Virginia Beach Travel Tips for a Day, Week or Weekend
A Virginia Beach vacation is simple and convenient with the help of a few simple travel tips.
This miles-long strip of white sand, hotels, restaurants, and entertainment is so appealing that nearly 13 million people make the trip every year.
For many visitors, a vacation there can last a day, a weekend or an entire week. Out of the nearly 13 million total visitors, about 6 million spend at least one night there and 7 million spend just the day, according to the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The state that produces the most visitors to Virginia Beach is Virginia itself. Richmond delivers 10 percent of the total visitors and Washington D.C., which is 200 miles away, provides nearly 17 percent of the total, the CVB says.
Anyone who lives along the I-95 and I-64 corridor between Washington D.C. and Virginia Beach can attest to its popularity on holiday weekends because of the heavy stop-and-go traffic that develops.
But Virginia and Washington D.C. are not the only major sources of visitors to the beach. Other top places of visitor origin are Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, and New York, the CVB says.
Virginia Beach and Myrtle Beach, which also experiences 13 million visitors a year, are two of the most popular beaches on the mid-Atlantic coast.
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Travel Tips for a Day or a Weekend
Best Times to Arrive and Leave
The beach is a well-known day trip for cities as far away as Richmond, a two-hour drive on a good day.
The best time to go to Virginia Beach from any starting point within a 100-mile radius around the beach should result in an arrival time between 9:30 and 11 a.m.
Any time earlier runs the risk of slowing down in rush hour traffic that hits the two-lane Hampton Roads Bridge tunnel. It is a notorious clogging point for traffic on I-64 heading into the beach.
Traffic also can back up getting off I-64 and onto I-264 heading west into the city of Virginia Beach.
Arriving much later creates a different set of problems. On a day with clear skies and warm temperatures, nearby parking spots fill quickly and open areas on the beach by the water fill as well. However, there is plenty of room somewhere on the well-groomed sandy beach to lay out because it is nearly as wide as a football field.
Finding the best time to leave is a bigger problem, especially for people driving north.
People leaving Virginia Beach to drive north to Richmond, D.C. and elsewhere have to share the road with people leaving from the Outer Banks in North Carolina.
These visitors then have to share the road with people leaving from Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg, located north of the beach along I-64.
Based on experience, one of the best times to leave the beach is early evening around 6:30 p.m. because the total volume of traffic is often lower.
Virginia Beach Parking Lots and Garages
Overnight stays of course can use hotel parking if they book a room on the beach. But day visitors and anyone who books a cheaper hotel farther than walking distance from the beach have a bigger challenge.
The area by the beach has nearly 1,000 on-street parking spots with meters. The cost is $1.50 per hour between April 1 and Oct. 31. The meters accept debit and credit cards.
A variety of parking garages have rates that start at about $7 a day from Monday through Thursday and $10 or more from Friday through Sunday.
The city manages three garages and seven municipal parking lots at the oceanfront. Like the meters, the lots and garages accept credit and debit cards.
Visitors must pay one amount for the entire day at fixed-rate lots and garages. The fixed rate locations include 300 19th Street, 306 4th Street, 104 Atlantic Avenue, 145 Atlantic Avenue.
Anyone who wants to pay by the hour can use the variation rate locations. Their addresses are 209 30th Street, 335 26th Street and 200 9th Street.
Day or weekend visitors have a limited number of nearby attractions assuming they want to spend most of the time on the beach.
The main beach thoroughfare is Atlantic Avenue with a line of hotels facing the beach on one side and restaurants and small entertainment venues on the other side.
Two of the most popular attractions are the boardwalk and fishing pier.
The concrete boardwalk is 28 feet wide and nearly 3 miles long. It runs parallel to the beach and in front of the hotels. A path for bikes, surreys and rollerbladers runs along the boardwalk.
Four outdoor stages at 7th, 17th, and 24th and 31st streets have live entertainment nightly during the summer.
The Virginia Beach Fishing Pier between 14th and 15th streets is a popular spot for fishermen, sightseers and photographers. Note that it costs $10 to go onto the pier itself.
Visitors will spot another attraction just across Atlantic Avenue from the fishing pier—the Atlantic Fun Park.
Atlantic Fun Park is a seasonal attractions with 16 rides, a go-kart track, midway games and food stands. It has a large ferris wheel and a thrill ride that shoots visitors 165 feet into the air.
Other attractions on or near Atlantic Avenue include Nightmare House, the Virginia Legends Walk, the Old Coast Guard Station, Captain Cline’s Pirate Ghost Ride and several putt-putt courses. The mini golf courses usually are found one street over on Pacific Avenue.
Virginia Beach for a Week
Anyone spending multiple nights won’t have to worry about traffic as much as people spending the day.
Visitors using hotels away from the beach will want to avoid rush hours depending on their location, especially as they get closer to Norfolk.
Visitors staying on the beach will want to know about the potential for crowds that build quickly by late morning and early afternoon.
The Virginia Beach region excels with attractions, much more than its nearest competitor at Myrtle Beach.
Two major attractions are located about 60-90 minutes north of the beach at Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens Amusement Park. Total driving time depends on whether the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel is backed up or flowing freely.
Colonial Williamsburg is a recreation of a 18th century American town with costumed artisans, craftsmen, shopkeepers, soldiers and entertainers. The Williamsburg Premium Outlets at 5715-62A Richmond Road is a massive and popular shopping center with nearly 150 brand name outlets.
Williamsburg is part of the Historical Triangle, which also includes the communities of Yorktown and Jamestown. Yorktown features the battlefield where General Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington and ended the American Revolutionary War. Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the United States, has a recreated colonial fort, historic homes, and native American village.
The nearby Busch Gardens is a popular amusement park with roller coasters, animal encounters and European villages. It is noteworthy for its shading landscaped grounds.
Other attractions in the immediate vicinity of the beach include Mount Trashmore, a hilly park made of a mountain of garbage; First Landing State Park; Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center; Motor World; Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art; Ocean Breeze Waterpark; and concerts at Hampton Coliseum or
From spring to fall, the triple A Norfolk Tides minor league baseball team plays at Harbor Park.
The area has seven nine or 18-hole golf courses: Virginia Beach National Golf Club, Hell’s Point Golf Club, Bow Creek Golf Course, Honey Bee Golf Club, Stumpy Lake Golf Course, Cypress Point Country Club and Owl’s Creek Golf Course.
Virginia Beach Attractions
Weather and Best Months to Go
Virginia Beach lies about 350 miles north of Myrtle Beach, and as a result has lower temperatures through most of the year.
The average high temperature ranges from 49 degrees Fahrenheit in January to 89 degrees in July, according to 30 years of historical data from the National Weather Service.
The average highs stay at 80 degrees or higher from June through September.
The months with the warmest temperatures also have the high amount of rain.
Rainfall historically averages four inches in June, five inches in July and September, and more than seven inches in August.
June is the best month to go for a combination of warm temperatures—with an average high of 85 degrees Fahrenheit—and a moderate risk of rain.
Despite cooler and even cold temperatures, people do visit Virginia Beach from late fall through late spring for the sake of simply getting away.
© 2015 Scott Bateman