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posted: 8/15/2014 5:45 AM

Virginia Beach: 5 free things to do besides the beach

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  • The Old Cape Henry Lighthouse, left, at Cape Henry Memorial Park in Virginia Beach, Va., was built by the government in 1792. A new lighthouse was built nearby in 1881 after cracks appeared in the original structure. The park marks the place where English settlers first landed in Virginia in 1607; it's one of a number of free places to visit in Virginia Beach.

      The Old Cape Henry Lighthouse, left, at Cape Henry Memorial Park in Virginia Beach, Va., was built by the government in 1792. A new lighthouse was built nearby in 1881 after cracks appeared in the original structure. The park marks the place where English settlers first landed in Virginia in 1607; it's one of a number of free places to visit in Virginia Beach.
    Associated Press File Photo

  • The wide beaches in Virginia Beach are popular with tourists in the summer and are one of a number of free things to see and do in Virginia's largest city.

      The wide beaches in Virginia Beach are popular with tourists in the summer and are one of a number of free things to see and do in Virginia's largest city.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS/VIRGINIA BEACH CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU

  • The Naval Aviation Monument Park, just off the boardwalk in Virginia Beach, Va., is a monument to the history of naval aviation. Plus, it's free to visit.

      The Naval Aviation Monument Park, just off the boardwalk in Virginia Beach, Va., is a monument to the history of naval aviation. Plus, it's free to visit.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS/VIRGINIA BEACH CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU

  • The Town Center is Virginia Beach's version of a downtown. The city is mostly suburban, but the Town Center's offices, shops, bars, restaurants and free summer performances create an urban vibe.

      The Town Center is Virginia Beach's version of a downtown. The city is mostly suburban, but the Town Center's offices, shops, bars, restaurants and free summer performances create an urban vibe.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS/VIRGINIA BEACH CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU

  • The Kids Cove playground is just one feature at Mount Trashmore, which is a park built on a former landfill that has two man-made mountains, two lakes, a skate park and paths. It's one of a number of free places to visit in Virginia Beach.

      The Kids Cove playground is just one feature at Mount Trashmore, which is a park built on a former landfill that has two man-made mountains, two lakes, a skate park and paths. It's one of a number of free places to visit in Virginia Beach.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS/VIRGINIA BEACH PARKS & RECREATION

  • King Neptune, the mythical sea god, stands watch over the oceanfront in Virginia Beach, Va. The 34-foot statue is a popular selfie spot.

      King Neptune, the mythical sea god, stands watch over the oceanfront in Virginia Beach, Va. The 34-foot statue is a popular selfie spot.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS/VIRGINIA BEACH CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU

  • People enjoy Town Center at night in Virginia Beach.

      People enjoy Town Center at night in Virginia Beach.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS/VIRGINIA BEACH CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU

 
By Brock Vergakis
Associated Press

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Virginia Beach is no generic beach town. It's the largest city in Virginia, which means there are plenty of things to do throughout the year for free.

The city caters to tourists at the oceanfront resort area, but the cost-conscious traveler can find a variety of activities to do without opening a wallet at the oceanfront and elsewhere in the city.

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The beach

Virginia Beach is home to two distinct sets of beaches. The city has beaches at the oceanfront and beaches at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The oceanfront beaches are wide, but become packed with tourists in summer. The bay beaches are narrow and attract locals who live nearby and prefer calmer waters. Parking can be a challenge at both sets of beaches, but free spaces are available on side streets and in residential areas on the north end of the city away from the oceanfront resort area.

A 34-foot statue of King Neptune, the mythical sea god, stands watch over the oceanfront and is a popular spot for selfies.

Town Center

Town Center is Virginia Beach's version of a downtown. The city is mostly suburban in nature, but in recent years it has created a downtown vibe in the heart of the city with a concentrated set of new offices, apartments, shops, bars and restaurants. During the summer, there are frequent outdoor musical performances at no cost. Parking in one of Town Center's garages is free.

Mount Trashmore

Virginia Beach took a former landfill and turned it into one of its most popular parks. Mount Trashmore is just off Interstate 264 and has two man-made mountains, two lakes, two playgrounds, a skate park and multiuse paths. The main mountain, Mount Trashmore, is 60 feet high and is a popular spot to fly kites. Badminton equipment, boards and bags for corn hole, footballs, Frisbees, horseshoes, rubber playground balls, soccer balls, volleyballs and volleyball nets can all be checked out for free.

Naval Aviation Monument Park

Virginia Beach is a proud Navy town that is home to Naval Air Station Oceana, where the Navy's East Coast-based fighter pilots do their training. F-18s regularly fly overhead at the oceanfront, and just off the city's boardwalk is a monument commemorating the history of naval aviation.

Cape Henry Memorial Park

You can visit the place where English settlers first landed in Virginia in 1607 at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Upon landing, settlers erected a wooden cross and gave thanks for their safe voyage. A replica of the cross sits in a park commemorating the landing. Also on the site is the oldest government-built lighthouse in America, although climbing to the top of it requires an admission fee. Today, Cape Henry is behind the gates of a fortified military installation, but visitors can still gain access to Fort Story with identification and a vehicle search.

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