A September 2002 trip
to Virginia Beach by moatway
Quote: It's mid-September and we're Canadians on a great beach. Can life get better than that?
But there’s more off the beach. There is the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center and a number of historic homes. If you’re coming from the north, you should try to use the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, a real engineering feat.
For those off-beach days, try neighbouring Norfolk, just minutes away. We recommend the MacArthur Memorial, the Chrysler Art Museum (for late teens and adults) and Nauticus (for the whole family). There are also tours of the Norfolk naval base, the largest naval base in the world, and harbour cruises. It is possible to range farther afoot to the attractions of Hampton and Portsmouth and some people will be tempted to go to Williamsburg, but the latter takes over an hour. You can tour and shop every day for a week in the Hampton Roads area, never have to drive particularly far, and not exhaust the possibilities.
For shopping, go to route 264 (22nd Street). Take the second Lynnhaven exit for the Lynnhaven Mall, the Pembroke exit for the Pembroke Mall and Virginia Beach Blvd. and the City Hall exit in Norfolk for the MacArthur Center. There are also the Hilltop Shops on Laskin Road (31st Street) which turns into Virginia Beach Blvd. (Route 58).
Oh yes, and then there’s the beach. It’s wide and spacious; the sand is regularly groomed and there is a nice surf here that makes swimming fun.
In summer, Virginia Beach is wall-to-wall people. You would be advised to make reservations for any restaurant that would take them. Consider reservations in the shoulder seasons during week-ends. There are a lot of restaurants in Virginia Beach, but my counsel is to avoid any establishment whose claim to fame is a "seafood buffet". You would be better off with fast food. Many of the restaurants are not at the beach, but are up Laskin Road and Virginia Beach Blvd.
Plan to stay on the beach in a place with a beach view… there are accommodations in all price ranges and you can find reasonably priced lodgings overlooking the boardwalk. Another advantage of staying right on the beach is the entertainment. During the summer months there is free nightly entertainment at stages along the boardwalk… at 7th Street, 17th Street, and 24th Street. The numbers of the streets running to the beach make it an easy area in which to find everything. The numbering begins at 4th Street at the southern end of Atlantic Street and continues north in short blocks to 40th Street.
The trolley is called the Wave. It runs on three routes; Route 30 (May 1 – Oct. 2, 8:00 AM to 2:00 AM) runs the entire length of Atlantic Avenue every 15 minutes. Route 31 (Memorial Day – Labor Day 8:00 AM – 2:00 AM) runs from the southernmost point of the Atlantic Ave. route to campgrounds and the Virginia Aquarium every 15 minutes. Route 32 (Memorial Day – Labor Day 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM) runs Atlantic Avenue and up Laskin Road to the Hilltop Shops and the Lynnhaven Mall every hour. You can buy a discount fare card (unlimited rides) for three days (.00) and for five days (.00) at machines along Atlantic Ave., A single ride is .00 with children under 38" riding free.
Hotel | "The Four Sails"
We were struck by the low-key, friendly nature of the place. Many of the people we met at the RCI meet-and-greet were locals (i.e. Virginians), some of whom seemed to live just down the road. Some of them owned several weeks at the resort which tells you a lot. The only problem faced by the sales rep was his lack of inventory... this resort is pretty well sold out and that should tell you something too.
There is a nice little Greek restaurant on site with some outdoor tables overlooking the beach. There is also an indoor pool, an exercise room and if you feel the need to go fishing, the pier is a short walk. Parking is on-site and it is covered.
Those are the details...the beach in front is clean and wide and the swimming is incredible. There is a nice little surf here and the dolphins will entertain you in the morning as they parade up the beach. We were fortunate enough to be there at the time of the Oceana Air Show and I thought at one point that two of the Blue Angels were going to land on the balcony.
We didn't stray far from the resort because we didn't want to. I will add, however, that should you arrive, and the drive has been long and you just want to go out for a quick bite to eat without getting back into your car, don't bother with the Atlantic Ave. restaurants to the rear. Go downstairs... if it's not open try another resort up the boardwalk. You want to see more? Try foursails
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 12, 2003
Four Sails Resort
3301 Atlantic Ave.
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451
All the units, whether they are RCI or hotel, are one bedroom units overlooking the beach. Each has a narrow balcony with a couple of chairs and with binoculars, or the naked eye, you can people-watch the crowds on the boardwalk and the beach or watch the dolphins parading up and down the beach in the morning.
