A tour of Virginia Beach is not only an opportunity for coastal relaxation, but a culinary revelation from clam to fine wines. The Virginia Beach Hilton Oceanfront is one of the city's newest and largest properties. The Cape Henry Lighthouses are a great historical attraction. Not far from these breezy shores, some of the earliest colonial Brits prepared recipes whose traditions have survived, including Captain John Smith at Jamestown. Local food author and television personality Patrick Evans-Hylton is a walking encyclopedia of antiquarian recipes and lore. Take a day to visit the Virginia Beach Farmers Market on Dam Neck Road. There you'll encounter myriad tastes, aromas and colors, from The Country Butcher and the old fashioned ice cream parlor Gilly's Creamery, to Seasons Best Bakery, a candy shop with offerings you haven't seen or enjoyed since grade school.
Other local farms include Cullipher Farms on Princess Anne Road, and Flanagan Farms on North Muddy Creek Road, where Thanksgiving turkeys are raised. A quick stop at Blackwater Vineyards on Blackwater Road provides a chance to nibble on hige muscadine grapes.
For a unique dinner, take the Pantry Magic class at the Virginia Culinary Institute, where instructors will guide you to preparation of a savory supper. Sleep well, because a morning option is fishing with Captain Mike Standing aboard The Waterman- what you catch, you may eat- including rockfish, flounder, tuna, and trout. Allow about four hours for this activity. One of America's most intriguing advocates of a homeopathic diet, was Virginia Beach resident Edgar Cayce, known as "The Sleeping Prophet". During a tour of the Association of Research and Enlightenment, founded in Cayce's memory, you'll learn how he diagnosed some 14,000 ailments in his sleep, despite no medical training. Cayce was an early prooponent of fresh fruits and vegetables and decreased meat intake. He also taught which foods should and should not be eaten in combination, the importance of acid/alkaline balance, and the therapeutic use of food. Though no one on current staff possesses his rare gifts, the A.R.E. hosts conferences, seminars, and occasional readings by visiting talents. If the spirit moves you, visit The Heritage Store on Laskin Road, a health food haven that makes Whole Foods seem cookie cutter.
Not all the eating here is wholistic. Virginia Beach is known for its Coastal Food Tours, restaurant crwals where patrons sample the goods at eateries such as Mahi-Mah's, and Rockafellers (the latter where clams are king). Another fun day trip is nearby Smithfield, where pork and peanuts reign. Tour the Smithfield Ham Shoppe to learn of the centuries old smoking and curing process, and the Smithfield Bakery for another blast from the past (take some chocolate covered nuts back for your room). When your appetite revives, head for Terrapin's on Holly Road for fine dining. Sample either the mushroom pasta, or the Duck, Duck Goose.
Ah, breakfast. Family friendly Citrus, on West Great Neck Road, fills the bill. From the banana pancakes, to the sweet potato biscuits, comfort food abounds. Sports fans will dig ESPN on the big screens. Take a scenic afternoon drive to the Eastern Shore of Virginia, where you may tour the famed Cherrystone Aqua Farms, where chherystone clams are grown without additives or antibiotics, the Edgar Cayce way. Then satsify your yen for clams at Bay Creek Resort & Club's Aqua Restaurant in Cape Charles. Clam cakes and crab lollipops are among the fare. In nearby Machipongo, Chatham Vineyards is a working wine farm on property that has been farmed since Virginia's earliest colonial settlers. There are 32,000 vines here, growing everything from Chardonnay, to Marlot and Cabernet Franc. Chatham also boasts amiable owners, and a wonderful shop. For even more splendor, take a breath at the Cape Charles Coffee House on Mason Ave., the stately site of a former bank.
Virginia Beach is many things to many people- a spring break tradition, a surfer's delight, a military town (see the Old Coast Guard Station and the Naval Aviation Monument- and the U.S. Navy SEALs train here at Little Creek), a pilgrimage to Edgar Cayce's storehouse of knowledge. One of the funkiest stops in Croc's 19th Street Bistro on 19th, where the cocktails are organic, and literally green. Owner Laura Wood Habr is a hoot of a hostess, and the decor says "alternative". Dive bar fans and large families will enjoy Chick's Oyster Bar on Vista Circle, where the Lynnhaven oysters keep coming, within view of the beach and sunset. For a more formal setting, Coastal Grill on North Great Neck Road, prepares seafood, beef and lamb to expertise. Acorn squash is their signature dish.
No visit here is complete sans a tour of the Virginia Aquarium Marine and Science Center, which houses Komodo dragons, skarks, manta rays, and colorful rare tropical fish.
A prophet, frolics on the beach, military and colonial history, and family and fine cuisine- Virginia Beach has something for every palate.