Virginia Beach, Virginia, as its name suggests, has a gorgeous sandy beach, but even more impressive are its lovely boardwalk, bike path, public art and free entertainment. Sadly, the food is unexceptional, but hey, I’m willing to trade great food for other wonders, at least occasionally.
During a recent visit with my spouse and my mother-in-law, my favorite pastime was strolling along the three-mile boardwalk each morning and evening. (It was around 100 degrees every day, so it was too hot this fair-skinned, non-beach bunny to hang out there during the day.) The-boardwalk is adjoined by a well-used bike path that is (just barely) wide enough to accommodate a bicycle powered surrey going in each direction.
The broad boardwalk spans the entire length of the beach, forming a protective barrier between the water and the dense row of hotels, motels, condos and restaurants that face it. I’ve never been anywhere else that offers such extensive, unobstructed public access to the waterfront – have you?
Another unusual thing about Virginia Beach is that the visitors are racially diverse. Blacks, whites, and Latinos all peacefully enjoyed the same space. Outside of Las Vegas, I can’t think of anywhere else in America where people from every group seem to feel at home.
In addition to gazing at the ocean and people watching, Virginia Beach makes sure that there’s plenty of other beautiful things to look at. According to its website, there are currently 51 pieces of public art on view in Virginia Beach, including an enormous statue of Neptune, tortoises, seagulls and—my favorite–a colorful school of fish.
While we were there, they held a Chalk the Walk ArtSplosion, inviting professional and amateur artists to draw 4×4 food chalk drawings on the Boardwalk. Participants were asked to create an Andy Warhol-inspired composition. The drawings ranged from portraits of the artist to Warholesque, four-quadrant compositions featuring soup, celebrities, and seashells. Who knew you could do so much with a stick of chalk?
And, as if all that wasn’t enough, Virginia Beach also sprinkles a little fairy dust by offering a firewalks display twice a week. You don’t have to pay a penny (except, maybe, for lodging or parking) to enter this magic kingdom. Other towns—and a few kingdoms—could do well to emulate Virginia Beach’s example.The city also sponsors nightly free entertainment along the street and the beach, including magicians, comedians, and tons of musicians, from a lone “girl with guitar” to a great blues band. Again, where else but Vegas can you find so much free fun?