All the units at Barclay Towers are accessed from a hallway to the rear. The odd thing is that the only door opens into the bedroom. For the two of us, that wasn’t a problem… had there been four, then there may be some difficulty. Although the bedroom window overlooks the hallway, it is opaque and well curtained, so it created no problem. The bedroom contained a comfortable king bed, television, adequate storage in a closet (with room safe) and a bureau. The bathroom is off the short hallway to the living area. It was a comfortable size, but of the rooms of the unit, it showed the most wear… peeling wallpaper and a tub that showed evidence of past injuries.
The open living space consisted of a full kitchen with dishwasher, 3 burners and oven, full sized refrigerator and microwave. It was also well equipped with small appliances, dishware, cookware and storage. The rest of the living space had a dining table for four and soft seating for four with a television set and VCR. The space is quite compact but a mirrored wall has the effect of opening it up.
We appreciated the twice-weekly maid service (more if you want it… the maids were great) and the hotel atmosphere… fresh towels, complementary toiletries and a free morning paper. Unlike some resorts, you get a "starter kit" that lasts all week.
The resort has few amenities or guest activities. There are a small swimming pool and workout area and we appreciated the small lending library just off the lobby. RCI guests pay a $59. fee for a continental breakfast; hotel guests don’t. The resort also thoughtfully provides excellent directions for just about everything that you’ll want to see.
The hotel has a parking lot just outside the front doors, but it is reserved for hotel guests; RCI guests are asked to park in the 9th Street garage (no charge). It was across the street, but it presented no problem at all
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 3, 2006
809 Atlantic Avenue
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451
The main room has sky lights and trees with white Christmas lights (that doesn’t sound particularly posh, but the effect is pleasing). Further to the right is a more intimate space and beyond that there is a lean-to at street level for overflow dining. The three main spaces have great atmosphere… I suggest making reservations.
One of the reasons Il Giardino rates its three diamonds is the service. Our waiter was extraordinarily professional and dressed in the French style… formal, pleated, white shirt, black bow-tie and suspenders. The auxiliary staff were dressed in black.
The menu is extensive. Appetizers, including salads, fried mozzarella, eggplant and calamari, average about $8.00. There are the usual pasta suggestions: manicotti, rigatoni, linguine alla vongola, tortellini, and penne which average $15. The chef’s specialties include vitello saltimbocca, polla alla Sorrentina, salmone and more at about $20 and there is a pizza list at $10 average. Add to all that dishes of veal, chicken, fish, steaks and veal chops in the $15 to $37 range and you have a complete menu.
The wine list is really extensive and each selection features its Wine Spectator score, which does help, somewhat. Our meal proceeded with complementary focaccia bread, baked on-site in a brick oven, with olive oils and parmesan. I tried a Caesar salad, but it wasn’t particularly good… it hadn’t been exposed to either garlic or anchovies (disappointing). We both ordered the veal marsala (at $23) which we found very good. Accompanied by a bottle of sangiovese at $27, it was a nice dining experience.
Other information: There are early-bird specials between 5pm and 6:30pm and there is a children’s menu.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 2, 2006
Il Giardino Ristorante
910 Atlantic Ave (at 10th Street)
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451
In September, there is no wait, and as we sat down, I took stock of our surroundings. The tables are nicely covered with white cloths and are candlelit while the walls are faux barnboard painted a pleasant yellow above brown and hung with interesting historical photographs. Red leatherette chairs, however, and large panels of a suspended ceiling don’t do much for me… in essence, the atmosphere isn’t much although I found that it seemed to improve with the first glass of wine. I suggest arriving after 8pm as the number of small children didn’t do much for the atmosphere either.
A quick scan of the menu found the usual things: some pasta, chicken, liver, salads, soups and on to the beef. Prime rib is offered in three sizes ($16. - $27.); there is also sirloin, New York strip, surf and turf, beef kebabs and a rack of lamb. On the seafood side, you’ll find a 16 ounce lobster tail, scallops, shrimp and crab legs.
