Time to get away from it all in ‘old-new’ Virginia Beach
PHOTOS BY NAN RYANT
With the COVID vaccines under our belt, we were ready to hit the road for a long-awaited weekend getaway. Virginia Beach has long been our go-to beach for decades, but due to family obligations and the ongoing pandemic, we had not been to “the beach” in several seasons. We were eager to explore the new “old” beach in Virginia Beach.
Our “home away from home” was the new Delta Hotels by Marriott Virginia Beach Bayfront Suites located on Shore Drive, between the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and First Landing State Park. This is Virginia Beach’s only oceanfront hotel on Chesapeake Bay and is a great location if you’re looking for a quieter waterfront location away from the hubbub of the seaside. This area is commonly known. under the name of Chic’s Beach for the locals. It is also one of the only places where you can watch both sunrise and sunset over the water.
As part of a new / old Virginia Beach theme that we noticed, the hotel is on the site of the old Virginia Beach Resort Hotel and Conference Center. It had fallen into disrepair and was in desperate need of updating. The model of the current owners and the management company is to step into a community and revitalize distressed properties. The property was purchased in 2018 and has been reduced to steel beams and rebuilt as a vital part of the local community. The hotel is aware of its carbon footprint and incorporates sustainable development practices throughout its operations. For example, they set up a beach toy swap, where parents can rent toys for a week and then return them in exchange for popsicles at the end of their stay. Little used plastic
toys are kept away from landfills and children are rewarded for recycling their beach toys. The hotel’s signature restaurant, The Tin Cup + Oyster Bar, works with the Brock Environmental Center and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to recycle oyster shells and replenish local oyster beds.
As you enter the new hotel, which just opened this spring, the lobby has a contemporary nautilus feel with a spiral staircase leading up to the second-floor reception area. Guests are offered a large living room with sofas, a fireplace, work tables and comfortable armchairs for virtually relaxing or working. The second floor is also home to a spacious fitness center, Seas the Day gift / rental shop, and Tin Cup Kitchen + Oyster Bar restaurant.
The name of the restaurant is a nod to the strong military presence in the Hampton Roads area. As the military saying goes … “Whiskey tastes better in a tin cup.” The restaurant offers local seafood and oysters in a relaxed environment with indoor and outdoor seating. We sampled a delicious, low sugar unmixed piña colada developed by the bar manager for his diabetic mother. Refreshing and unlike anything we’ve tasted! We also took the recommendation of the hotel staff and ordered the mussels and Caesar salad; both were excellent. Due to a few ‘glitches’ in the kitchen, our main course was far from excellent, but we were made up for two delicious desserts. We attributed the restaurant’s mishap to the opening stumbles. I would definitely not call this restaurant a lost cause.
The hotel offers 295 one- and two-bedroom suites with separate living areas with sofa beds, mini-fridges, and microwaves. There are a few kitchen suites that offer cooking utensils, full stovetops, and refrigerators. Most suites have at least partial bay views and furnished balconies. A nautical theme is achieved throughout the hotel’s decor, with hues of blue, gold, and white, and artwork referencing the presence of historic lighthouses and wrecks. We especially enjoyed sitting on the balcony of our one bedroom suite watching the pastors at work with their crab pots and fishing nets, the kites and windsurfers off Chic’s Beach and the locals and the tourists enjoying the beautiful sandy beach. While drinking a glass of wine. Relaxation at its best!
The Chic’s Beach area has many local hot spots including Hot Tuna, Commonwealth Brewery, Mermaid Winery, and Taste. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Brock Environmental Center is also close to the hotel and is a model of one of the greenest buildings in the world. It is independent of energy and water, uses solar and wind energy and recycles 100% of its rain and wastewater. It is currently closed to the public due to the pandemic, but it’s worth checking their website for more information.
Venturing out we traveled east on Shore Drive from the hotel to the waterfront to Atlantic Avenue in North End Virginia Beach. This is a residential area with multi-million dollar beach houses interspersed with quaint old beach cottages and quiet stretches of wide beaches. Beautiful and calm! Although finding a parking space can be difficult, it is easy to get to the beach via public access paths.
