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Horses on Virginia BeachHorses on Virginia Beach. photos by Kate Cosme.Spring Break for Kids: A Road Trip to Virginia Beach



Every April my children have a week off from school and I am faced with the challenge of what to do to keep them entertained. We live in New England, so the weather is not yet warm enough to spend all day outside, and we will go crazy if we are trapped in the house, but we cannot afford a far off exotic destination.

This year I was sick of trying to think of day trips and fill our days with playdates, I wanted to take my children somewhere new. This year’s solution was Virginia Beach.

The Plan

My friend Ainsley and I teamed up with our five combined kids, ranging from ages 2-8, for a spring break road trip. We studied the map thoughtfully trying to decide on a reasonable distance we could drive and still be warm enough to enjoy the beach in April.


Most of the northern Atlantic is far too blustery and cold to enjoy this early in the year, but somehow if you manage to get past Maryland the weather is just warm and wonderful enough to keep you outside the whole week long.

Our trip began on Sunday when we loaded up the kids into the minivan, stockpiled with DVD’s (ah, the wonders of modern technology), games, crayons, and prizes for good behavior. We decided to make it a leisurely stroll for the 9 hour drive down to Virginia, stopping for a night on the way to break up the trip (and save our sanity).

VB boardwalk in actionThe busy Virginia Beach boardwalk.The kids were remarkable, something about an adventure with friends seems to always lead to well behaved little people. They played their games and watched The Jetsons, all without much fuss, surprising even me with their lack of complaints. When we pulled up to our hotel on Virginia Beach late Monday morning we were all ready to hit the sand.

Family Friendly Right on the Beach

We bunked for the week at the Holiday Inn and Suites Resort. In our suites up on the sixth floor we were met with panoramic sweeping views of the ocean. Each suite boasted two oceanfront balconies, a separate bedroom with two uber-comfortable queen beds, and a living room with kitchenette.

This was more than enough space for myself with my two kids to spread out and enjoy, and the best part was that it was totally affordable, running at about $170 per night in the springtime.

The Holiday Inn was remarkable in it’s overall kid-friendliness. The hotel had three swimming pools, including an indoor lazy river, perfect for warming up when the sun went down and the temperature dropped in the evenings. The seven of us were frequent flyers in the various pools, jumping from the outdoor “Splish Splash Lagoon”, to the hot tub, to the indoor river, to the beach. Nothing wears kids out like a good swim, pool hopping was the ultimate way to ensure a good night sleep out of all of

them.

Statue of Neptune the god of the sea, in VA beach.Statue of Neptune the god of the sea, in VA beach.This particular Holiday Inn also featured a movie theater (with kid movies playing around the clock), a playroom stocked with toys, and even two oversized live turtles for the kids to observe. All this and kids eat free at the two casual dining restaurants, what an awesome perk. I am the last person to want to take my kids out to eat, so much clamoring about only to have the chicken nuggets remain on the plate untouched. Not having to pay for their meals definitely took the edge off of our usual dining out struggles.

Soft Sand Right at Our Fingers

The best part of this vacation was indeed the beach itself. Virginia Beach feels like a never ending strip of paradise, being home to the world’s longest pleasure beach. With 35 miles of ocean and bay beaches to enjoy, there is guaranteed to be a spot that everyone can enjoy.

Our hotel sat at the northern end of the famous Virginia Beach boardwalk, a long stretch of pavement that runs the length of the beach and comes alive at night in the summer months. We were too early to catch the live nightly entertainment that begins in May, but the feeling of summer was no less abundant. The sun shone brightly, the temperature reached 80 degrees more than once, and the boardwalk was alive with people on skateboards, rollerblades, bikes, and surreys.

We rented a surrey and a couple of bikes from Cherie’s Bike and Blade Rentals, and paraded ourselves down the boardwalk a few times. My quads were screaming  after just a few blocks, who knew that surreys were so tough to pedal? Fortunately, nothing spells funny like two moms trying to pedal five kids on a surrey heading downtown, so the comic relief brought about from this activity far outweighed the aching legs. We were definitely the best show in town for the other tourists.

The beach itself was marvelous. Various sea creatures had shed their habitats, making shell searching fun for kids. The water was freezing, being the northern Atlantic, but somehow all of our children got wet anyway. I did see several families splashing in the wake, and many brave surfers heading out to ride the waves.

checking out seals at vb aquarium"Hey, look at that seal!" Kids enjoying the Virginia Beach Aquarium.Horses trotted by, you can rent them right on the beach, and parasailers and jet skiers rode by, everyone enjoying the idyllic sunshine. There was even a playground right on the sand, adjacent to the famous towering statue of Neptune at 31st street. The kids toddled down the slides while we sat back and sipped lattes with our toes buried in the sand.

Splashed by Seals

On Tuesday we headed down the beach a few miles to the local aquarium. The front entrance to the building was boarded by a large seal tank. My four year old daughter Sofie shrieked with fear as the seals slapped their tails in the water and sent up a spray of water that doused us all, the four boys cracked up and begged the seals to do it again.

The aquarium was loaded with cool exhibits and beautiful marine life, a great way to spend the morning. Sofie hid her eyes in fear most of the time, convinced that the sharks would leap through the glass to bite her, but the other kids ran from room to room admiring as much as they could. After wearing ourselves out with sea life we had lunch in the adjoining cafe, and then headed back to the beach.

The aquarium also sponsors several different boat tours daily, including a dolphin watching cruise and a “rocket” power boat that sets sails several times a day. There are many locations on Virginia Beach where you can schedule these boat tours, book a pirate cruise, or engage in another water sport, such as kayaking or paddleboards. These “Vacation Stations” make it convenient to get your adventures in while visiting this bustling town.

Splish splash at the water park.Mother Helpers

I often travel with other moms for a number of reasons, the first being that my husband is a homebody who doesn’t like to travel. The second reason is that having two mothers on vacation is twice as efficient as having just one, even if the number of children has multiplied.

 I find that my other mom friends know just when to step in and offer a hug or a sandwich, and are generally very efficient in getting us from one place to another in one piece. Once we have arrived where we are going, there is nothing like sharing a cocktail on the beach with a girlfriend while the kids play together.

It’s a week long playdate and an adventure in communal mothering. Traveling with another family on a road trip meant that the drive went smoother, my kids fought less, and the overall excitement level was higher than your average vacation.

Worth the Journey

All in all, Virginia Beach was well worth the road trip from New England. The family centered, laid back atmosphere of the region made us comfortable, while the countless activities offered made sure we were never bored. Whether its a seaside amusement park, aquatic adventures, or just a relaxed week on the beach, Virginia Beach has what it takes to make any family happy until the long drive home.

Links:
 
www.visitvirginiabeach.com (tourism board official website)
www.vboceanfrontnorth.com (Holiday Inn and Suites North Beach)
www.virginiaaquarium.com
www.towncenterofvirginiabeach.com

Kate Cosme




Kate Cosme is a mother and a nurse who lives in South Deerfield MA with her husband and two kids, Nate and Sofie.  Read more of her family travel articles on GoNOMAD












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