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Sand, Sea and a Whole Lot of History in Virginia Beach

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Sand and sea draw visitors to Virginia Beach, but a long list of attractions keep them there, says Jim Coggin, tourism sales manager with Visit Virginia Beach. 

“People come for the beach, the ocean and our boardwalk, but there is so much more,” he says. “You could stay a month and not hit every attraction.”

Memorable and Maritime

Historic sites alone can fill several days, and a number of them are waterfront, including the scenic Cape Henry Lighthouses, at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The older of the two, built in 1792, was the nation’s first federally funded public works project (approved by George Washington; overseen by Alexander Hamilton). Those who climb its 191 steps are rewarded with 360-degree views; down below are guided tours and a well-stocked gift shop. Across the road, the 1881 Cape Henry Lighthouse remains in service and is not open to the public. Also worth a stop nearby is First Landing Cross, a monument that marks the Jamestown settlers’ landing in 1607.

Despite the many lighthouses, shipwrecks along the Atlantic seaboard were common, so “surf men” were stationed up and down the coast to save lives. Their important work is celebrated at the Virginia Beach Surf & Rescue Museum just off the Virginia Beach Boardwalk. The museum is housed in one of the cottages where surf men lived and worked. Surrounded by modern hotels and shops, the museum seems small, but its collection—like the men who did this difficult work—is mighty and fascinating.


At the Military Aviation Museum, saving lives—as well as the fate of the world during several key points in history—is a focus. Its more than 60 aircraft make up one of the world’s largest collections of flyable World War I and II aircraft. Prearranged tours, led by military veterans, are highly recommended. “The museum does a wonderful job telling the human stories of the men and women and their connection to the aircraft,” says Coggin.

Other options include private air shows and lunch or dinner in a hangar with entertainment by the Doorway Singers, known for their USO tribute shows. Tour operators can also buy a flight aboard a World War II plane and award the flight to a tour guest. 


Edgar Cayce’s A.R.E. (Association for Research and Enlightenment) can be a peaceful and fulfilling way to end a visit to Virginia Beach. Cayce was an early 20th-century psychic whose readings on health and well-being amassed quite a following. A.R.E.’s library includes his 14,000 readings and 80,000 volumes he collected on subjects such as holistic health, ancient civilizations, metaphysics and comparative religious studies. Talks on holistic health and other topics can be arranged, and small groups could also carve out time for massages or other treatments at A.R.E.’s health center and spa. A gift shop sells Cayce healthcare products, gemstones, crystals, Tarot cards, candles, essential oils and other gifts. Given its beachside location, A.R.E. is also a reminder of how the beach and Virginia Beach’s many backstories blend.

For more information, contact: 

Jim Coggin

Tourism Sales Manager