Sparkling rays of sunshine trickle down through a canopy of trees to dot the glistening calm waters of the marsh like jewels just before we set out on another adventure in Virginia Beach. From nature kayak excursions, dolphin-spotting boat rides, frolicking on the beach and getting soaked at the waterpark, there’s a bounty of things to do here … and it’s a straight 11-hour drive from Nashville.
After soaking up the sun on the beautiful sandy beach dotted with tiny shells, take the family on over to Ocean Breeze Waterpark for some splashing good times. There are many water slides for all ages to conquer. We loved the slides at the cliff where the Coconut Drops and Bamboo Shoots slides are — two are enclosed and two are open top. They’re short rides, but the end has you feeling like you’re flying off the cliff in a waterfall plunging into a cool pool of water. Seeking a more thrilling soak? Head over to the Sea Serpent. This fully-enclosed single- or double-tube slide has high-banking turns on a super crazy path. You’re in the dark, so you really have no idea what lies ahead! Your tummy will be tickling with anticipation.
There are so many slides for just the little ones that you’ll find yourself having trouble deciding which one to go down first. The cutest little water feature was the mini lazy river, Little Amazon. It’s made for kids 48 inches tall and shorter. Parents can either sit on the side and watch them go ’round (it’s a short distance) or can wade through the water with them as it’s less than knee deep.
Hook’s Lagoon is a newer water play structure packed with interactive features like sprayers, a slide and a tipping bucket ready to dump tons of water on kids below.
Want some waves without the sand? Check out the million-gallon wave pool.
The park also offers free parking and sunscreen, life vests for non-swimmers as well as lockers to stash your stuff safely. You can also rent a cabana by the lazy river and enjoy a shaded area as the park is in full sun.
EXPLORE THE OUTDOORS
Just when you think you’ve had enough of the water, you’ll realize that you’ve been missing out on all the wonders of nature. So, before you get water logged, schedule a kayak trip with the family at Surf & Adventure.
Just out back of the shop is where the fun begins. The beauty of the water from the dock, shaded beneath the canopy of the trees, only gets better. You’ll be guided through the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge out toward open water. We had to turn back at that point as the water was a bit tough for us, especially with our then 3-year-old and 7-year-old. They loved riding in the front of our two-person kayaks and listened intently to the guide giving us loads of information about the wildlife surrounding us. You have the chance to glimpse raccoons, opossums, grey and red foxes, muskrats, herons, osprey, bald eagles, kingfisher and colorful birds. It was fun to see our kids spot the wildlife as we gently guided our kayaks through the water.
For more nature spotting, sign up for a Dolphin-Watching Boat Trip aboard the 65-foot Rudee Flipper. Meet at the Virginia Beach Fishing Center at Rudee Inlet to set sail on a dolphin-spotting spree. Sometimes, you can hardly get out of the inlet before you start seeing your first dolphins. This excursion is also sponsored by the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center — an associate from the center will be aboard your tour to show skeletons and give you lots of information on dolphins and how they interact with each other.
WORKIN’ UP AN APPETITE?
Your family’s sure to be hungry after all the fun of the day. If you haven’t already dined at the attraction you were at or out after those visits, then you should head over to Pi-ZZERIA. It’s a newer pizzeria that features the area’s only rotating brick-stone oven. They offer a variety of unique pizzas and they’re made daily from scratch. You can watch from the window on the sidewalk, too. The kids loved seeing them throw the dough into the air and make fantastic spins before layering it down with some yummy toppings. We went a little off the radar from our norm and tried the Mac & Cheese Pi. It was surprisingly delightful. You can also pick from salads, pasta, antipasto, paninis, calzones and a kids’ menu.
WHERE TO STAY
With a wide variety of places to stay in Virginia Beach, you should definitely take the family to Holiday Inn & Suites North Beach. This family-friendly hotel offers much more to do in the way of pools than you would think. And, being right on the beach makes it perfect. So, if you’re going to walk out and plop down in the sand for some ocean fun, you’re all set. But, if it just happens to rain, then you have an indoor and outdoor pool to play in! The indoor pool is a mini lazy river. You’ve gotta bring your own float, but the grotto-like scene is fun and the kids love the waterfalls. There’s also an indoor hot tub. Outdoors, there are two more pools at one end of the hotel — one has swimming room with two mini, enclosed water slides attached. The kids will slide repeatedly until they’re exhausted! The other pool is actually another mini lazy river. Both pools are also complete with rock formations to set the scene. There’s another even bigger pool outdoors near the center of the hotel. They schedule fun games to play with hotel guest, too. Our 7-year-old participated in a cannonball contest. That was funny. Towels are also provided poolside.
Done swimming? There’s a small theatre that schedules family-friendly movies. Or, sign the kids up for Splash Camp for some educational fun with other hotel guests’ kids. Your kids are sure to make some new friends and learn new things.
After all that fun at the hotel, you’re ready to crash! Head back up to your room and rest in the big, comfy beds.
Find all this and more for your Virginia Beach trip at 1-800-VA-BEACH or visitvirginiabeach.com.
HERE’S WHERE YOU NEED TO GO!
Holiday Inn & Suites North Beach
3900 Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Ocean Breeze Waterpark
849 General Booth Blvd., Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Surf & Adventure
577 Sandbridge Road, Virginia Beach, VA
Virginia Beach Fishing Center
200 Winston Salem Ave., Virginia Beach, VA 23451