|Spring Break in Virginia Beach Offers Stargazing, Ziplining, and Whale Watching. Spring break getaways need to be stress free and wallet friendly. It also helps if the weather is pleasant and the possibilities for family fun abundant.
Here's the scoop. With gas prices at an all time low it may make sense to pack the kids in the car and escape to the beach. I am thinking Virginia Beach. The weather will be mild and sunny and while swimming at the beach will not be the main activitiy there will be plenty to do from stargazing, whale watching and ziplining to shopping, fishing and just chilling out.
Kayak the Back Bay. The Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge contains over 9,250 acres of beach, dunes, woodlands and farm fields. Catch the migration of over 10,000 snow geese and a large variety of ducks every Fall season while kayaking on the oceanfront. Surf and Adventure Ocean Rentals offers the option of guided tours or single rentals, and even provides picturesque sunrise and sunset tours. Their location provides a backdoor entry to the Refuge and immediate access to the water trails that weave throughout the more than 9,250 acres of protected wilderness. Bonus Points: 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. With its remarkable habitat diversity, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge covers more than 9,250 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, 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, including stargazing, 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. Terra Gator runs only on weekends from November 1 through March 31.
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. A thrill for kids is the macro-marsh section where animals and plants are ten times larger than their normal size. Bonus Points: The adventure park onsite provides hours of energizing fun for all ages and offers ways to have unique parent/child adventures including ziplining. 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, or leaps out of the water. 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.
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.
Cast a line off 15th Street. Easy access to ocean and bay fishing, modern marinas, and numerous charter boats available for offshore excursions make Virginia Beach a premier destination for spring break fishing. Cast off the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier on 15th street or at the Lynnhaven Fishing Pier which stretches into the Chesapeake Bay. If you do not have fishing gear, all the necessities are available to rent. For those craving a day of deep-sea fishing, boat charters are available at both Rudee Inlet and Lynnhaven Marina.
Climb the lighthouse. The top of the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse on the northeastern tip of Virginia Beach provides an excellent view of the current lighthouse. Both lighthouses are located within Fort Story Army Base. Built in 1791, the Old Lighthouse offers an impressive horizon mark to the entrance of Chesapeake Bay. Replaced by a newer version, the original lighthouse is no longer used for ship navigation, but is open seasonally for self-guided tours. The climb to the top is worth it and made even better with binoculars. Need to know: To gain access to the lighthouse visitors must obtain a pass at the gate. All passengers 18 years or older must provide a photo identification for the sentry.
Tour the Chesapeake. Paddling the Chesapeake in a kayak is both invigorating and 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. Halfway through the tour there is time to take a short hike to a secret lake.
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. Down the road in Norfolk, The McArthur Center has more than 150 stores including Nordstroms and Dillards, plus Internet booths and eighteen movie theaters.
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 during the off season.
Location on the planet. Anchored in the southeastern corner of the state where Virginia meets the sea, Virginia Beach is four hours southeast of Washington, D.C. by car, and within a day’s drive or less from one-third of the U.S. population. Make it happen. To speak to a Virginia Beach vacation expert call toll-free 1-800-VA-BEACH (822-3224), or checkout www.visitvirginiabeach.com
Content researched and posted by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the good Stuff for theFamilyTravelFiles.com. Images by FTF staff and Scott Kamps-Duac. Updated copyright 2015.