The Edgar Cayce Association for Research and Enlightenment, “ARE”, located on Atlantic Avenue and 67th St in the North End, is the perfect example of “new and old Virginia Beach”. The original Edgar Cayce Hospital for Research and Enlightenment was founded in 1928, closed during the Great Depression, was acquired in 1954 and renovated in 2014. The ARE campus is home to its world headquarters, the University of the Atlantic, Cayce / Reilly Massage School, ARE Health Center and Spa and Cayce / Miller Café.
We met the spa manager, Celeste, who gave us an AlphaSphere session. As stated in the spa’s press release: “Created in Austria, AlphaSphere is an ergonomic lounge chair that envelops the senses with soothing therapy of sounds, colors and vibrations to take you to your happy place, lower your heart rate and your hypertension and relieve muscle tension and stress. Color is a core therapy of the AlphaSphere experience, with four programs providing distinct benefits. Basic Blue brings calm and balance, Sensitive Pink gently inspires, Intense Red strengthens and energizes while Energy Orange rejuvenates and revitalizes. This unique experience simultaneously integrates three therapies recommended by Edgar Cayce. Appreciated fully clothed, a 30-minute session costs $ 35. I felt incredibly calm and focused after my Sensitive Pink session, and my husband was full of energy and couldn’t wait to go after his Energy Orange session. The AlphaSphere processing setup is the only one of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, so we were delighted to have had this opportunity. Other services offered at the spa include massage therapy, body work, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic and more.
While visiting the center, be sure to visit the Cayce / Miller Café with Graze Kitchen & Catering, under the direction of Chef Shelley Kilby, for delicious, healthy food and drinks. We enjoyed our late lunch at the picnic tables overlooking the ocean, next to the maze and adjacent meditation garden. It was such a beautiful day so we lay back a bit soaking up the sun and relaxing for a wonderful afternoon at the AER
We woke up the next morning after a refreshing night’s sleep with the intention of visiting Mary’s Restaurant on 17th Street, an old breakfast favorite, in the ViBe section of Virginia Beach. The ViBe section is truly “old” Virginia Beach which has been revitalized with many art galleries and artist studios. The buildings in the area are decorated with superb murals of all different styles.
Unfortunately, Mary’s was closed during the week during our visit due to a lack of help (like many restaurants these days), but they have amazing home cooked food at very reasonable prices. Make sure to look for them if you are in the area.
The resort area along Atlantic Avenue, anchored by the iconic three-mile-long seaside promenade, includes blocks of hotels and resorts, museums, and classic beach souvenir shops . Since our last trip to the beach the number of new builds going on is incredible. We decided to grab a Virginia Beach staple, Waterman’s Surfside Grille at 4
15 Atlantic Ave, for an oceanfront brunch. Waterman’s Surfside Grille is known not only for its oceanic fare, but also synonymous with Virginia Beach’s favorite drink, The Orange Crush. Each year, the bartenders at Waterman serve over half a million Orange Crush cocktails. We enjoyed an Egg Benedict with Crab Brunch and since we had a trip to the Virginia Aquarium scheduled for the afternoon, we decided to forgo the Orange Crushes. The next time!
Continuing south on Atlantic Avenue at the end of the waterfront is Rudee Inlet, the center for fishing, jet skiing and parasailing charters. There is also Grommet Park, the first
Oceanfront beach playground in the country designed specifically for children and adults of ALL physical abilities. It is a remarkable park with 100% wheelchair access. Wheelchairs accessible to the beach are available free of charge on a first come, first served basis.
A few blocks further south after the Rudee Inlet Bridge is the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center located at 717 General Booth Blvd. It is an impressive structure with thousands of animals representing over 300 species on display in entertaining and educational exhibits of interest to all ages. The aquarium is not only an exciting tourist destination, it is also a serious participant in several marine science research projects.
We ended our trip to the beach with a delicious lunch at Commune, a local restaurant, made from scratch, farm-to-table. This local delight located in the ViBe section and features an on-site bakery, locally brewed Kombucha, and a wide menu of traditional, vegetarian and vegan offerings. Proving that it really is a small world, we learned that one of the farmer-suppliers is an old friend of my husband, whom he has not seen for over 30 years!
We are encouraged by the planning and foresight that Virginia Beach is taking with its development and revitalization plans. The attention paid to sustainability practices and accessibility for all is remarkable. We look forward to our next trip to the beach.