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.
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 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.
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.