For most vacationers, a rainy day in a beach town is unwelcome at best, disastrous at worst. Sun and sand seekers suddenly find themselves stuck inside hotel rooms, wondering how they will keep themselves and their children entertained inside. Some of our favorite beaches have little more than a movie theater in town for rainy days, which, these days, isn’t even an option.
My husband and I loaded up our girls for a long weekend at Virginia Beach in mid-September. Our girls aren’t yet school-aged, and we hoped to avoid the summer crowds and enjoy quiet beaches and warm—but not hot—weather.
The forecast didn’t look great as our trip drew near. When we saw the rain clouds appear on our weather app, we hoped it would just be a passing storm that would blow over.
The storm didn’t blow over. Rain pounded across the whole of Virginia Beach, causing flash flood warnings and a day of unrelenting downpour.
I had been looking forward to walking the three-mile boardwalk, exploring Virginia Beach’s scattering of beautiful beaches and nature trails. I wondered how we would fill a stormy day with two young children.
I shouldn’t have worried. It turns out that what makes Virginia Beach truly special is that it is equally entertaining and enjoyable in the rain.
A Surprisingly Perfect Rainy Day Itinerary
We began our morning by picking up bagels and fresh coffee from The Bagel Baker. Bellies full and caffeine levels replenished, we hopped in the car and made our way to the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. Featuring more than 800,000 gallons of water, the aquarium represents 300 species of marine animals, including loggerhead sea turtles, sandbar sharks, and Komodo dragons. The aquarium has a sea tunnel, where we walked beneath the marine life, feeling like scuba divers while my daughters looked for Nemo and Dory.
We then had lunch at Repeal Burbon and Burgers (I recommend the Godfather, with truffle pesto aioli, marinara, banana peppers, and mozzarella) and rested at the hotel.
The rain let up enough in the late afternoon for us to head to Chesapeake (Chic’s) Beach to soak up the last hours of daylight. This beach is bayside, meaning the waves are minimal and the view is marked by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. We had the area to ourselves and let our girls run around in their sweaters, building sandcastles and looking for shells.
That evening, we ordered fried chicken and biscuits from Tupelo Honey Cafe. We ate with our girls around the tiny table of our hotel suite, watching “The Lion King.” After we finished, my daughter put her head in my lap and said, “Mommy, this was one of the best days ever.” I had to admit, I agreed.
Sunny Day Itinerary
As much as there is to do in the rain, we were thrilled to wake up to patches of blue sky the next morning.
We started off the day at the Old Beach Farmers Market. Located just six blocks from the ocean in the resort area, the outdoor market attracts locals and tourists alike with its array of artisan breads, local honey, fresh flowers, and homemade soaps.
From there we walked up to the boardwalk, where we spent the morning walking and stopping to play in the sand. Our girls particularly enjoyed Grommet Island Park, a fully accessible park on the Virginia Beach oceanfront. We grabbed a lunch of crab cake sandwiches from The Shack, a completely al fresco restaurant on the Oceanfront’s South End.
The next few days, we were able to enjoy several of the outdoor gems Virginia Beach has to offer, including hiking at First Landing State Park and visiting Cape Henry Lighthouse. We walked the grounds of the exceptionally well-done Military Aviation Museum, and afterward stumbled upon Bergery’s Bread Basket, where we enjoyed in-store made ice cream next while exploring the barnyard.
As we drove away from Virginia Beach, I asked my daughters what their favorite part was. I expected to hear it was the aquarium, or the boardwalk, or playing in the sand. Instead, my three-year-old said her favorite part was sleeping on a sofa bed and watching the rain through the window with her family. It made me think that rain at the beach might not be the worst thing after all.
Rachael Dymski is an author, florist, and mom to two little girls. She is currently writing a novel about the German occupation of the Channel Islands and blogs on her website, RachaelDymski.com.
The author was a guest of the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau.