Virginia Beach Has Jets in Sky, Nature Trails Below

From historic sites and military attractions to outdoor diversions and exceptional dining, Virginia Beach offers plenty of activity.

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Kristy Tolley
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA. — ”I (heart) Jet Noise” bumper stickers on most vehicles may be the first thing to catch your attention when you visit Virginia Beach, home to the Oceana Naval Air Station. But it won’t be the only memorable part of your visit.

From historic sites and military attractions to outdoor diversions and exceptional dining, you’ll be so occupied you’ll hardly notice the jets (unless, of course, you look for them!).

In 1607, before settling at Jamestown, Captain John Smith and his three ships weighed anchor near the entrance to Chesapeake Bay. Today, First Landing State Park is also where you can visit the Cape Henry Lighthouse (built in 1791) and its cast-iron replacement, which stands across the dune line.

If you visit this summer, you can see some history firsthand. Temporarily displayed at the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia -- 400 years after the first landing of the English settlers at Cape Henry -- the Magna Carta is a benchmark for free expression, political liberty and constitutional law.

If you really do “heart” jet noise, take a base tour of the Oceana Naval Air Station (offered from Memorial Day through mid-September). The base is home to the East Coast-based F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft and the F-14 Tomcat squadrons. Visitors can also visit the Aviation Historical Park, located just inside the main gate. (Note: A valid picture ID is required for some public tours.)

Nature Beckons

Outdoor adventures abound in the Virginia Beach area. The challenge may be fitting it into your itinerary. City and state parks are varied and plentiful.

With 8,700 acres of beaches, woodland, dunes, farm fields and marsh, Back Bay National Wild Life Refuge boasts a broad spectrum of wildlife. Nearly 300 species of birds, loggerhead sea turtles, river otters, mink and red fox can be spotted here.

False Cape State Park is considered one of the last relatively undisturbed coastlines in the East Coast. Access to the park is limited to hiking, biking, boat or tram, making it a perfect hideaway spot for a picnic or quiet contemplation.

Other places to check out include Little Island City Park at Sandbridge Beach, Munden Point Park and Princess Anne Wildlife Management Area (the Whitehurst Tract and Trojan Marsh).

If experiencing nature means more than observing, there are great local outfitters to guide you (or supply the equipment for a self-guided adventure).

Back Bay Getaways, located in the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach, offers tours via jet skis, kayaks, mountain bikes or pontoon boats. A guided tour around the pristine Back Bay areas (with more than 12,000 acres of protected wildlife habitat) is highly recommended.

Also in Sandbridge is Ocean Rentals, which offers ocean kayaking (dolphin or eco) excursions, sunrise and sunset tours and dinner tours. Surf lessons and surf camps are also available.

As a sedentary non-surfer, this student was impressed with the level of patience by the instructor. In no time, I was able to stand firmly on my board for five whole seconds. I also appreciated learning the proper way to come out of the water after falling off. This technique proved helpful many times!

If you prefer looking over the water to being in it, local para-sailing trips are an option. A trip with Mickey’s Rudee Inlet Parasail is a great way to see the beachfront and boardwalk areas of Virginia Beach. You might spot schools of skates, dolphins or even sea turtles below. Also, free “ocean dips” are available on request.

Food for Thought
After a day of fun in the sun, you’ll need time to refuel. Lucky for you, places to dine in the area are eclectic and plentiful.

Mahi Mahi’s offers a selection of local catches, prime rib, steaks and pasta in a casual atmosphere. They also have an extensive sushi menu and raw bar favorites on hand. Also, a great view of the ocean comes with every table.

Dining at Catch 31 Fish House and Bar is almost like visiting an art museum. The art deco style in cool blues and the unique lighting and artwork may distract you from reading your menu. However, a glance at other diners’ meals will help you quickly focus. Jumbo Lump Crab Stuffed Flounder flavored with ginger and herbs and pan-roasted Shenandoah Valley Chicken Breast with lime, jalapenos and roast tomato and pepper pesto are a few meals to consider.

Virginia Beach’s new Town Center is home to Sonoma Wine Bar and Bistro, which boasts upscale dining in a romantic atmosphere. Wine lovers will appreciate the more than 400 wines (70 available by the glass), and food lovers will swoon over the dining choices. A few examples include pan-seared Atlantic Salmon over Applewood Smoked Bacon and shallot spaetzle, Smithfield
Frenched Pork Chop over creamy three cheese polenta drizzled with a carmelized shallot and sour cherry jus and African Adobo-rubbed Ahi Tuna with Wakame, cucumber and crab salad drizzled with mango coulis.

If you haven’t exhausted yourself taking in the sights in Virginia Beach, you might want to venture out to other places within an hour’s drive. Add a day or two to your beach vacation to explore the following attractions:

  • Colonial Williamsburg, and Busch Gardens in Williamsburg
  • The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Suffolk
  • Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton
  • The Virginia Zoo in Norfolk

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