Virginia Beach Boardwalk: Virginia Beach, Virginia
The seemingly endless horizon stretches for miles beyond the Virginia Beach Boardwalk. Built originally from wooden planks during the nation's Gilded Age, the five-block promenade attracted thousands of Victorian vacationers. Today, more than 2.2 million people visit the three-mile-long concrete boardwalk each year and it is an integral part of the City of Virginia Beach's economy, which relies heavily on tourism. As such, the boardwalk has been the focus of numerous improvement and planning efforts, the most recent of which explores extending a light rail line from Norfolk to the boardwalk.
The boardwalk extends 40 city blocks between Rudee Inlet to the south and 40th Street to the north.
Popular among residents and tourists alike, the Virginia Beach Boardwalk offers an abundance of cultural, recreational and historical events and activities. From its de rigueur amusement park and fishing pier to the Naval Aviation Monument, the boardwalk presents an unparalleled range of sights, sounds and diversions.
Since its construction in 1888, the boardwalk has been a community treasure. Reminders of the boardwalk's historic past are the 1895 deWitt Cottage — the oldest beach house along the city's oceanfront — and the 1903 Coast Guard Station, which stands on site of the waterfront's original 1870s Seatack Life Saving Station.
Defining Characteristics, Features
Planning and Improvements
- One of the first plans associated with the boardwalk was financial in nature, dealing with the replacement of the original boardwalk at a cost of over $220,000 in 1926. It took five months to replace wooden structure with concrete walkway.
- During late 1990s Army Corps of Engineers plunged a steel seawall 30 feet into the ground and placed a concrete boardwalk on top; designed to survive powerful storms, the structure prevented $80 million worth of damages from 2003 Hurricane Isabel
- A concern since the 1940s, erosion reduced beach to 150 feet by early 1990s; restored to 300 feet by Army Corps of Engineers, which now has beach maintenance contract with City of Virginia Beach through 2050
- Several plans over the past two decades have been adopted, some appended to city's comprehensive plan, to guide physical and economic growth adjacent to the boardwalk; 2008 Resort Area Strategic Action Plan establishes eight priorities including a convention center hotel and new entertainment facility at former site of Virginia Beach Civic Center
- At 28 feet, boardwalk is wide enough to handle both pedestrians and bicyclists; landscaped median with native plants separates these two users. The bike path is part of a larger planned bicycle route through the city. Bikes and two- or four-peddler surreys can be rented; joggers, skateboarders and rollerbladers also frequent users
- Trolley (Virginia Beach Wave) operates along three routes near boardwalk from May through September
- City of Virginia Beach considering light rail extension from Norfolk to the oceanfront; 2008 Resort Area Strategic Action Plan recommends that city conduct environmental impact study to expedite process
- Handicapped accessible from both nearby Atlantic Avenue and beachfront; wheelchair accessible ramps, from the boardwalk to the beach, occur at every block; several accessible restrooms also located along the boardwalk
- Some 4,000 public parking spaces along the beach in both lots and garages; efforts undertaken to reduce the number of vehicles through use of traffic calming along Atlantic Avenue
- $100 million facelift during 1990s brought a pedestrian scale to the boardwalk's 10 acres of public space; previous cul-de sacs transformed into pocket parks; tall, cobra-head street lights replaced with more compact, fluted fixtures; colorful pavers replaced brushed concrete; hundreds of strategically-placed teak benches added
- Public art adorns boardwalk and adjacent parks including 34-foot tall, bronze King Neptune; six larger-than-life bronze sculptures with action-orient presentations represent three historic eras in naval aviation
- Norwegian Lady statue commemorates lives lost and saved in a tragic shipwreck; twin of statue stands in Moss, Norway, a sister city to Virginia Beach and wrecked sailing vessel's home
- Built in 1950, 1,000-foot wooden Virginia Beach Fishing Pier popular among fisherman and dolphin-watching tourists; area famous for summer and fall runs of spot, croaker, pompano, bluefish, flounder; small amusement park across from pier
- Six outdoor stages, between 7th and 31st Streets, busy all summer; host blues bands, magic shows, outdoor movies, and Virginia Beach Symphony Orchestra
- Boardwalk complemented by a series of public spaces, including three public parks and 12 connector parks; two playgrounds recently added to adjacent public beach
- Boardwalk is flanked by restaurants, many offering al fresco dining