I had heard so many wonderful things about Virginia Beach over the years but didn’t have a chance to visit myself until recently. Although I didn’t bring my kids to Virginia Beach during the complimentary media trip I took a few weeks ago, Virginia Beach is definitely a very family-friendly place. Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay, the resort city of Virginia Beach offers delicious seafood, fun activities, beautiful beaches, and more.
I certainly hope that I can take my own children sometimes – the flight from Boston is very short and it’s such a wonderful place for families. While you can (and should) combine a Virginia Beach vacation with a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, as I did, there are plenty of things to do with families right on the beach.
Disclosure: I visited these Virginia Beach attractions on an all-expense-paid press trip, but all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. A click-through/purchase from one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you.
Things To Do in Virginia Beach With Kids
How to Get to Virginia Beach
Many visitors to the Virginia Beach area drive there, so they’ll have access to their car. It’s also a great idea to combine a trip to Virginia Beach with a visit to Williamsburg. You’ll definitely want access to a car – whether you drive or fly.
There’s no airport right in Virginia Beach, so the best option, if you are flying, is the Norfolk International Airport. Airlines include Allegiant, American, Delta, Southwest, Frontier, and United. There’s also the much smaller Newport News/Williamsburg Airport, but American Airlines is the only option at this airport and it’s further away.
Virginia Beach is about a 20-minute drive from the Norfolk airport, so you’ll be on vacation in no time. Once you arrive in Virginia Beach, you’ll find plenty of fun activities for the whole family.
Spend Time on the Beach and Boardwalk in Virginia Beach
The town itself is called Virginia Beach, as is the most popular beach. This beach offers shops, restaurants, and recreation, as well as the famous Virginia Beach Boardwalk.
Where there’s so much to do in the town of Virginia Beach, you can just spend your entire vacation on the three-mile boardwalk area, swimming, sunning, and shopping. You can also rent bikes and surrey cruisers and ride around. There are many hotels along the waterfront, so you can definitely find one that is right on the beach boardwalk if you don’t want to drive to the beach.
You’ll find restaurants and shops on the boardwalk, and there’s also entertainment and live music in three separate venues on the boardwalk. Walk along the boardwalk to find lots of other attractions as well.
One of the most popular of these is the JT’s Grommet Island Beach Park and Playground, a 100% accessible oceanfront park. Grommet Island Park includes wheelchair-accessible entrances, sand tables, and more that small children will love. Beach wheelchairs are also available on a first-come, first-served basis.
There’s also the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum, which is located at DeWitt Cottage. This museum features carvings and other artwork of wildfowl. Depending on when you visit, you may be able to see carvers in action.
Also located on Virginia Beach is the Virginia Beach Surf and Rescue Museum. This museum focuses on maritime life. It’s closed as of March 2021, with plan to reopen soon.
One of the most famous landmarks of the area is the 26 foot King Neptune Statue. It sits outside Neptune’s Park, one of the entertainment venues along the boardwalk. You’ll definitely want to get a photo near the statue to commemorate your visit to Virginia Beach.
The boardwalk is the perfect place to explore on a bike. If you do want to ride a bike and tour the boardwalk area, you can bring your own or rent. Cherie’s Bicycle and Blade Rentals, the oldest and largest bike rental shop on the East Coast of the United States, has lots of options.
Rentals include beach cruisers, tandem bikes, three-wheelers, geared bicycles, in-line skates, and surrey bikes. They also rent umbrellas and chairs, and have 14 locations up and down the boardwalk.
There are also other beaches in the Virginia Beach area if you are up for some exploring. These include more gentle beaches and calm waters on the Chesapeake Bay if you’d prefer that over the Atlantic Ocean. If you love beaches, I’d recommend trying a few of them!
The waters of the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park are great for water sports like kayaking, canoeing, and fishing, and other outdoor activities. Rentals are available.
There’s also the area known at Chic’s Beach, which is located on the Chesapeake Bay. This can be a great option for families with young kids who are looking for more gentle waves.
In total, there are seven districts in Virginia Beach, and it’s definitely worth exploring all of them.
Enjoy Fun at Your Hotel in Virginia Beach
Many of the hotels on the boardwalk, like the Virginia Beach Holiday Inn and Suites (where I stayed), offer fun pools with water features. Our resort had a standard outdoor pool, a pool with two small water slides (pictured below), and a lazy river, along with a kids’ club and a small movie theater. Families can also get family suites if they’d like to have more room.
The Virginia Beach Holiday Inn and Suites is also billed as a business hotel. It offers amenities that are great for business travelers, including an on-site business center with printing and copying. This would be a good option for families where mom or dad may have to get some work done remotely.
