After leaving the Outer Banks we continued north into Virginia. Another state checked off the Airstream travel list. Like most of the states in the east, Virginia is not completely new to us, but neither of us have spent much time here and are looking forward to the next few weeks. First up – a stay at First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach.
A few days before our arrival I started to have second thoughts about this stop. When I originally planned our route up the east coast I was trying to fit in as many coastal visits as possible, and when I came across this state park with excellent online reviews, I figured why not. But as much as we love the ocean, we’ve been craving some time in the mountains lately. I was also afraid that we would be annoyed by the traffic and crowds in a such a busy, touristy area. Turns out I didn’t need to worry at all. We loved the park, and while the area is busy, the truth is that once again, we barely left the campground all week, so it wasn’t an issue.
The park is located alongside the Chesapeake Bay. The large expanse of dunes means that none of the sites have a view of the water, but it’s only a few minutes walk down to the beach.
The weather treated us well all week with toasty warm temperatures and sun everyday. Maybe we’ve finally gotten past the rainy pattern? (I hope I don’t regret writing that)
Aside from the beach, the park also has a huge network of wooded trails. When we arrived around noon on Sunday we wasted no time getting out and exploring them. We took the Cape Henry bike trail all the way through the park to where it ends in a residential neighborhood. We then rode a few miles on a side street before coming to the Virginia Beach Boardwalk.
The boardwalk runs alongside the ocean between a wide swath of sandy beach and a row of towering hotels. Next to the main boardwalk is a path for bikes only. Well…bikes and a large amount of family size pedal carts that eager tourists rent out in droves. We had fun dodging these slow moving, often weaving, and sometimes out of control, contraptions. The beach and boardwalk were bursting with people all trying to make the most of the glorious weather on this warm, sunny spring day. Despite the crowds, we managed to ride all the way down to the end of the boardwalk and back. I wish I had taken more photos, because let me tell you, there was some excellent people watching opportunities :)
Back in the park we enjoyed more of the trails throughout the week, including the Bald Cypress trail that circles around an impressive cypress swamp.
On our last full day in the area we decided to hit up a museum. There are quite a few spread around Virginia Beach and Norfolk, including a couple that showcase the naval history of the area. We decided to skip the military history this time around in favor of the Chrysler Museum of Art. We went in not knowing anything about this museum, and wandered out hours later amazed by all we had just seen. This massive, recently renovated, museum houses an impressive collection of art and artifacts from around the world. A large portion of the first floor is occupied by the glass art collection. This was probably our favorite section. From fancy Tiffany lamps, a small outdoor exhibit of Chihuly glass, ancient glass bottles, and stunning modern glass works of art, we were kind of blown away by it all.
Up on the second floor we strolled through the modern art section – always fun for a little good natured mocking. You can count us in as some of the people who just “don’t get it” when it comes to large canvases covered with random paint smears.
Our very favorite mocking material was this one that supposedly depicts the journey of Jason and the Argonauts. What, you mean you don’t see it? Maybe this direct quote from the plaque will help: “Moving your eyes from the ochre field to the surge of pink and blue provides a sense of crossing a vast expanse of earth, sea, and sky. The golden burst at the center, created by splashing paint on the canvas, reminds us that every journey – artistic and heroic alike – is subject to chance.” Ha! Looks to me like the artist accidentally dropped some yellow paint and then tried to salvage the mistake.
Onto the Lincoln exhibit where we delighted in this photo of Lincoln taking part is his little known favorite past time.
Back downstairs we finished up our tour with the History of Videos Games exhibit. While I wouldn’t classify either of us as video game enthusiasts, we both have some video game memories from our youth. Tim probably more so than me. Unlike many teenage boys who spent hours with glazed over eyes killing zombies and racing cars, his video game experience mostly centers around the time before high school when his family had the very cutting edge technology of the time – the Commodore 64. I think he was delighted to see it in person once again, although he did remark somewhat bitterly, “sure makes you feel old when you childhood is in a museum.”
I am, of course, leaving out entire sections of the museum. Including the Japanese woodblock exhibit, the rooms full of pre-Columbian and Egyptian statues, the hall of porcelain, the fine art section with paintings by famous artists such as Monet, Degas, and Matisse, and so much more. For a museum that we had never heard of before, not to mention one where the entrance fee is only a suggested donation, the Chrysler Museum far exceed our exceptions. If we lived in the area I could imagine visiting here over and over again and never failing to discover something new.
After all that culture we were in desperate need of some refreshment, so we headed down the street to one of the local breweries. The intention was to taste a few beers and maybe take one of their free Saturday tours. Imagine our surprise when we came upon a huge crowd of people milling around in front of the brewery. Turns out we had stumbled on the annual spring street party at Smartmouth Brewery.
We jumped into the action and quickly filled our commemorative cups with some tasty brew before joining one of brew room tours. Business at this relatively new craft brewery is booming, and we learned all about the the giant steel contraptions where the beer ages, their newly acquired canning line, and plans for future expansion which will most likely involve a larger facility.
The surprise street party, much like the rest of our stay in the area, confirmed without a doubt that we absolutely made the right decision in choosing to come here. It ended up being a delightful week in a very nice campground with some fun extra curricular activities thrown in. This will be our last coastal stop for a few weeks while we pause our tour up the east coast to head inland for some time in the mountains.
Up next…we surround ourselves with shiny aluminum at an Airstream only campground with views of the famed Appalachian Mountains.