We got back a few days ago from our trip to Virginia Beach. According to Google Maps this was around 380 miles and should take about 7 and 1/2 hours to get there (more on that later). We drove down on Sunday morning and came back Friday evening.
I was originally going to call this our “staycation” but it seems that staycation really means that you stay home and go to local attractions. Still, this was our first driving vacation. In previous years we would fly to our destinations. Since we just bought a new mini-van we figured it would be a great time to drive and save money on plane fare too! Virginia Beach seemed close enough to drive to from NYC and we heard a lot of great things about it.
So we packed up our stuff and put the kids in the car and left Sunday morning. Many, many hours and rest stops later we finally made it to Virginia Beach (we had a major delay at one point but more on that later). It was basically an all day drive for us, what with stops and all. One exciting about the drive was going over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel which spans 20 miles (on the way back we saw what might have been a a Navy Destroyer passing through the channel section). It was also interesting to see all of the different towns and landscapes in the different states (four total: New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia).
Virginia Beach is beautiful! Our hotel really was just two quick blocks to the beach! There was a beautiful boardwalk on the beach to walk along with a separate trail for bikes (we wanted to rent a bike for all of us but we didn’t get a chance). Within two from the beach are places to eat (the four main food sources seem to be seafood, ice cream, waffle/pancakes, and pizza), shops, a fun house, a haunted house, lots of ice cream shops, outdoor performance areas, miniature golf, and more! It was really fun to walk around at night and take in the scenery. In fact one of the performances we saw was the Edgar Winter Group at a bandstand right off the beach (we caught Frankenstein and Free Ride)!
An interesting thing we discovered was that Virginia Beach is close to a Naval base. As a result there are military jets flying routes overhead all day. Living near two airports in Queens, NY I’m used to hearing planes overhead but seeing military jets is different. The last time I saw a military jet flying was on September 11th over the Empire State Building so it brought back some somber memories. Once I got used to that though it was pretty awesome seeing the jets flying. At times we would see three together flying in close formation. If we ever go back we’ll have to tour the Naval base!
Funny story…One day my daughter wanted to go to the pool rather than go to the beach. She couldn’t quite grasp that we didn’t drive 400 miles to go to a small hotel pool! Well the beach won out. As I was playing with her, jumping waves I saw a fin a little ways off. I noticed it was a curved fin. I told I thought I saw a dolphon but wasn’t sure. She got worried thinking it could be a shark! A few minutes later I saw for sure two dolphins swim to the surface. Other people noticed it too. In all there were about four dolphins swimming around and playing a little ways off from us. We saw a couple jump out of the water and twist. We must have watched them swim around on and off for the next hour! At one point, holding my daughter up to see the dolphins, I asked her if she would have rather stayed at the pool. Begrudgingly she said no, that it was much more fun at the beach. Ha! On a similar note, I had seen dolphin watching boat rides advertised for about $20 a person. We saved a bundle by just going to the beach instead!
As well as the beach and the local scenery we also went to the Virginia Beach Aquarium and spent a day in Colonial Williamsburg. The little princess loved seeing all of the old time building and costumes.
Remember how I said Google Maps said the trip should be 7-8 hours? I’ve discovered that with two kids we have to add at least 30% to the time listed! Coming home took much longer with stops and traffic entering NYC.
The trip was a lot of fun and I would definitely consider going back to Virginia Beach but it seems for us every silver cloud has a lead lining. While driving down there we got into a car accident. We got rear ended on the highway. Our brand new car now has a dent in the front and a smashed in rear door. No one was hurt and the car runs but it really hurts to have a new car get beat up like that. The accident was the other person’s fault and insurance should cover the repairs but it did put an ill feeling over the trip. We even considered going back home after the accident but we’re glad we went through with the trip.
In all I think we saved money by not flying off someplace. We certainly spent money but it was less than we would have flying to a Caribbean locale.
Accident aside, we had fun and I think we have more driving trips in our future. As you can see from the Frugal Things To Do series there’s so much to see and do in this country! Even a couple of days before the big trip we went out to Sesame Place and a couple of weeks earlier we went to the Bronx Zoo.