• Elaine Zito

Locals Guide to Virginia Beach (including the best places for a photo op)

I have lived in Virginia Beach for 7 years (seasonally) now. My family vacationed here growing up. My husband grew up here. While some may not call me a true local, I have experiences as a tourist from when I was living in Richmond, and as a resident, currently being a homeowner here.

Here is my guide to the beautiful city of Virginia Beach (also voted #1 best big city to live in according to WalletHub).


-The Porch: (dinner) A new and trendy restaurant on the water of the Shore Drive area. They have amazing cocktails and it's a great place for a photo op. Order the sushi and the tuna tacos, both are sooo delicious.

-The Bee and the Biscuit: (brunch) Mimosa flights and a homemade jumbo cinnamon roll...need I say more? A local spot in the Pungo area, closer to farmland where they bring in local produce. A long wait, but worth it.

-Waterman's Surfside Grille: (lunch and dinner) Where Allyn and I work in the summer! Great service, delicious appetizers and seafood, and a beautiful view of the Atlantic ocean. Known for the Orange Crush cocktail, but try the many other flavors as well (cherry lime, strawberry lemonade, endless summer).

-The Atlantic: (dinner) Happy hour oysters every way you can dream of, as well as fun cocktails. A little bit more upscale but an eclectic vibe and enjoyable atmosphere.

-Bay Local: (brunch/lunch and dinner) Another good brunch spot, but they also serve lunch and dinner (on certain days). Fun atmosphere, great brunch cocktail menu, and many renditions on the egg benedict.

-The Sweet Spot: (dessert) A really cute dessert shop on Atlantic Ave at the oceanfront. They have amazing shakes, and ice cream concoctions with churros in them! Also, a pink palm print wall that is my wallpaper dreams.

-The Shack: (bar) A fun outdoor bar area with games, swings/hammocks, lounge areas and special events.


-Teal Eagle Boutique: Fun and unique finds, they really have something for everyone.

-Apricot Lane: Fun, flirty and affordable. Another great locally owned boutique with the latest trends.

-A. Dodsons: A great gift shop, as well as cute decor pieces you can't find anywhere else.

-The Beach Nut: Located in Waterman's Surfside Grille, the trendiest clothes, jewelry and accessories. These are pieces you see the bloggers wearing, ahead of the game and unique.

-The Plant Bar: Because everyone needs some greenery in their life. Go get you a succulent and have a drink while you're at it.


-Veteran's United Amphitheater: Our local stage that brings in big names like Imagine Dragons, Luke Bryan, Jimmy Buffet and more.

-Live! on Atlantic Summer Concert Series: Local bands that play nightly from May-September on the boardwalk from 8th street to 31st street. You can also find magicians, jugglers, aerialists, and other entertainers in between.

-Beach Movie Bistro: The movie theater closest to the oceanfront where you can dine and drink while you watch the latest hit.

-Fireworks: Every Sunday and Wednesday at 10 pm weather permitting, from the 22nd street fishing pier.

Things to do:

-Fishing: Fish off of the 22nd street pier or jump on a half/full day fishing charter out of Rudee Inlet.

-Water Excursions: Rudee Inlet Marina offers parasailing, jet skis, dolphin watching, jet boat rides, and a pirate ship sail. Whether you want to cruise along and watch the sun go down, booze it up while your child is entertained by pretend pirates, or feel the wind in your hair and sea spray on your body, there's something for everyone.

-Adventure Park: Zip line, climb and swing your way through the trees and over water. You'll feel your adrenaline pumping and do things you never thought you would.

-Ocean Breeze Waterpark: Great for little kids as well as adults. They have a bar, a lazy river and plenty of slides.

-The Boardwalk: Stretching 3 miles along our pristine beaches, the boardwalk hosts runners, roller skaters, bikers, and more. Theres a designated road for the people on wheels, and plenty of benches to sit and people watch. Stop at one of the many restaurants along the boardwalk for a drink and a snack.

-Jungle Golf: Putt Putt with cute animals, great landscaping, and an arcade. Located at the oceanfront.

-Rent a pontoon: Join the local boating fans and take a pontoon to the "narrows" where you can beach your boat, jump off, and swim around. In the summer time on the weekends the back bay waters are one big party, many boaters even tie their boats up together to create an island.

Photo Ops: (because enough people don't admit they're doing it for the gram lol)

-The Vibe Creative District: An area of the VB oceanfront where local creatives have painted murals on the sides of buildings to improve the aesthetic and culture. There are a ton of different walls, as well as a lot of variety. All of my pictures that include a colorful wall were taken in this area.

-The Historic Cavalier Hotel: A restored icon that boasts elegance and sophistication. Lots of brick, fancy chandeliers, greenery, and swanky furniture. Get dressed up, grab a cocktail and enjoy an evening on the lawn, overlooking the ocean.

-The Oceanfront: Along the boardwalk there are many statues, murals, palm trees, landscaping and more that make for a great backdrop.


-Something in the Water: Pharell's new venture that brought Jay-Z, Chris Brown, Missy Elliot and more to our hometown. An event all about cultural inclusion and soul. This will only get bigger and better.

-Patriotic Music Festival: Country lovers' dream, where big country stars take the stage on the beach all weekend. Lots of Budweiser, red, white, and blue, and American pride.

-American Music Festival: End of summer party that brings bands that everyone loves to the 5th street stage (on the beach) for one last throw down. Usually classic rock or bands with a few big hits. My favorite year included Third Eye Blind and Smashmouth.

-Neptune Festival: This festival includes a sand sculpture competition from artists all over the world, arts and crafts, and wine. At the end of September, it's a nice time to enjoy the cooler weather.

Virginia Beach truly has a lot to offer and is only getting bigger and better. I have made a lot of great memories, found love, and experienced many firsts in this city. I hope you can too.

Xoxo, Isla Girl

(Cover photo taken at The Chesapeake Bay Distillery in the Vibe Creative District)