It’s a cruel summer-vacation-planning paradox: Some of the most inviting summer beach destinations that shine during the day (smooth sand, stellar waves) can be either a bit snoozy or overrun when the sun sets, and your nightlife options are limited to a pizza-and-pitchers place or a boardwalk filled with kiddie rides and waffle fries. In search of a seaside spot that’s as worthy of your precious PTO after the sun sets as well as when it shines? You’d be wise to check out Virginia Beach.
This beach city is a vacation classic for good reason: beautiful beaches, great waves, a fantastic boardwalk, delicious local seafood and a sun-drenched vibe that hums year-round. But better still, the fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down—Virginia Beach also hums with after-dark fun, from its strong brewpub scene, to beach bars (and beloved cocktails), to live music venues and outdoor music events that drive passionate crowds. Here are seven of the best ways to make a real night of it after you pull yourself off your beach towel.
One of the best things about this spot is its live music festivals and music series throughout the summer (and beyond). Whether it’sFunkFest Beach Party (pictured), held this year on August 23th and 24th, summer concerts at Veterans Home Loans Amphitheater(the premier outdoor concert venue in Virginia Beach), YNot Wednesdays? free summer concert series (featuring rock, blues, and Motown) at the Sandler Center Outdoor Plaza at Town Center, or the amazing Live! On Atlantic Free Summer Concert Series all season long on Virginia Beach’s iconic boardwalk—this town comes out for live music of every kind, and you’ll feel right at home joining in.
Named for the crushing machine that juices fresh oranges that bartenders then blend with vodka, triple sec, and a spritz of carbonated soda, the Orange Crush is the iconic beach drink in this part of the world.
Situated on the sand along the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, Waterman’s Surfside Grille is a family-owned classic hangout that is known for its Orange Crush, so start your pilgrimage here. Take advantage of a regular lineup of live music in the main bar, including karaoke: rush up on your Yacht rock! Continue the Crush crawl at nearby Chix on the Beach (DJs dominate the music scene at night) and at the open-air The Shack on 8th, where Festy Fridays in the summer feature local bands and DJs (but every night there’s corn hole, bocce ball, and giant beer pong).
While Hot Tuna, a popular seafood restaurant near the Chesapeake Bay side of town, is known for its local catch, the real scene is at the outdoor bar stocked with fire-pit tables. Catch well-loved local performers here Wednesday through Saturday nights and make a point of stopping by the Wednesday night Happy Hour—known also as Tapas Night—which runs from 5 p.m. all the way until 9 p.m.
If you’re looking for more local listening, Calypso Bar & Grill is another popular spot that’s well-known for featuring Virginia Beach bands and a massive covered patio; HK on the Bay rounds out the Virginia Beach-native band scene and features great local beers on tap.
A recent entry into the Virginia Beach vino scene, Press Wine Bar—a sister restaurant to neighboring Norfolk’s popular Press 626—has a fashion-forward approach to small-plate dining, a brawny wine list with more than 300 selections organized by country of origin and style, as well as a deep bench of sparkling options and Virginia wines.
Stretch your vinicultural dollar during Press’s daily Happy Hours, which run from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. and feature $3 Laurent Miquel wines and $6 sangria (several plates, including burgers, oyster wraps, and fried shrimp cocktails also go on discount until 5 p.m.). On Tuesdays, the drink deals run until 9 p.m.
Time to class it up: The recently restored, historic Cavalier Hotel, set on a sweeping bluff overlooking the Atlantic, echoes with more than a century of VIPs past. And the Hunt Room—the Cavalier’s new, spirit-forward bar—is home not only to a thoughtfully curated classic cocktail list, but also a grand fireplace just right for civilized imbibing.
The Cavalier is also home to Tarnished Truth Distilling Company, a new small-batch distillery, producing bourbons, gin, vodka, and moonshine, all of which are available for tasting on-site, bringing home in a bottle (or two), and, of course, requesting in your Hunt Room cocktails.
Virginia Beach is definitely beer-forward, with brewers setting up taps spread throughout every major district. Check out contenders likeBack Bay Brewing Co., an oceanfront hangout with a taqueria (Gringo’s) right next door, and Commonwealth Brewing Company, a bustling brewery that’s a sure bet on any evening (what with a dynamic menu featuring winning picks ranging from a tropical IPA to a chocolate stout, plus beer garden seating, food trucks, and corn hole). Smartmouth Pilot House, just three blocks from the Oceanfront, occupies a former post office where the loading dock has been converted to an outdoor drinking space that welcomes dogs (as well as food trucks).
In the Chesapeake area, Pleasure House Brewing Company focuses on small batches and cozy digs (their 32-ounce “crowler” is a way to take the party back with you). For a bolt of an Oktoberfest vibe year-round, Wasserhund Brewing Company is a German-inspired brewpub in the Hilltop part of town that offers classic brews like Doppelbock and Hefeweizen and German food (including the cross-cultural Wasserhund Pizza, topped with bratwurst, sauerkraut, and a seasonal beer mustard).
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