Now I don’t know what was going on, but I really liked what happened next. We ordered prime rib (which comes with a salad) with a bottle of Frei Brothers Cabernet ($38.00) and got seriously "comped". The waiter had been dealing with a table of five next to us; they had waited almost two hours for their food, so he was having a bad night. We found that he was doing a good job, but he had become a little flustered. So I don’t know if he was covering for a slow kitchen or was on probation or if he just enjoyed our discussion of the wine list (He was quite knowledgeable.), but we got shrimp before the salad and a wonderful (and large) spinach/artichoke dip with deep-fried chips. As a consequence, our meal turned into a leisurely four course affair without dessert.
The beef (almost incidentally) was excellent and done perfectly. We were in the restaurant for over two hours and had a very nice evening although I don’t think that everyone had the same experience. Most of the people around us seemed to be enjoying their meals, without the extras, but I know that we were approached on two occasions by management who asked if everything was going well. I was pleased to say that it was going very well, indeed.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 2, 2006
Black Angus Restaurant
706 Atlantic Ave.
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451
Restaurant | "The Melting Pot"
I admire high-volume American restaurants because they are extremely efficient and they are timed to give you a pleasant dining experience including drinks and wine in an hour. The Melting Pot is equally efficient, but the slow pace of fondue will extend your meal to at least two hours of pleasant time and conversation. Since the turnover rate is rather low, it is advisable to make reservations.
The menu features fondue combinations and individual fondues. The ultimate suggestion is "The Big Night Out" for two people with two main entrée choices. You can start with your choice of four cheese fondues, followed by one of four salads and then to either the "Lobster Indulgence" or the "Fondue Feast". The latter includes two filet mignon, teriyaki sirloin, tiger shrimp, pork tenderloin, breast of chicken and roast vegetable ravioli. In the Lobster Indulgence, substitute two lobster tails for the tenderloin. For your dessert, you may choose one of eight chocolate fondues. The lobster choice (2006) was $84.00/couple; the feast was $70.00.
Other menu choices include individual cheese fondue (for one or two people) at $12.00, individual meat fondues average $15.00 and entrees for two with three courses average $50.00, so it is possible to pick and choose and build a pleasant meal without going for the "Big Night Out". Add to that a wine list containing hundreds of selections in every price range.
The service is quite personal as your cheese fondue and the broth for your entrée are mixed at the table; we found our server excellent. You can probably coast through this restaurant quite cheaply, but choosing "The Big Night Out" and a bottle of wine (Our Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blanc was $42.00.) will put a big dent in your wallet.
Finally, I can’t recommend this restaurant for young children; there is a burner and a pot of hot liquid at the table. I was surprised to find that this is part of a chain, but you’ll find this very nice representative of the chain in the Hilltop East shopping area (From the beach take 31st Street (Laskin); it’s on the right).
1564 Laskin Road
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451
Attraction | "Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel"
Where else can you take a bridge that crosses one of the world's busiest waterways and stop to watch the ocean-going traffic, or stop to bird watch, to fish, buy souvenirs or grab a snack? Now is there a down-side? Well, of course. Although this route cuts off a bunch of miles, the route south from Dover, Delaware down through the Eastern shore is pretty built up and there is a traffic light manufacturer who made a killing on it. Despite that, I still recommend doing it . . . just don't think that you're going to be breezing down on an interstate. The bridge itself has a big "wow" factor, just because of its length. It is a series of tunnels, man-made islands and bridges, none of which is a record holder, but the effect is nevertheless, great.
The toll was $10.. To learn more about the bridge, which is officially called the Lucius J. Kellam, Jr. Bridge-Tunnel, try bridgetunnel.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 12, 2003
Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Virginia Beach Visitors Center
2100 Parks Ave
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451
The tour here is guided and the house genuinely lacks anything of particular note other than the fact it is an antebellum house that survived the war. We were fortunate that the day we arrived there was a story-telling entertainment on the lawn and some Civil War re-creationists had set up an exhibit which we enjoyed immensely.
