13 Fun Non-Beach Activities for Kids in Virginia Beach

Even if you grow tired of the surf and sand, there’s still plenty to do.

By: Jacquelyn McGilvray
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Photo By: Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation

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Photo By: Virginia Beach Convention Visitors Bureau

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Photo By: Virginia Beach Convention Visitors Bureau

Hit the Playground and Skate Park

If your kids need some running-around time, head over to Mount Trashmore Park. The park’s expansive Kids Cove playground is over 26,000 square feet. The skate park has a seven-foot-deep bowl and a 14-foot ramp that is 40-feet wide. A multi-use path encircles the park and has 10 fitness stations spread out along the path so you can stop and do a little extra work out. The top of Mount Trashmore is also a popular kite-flying destination. The park lends out, for free, badminton equipment, corn hole boards and bags, horseshoes, volleyballs and nets, footballs and Frisbees. And yes, the mountain is made out of trash, but it’s all been upcycled into a beautiful park.

Tour the Aquarium

Located just one mile south of the boardwalk, the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center has over 800,000 gallons of underwater exhibits. You’ll see harbor seals, loggerhead turtles, river otters, rays, sand tiger sharks and hundreds more animals. For an additional charge, you can watch one of the aquarium’s 3D movies or take a 90-minute boat ride to get an up-close look at bottle-nose dolphins.

Do the Ropes Course

Attached to the aquarium is an eco-friendly zip line and aerial ropes course in the trees above the scenic Owls Creek. The Adventure Park has 170 tree platforms and 13 different color-coded aerial trails ranging from beginner to expert, age 5 to adult.

Explore Some Naval History

On the waterfront in downtown Norfolk sits the Nauticus maritime museum and the battleship USS Wisconsin. One ticket buys admission to both the museum and a self-guided tour through the ship’s interior and main deck. The Nauticus is a kid-friendly interactive science and technology center that explores naval history, marine life and weather science. The USS Wisconsin has rich history. It first set sail in 1944 and saw lots of action in the Pacific during WWII, as well as the Korean and Iraq wars. The ship was decommissioned in 1991 and permanently docked next to the Nauticus in 2000. You can wander around the ship’s levels and see the officers’ staterooms, the mess halls, communications office, ship’s store, sailors’ berths and more. For an extra charge, you can get a guided tour through the engine room or do the command and control centers. Extend your vacation by a day and spend a night on the battleship. Overnight stays for families and groups are offered in the summer months.

Climb the Cape Henry Lighthouse

For an amazing view of the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, go to the top of Cape Henry Lighthouse. The lighthouse's peak offers incredible views of navy vessels and cargo ships coming in and out of port. Built in 1792, the lighthouse was the first federal construction project under the Constitution, the original contract for the build was $15,200, and they went $2,500 over budget. The Cape Henry Lighthouse is located within the Fort Story military base. So, in order to visit the lighthouse, you must pass through the military's security gates. Vehicle search is required and a government-issued photo ID is required for everyone over the age of 16. Weapons of any kind are prohibited and state concealed weapons permits are not valid. Also, you must be over 42" tall to climb to the top of the lighthouse.

Spend the Day at the Waterpark

Ocean Breeze Water Park has over 30 rides and slides ranging from toddler-friendly to thrill-seeker. For little buccaneers, there’s a lagoon play area with a pirate ship, sprayers, jumpy swings, tiny slides and a mini lazy river. For the adventurous, try one of the exciting slides with intimidating names like the vortex, the hurricane and pirate’s plummet. If you’re more about chilling out than thrilling out, there’s a wave pool, long lazy river and cabana rentals. Ocean Breeze is located just two miles south of the boardwalk and parking is free. Coolers are not allowed in the park. But, you can re-enter the park throughout the day, so if you want to save money, pack your lunch in a cooler and leave it in the car. Then come out to your car around lunchtime and enjoy your meal at one of the picnic tables in the parking lot.

Ride on the Terra-Gator

False Cape State Park is located down in the southeast corner of Virginia Beach. It is a six-mile barrier island that separates Back Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The park is accessible only by foot, bicycle, beach transport, tram or boat, there is no public vehicular access. Thus, the park is one of the last remaining unspoiled sections of shoreline on the east coast. You can bike, hike, kayak or take a tram around the pristine park, but if you want to up the adventure factor, take a ride down the beach on the Terra-Gator. The four-hour trip — half of that time you’ll be free to explore the park on your own — costs a reasonable $8 per person. Reservations are a must so visit their website first.

Peddle Along the Boardwalk

The three-mile boardwalk has two distinct lanes, one for pedestrians and one for bikes. There are several spots along the lengthy boardwalk where you can rent a variety of bikes from a single person all the way up to a group-friendly, multi-person surrey.

Hike or Bike Through the Swamps

Located on the north end of Virginia Beach, along the Chesapeake, the 2,888-acre First Landing State Park offers a variety of ecological environments. You’ll find over a mile of beautiful shoreline, salt marsh, forested dunes, bald cypress swamps and freshwater wetlands. You can hike and bike the 19 miles of trails that cover all these natural habitats. There is a campground and cabin rentals so you make this convenient location the homebase of your vacation. Bike rentals are available at the campground store or from several businesses in Virginia Beach.

Stroll Around the Zoo

Located about a 30-minute drive from the boardwalk, the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk is a great place to spend an afternoon. Besides the 100s of animals — bison, kangaroos, giant tortoise, lions, giraffe, tapirs, sloths, to name a few — the zoo’s grounds are a site to behold with a variety of natural gardens and habitats. If the little ones get tired of walking around the exhibits, they can rest on the train ride, hit the playground or go over to the petting farm. A new reptile exhibit is due to open in late 2017.

Go to the Driving Range

With locations popping up around the country, Top Golf driving range is a fun way to spend an afternoon. The Virginia Beach location has more than 100 climate-controlled hitting bays. Buy by the hour, up to five people can shoot at one bay. When it’s not your turn, sit back on the sofa and watch your opponents hit the bullseyes out on the expansive green. Sensors automatically keep score. There is full bar and menu service right at your bay. After you’re done swinging the clubs, enjoy video games and billiards in the lounge.

Play at Grommet Island Park

Located at the south end of the boardwalk, Grommet Island Park is a 15,000-square-foot playground that is accessible for all kids. It has wheelchair entrances, raised sand tables for sandcastle building, a sensory board, and a wave that is fully accessible for children to pretend to ride the waves and swim with the dolphins.

Visit the Children’s Museum

The perfect rainy day activity, the Children’s Museum of Virginia is located in downtown Portsmouth, about a 40-minute ride from the boardwalk. The museum has two floors of hands-on exhibits, a planetarium, a bubble room and model trains that the adults will enjoy as much as the kids. To make the day more exciting, take a boat to the museum. Park in Norfolk near Town Point Park or by the Nauticus then take the ferry from the Waterside Ferry Dock across the Elizabeth River to downtown Portsmouth. The museum is just a few blocks from the dock. The fare is a budget-friendly $3.50 round trip for adults and free for kids age 17 and under if they’re accompanied by an adult.