Virginia Beach, Virginia facts for kids

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Virginia Beach, Virginia
Independent city
City of Virginia Beach
Clockwise from top left: Oceanfront beaches; King Neptune statue; Town Center skyline; Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel; Cape Henry Lighthouses
Clockwise from top left: Oceanfront beaches; King Neptune statue; Town Center skyline; Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel; Cape Henry Lighthouses
Flag of Virginia Beach, Virginia
Flag
Official seal of Virginia Beach, Virginia
Seal
Nickname(s): "The Resort City", "Neptune City"
Motto: Landmarks of Our Nation's Beginning
Location in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Location in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Country  United States of America
State  Virginia
County None (Independent city)
Incorporated (as town) 1906
Incorporated (as city) 1952
Area
 • Independent city 1,290 km2 (497 sq mi)
 • Land 640 km2 (249 sq mi)
 • Water 640 km2 (248 sq mi)
Elevation 3 m (10 ft)
Population (2015)
 • Independent city 452,745 (41st)
 • Density 352/km2 (911/sq mi)
 • Urban 1,212,000
 • Metro 1,724,876 (37th)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Area code(s) 757
FIPS code 51-82000
GNIS feature ID 1500261
Website www.vbgov.com
Virginia Sunset
Sunset in Virginia Beach.

Virginia Beach is an independent city located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 437,994. In 2015, the population was estimated to be 452,745. Although mostly suburban in character, it is the most populous city in Virginia and the 41st most populous city in the nation. Despite being larger, Virginia Beach is generally considered to be a suburb of Norfolk.

Located on the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia Beach is included in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. This area, known as "America's First Region", also includes the independent cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, as well as other smaller cities, counties, and towns of Hampton Roads.

Virginia Beach is a resort city with miles of beaches and hundreds of hotels, motels, and restaurants along its oceanfront. Every year the city hosts the East Coast Surfing Championships as well as the North American Sand Soccer Championship, a beach soccer tournament. It is also home to several state parks, several long-protected beach areas, three military bases, a number of large corporations, two universities, International headquarters and site of the television broadcast studios for Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), Edgar Cayce's Association for Research and Enlightenment, and numerous historic sites. Near the point where the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean meet, Cape Henry was the site of the first landing of the English colonists, who eventually settled in Jamestown, on April 26, 1607.

The city is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as having the longest pleasure beach in the world. It is located at the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, the longest bridge-tunnel complex in the world.

History

OcaChesepiques
A Chesepian home

The Chesepian were the historic indigenous people of the area now known as Tidewater in Virginia at the time of European encounter. Little is known about them but archeological evidence suggests they may have been related to the Carolina Algonquian, or Pamlico people. They would have spoken one of the Algonquian languages. These were common among the numerous tribes of the coastal area, who made up the loose Powhatan Confederacy, numbering in the tens of thousands in population. The Chesepian occupied an area which is now defined as the independent cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Virginia Beach.

CapeHenry
Cape Henry from the air, facing east-southeast

In 1607, after a voyage of 144 days, three ships headed by Captain Christopher Newport, and carrying 105 men and boys, made their first landfall in the New World on the mainland, where the southern mouth of the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. They named it Cape Henry, after Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of King James I of England. These English colonists of the Virginia Company of London moved on from this area, as they were under orders to seek a site further inland, which would be more sheltered from ships of competing European countries. They created their first permanent settlement on the north side of the James River at Jamestown.

Adam Thoroughgood (1604–1640) of King's Lynn, Norfolk, England is one of the earliest Englishmen to settle in this area, which was developed as Virginia Beach. At the age of 18, he had contracted as an indentured servant to pay for passage to the Virginia Colony in the hopes of bettering his life. He earned his freedom after several years and became a leading citizen of the area. In 1629, he was elected to the House of Burgesses for Elizabeth Cittie [sic], one of four "citties" (or incorporations) which were subdivided areas established in 1619.

In 1634, the Colony was divided into the original eight shires of Virginia, soon renamed as counties. Thoroughgood is credited with using the name of his home in England when helping name "New Norfolk County" in 1637. The following year, New Norfolk County was split into Upper Norfolk County (soon renamed Nansemond County) and Lower Norfolk County. Thoroughgood resided after 1634 was along the Lynnhaven River, named for his home in England.

