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With its wide, uncrowded sandy beaches, warm sunny days and inviting Atlantic Ocean temperatures, Virginia Beach, Virginia is a terrific family getaway. From the Ocean Breeze Waterpark to the Marine Science Center and the Virginia Aquarium, Virginia Beach is full of fun things to do. But, it doesn’t have to break the bank! Read on to learn about the many free things to do, take advantage of the immense Virginia Beach attractions in Norfolk and the surrounding areas, and start planning your family-friendly, budget-friendly vacation now!
Free Things to Do in Virginia Beach VA
Virginia Beach, Virginia is a mere 105 miles from Richmond, VA and only 60 miles from Williamsburg. It’s easy to squeeze in a day trip to either of these popular destinations during your VA Beach vacation.
And, with more than 13 miles of free soft sand beach available, Virginia Beach is a haven for sun worshippers and wave frolickers alike. It is located on the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and plays host to such beach events as the East Coast Surfing Championship and the North-American Sand Soccer Championship.
It is also one of the most popular beaches for families because of its family friendly atmosphere. And the family friendly nature of Virginia Beach is why it receives my family’s seal of approval. We return year after year.
Read More: TravelingMom’s Guide to the Best Virginia Resorts
14 Miles of Free Public Beaches
Much of the area’s oceanfront property is accessible for free. You will rarely, if ever, find the beaches crowded, and what is most beloved about Virginia Beach is its G-rated atmosphere. As a result, Virginia Beach is arguably home to some of the best beaches on the East Coast. And the beaches are, naturally, the best of the free things to do in Virginia Beach.
Those who grow up in Virginia know that Sandbridge Beach is arguably the best beach, not only in Virginia Beach, but in the entire state. It’s the perfect beach for families who want to chill and relax without the crowds.
Sandbridge Beach, is close enough to all the excitement of Virginia Beach, but far enough to not be affected by the crazy of Virginia Beach. A mere 15 miles from the resort area of Virginia Beach, Sandridge Beach is kid friendly. It is popular amongst families as well as for those learning to surf and paddleboard. The waves are notoriously gentle and calm. And let’s not forget the headliner bands that show up in July to perform here. How’s a FREE Led Zeppelin concert sound to you?
Another Chesapeake Beach, Chics Beach, is calm and chill as well. Terrific for families with small children. Little ones can run from the calm waves as they gently roll up onto the sand. It’s quiet and more of a locals’ beach than many of the others. As a result, it is an ideal oasis.
There are no lifeguards, no peddlers and very few other people. It feels as though you happened upon your very own private beach – complete with volleyball courts! Pencil me in for a private oasis as my favorite among the free things to do in Virginia Beach.
Croatan Beach is rapidly gaining in popularity among young families and surfers alike. With two designated surfing areas, it is hailed as a surfers’ paradise. Croatan Beach’s shoreline is 3/4 mile long and stretches from Rudee Inlet to Pendleton. The two surfing spots are located at each end.
Even cooler, at Croatan Beach, you can take surfing lessons and rent wave boards fairly cheaply. It’s also one of the more low-key beaches, and completely unpretentious. Everyone is at the beach to have fun.
TravelingMom Tip: This is probably the cheapest beach in Virginia: a mere $5 will buy you all-day parking. All. Day. Parking … no running back to your vehicle every few hours to put money in the meter! Already winning.
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First Landing State Park Beach
This is a camper’s delight. First Landing State Park offers huge, exceptionally clean and well-shaded campsites. It just happens to be one of Virginia Beach’s most popular attractions. In addition to the beach, it allows access to Cape Henry and one of the oldest lighthouses in the country, Cape Henry Lighthouse.
And there are family events every day. These include nighttime walks, talks about wildlife and human history in the local area and Wednesday night movies in the amphitheater. First Landing State Park visitors enjoy biking and hiking trails that are family and pet friendly. Making education fun is one of my favorite free things to do in Virginia Beach.