The basement features a Civil War exhibit about the campaign that swirled around the house. It is interesting. Admission for adults was $5. Want to see it? Try leehall.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on August 12, 2003
Lee Hall Mansion
163 Yorktown Road
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23603
The museum is designed to be educational, but enjoyable, as it chronicals the history of man and his adventures on the sea. The visitor will enjoy the Titanic exhibit, the Crabtree Collection of miniature ships, and the USS United States exhibit. I think what I enjoyed the most was the Hall of Steam . . . a large collection of very large ship models . . . generally passenger liners of the first half of the twentieth century. Quite impressive.
This is a nice place to spend some family time. There is a picnic area and a walk around the lake. Check it out for yourself at marinermuseum. Enjoy!
The Mariners' Museum
100 Museum Drive
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Attraction | "The Chrysler Museum of Art"
Your entry to the museum leads you into Huber Court, a large open space with classical design, Italianate windows looking down from the galleries above and exposed beams supporting a sky lit roof some 30 feet high. Your visit will probably begin in the glass galleries which, as with all the galleries in the museum, are arranged chronologically. From 2,500-year-old pieces we move through Roman glass and onward—there are thousands of pieces: presentation glass, everyday glassware, commemorative pieces, and artistic pieces. From the ancient pieces, we move quickly to the 17th century and a huge collection of 18th and 19th century and on to the 20th century: Steuben, Tiffany and Quezel. There are also beautiful collections of French art nouveau and modern glass. The effect of the glass collection is absolutely stunning.
With that, we move to the less specialized, and more representative, collections. There are Indian and Islamic art, ancient Greco-Roman and Egyptian, an eclectic collection of Asian work and an interesting African exhibit: carved masks and furniture.
Upstairs, one can go from medieval to the Renaissance… generally interesting works by lesser artists, and on to the later Renaissance where a Tintoretto hangs beside a bust by Bernini. Then on to the 17th century Flemish school with pieces by Rubens and Van Dyke and further to the 18th and 19th centuries. Three galleries are devoted to the growth of American art and then we visit the Impressionists (pieces by Gauguin, Renoir, Cezanne, Pissarro and Monet) to the 20th century. There are a number of galleries of modern art which include pieces by Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Indiana, Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol.
Leaving the paintings behind, we go on to photography, part of which is a wonderful collection of Civil War work, including Gardiner’s series of the execution of the Lincoln conspirators. Other galleries display collections of porcelain and 19th century American neoclassical sculpture.
It’s really almost too much and it took us three hours… but we enjoyed it immensely. And the glass collection. Who knew? Upon entry, you will be given a free audio guide for the numbered selections. We found that most of the paintings were well described in the accompanying descriptions on the walls. The museum is closed Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, admission is by donation. Regular admission is $7 adult (2006). From the beach take I-264 to exit 11B. Continue on East Brambleton to Boush Street. Turn left on W. Olney Road; there is free parking on site.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 2, 2006
Chrysler Museum of Art
245 West Olney Road
Norfolk, Virginia 23510
Attraction | "Virginia Marine Science Museum"
The first 3D IMAX movie is shown at 10:15; we chose to see "Deep Sea" which lasts 45 minutes and alternates with a movie called "Sharks". You can see both 3D features… the second costs an extra $5. The movie was our favourite part of the whole experience; we found it both remarkable and entertaining.
Following the film, we ventured into the aquarium. There seemed to be an inordinate number of children under the age of five; we had arrived during Dolphin Days and a lot of things had been set up for them, but really, this is a wonderful place to bring your children anytime. There are two pavilions… the pavilion with the IMAX theatre is the Bay and Ocean Pavilion. Its exhibits include a harbour seal tank, a shark tank and a sea turtle tank. The latter contained three rather shy turtles and a number of moon fish and other species. The largest tank is the Chesapeake Bay Aquarium which contains a considerable number of the species native to the area. Children are probably most entertained by the ray tank; most of the rays are cow-nosed rays and they don’t seem to mind being petted.
