The Weekender: Virginia Beach

A year-round hotspot.

Sunset on Virginia Beach.

While Virginia Beach tends to trigger visions of summertime surf, bikinis, sizzling waterfront cuisine and boardwalk nightlife, the area also offers a plentiful weekend’s worth of cold-weather exploration. With primo shopping, top-notch restaurants, a burgeoning craft-brew and spirits scene, and a community packed with visual and musical artists, this city is alive the whole year round.

DO


Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center

After undergoing a $25 million facelift in 2009, the VAMSC has positioned itself as one of the leading attractions in the state. With 800,000 gallons of fresh and saltwater displays, the center invites visitors to learn about 700 species—that is, more than 12,000 animals—as well as the local and international marine and avian ecosystems they inhabit. Further boosting the visit-value are thoughtfully-curated special exhibits. Don’t miss the huge indoor treehouse on display until Jan. 1, in which museum-goers are encouraged to engage in serious hands-on exploration of treetop habitats. VirginiaAquarium.com

First Landing State Park

Cypress swamp.

Formerly known as Seashore State Park, this 3,598-acre shorefront preserve presents travelers with a glimpse of what the Commonwealth’s coastline might have looked like prior to the arrival of Europeans. With quiet ocean views, 19 miles of hiking and biking trails and walkways leading through swampy wetlands, an unharried wintertime visit to FLSP is an excellent opportunity for some tranquil you-time. First-Landing-State-Park.org 

Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art

Working to engender awareness of the significant art of our times, Virginia MOCA pairs cutting-edge exhibits with extensive educational programming. Executive director Debi Gray says the museum features mostly living artists whose work either pressed—or is pressing—contemporary artistic boundaries. Shoeing through December 31, is a fascinating exhibit featuring the work of more than 50 artists reacting to the 10th anniversary of Hi-Fructose, one of the forerunning contemporary art magazines. Turn the Page: The First Ten Years of Hi-Fructose showcases the modern avante garde, with work from internationally acclaimed artists like MARS-1, Lisa Nilsson, Ray Caesar, Ron English, Tara McPherson, Tiffany Bozic, Gary Taxali, Fulvio di Piazza and many, many more. VirginiaMOCA.org

ViBe Creative District 

The outgrowth of the 2008 establishment of the Old Beach Farmers’ Market  and the passage of a 2009 state bill offering incentives for the creation and development of official ‘Arts Districts,’ the concept for the ViBe Creative District gained footing when area entrepreneurs and philanthropists, Andrew Fine and Laura Wood Habr, partnered with community members and city officials in 2011 to form the 501(c)(3) nonprofit, The ViBe District Virginia Beach. With a mission to “promote, support, connect and inspire creative industries to boost our local economy, grow jobs and enhance our quality of life,” the revitalized district has become a colorful hub for tech, artisans and arts and cultural fixtures. Sit in on a yoga class, grab a craft beer, or visit the above-highlighted VMOCA. For a directory of restaurants, businesses, museums and more, visit ViBeCreativeDistrict.org

EAT


Aldo’s Ristorante

A fine-dining wine bar and Italian restaurant, Aldo’s is a perennial fixture of the Virginia Beach dining scene. For more than two decades, the restaurant’s wine list has been honored by the Wine Spectator as a recipient of the Award of Excellence for both the quality of its 350 selections and how well they pair with the cuisine. Plus, locals regularly vote it into their lists of favorites. Try the Cape Henry Crabmeat Cappellini, decked with artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes seasoned with Old Bay, sauteéd in butter and chicken stock, and basil-finished with a splash of sherry. AldoSVB.com

Eat: An American Bistro

A “creative, whimsical dish.”

Eat offers big flavors with a dash of whimsy. Chef/owner Erick Heilig recently scrawled across his chalkboard menu “Ants on a Log.” Only rather than celery topped with peanut butter and raisins, according to Heilig, this take began with “a split roasted marrow bone topped with basil-fed escargot, garlic, parsley and pieces of butter-grilled baguette.” This philosophy of playful innovation prevails throughout the menu. Adding to that inovation is a chic but casual ambience and a bar specializing in creative cocktails. EatBistro.net

1608 Craft House

1608 burger.

Dubbing his enterprise a chef-driven concept, co-owner and executive chef Kevin Sharkey says Craft House strives to offer the region’s best locally-sourced surf-and-turf cuisine. Drawing from the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Sharkey’s restaurant specializes in Southern-style farm-to-table comfort food prepared with a gourmet flair. With an extensive menu of regional beers on tap and a homey atmosphere, Craft House is a sweet place to stop in and stay awhile. Try the Stout Braised Pork Shoulder served on cuban bread with creamy grits and garlic broccolini. 1608CraftHouse.com

DRINK


Tapped Gastropub

Located just outside the downtown-strip limelight, Tapped’s modus operandi is off-beat local ambience with a diverse, thematically rotating 32-tap beer selection. With optional self-serve beer tables, a strip of bench seating and live music, this is one of those places where you come in a stranger and walk away feeling like a regular. Weekend events are organized according to beer styles and themes like barrel-aged, old-world, or stout, and there’s a full-service dinner-menu to boot. TappedGastropub.com 

Chesapeake Bay Distillery

Founded in 2005, long-term Viriginia craft spirits pioneer and Chesapeake Bay Distillery founder Chris Richeson moved the distillery from an out-of-the-way industrial complex into a new building in the ViBe Creative District  in the winter of 2015. Transforming what was once a surf shop into a comely tasting room and spirits laboratory, Richeson offers a lineup of sophisticated locally made vodkas and rum. A four-part tasting runs $7, with a bottle of Spirits of the Blue Ridge vodka chiming in at $20. ChesapeakBayDistillery.com

SHOP


Raybar Fine Jewelry

This family-owned, father and son storefront opened its doors to the public in 2012 after 40 years of repairing, designing and creating custom jewelry for corporate retailers. Crafting their own line of artisinal pieces in-house, Jerry and Drew Raynor specialize in working with clients directly—they don’t have salespeople and while they offer ‘showcase’ products, the duo prefers fabricating custom-pieces catered to a customer’s personality. “I want to get to know someone, to learn who they are, what they’re like,” says Jerry. “That knowledge of a client’s personality and taste is what allows you to create a perfect piece of jewelry.” With a willingness to discuss pieces from an artisinal and artistic perspective, visiting Raybar’s is an experience that will fascinate even the most discerning of aesthetes. What’s more, they’re presently offering a slew of holiday discounts. RayBarFineJewelry.com

Stravitz Sculpture & Fine Art Galleries

Stravitz sculpture and fine arts.

Acclaimed Virginia Beach sculptor Richard Stravitz opened his Laskin Road gallery in 2008 with what he describes as “a vision to bring a unique aspect of fine art to Virginia Beach: bronze sculpture.” Since then, SSFAG has exploded in popularity, opening a second location and coming to represent local and international artists of many backgrounds and mediums while maintaining a central focus on sculpture. Ever personable, Stravitz loves to discuss his works and the ‘lost wax’ techniques he implements to bring them to life. StravitzGallery.com

Barrett Street Auction Center & Antique Mall

Covering three acres and 45,000 square feet, this behemoth of a facility is too vast to be explored in one outing. Specializing in high-end estate sales, Barrett Street has been in business since 1985 and is chocked to the brim with cool stuff. With an in-house jeweler and clock store plus 92 locked and lighted showcases featuring Roseville, Heisey, McCoy and Fiesta, Military Memorabilia, toys, jewelry, decoys and so on, the place has enough collectibles and items to pique anybody’s interest. BarrettStreet.com

June 11, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
July 9, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
August 13, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum