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First Timers Guide to Virginia Beach

Enjoy a brilliant sunrise cresting over the gentle morning tide to start your day. Later, stand motionless as a 10-foot Sand Tiger Shark locks eyes with you through a single pane of glass. Then, enjoy a mid-afternoon ocean kayak expedition where bottlenose dolphins serve as your guides.

Virginia Beach is home to a vast multitude of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. That's why the East Coast tourist spot is so popular with vacationers. Many love it so much that it becomes a family tradition, but each year, scores of first-time guests stop by "just to see for themselves" if it's as nice as everyone says it is and like a tuna on the line, they're hooked! If you're planning your first trip to this tried and true American vacation, then here's a “First Timers Guide to Virginia Beach.”

Your Guide to Virginia Beach Activities

One of the things that Virginia Beach is most recognized for is its vast wildlife preserves and refuges. In a seaside tourist community, you wouldn't expect it to be so, but some of the most visited refuges are right here in Virginia Beach. From the 2,700 acres of protected salt marsh habitat of First Landing State Park to the 8,500 acre Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, wildlife conservation plays a big part in Virginia Beach's lifestyle. Admission to these parks is very inexpensive, usually only a few dollars per car, and you can enjoy the entire day seeing conservation in action. Bring a camera, because these parks are alive with animal activity and you just may catch a nesting bald eagle or a herd of wild horses.

Maritime marvels also abound on a Virginia Beach vacation, and rightly so. The first government-built lighthouse is open for tours at the Cape Henry Lighthouse on Chesapeake Bay and the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center is one of the most advanced aquariums in the world. Learn about local shipwrecks and the methods used to save men at sea at The Old Coast Guard Station or see the spot where English settlers first stepped onto our soil at First Landing Cross.

Family fun is rampant in Virginia Beach. Cool off in the 19-acre water funland, Ocean Breeze Water Park, or visit the remarkable and entertaining Mount Trashmore,a uniquely fun-filled experience. Get your need for speed filled at Motor World, where you can race go-karts all day long on their eight tracks. For a nice family photo-op, take a dolphin or whale watching cruise.

Your Guide to Virginia Beach Dining

Dining at Virginia Beach restaurants is just as varied as the entertainment options. From chain restaurants like Olive Garden and Applebees to local, small town favorites like Croaker's and Harpoon Larry's, the choices are endless. Savor the high-end seafood at Hot Tuna or enjoy the inexpensive, old-fashioned curbside burger joints straight out of the 50s (Doumar's), Virginia Beach has it all.

Nearly every style of cuisine is available in Virginia Beach. Italian specialties are on the menu at Aldo's Ristoranti, Mexican fare spices up the Coyote Cafe & Cantina and a Caribbean flair can be sampled at Croc's Restaurant. The Lucky Star offers casual fine dining with a contemporary menu and there are many American restaurants like the Black Angus Restaurant, where you guessed it, steak is king!

Your Guide to Virginia Beach's Beaches

The beach is usually the original reason people visit and stay at the many Virginia Beach hotels, everything else is a wonderful addition. The beach offers 28 miles of soft, golden sand. There's also the three-mile long boardwalk where your family can enjoy fun, games, free music and temptingly delicious boardwalk food, like pizza, cheese fries and ice cream. There's nothing like sipping ice cold fresh-squeezed lemonade while you stroll down the promenade! All throughout the year, events are held on or near the boardwalk including Monster Truck extravaganzas and refined wine tasting festivals. Check with your hotel for a list of events scheduled during your visit.

As a first time visitor to Virginia Beach, you may wonder why it took you so long to experience her charms. But once you're here, you'll discover that you won't be a first-timer very long as you, like so many before you, will begin planning your return before you've even left.

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