The Sound of Freedom
The Naval Air Station Oceana is home to those low-flying U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcat and F/A-18 Hornet fighter planes whose thundering jets disturb the peace over the beach. That's the "sound of freedom" to patriotic locals; the "sound of money" to wags who emphasize that Oceana is the city's largest employer. Other than when they roar over at a 600-foot altitude, the best way for us civilians to see them up close is on a NAS Oceana Master Jet Base Tour offered by Carey Transportation in cooperation with the city of Virginia Beach (tel. 757/491-7866; www.beachstreetusa.com).The tours depart from the visitor information kiosk at Atlantic Avenue and 24th Street from mid-June through Labor Day weekend, Monday through Friday at 9:30 and 11:30am. Fares are $11 for adults; $9 for seniors and children 3 to 11, free for kids 2 and under. Everyone older than 18 years old will need a picture ID to get on the base. Do not bring backpacks.
Dolphin-Watching & Splashing with the Seals
Provided you're not overly prone to seasickness, one of the most interesting things to do here is to take an offshore dolphin-watching cruise given by the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center (daily June-Sept, Sat-Sun in spring and fall). The center also has whale-watching cruises in winter (also offshore) and sea life-collecting trips in summer. The trips cost $19 to $28 for adults, $14 to $24 for children 11 and under. The boats leave from Rudee Inlet. Call the aquarium or check its website for schedules (tel. 757/425-3474; www.virginiaaquarium.com). To make reservations, which are required, call (tel. 757/385-3474).
Another marvelous experience at the center, especially for children 8 and older, is its Harbor Seal Splash. Accompanied by an animal-care specialist, you actually get into a pool and splash around with the resident harbor seals and participate in a training session. The 2-hour sessions take place April through September. If you can afford it, the $125 per person is worth it. Call tel. 757/385-0300 for reservations, which are required.
After touring Williamsburg, I am seldom in the mood to traipse through more old houses. Nevertheless, Virginia Beach has three to offer, two of which are somewhat different than those in Williamsburg. Dating to around 1680 and 1725, respectively, the Adam Thoroughgood and Lynnhaven houses are interesting because they were both built in the fashion of English farm cottages of Elizabethan times, years before Georgian architecture became prevalent elsewhere in Colonial Virginia.
Rather than drive yourself through Virginia Beach's sometimes horrific traffic, you can take a Summer History Tour offered by Carey Transportation in cooperation with the city of Virginia Beach (tel. 757/491-7866; www.beachstreetusa.com), which goes to the three historic homes reviewed below plus the Cape Henry Lighthouse and the Old Coast Guard Museum. The tours depart from the visitor information kiosk at Atlantic Avenue and 24th Street from mid-June through Labor Day weekend, Wednesday and Thursday at 10am. Fares are $10 for adults; $7 for students.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.