Whale watching. Camping. Strolling the open boardwalk, taking in those cool ocean breezes. Enjoying a little peace all to yourself.
If this sounds like your ideal fall or winter vacation, here's a little secret: Virginia Beach has everything you need, and maybe even a little bit more. Though most popular in the summer, it's a darling of off-season travelers who can't be bothered with sweaty, jam-packed beaches, long waits at restaurants and late-night noise and commotion.
Check out these reasons to consider Virginia Beach in the off-season, which some say is the best time to go, or shop all beach travel deals now!
High season in Virginia Beach begins in May and comes to a close in September. During this time the city is in full swing, but temperatures are also at their highest. In the following months, however, the weather cools down a bit, but not so much that you'll need a hat and gloves.
Temperatures hover between the high 60s and low 70s in October, so a light jacket or a heavy sweater will probably do. In the coldest months of January through March, daily highs average in the 50s, so pack a thicker coat.
Traveler Amanda Rodriguez says she went to Virginia Beach one year in October and was impressed by the good weather and warm water, though it did rain a bit during her trip.
Saša Radović, who lives nearby and goes to Virginia Beach from time to time, says fall is a great time to walk on the boardwalk, along Atlantic Avenue, or on the stretch of beach nearby. Not too far from the resort beach area is the Cape Henry Lighthouse, built in 1791. It's here that you can get the most impressive coastal views.
If you find yourself with a case of the shivers, head to one of the area's indoor attractions. At iFly, you can experience the thrills of indoor skydiving, not an activity for the faint of heart, as this video shows.
For dining, Radović recommends Catch 31, a glitzy seafood restaurant and bar located within the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront on Atlantic Avenue, not far from the boardwalk. Fire pits in the outdoor patio area keep diners warm during the cooler months.
Radović also suggests that fall and winter travelers to the area check out Town Center, a shopping mall with retail outfits, eateries and a theater.
"The Town Center attracts younger crowds and it is always busy," he says. "I like it because all of [the businesses] are concentrated in one location and one can leave his or her car in a parking garage and walk around."
Speaking of shopping, the Virginia Beach is home to The ViBe Creative District, which calls itself "the newest art and cultural hub" in the area. Here you'll find specialty shops, unique eateries, bistros, bars and even the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in an area that spans several blocks.
The best time to explore the ViBe Creative District is on the first Friday of every month, when walking tours are on offer and participating businesses welcome visitors with open arms.
When peak season ends, most tourists pack up and head home, leaving the town a little less hectic. That means you won't have to swerve around fellow vacationers while biking the boardwalk, and you can stake out your preferred spot on the sand with no competition. Even better, hotel rates drop during the off-peak period, making Virginia Beach a more affordable destination than some others.
Radović lists the lack of crowds as his favorite feature of off-season Virginia Beach.
Rodriquez agrees. "I hate going to the beach during the summer," she says. "It's too hot. It's too crowded. And it's too expensive. I'm not a fan of any of those things."
Ask anyone about the best winter activity in Virginia Beach and whale watching is guaranteed to come up. Migrating whales searching for food occasionally grace this area, and you have the best chance of spotting one of these awe-inspiring creatures when the weather is cooler. Book an excursion with one of the area's two tour operators, both of which offer vessels with heated cabins and plenty of open viewing spaces.
Even if you don't luck out and see a whale, you'll certainly see a variety of avian life feeding in these waters, including brown pelicans, northern gannets and double-crested cormorants, to name a few.
Camping is also more pleasant when the weather is mild. See autumn's changing colors at First Landing State Park, home of cypress trees adorned with Spanish moss, miles of hiking trails and even climate controlled cabins for those who prefer not to rough it.
When the air is crisper, things get a little more romantic. It's an ideal time to indulge in a horseback riding session along the beach, or to watch the sunset from the shore.
Take the hands-on approach to learning about the area's cuisine with an oyster farm tour, where you can actually wade the waters of the Lynnhaven River and sample the salty, uniquely flavored oysters native to this area.
Captain Chris Ludford of tour operator Pleasant House Oysters says his trips are custom designed to the tides and operate year-round. He can accommodate groups with a minimum of four people. Guests are encouraged to bring their own beverages along for the tour.
"Every day changes," he says. "We're happy to have you."
And a word of advice: If you're in Virginia Beach during the holiday season, don't miss the Holiday Lights at the Beach, a display of decorations spanning 30 dazzling blocks, and the only occasion for which cars are allowed to drive right on the boardwalk. Around 30,000 vehicles make the trek through this winter wonderland every year.
"I love Virginia Beach in all seasons, but my favorite is the secret season," Daphne Price says in a comment posted to the Visit Virginia Beach Facebook page. "So peaceful and serene. Like a spiritual retreat for me."
Curious about a fall or winter vacation to Virginia Beach? Browse our hotel deals in this dynamic beach town.