From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Chesapeake is an independent city located in Virginia, which is filled with protected farmland, forests, and wetlands. It’s home to over 245,000 people, making it the second-most populous city in Virginia, and is filled with numerous attractions and activities for people of all ages to enjoy.
Even those who have lived in the city for a decade would agree they haven’t experienced all that Chesapeake has to offer, while for those new to the region – well, they’ve got a lot to look forward to as well.
Ready to discover the best of Chesapeake, Virginia? Let’s get started!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Chesapeake isn’t all hustle and bustle! There are also plenty of state parks and national parks both within and surrounding the area, all of which provide a tranquil escape for those looking to surround themselves by nature.
Just a 30-minute drive from Chesapeake is the popular First Landing State Park. This beachside park is Virginia’s most visited and boasts the title of National Natural Landmark, plus it’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This is because of its historical significance as the first landing place of the English colonists in 1607. Enjoy 20 miles of trails, swimming, fishing, boating, and picnicking.
Kiptopeke State Park is located on Virginia's beautiful Eastern Shore, around a 50-minute drive from the city. It offers recreational access to the Chesapeake Bay, as well as every type of accommodation you could hope for, including lodges, cabins, RV and tent camping, yurts, and a bunkhouse. You can also make use of fun recreational activities such as hiking, bicycling, swimming, boating, and fishing.
Also 50 minutes away from Chesapeake is the False Cape State Park, which can be found in the popular Back Bay region. This pristine maritime forest is located right on the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean but isn’t accessible by car. Instead, visitors must travel to the stunning natural area by foot, bicycle, beach transport, tram, or boat. The adventure is totally worth it, however, as the park offers an opportunity to experience nature in a unique, primitive setting.
Around an hour’s drive from Chesapeake, and located in North Carolina, is Merchants Millpond State Park. It’s known for its wildlife-rich swamp and hardwood forest, with both offering unique habitats for a wide range of animals. A bounty of outdoor activities await you here too, including camping, canoeing, hiking, picnicking, biking, boating, and fishing.
Just over an hour’s drive north from Chesapeake will take you to York River State Park. This park is designated as a Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, as freshwater and saltwater meet to create a rich habitat for marine and plant life. It also has historical significance, hosting fossil beds and Colonial and Native American artifacts. Recreational activities here include hiking, mountain biking, boating, fishing, picnicking, and more.
If you’re looking for fresh air and scenic views, Oak Grove Lake Park is the place to visit. The trail itself is about 2.5 miles around with benches and docks every .25 miles or so. The park amenities include picnic tables, a charcoal grill, an updated playground for the littles, and a beautiful view to enjoy during your walk around the lake. You can also go fishing or get a workout at with the strategically placed exercise stations along the trail. If you happen to get there early enough, you might be able to grab a seat by the water and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea.
Still need to get your nature fix? If you’re craving seeing even more of the beautiful scenery that surrounds Chesapeake, then there are also plenty of hiking and walking trails for you and your family to enjoy.
This 3.4 kilometer moderately trafficked loop trail is located within the popular Indian River Park in Chesapeake. It’s rated easy, so is great for all skill levels, and even takes hikers past a picturesque river. It’s accessible year-round and is primarily used for nature trips, bird watching, and mountain biking, so be on the lookout for approaching cyclists.
As mentioned above, Oak Grove Lake Park is a must-see and located within the park, the heart of Chesapeake, is the Oak Grove Lake Trail. It’s one of the most popular trails within the area, as it offers beautiful views of its namesake, Oak Grove Lake. Numerous activities are also accessible here, plus you’ll love the spectacular show of wildflowers during the spring.
Chesapeake is home to a bustling and trendy dining scene, so there’s sure to be a restaurant, café, or diner to satisfy your cravings. If you’ve worked up an appetite after a long hike, or simply feel like treating yourself to a delicacy, then you’re in luck. Here are our top restaurant recommendations!
This locally owned and operated restaurant serves some of the best seafood within the region! At Off the Hook Seafood Restaurant you can enjoy expertly prepared meals by a team of award winning chefs, with fresh produce sourced from local fishermen and farmers. Don’t miss their oysters, crab mac, or house made mojitos!
How about some Jamaican jerk barbeque to satisfy your tastebuds? Cutlass Grill is an independently owned family restaurant that provides delicious fresh cooked home style food, specializing in traditional Jamaican favorites. Enjoy jerk chicken, fried shrimp, beef brisket, and more.
Burrito Perdido is a Mexican restaurant specializing in delicious burritos, tacos, nachos, salads, and more. Perhaps what makes them extremely popular among locals and tourists alike, however, is the fact that they make everything from scratch with fresh, local, organic, and sustainable ingredients. You haven’t tasted Mexican like it!
Pop’s Diner Co has been voted “Best of the Beach” by the local community. Why? Because they pride themselves on offering a real home cooking experience, including great omelettes, grilled sandwiches, and homemade specials, in a clean and family friendly atmosphere. We hear their buttermilk biscuits and gravy are like nothing else!
Established in 1973, Chesapeake Pizza are a full service, family-oriented pizza restaurant. It has been a staple in the Great Bridge community, offering families and friends with a relaxed gathering place to enjoy delicious pizzas, pastas, subs, and salads. The family believes that high quality food preparation is what customers deserve, and they continue to strive to exceed their expectations.
There’s nothing quite like a business with a strong “why.” Mission BBQ is proud to serve those who served, and that message means a lot to our family and other locals. This restaurant offers perfectly smoked meats, soulful sides, and a hint of the American Dream. Their variety of smoked meats includes brisket (our family favorite), pulled pork, pulled chicken, sausage, turkey, ribs, and even salmon! Not sure which to pick? Order the three-meat sampler and you won’t have to. Pair any of these with some of Maggie’s mac and cheese and brisket baked beans – heaven!
After feasting and enjoying all that the hiking trails and state parks have to offer, you may be wondering: “what next?” Well, when it comes to Chesapeake’s attractions and activities, you’re only just getting started. Here are some of the most fun things on offer in and around the city!
Looking to entertain some little ones? Or perhaps you’ve got some teenagers in-tow who are starting to get a little bored? Either way, these attractions will entertain both children, teens, and adults alike!
Situated on three acres of City Park is Fun Forest, the “ultimate children's playground, imagination center and family adventure area”! It was originally built in 1995 by over 1,800 volunteers, who made many of the attractions handicapped accessible, with paved paths, slides, swings, picnic tables and benches, to accommodate wheelchairs.
If you and your family want to immerse yourselves in nature and learn more about the region’s wildlife, then Great Dismal Swamp is your go-to place. The refuge is home to over 200 species of birds, 96 species of butterflies, and at least 47 species of mammals. Additionally, you’ll find over 112,000 acres of contiguous forest and the impressive 3,100-acre Lake Drummond.
What should you do in Chesapeake once the sun goes down? We’re glad you asked! Here are our suggested night-time attractions.
How do a few games of mini golf after dinner sound? At Partees 3D Blacklight Mini Golf, you and your friends or family are guaranteed to have a fun and competitive night. This place is open until 10 P.M. each night, although after hours parties are available from 10 P.M. until 2 A.M. upon request.
Did you know the largest indoor karting track in the state is right here near Chesapeake? Enjoy real speed and real racing in their performance-tuned gas karts - all in a safety-first environment at LeMans Karting. They also have a new laser tag arena that’s ready and waiting for you. They’re open until 9 P.M on Friday and Saturday nights, so why not visit in the afternoon and enjoy hours and hours of fun?
What can you do in or around Chesapeake that won’t cost anything more than a few dollars? The answer: plenty! Here are just two of our favorite attractions within the area that can be enjoyed on the cheap.
The Chilled Ponds Ice Sports Complex might be the training facility of the Norfolk Admirals, but that doesn’t mean you too can’t ‘train’ here. The venue also offers public skating sessions for just $15 per person admission. It’s a fantastic and fun activity for all skating levels too, as you can go at your own pace.
