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Virginia's Beaches Offer Families Lots to LOVE this Summer

RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia is a beach destination with beaches big and small - from the Virginia Beach oceanfront to the warm, welcoming sands of the Eastern Shore and many beaches in between, families will find the beach that's perfect for them in Virginia.

Enjoy the Natural Side of Virginia's Eastern Shore

Home to several pristine beaches and wildlife preserves, the beaches of Virginia's Eastern Shore are some of the most serene and natural in the state.  

Visit the Shore's sister islands of Chincoteague and Assateague, at the northern tip of the peninsula to experience natural gems for wildlife and pure beach bliss.  The National Wildlife Refuge in Chincoteague includes more than 14,000 acres of beach, dunes, birds and wildlife. The unspoiled scenery of Assateague is the perfect backdrop for gazing upon the island's wild life.  In addition to an expansive, pristine beach, Assateague operates two visitor centers and miles of hiking trails. One of the best hikes is up to the top of the Assateague lighthouse.  Visit in July for the annual Pony Swim and Auction, where saltwater cowboys round up the ponies on Assateague and swim them across to Chincoteague.  Camping, crabbing, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking and bicycling add to the family bonding. Broaden the Chincoteague experience by enjoying delightful B&B's, restaurants, shops, craft galleries and museums.  

At the southern tip of the Eastern Shore is Kiptopeke State Park, a perfect place for families who love beaches, nature and camping.  Kiptopeke's beachfront hugs nearly half a mile of the Chesapeake Bay, offering the opportunity to explore unique migratory bird habitat along the Atlantic flyway.  Seasonal interpretive and educational programs focus on natural history, birding and bay ecology. The park has 4.2 miles of hiking and biking trails and is the only Virginia state park to feature a yurt - a cross between a tent and a cabin. The Kiptopeke yurt has a spectacular view of the Chesapeake Bay with a large wooden deck, picnic table and fire ring.  Families will also love the park's five, 6-bedroom lodges with gas fireplaces.  

Cape Charles Beach is known for shallow Bay waters and no waves, ideal for families with small children. Cape Charles is the Eastern Shore's southern-most town on the Chesapeake Bay.  Cape Charles is a quintessential Virginia small town, with B&Bs, restaurants and shops lining the main street.  It's also just minutes away from the 1200-acre Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge, one of Virginia's premier birding and wildlife sites.  

Quintessential Beachfront Family Fun at Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach's famed 3-mile boardwalk is the longest in the country and a place where families can take in the ocean views while biking, rollerblading or just strolling along for some great people watching. Many free, family-oriented events take place throughout spring and summer along the boardwalk, such as concerts, festivals and sporting events.  At any point, families can stray from the boardwalk onto Virginia Beach's nicely-manicured sand to build sand castles, collect sea shells or simply lounge under an umbrella.  Or, stroll over to Atlantic Avenue for to enjoy the free entertainment from Beach Street USA jugglers, mimes, jazz musicians and more.   

A trip to Virginia Beach just wouldn't be complete without a fun and educational visit the state's largest aquarium, the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center.  Hosting over 800,000 gallons of aquariums and live animal habitats focusing on Virginia's diverse and unique marine environment, the aquarium features more than 300 hands-on exhibits, a nature trail, an aviary, two animal touch pools and a 3D IMAX® theater!  The Aquarium's newest exhibit gallery, Restless Planet adds an international touch with habitats that showcase exotic animals such as tomistomas, Egyptian cobras, spotted eagle rays and Komodo dragons.  

Families who want to get away from the hustle and bustle to connect with nature can head to the 8000-acre Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge or First Landing State Park to gaze at beach wildlife and enjoy several miles of outstanding hiking and biking trails.  Some secluded beaches in Virginia Beach include the North End and Sandbridge to the south, where large oceanfront houses are both owner-occupied and rented by the week.  

Family Fun, Beaches and Maritime History in Norfolk

Norfolk's four city beaches are wide with gentle surf, lifeguards in the summer, picnic pavilions and free parking. Visitors can rent sailboats, jet skis, paddleboats and kayaks.  Just 15 miles west of Virginia Beach is Norfolk's Ocean View Beach, which stretches continuously along eight miles of the Chesapeake Bay.  Norfolk's Town Point Park overlooks the harbor and is the site for many events, such as Harborfest every June, featuring a fine array of tall ships.  

Norfolk is also a destination for families who love maritime history.  One of Norfolk's museums, Nauticus, the National Maritime Center, is an interactive science center with a maritime theme that features more than 150 exhibits, giant screen films, exotic aquaria and touch pools.  The USS Wisconsin, one of the last and largest battleships built by the U.S. Navy, is adjacent to Nauticus and open for main deck tours.   

Space and Sea in Hampton

Hampton is the birthplace of America's space program and home to NASA Langley and Langley Air Force Base. The Virginia Air & Space Center in Hampton is the visitor center for both sites, so families can mix fun and learning. Visitors can take a virtual voyage to Mars, fly a full size DC-9 aircraft, and launch a rocket. They can see a moon rock, a Mars meteorite and the Apollo 12 Command Module, plus enjoy 3D IMAXÒ films on a five-story screen.   What about the water?  Hampton has 12 deep-water marinas as well as Buckroe Beach, which offers eight acres of beach, a playground, picnic shelters, a walking and bike path, a pet-friendly Bark Park and concert bandstand.  In the summer months, visitors can swing to the sounds of the Sunday night Groovin' by the Bay concerts, or view an outdoor movie at the Tuesday night POMOCO Family Movie Series.  Beach chair, umbrella, kayak and paddlecraft rentals are available and parking is plentiful, making a visit to Buckroe Beach convenient and enjoyable.  

Fishing for Fun in Virginia's Tributaries

Tales of imaginary catches are not necessary in Virginia.  Fishermen revel in the variety of both freshwater and saltwater fish in the tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean.  In the Northern Neck, which stretches between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers, five small public beaches run along the Potomac, such as Westmoreland State Park's beach and Colonial Beach, the northernmost beach and site of George Washington's Birthplace.   

Westmoreland State Park offers many opportunities for family fun - an Olympic-sized swimming pool, launching ramp for power boats, campgrounds, cabins, fishing pier, boat rentals and six miles of trails.  Fossil collectors enjoy hunting for shark teeth on the Potomac, and birding enthusiasts find the park an excellent site for spotting American bald eagles, ospreys, kingfishers, great blue herons, common terns, green herons, gulls and wintering waterfowl.     

Love is at the heart of every Virginia vacation. To plan a family getaway along Virginia's many beaches, visit www.Virginia.org or call 1-800-932-5827 to request a free copy of the Virginia is for Lovers Travel Guide. 

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