Sure, we all could use a good beach vacation in February, but it’s usually one that involves palm trees, warm tropical breezes and outdoor water slides. A getaway to stay just steps from the beach is not usually top of mind when average highs top out at 50 degrees (with 48 degree water temps).
Still, two of my kids and I drove nearly four hours over the weekend to explore Virginia Beach in southeast Virginia. And, it could not have been more fun. I love visiting popular spots in the off-season. There are fewer crowds and it’s generally easier to get seated at restaurants (a plus with small kids).
If you’re thinking about an easy winter escape with the kids, consider Virginia Beach. Here are 10 things you really must do if you visit Virginia Beach as a family. Have fun. 🙂
1. Go Horseback Riding on the Beach. Year-round, even in the winter (weather permitting, of course), you can go on a 30-minute or one-hour horseback ride down the beach with Virginia Beach Horseback. Head to the corral at 31st street to pick out your horse and trot down the beach with a guide. Beach rides are offered four days a week in the winter.
2. See the Cape Henry Lighthouse. A short drive away from the main strip in Virginia Beach is the Cape Henry Lighthouse at Fort Story. This red brick lighthouse is the first lighthouse commissioned by George Washington. Today, there’s a second black and white lighthouse that stands 350 feet from the first one.
3. Visit with King Neptune. It’s a must to pose with the 34-foot bronze statue of King Neptune that stands along the boardwalk. It stands at 31st street, just off the beach from the horse corral. Even better, there’s a small playground right there on the beach, too.
4. Play at Grommet Island Beach Park. Let the kids burn off some energy with a visit to Grommet Island Beach Park. The park right on the beach is huge with lots of climbing structures and slides. Even better, it’s 100% wheelchair accessible, giving everyone a chance to play at this 15,000 square foot park.
5. Go Whale Watching. Between late-December and early-March, you can head out on board the Atlantic Explorer for a 2.5-hour whale watching cruise with Sea Adventures. We saw multiple humpback whales swimming in the ocean on our cruise. Staff even show off whale bones, making it more hands-on for kids.
6. Run Away from the Waves. Every kid loves to run up to the waves, then run back up the beach before the water hits their shoes. In February, this was almost more fun since it’s not something we do in the winter. Oh, and scaring off seagulls. That’s another activity kids love to do on the beach, especially in February.
7. Explore the Aquarium. The Virginia Aquarium in Virginia Beach is fantastic. It’s just a couple of miles from the main strip and there’s so much to do, like petting the stingrays and watching the harbor seals play. Through September 18, there’s a great new Smokey Bear exhibit showcasing ways to protect the planet.
8. Watch the National Parks Adventure. Head to the National Geographic 3D Theatre at the Virginia Aquarium for the 40-minute National Parks Adventure. This movie has gotten a lot of buzz in this centennial year of our national parks and this IMAX movie will not disappoint. Amazing.
9. Go to the Adventure Park. For a fantastic treetop adventure filled with ziplines and walking across wooden boards, rope bridges and metal wires high up in the trees head to the Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium. Open year-round, kids as young as five can play on 13 courses. Seriously, a must-do.
10. Watch the Sunrise. Sure, you’ll need to wake up early, but not too early for the sunrise (it was at 6:45 am when we were in town). All the hotels on the strip face east to the beach, making for perfect morning sunrises. Our room was on the 6th floor of the Comfort Suites Beachfront. Such a great way to start the day.
While we had a great time in Virginia Beach, I will tell you that a visit to a beach town in the winter is not without its challenges, as in there aren’t too many restaurants open during the off-season. However, we did have some tasty food at Lager Heads (33rd & Atlantic) and Dough Boy’s California Pizza (17th & Atlantic).
When you visit a beach town, ice cream is also key, and the staff at Ben & Jerry’s at 25th & Atlantic could not have been more friendly. In every hotel, you’ll find loads of coupon booklets, but look for the coupon that’s just for Ben & Jerry’s to get a free small cup when you order a large cup (which is perfect for sharing).
Disclaimer: I was hosted by the Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau while in Virginia Beach. However, I was not compensated for this article and all opinions expressed here are my own.