While I know our family would absolutely love spending time on the beach, we also always enjoy spending time at resort pools. It’s always nice to have options available to you. The indoor lazy river is especially great for rainy days, or when you just want to escape the sun for a while.
Many of the popular family chain hotels have locations in Virginia Beach. Whether you are a member of the frequent guest club at these hotels or just have a favorite chain, you are likely to find a location of your favorite chain in Virginia Beach. Just make sure you check the exact location, especially if you are hoping to stay right on the beach.
Some of the highest rated hotel options in Virginia Beach include:
- Econo Lodge on the Ocean
- Comfort Inn and Suites Virginia Beach
- Belvedere Beach Resort
- Hampton Inn Virginia Beach
- Holiday Inn
- Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront
Eat Some Delicious Food in Virginia Beach
There are lots of delicious restaurants in Virginia Beach, including the Coastal Grill, Eat – An American Bistro, and Tautogs Restaurant. Some of these are located right by the beach, while others require a short drive. I’d recommend trying lots of different options during your trip.
There’s also a fabulous farmer’s market with a butcher, ice cream shop, bakery, farm stands, and more. We had the opportunity to check out the farmer’s market, and I was so impressed with all of the fresh food options. It’s open seven days a week, year-round, but individual stands/vendors may have different hours.
As you’d expect, based on the seaside location, seafood is very popular in the Virginia Beach area. If you enjoy fish and shellfish, I’d definitely recommend ordering as much as you can while you are there. I love seafood, so that’s pretty much the only thing I ate during my trip.
Visit the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center
Although we only spent a short time at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, it’s definitely a place where you could spend most of the day. I’ve been to a number of aquariums during my travels, and this is one of my favorites. It’s definitely one of the best Virginia Beach attractions, and one of the best aquariums around.
The aquarium is located about a mile from the boardwalk area, and a trolley service is available in the summer for an additional fee. Although it’s not walkable from the beachfront, it’s definitely worth the visit.
The aquarium includes the Bay & Ocean Pavilion, the Marsh pavilion, and the nature trail. During our trip, we only had a short period of time, so we weren’t able to see the entire aquarium. But what I saw was impressive, and I could definitely see spending a day there – especially if the weather wasn’t cooperating with outdoor plans.
Tickets for the aquarium can be purchased online. You can also add on the 90-minute dolphin-watching boat ride. In addition, the aquarium hosts special events throughout the year, including the FantaSea evenings where families can follow clues to find treasure.
Since I visited, they’ve also added in a new Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium. This is great for slightly older kids and would be a great way to spend a morning or afternoon in Virginia Beach.
Tickets for The Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium include low and high ropes courses with 17 treetop trails, 258 treetop platforms, and over 27 ziplines. These are self-guided and are available to guests aged 5+. Remember to pack along appropriate footwear for your trip!
Book tickets in advance to ensure availability. You’ll be given a specific time to arrive, and keep in mind that you’ll need to park and walk to the entrance. Once your time starts, you have three hours to explore, after a required 30 minute orientation.
Tickets for both the aquarium and the adventure park have to be purchased separately. I’d probably recommend doing both in one day, but you could definitely drive back for a second day.
Take a Day Trip to the Eastern Shore of Virginia
Visit Kiptopeke State Park, the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge, and the Eastern Shore of Virginia for a quieter, relaxing day. We visited for a day, and I was so surprised at how different it felt from the busier Virginia Beach.
If you have a car, I’d definitely recommend going out for a drive for the day. You’ll need to drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, which is an experience in itself. This 17.6-mile bridge-tunnel is so unique and is an easy way to get over to the Eastern Shore.
Whether you decide to go for a day trip or a longer road trip, Williamsburg Virginia is definitely worth visiting during your Virginia Beach vacation. Within Williamsburg, you’ll find many family-friendly hotels, including a Great Wolf Lodge location. You will probably find that you’ll want at least a few days in Williamsburg.
Activities there include the Jamestown Settlement, Colonial Williamsburg, and Busch Gardens Williamsburg. It’s important to note that, unlike Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, the Williamsburg location is open seasonally. Be sure to check the calendar before you go to see if the park is open during your visit.
There are other activities and attractions in Virginia Beach and the surrounding area that would be great for familes. These include the following:
- First Landing State Park
- Ocean Breeze Waterpark
- The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art
- Cape Henry Lighthouse
- Sandbridge Beach (a quiet beach about 15 miles away)
- The Military Aviation Museum
- The Virginia Zoo (in nearby Norfolk)
- Mount Trashmore Park (which includes a skate park)
Disclosure: I attended the Virginia Beach Front Family Fun and Food Media Tour, and received complimentary activities, meals, and lodging.