The second pavilion, the Marsh Pavilion, is at the end of a 15 minute nature trail that winds through woodland and marsh. While there is much to learn in the aquarium, the marsh pavilion provides an excellent teaching platform. It offers a macromarsh (stalks of grass several inches in circumference, a 6 inch horsefly etc.) and a micromarsh (equipment to magnify minuscule objects). There are also otters, an aviary, snake exhibits, crabs and turtles and more… a complete investigation of a marsh habitat and its importance.
Over the years, we have visited a number of aquariums and as aquariums go, this may not be world-class. Coupled with the IMAX theatre, the nature walk and the marsh pavilion, however, it is a complete and satisfactory experience. You’ll also find a cafeteria and there are gift shops in both pavilions. Your visit will probably take about 2 ½ hours if you see a movie. It is Virginia Beach’s leading attraction, is close to the beaches and is accessible by the trolley.
Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center
717 General Booth Boulevard
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451
Attraction | "The MacArthur Memorial"
The Memorial occupies the former city hall and courthouse (1850) in downtown Norfolk as well as three surrounding buildings: a theatre, a gift shop and the archives. Your visit should begin in the theatre where a short filmed biography of MacArthur begins every half hour. The film effectively places MacArthur in his spot in history. The theatre lobby contains an exhibit tracing the American presence in the Philippines and the internment of American civilians during World War II.
Moving from the theatre into the memorial, the visitor finds the tombs of MacArthur and his wife under the rotunda. In a surround under the dome are engraved the names of the battles in which MacArthur was involved from St. Mihiel in WW I to the Yalu River. From that point, the visitor follows a time line of photos, artifacts and narrative beginning with an immigrant family in 1827. His father, a veteran of the Civil War, the Indian Wars and the Spanish American war, rose to the highest rank in the American army. Born on an army base, Douglas MacArthur would begin his career at West Point in 1899. The time line follows his career through to the Korean War… a fascinating story and a story worth visiting.
Truman did remove MacArthur from his leadership post during the Korean War; MacArthur chafed under restrictions placed on him by the administration. Over 33,600 Americans were killed during the war for an indecisive result… not MacArthur’s vision. As he said, "There can be no substitute for victory… for history teaches us with unmistakable emphasis that appeasement but begets new and bloodier war." MacArthur would later advise President Kennedy to keep American troops out of Southeast Asia; perhaps he foresaw a repeat of his Korean experience.
We were extremely impressed with the entire experience. Finish with a visit to the gift shop if only to see his 1950 limousine. Admission to the site, which is open daily, is free and if you park in the MacArthur Centre across the street, you can have your ticket validated at the memorial. From the beach, take 22nd Street to I-264. In Norfolk, take exit 10 (City Hall), the MacArthur Centre parking garage will come up quickly on your right.
Norfolk, Virginia 23510
Attraction | "The Moses Myers House"
Your tour begins in the parlour with its Gilbert Stuart portraits of Moses Myers and his wife. The dining room, with its neo-classical decoration was added shortly after the original construction as Myers discovered that his family (Nine of his twelve children would survive into adulthood.) was outstripping the home’s capacity to house them comfortably.
From the adjoining music room with its harp and spinet, we mount the stairs to the bedrooms above. There is still restoration underway upstairs, but there is access to one of the children’s bedrooms, the owners’ bedroom and a study. We found that the most interesting exhibit in the house may have been three suits once worn by Mr. Myers including one with doeskin breeches. Your visit to the house ends in a kitchen restored to the early 19th century. It contains a number of interesting artifacts.
We are told the story of a man of principle. Bankrupt by the Embargo Act in 1816, with his ships tied to Norfolk piers, Myers was told he could avoid debtors’ prison by trafficking in slaves or opium. He refused. He was never able to rebuild his fortune, but when he died, he had cleared his debts.
Information: Your tour of the house will begin in the Freemason Street Reception Center at 401 East Freemason Street. Parking is available in the MacArthur Center immediately behind; if you park in the north parking lot you can exit on foot immediately to the Reception. There is a short film available on the history of Norfolk and a gift shop. Admission (adult, 2006 - $5.00).
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 3, 2006
Moses Myers House
Bank and E. Freemason Streets
Norfolk, Virginia 23510
Riverview, New Brunswick