Virginia Beach: Sun, Sand & Coastal History

A Virginia Beach tour on horseback
A Virginia Beach tour on horseback

When one lives in Ohio, miles from a U.S. coast, and spring break family travel puts you in close proximity to the ocean, you have to go. That’s what happened to us when we eyed the distance between Williamsburg, Virginia and Virginia Beach two weeks ago. It’s about a one hour drive depending upon traffic.

Virginia Beach is a family-friendly getaway with a 3-mile boardwalk and three separate beaches: Resort, Sandbridge and Chesapeake Bay. We spent our day at Resort Beach where hotels, beach wear and beach paraphernalia shops, plus a variety of eateries create a banquet of entertainment, shopping, and dining possibilities with an ocean view.

A bicycle made for two, four or six
A bicycle made for two, four or six

Although three of us walked while my son skateboarded, one way to travel along the boardwalk is by family bicycle. In varying combinations from mom, dad and kids to groups of friends, family bicycles are made for more than one person to pedal.  The most popular seemed to be the four person version. Some are outfitted with seating for six. Rentals are easy to find. Cherie’s Bike and Blade Rental has 13 locations along the ocean front.  You can also rent regular bikes, in-line skates and tandems.

As another Virginia Beach traversing option, horseback riding along the shoreline is possible from September until the end of May. Check out Virginia Beach Horseback (757)289-5470. Reservations are not necessary, but recommended.

Old Coast Guard Station Museum. This guy has a view.
Old Coast Guard Station Museum. This guy has a view.

Because I’m not much of a hang out on the beach type person, I always have my eye out for the something else.
Here are three something elses close to each other. Each offer up a slice of Virginia’s history.

The Old Coast Guard Station

Built in 1903, this former coast guard station houses an impressive collection of artifacts and photographs of maritime and coastal history.  Ghost stories and shipwrecks are included in the repertoire. Open year round, the museum also has special exhibits and programs. The current exhibit, through May 17, is on women in the Coast Guard.   Next up, May 19-August 9 is the men, missions and ships of The Revenue Cutter Service, a predecessor of The Coast Guard. The Revenue Cutter Service operated from 1790 to 1914. The Old Coast Guard Station is at 2401 Atlantic Ave.

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Where wildfowl wood carving spans time
Where wildfowl wood carving spans time

Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum

Housed in the more than  100 year old DeWitt cottage, this museum preserves and promotes wildfowling history as well as wildfowl arts. On most days, except for Mondays when the museum is closed, visitors can watch area wood carvers at work. Bird decoys are the specialty. The museum’s collection dates from antiques to modern day. There is also a gift shop, and if you want to find out about the best birding hotspots in the area, the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum is the place to come.  1113 Atlantic Ave., (on the corner of 12th).

The Virginia Legends Walk

Between Atlantic and Pacific Avenues on 13th St. (not on the beach) this park has a series of brick pillars with engraved plaques that pay tribute to Virginia’s greats. It’s a walk through history, as well as, a popular culture lesson. The range of honorees include: Arthur Ashe, Pearl Bailey, Patsy Cline, Ella Fitzgerald, Patrick Henry, Robert E. Lee, Douglas MacArthur, James Madison, George C. Marshall, Edgar Allan Poe, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Captain John Smith, Woodrow Wilson and Katie Couric. New people are added each year.

Legendary Virginians Walk of Fame
Legendary Virginians Walk of Fame

Because our visit here was the first week of April, Resort Beach wasn’t particularly crowded. The only person I saw swim was my son. That lasted about 10 seconds. He was determined.

We parked in the paid public parking lot at 4th St. near the marina.

Post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein