adults can scamper along the shoreline during a First Landing State Park crabbing class. Grab clothes that can get wet, some old shoes and scurry along the shoreline in classes led by park rangers. The park also offers night hikes, stargazing and nature hikes. Ever wonder what the first settlers saw when they set foot on American soil? The park itself is the most-visited state park in Virginia and was the landing site of the first permanent English settlers in 1607 before they colonized Jamestown. Bonus points: If parent time away from charges is an option there are also camps that offer classes and fun-for-kids-only programs. Translated: free time for adults.
Go dolphin spotting. Once the whales head north, dolphins take over the waters skimming and frolicking as if teasing boaters. Boats depart from the Virginia Beach Fishing Center at Rudee Inlet, not far from the Aquarium. Sighting dolphins is not a guarantee (they are not paid to appear), but guides share with passengers plenty of interesting information about the powerful yet friendly mammals of the sea. On board passengers engage in hands-on activities with marine mammal artifacts.
Try kayaking. Encompassing more than 8,000 acres, the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge habitat supports a wide variety of plant and animal life. Marshlands cover about 75 percent of the refuge and waterways weave throughout the area. Kayaking is a popular way to see the wild side with ease. Excursions can be guided or unguided; the refuge is remarkably wild yet close to civilization. For more action, ocean kayaking and surf lessons are also available through Sandbridge Eco Sports.
Comb the other beach. False Cape State Park has more than 10 miles of non commercial beach, bordered by acres of dunes, marshland and woods. The pristine beach is populated by gulls, piping plovers, sandpipers and tiny crabs. It is easy to bike to the edge with older children or with tiny tots take the tram at Little Island City Park in Sandbridge. Bonus points: The tram, called “The Terra Gator” is departs Little Island City Park in Sandbridge daily during the warm season.
Location on the planet. Anchored in the southeastern corner of the state where Virginia meets the sea, Virginia Beach is four hours by car, southeast of Washington, D.C. and within a day’s drive or less from one-third of the U.S. population. Make it happen. Basically Virginia Beach offers a change of pace and plenty of options for customized family fun. Log on to the website and order a free vacation catalog or go paper-free with the online trip planner. To speak to a Virginia Beach vacation expert call toll-free 1-800-VA-BEACH (822-3224) or checkout www.visitvirginiabeach.com
Family Vacation Planning Details
Virginia Beach City Public Schools Planetarium. Plaza Middle School, 3080 South Lynnhaven Road Virginia Beach, 23452. (757) 431-4067 or www.planetarium.vbschools.com
Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Museum. 717 General Booth Boulevard, Virginia Beach, 23451. (757) 425-3474 or www.virginiaaquarium.com
Surf and Adventure Ocean Rentals. 577 Sandbridge Road, 23456. (757) 721-6210, toll-free 1-800-695-4212 or www.oceanrentalsltd.com
Wild River Outfitters. Sea kayaking trips and canoeing trips and tours throughout coastal Virginia. They offer a certified paddling school. (757) 431-8566 or www.wildriveroutfitters.com
Back Bay Wildlife Refuge. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, 4005 Sandpiper Road, 23456-4325. (757) 721-2412 or http://backbay.fws.gov
False Cape State Park. The Terra Gator is operated by reservation only and it departs Little Island City Park in Sandbridge daily during the warm season. Reservations available by calling 1-800-933-7275 or (757) 498-2473. Located at 4001 Sandpiper Road about 5 miles south of Back Bay. (757) 426-7128 or www.dcr.state.va.us/parks/fctrgatr.htm
First Landing State Park. 2500 Shore Drive, 23451-1415, (757) 412-2300, (757) 412-2320, toll-free 1-800-933-PARK or www.dcr.state.va.us/parks/1stland.html
Old Cape Henry Lighthouse. 583 Atlantic Ave, Fort Story, 23459. (757) 422-9421, (757) 287-0938 or www.apva.org/capehenry
Content reserached and updated by Scott Kamps-Duac. Images by FTF staff. Copyright 2011.