Virginia Beach Oceanfront is where everything goes down. And I mean everything – nightlife, the boardwalk, street performers, live music, outdoor cafes, vendors, etc. It all takes place right here. The majority of visiting families tend to stay in one of the many hotels here. And there are plenty of free things to do: free music, free art and free fun. Not to mention the amazing beach. Here, the beaches are wide and welcoming, crawling with families, kids, coolers and excitement. The waves, on good days, can be big and rowdy. In fact, the surfing here at Oceanfront is one of the best for a Virginia beach. We took our kayaks out and had a ton of fun! We also saw many paddleboarders and surfers!
Family Fun & More Free Things To Do In Virginia Beach
A beach vacation should be more than sand and water. Bonus points if it includes free things to do with kids! This is why so many families flock here every summer to partake in the free outdoor activities including sightseeing, visiting historic sites and taking advantage of the many biking trails the area has to offer.
Virginia Beach Boardwalk
Walking, biking, rollerblading or skateboarding the Virginia Beach boardwalk is one of the top free things to do in Virginia Beach. There is so much to see and do. The Virginia Beach boardwalk at Oceanfront stretches from 2nd St. to 40th St. and is filled with hotels, restaurants, stores, vendors and more. The people-watching here is next level. In addition, you will find live entertainment every night during the summer months. While traipsing the boardwalk, be sure to stop at the King Neptune Statue for the iconic Virginia Beach photo opp.
For a taste of coastal history, stop in at the Va Beach Surf and Rescue Museum. Located at 24th St on the boardwalk, it offers fun exhibits and a gift shop. Dedicated to the worldwide history, training, promotion, and support of those who serve to save lives, the Rescue Museum is an interesting stop!
Don’t miss Grommet Island Park while visiting the Boardwalk. Located on the South end of the boardwalk, Grommet Island Park is a 15,000 sq ft beach park and is no “regular” beach park. In fact it is America’s first 100% handicap accessible park to make certain that every “body” can enjoy the beach.
Naval Aviation Monument
As a homeschooling, roadschooling, education fanatic, I try to incorporate as many educational activities as possible into every trip we take. I usually do this on the down low, meaning I research interesting, remarkable and mostly free things for us to visit. The Naval Aviation Monument is one of those free things to do in Virginia Beach I could not pass up. You can find it in Naval Aviation Monument Park along the boardwalk overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The Naval Aviation Monument focuses on three eras of naval aviation, starting in the early 20th century, progressing to World War II, and then onto modern times. I found it super interesting as the monument had granite storyboards to assist in the educational aspect.
One perk of being in a military family is access to the Military Aviation Museum. It was special in that in order to gain access, you have to present DOD ID, but honestly, there is no comparison to the Air and Space Museum in DC!
Your kids will get a kick out of this enormous park. It’s a prime example of landfill reuse. It opens up a great discussion about our responsibilities to be great stewards of this earth. You see, Mount Trashmore Park was created by compacting layers of solid waste and clean soil. Mount Trashmore Park is a whopping 165 acres and is comprised of two man-made mountains, two lakes, two playgrounds, a skate park, paths and so much more. The park also features a smaller mountain, Encore Hill, and two lakes.
Lake Trashmore, the biggest lake, is a freshwater lake and home to several species of fish. Fishing is permitted from land and does require a Virginia fishing license. Super cool place to fly a kite, play at the playground, fish or even a pickup game of football. Educational as well, friends.
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
I don’t know about you, but my kids go wild for wildlife. The Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is one of the coolest free things to do in Virginia Beach. It is a 9,108-acre refuge that is made up of barrier islands, dunes, beach woodlands, freshwater marshes, maritime forests, ponds and ocean beaches. It is so rugged, and so natural, the educational experience is incomparable. The Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is home to many endangered and threatened species such as loggerhead sea turtles, piping plovers, peregrine falcons and bald eagles. A must visit for all families visiting Virginia Beach!
Free Festivals, Art Shows, & Fun For Kids of All Ages
Virginia Beach, VA is pulsing with activities and fun things to do from Memorial Day to Labor Day and often beyond. Check out the hot spots below for a roaring good time enjoying all the free things to do in Virginia Beach.