The Great Bridge Battlefield & Waterways Foundation are responsible for preserving the nation’s history and have recently done that by erecting a 12,000 sq. building commemorating the historic importance of the Revolutionary War Battle of Great Bridge and the history of the region’s waterways. Come along and visit the history museum and visitor center to learn all there is to know!
Looking to get the most out of your time spent within the city of Chesapeake? Whether you want a fun way to waste away a Sunday afternoon or a date idea that won’t break the budget – here are our most recommended things to do in Chesapeake that won’t cost you a cent.
Located in the heart of Chesapeake is the Chesapeake Arboretum, a 48-acre “Nature's Classroom” which serves to highlight important ecological, historic, scenic and recreational lands across the state. It’s home to 8 bridges, 3 miles of hiking trails, a greenhouse,1830s farmhouse, and so much more. Best of all? It’s free to visit!
The Northwest River Park & Campground is situated on the banks of the Northwest River in Southeastern Chesapeake and is open year-round. Covering 763 acres, the park also offers several outdoor recreational activities, including boating, fishing, hiking, and ranger-programs. Additionally, you’ll find plenty of camping opportunities, as well as a 18-hole Disc golf course, miniature golf course, horseshoes, volleyball nets, and more.
Sure, the mall has plenty of big-box stores JCPenny, Macy’s, and Dillard’s, but that’s not what you’re here for. Personally, I’m fondest of small shops inside like Flashlight Barbershop for a fresh cut, SharkCity Naturals for all your homemade body butters and CBD products, and Wonder Nails if you’re looking to get pampered at an affordable price. You’ll also find an indoor arcade that serves food and drinks (alcohol included), making it fun for the fam or for a date.
Alright, by now you’ve probably been on your feet all day exploring the sights and delights that Chesapeake has to offer. If you’re craving some rest and relaxation, or even a bit of pampering, these are two of the best spas in the region.
For a local spa and salon offering affordable, yet highly rated services, a visit to Natural Elements Spa & Salon is a must. Here, you can relax, rejuvenate, and heal in a serene and nature inspired, organic environment. Enjoy treatments such as massages, facials, manicures, and so much more.
At Chesapeake’s Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa, you can expect incredible services designed to relax and rejuvenate you. Locals rave about their Swedish massage, classic facial, and hot stone massage, but there’s seriously a treatment here to suit every need!
If rejuvenation for you is less about deep relaxation and more about sweating it out, then you’re in luck. Chesapeake is home to some of the highest-rated gyms and yoga studios within the region. It’s time to get physical!
If you were to ask a local about the best gym within the region, they’ll all have one place on their lips: Onelife Fitness. Here, you can enjoy a wide variety of classes, including aqua Zumba, power dance, cycle, HIIT, barre, Pilates, bodypump, and even classes designed purely for seniors. It’s a gym where everyone feels welcome, no matter what their fitness level.
At Yoga Nook, it’s more than a place to practice yoga; It's a space to connect with others and develop your practice in a relaxed and inclusive environment. You’ll find classes designed to engage your body and mind, including rise and stretch, restorative, yin and yang, Vinyasa, prenatal yoga, and even chair yoga for those with mobility issues.
Looking to fulfill your wanderlust by heading outside of the region for a day? You could spend decades within Chesapeake without barely scratching the surface of all there is to do in this large city, but consider these day trips next time you fancy a new adventure.
Less than a 2-hour drive from Chesapeake is Richmond, the capital city of Virginia. It’s among America’s oldest cities and is filled with intriguing attractions and activities, such as the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Maymont estate, the Poe Museum, Children’s Museum of Richmond, and more.
Around a 3-3.5-hour drive from the city is Shenandoah National Park, which encompasses an area of about 300 square miles of the state’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Not only is it one of the most beautiful national parks within the country, but it’s also one of the most popular, particularly as its within a short distance to cities such as Washington D.C and Washington. Here, you can enjoy activities such as hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, fishing, horseback riding, and more.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Chesapeake that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Chesapeake? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.