Live On Atlantic
The City of Virginia Beach offers entertainment in the form of concerts, festivals and activities held at the oceanfront resort area from mid-June through Labor Day Weekend. According to Live on Atlantic, “A full array of events, ranging from the liveliest (LatinFest) to the quirkiest (Family Great Adventure Series) to the grandest (American Music Festival) entertains resort visitors and Hampton Roads residents alike throughout the year.”
Kids and parents alike will be wowed and in awe on the sidewalks of Atlantic Avenue with magicians, jugglers, musicians, favorite characters and more! There is literally something for everyone and best of all … it’s free.
Annual Boardwalk Art Show and Festival
Art lovers will be pleasantly surprised by Virginia Beach’s longest running annual oceanfront event. The Annual Boardwalk Art Show & Festival is one of the best outdoor art shows on the eastern seaboard! The Boardwalk Art Show is produced by the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Hundreds of artists from across the country converge on the boardwalks to display and sell their paintings, ceramics, crafts, jewelry, photography and more.
Virginia Beach Neptune Festival
The Virginia Beach Neptune Festival is one of the biggest and most popular festivals in Virginia Beach. Hundreds of thousands of people attend the Neptune Festival. You can hear concerts daily along the boardwalk. In fact, 35 performances from local, regional and national artists are scheduled this year. The nationally ranked Art & Craft Show features more than 250 artists displaying and selling their handmade wares. The kids can inspect sand sculptures created by world-renowned international sculptors. The Neptune Festival also includes an 8K race, Grand Parade, a volleyball tourney, Atlanta Regatta, a Youth Art Show and more. All of this makes the Neptune Festival one of the biggest and best free things to do in Virginia Beach.
Virginia Beach Farmer’s Market
Buy local, eat local, that’s our traveling motto. Farmers’ markets are at the top of our list of free things to do in Virginia Beach. The Virginia Beach Farmer’s Market is a year-round market featuring fresh local produce, a butcher shop, a dairy store, organic grocery, seafood, candy and bakery, restaurant and more. Merchant hours vary, but generally speaking, they are open for business 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday- Saturday and noon – 5 p.m. on Sunday. Bring the kids to a variety of special events held March thru December. In fact, a unique experience for my kids was the hoedown. Enjoy hoedowns on Friday evenings from April through October.
The Old Beach Farmers Market
Located just 6 short blocks from the ocean, the Old Beach Farmers Market is a certified Virginia Green Market supporting local family farms, water workers and VA wineries. It offers a wide range of seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, eggs, seafood, cheeses, a wide assortment of baked goods, artisanal breads, and savory foods from local chefs (pasta, sauces, salsas, salads, tamales), soap and flowers. Bring the kids and collect an assortment of good food for an impromptu picnic on the sand.
East Coast Surfing Competition
I don’t know about you and your family, but we love watching surf competitions live. And surfing competitions are free for spectators in Virginia Beach! The East Coast Surfing Competition is held every August. This competition is wild because it not only includes surfing, but also live entertainment, TVA volleyball tournament and even a Miss ECSC competition. All 100% free to the public. Grab some goodies from the Farmer’s Market and make it a day of cheering on competitors and taking notes on technique.
Christian Broadcast Network
The Christian Broadcast Network is an international television network, as well as a college campus, conference center and ministry. If you have children interested in film, a FREE guided tour will take you behind-the-scenes of the taping of the 700 Club. Perfect opportunity for a little hands-on education!
Chalk the Walk Artsplosion
Give your budding artists a blank canvas, or more accurately sidewalk, at the Chalk the Walk Artsplosion. The Chalk the Walk Artsplosion literally takes over the Boardwalk in July. There is no fee to participate, but organizers recommended bringing your own chalk. There are three competitive divisions with trophies and cash prizes: Amateur, Professional and Youth (ages 12-16). Children 11 and under can participate for fun. Not only is this one of the many great free things to do in Virginia Beach, but you can also win prizes! So, bring your A-Game kiddos.