Lower Norfolk County was large when first organized, defined as from the Atlantic Ocean west past the Elizabeth River, encompassing the entire area now within the modern cities of Portsmouth, Norfolk, Chesapeake, and Virginia Beach. It attracted many entrepreneurs, including William Moseley with his family in 1648. Belonging to the Merchant Adventurers Guild of London, he immigrated from Rotterdam of the Netherlands, where he had been in the international trade. He settled on land on the north side of the Elizabeth River (Virginia), east of what developed as Norfolk.

Following increased settlement, in 1691 Lower Norfolk County was divided to form Norfolk and Princess Anne counties. Princess Anne, the easternmost county in South Hampton Roads, extended from Cape Henry at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, south to what became the border of the North Carolina colony. It included all of the area fronting the Atlantic Ocean. Princess Anne County was known as a jurisdiction from 1691 to 1963, over 250 years.

Princessanne
Princess Anne County (1691–1963), now extinct, with Virginia Beach from 1895 Virginia map

In the early centuries, this area was rural and developed for plantation agriculture. In the late 19th century, the small resort area of Virginia Beach developed in Princess Anne County after the 1883 arrival of rail service to the coast. The Virginia Beach Hotel was opened and operated by the Norfolk and Virginia Beach Railroad and Improvement Company at the oceanfront, near the tiny community of Seatack. The hotel was foreclosed and the railroad reorganized in 1887. The hotel was upgraded and reopened in 1888 as the Princess Anne Hotel.

In 1891, guests at the new hotel watched the wreck and rescue efforts of the United States Life-Saving Service for the Norwegian bark Dictator. The ship's figurehead, which washed up on the beach several days later, was erected as a monument to the victims and rescuers. It stood along the oceanfront for more than 50 years. In the 21st century, it inspired the pair of matching Norwegian Lady Monuments, sculpted by Ørnulf Bast and installed in Virginia Beach and Moss, Norway.

The resort initially depended on railroad and electric trolley service. The completion of Virginia Beach Boulevard in 1922, which extended from Norfolk to the oceanfront, opened the route for automobiles, buses, and trucks. The passenger rail service to the oceanfront was eventually discontinued as traffic increased by vehicle. The growing resort of Virginia Beach became an incorporated town in 1906. Over the next 45 years, Virginia Beach continued to grow in popularity as a seasonal vacation spot. The casinos were replaced by amusement parks and family-oriented attractions. In 1927 The Cavalier Hotel opened and became a popular vacation spot.

Virginia Beach gained status as an independent city in 1952, although ties remained between it and Princess Anne County. In 1963, after voters in the two jurisdictions passed a supporting referendum, and with the approval of the Virginia General Assembly, the two political subdivisions were consolidated as a new, much larger independent city, retaining the better-known name of the Virginia Beach resort.

The Alan B. Shepard Civic Center ("The Dome"), a significant building in the city's history,[why?] was constructed in 1958, and was dedicated to the career of former Virginia Beach resident and astronaut Alan Shepard. As the area changed, the Dome was frequently used as a bingo hall. The building was razed in 1994 to make room for a municipal parking lot and potential future development.

VA Beach Town Center
Virginia Beach Town Center

Real estate, defense, and tourism are major sectors of the Virginia Beach economy. Local public and private groups have maintained a vested interest in real-estate redevelopment, resulting in a number of joint public-private projects, such as commercial parks. Examples of the public-private development include the Virginia Beach Convention Center, the Oceanfront Hilton Hotel, and the Virginia Beach Town Center. The city assisted in financing the project through the use of tax increment financing: creating special tax districts and constructing associated street and infrastructure to support the developments. The Town Center opened in 2003, with related construction continuing. The Convention Center opened in 2005.

The city has begun to run out of clear land available for new construction north of the Green Line, an urban growth boundary dividing the urban northern and rural southern sections of the city. Infill and development of residential neighborhoods has placed a number of operating constraints on Naval Air Station Oceana, a major fighter jet base for the U.S. Navy. While the airbase enjoys wide support from Virginia Beach at large, the Pentagon Base Realignment and Closure commission has proposed closure of Oceana within the next decade.

Geography and climate

Sunset- Waves
The Chesapeake Bay shore

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According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 497 square miles (1,290 km2), of which 249 square miles (640 km2) is land and 248 square miles (640 km2) (49.9%) is water. It is the largest city in Virginia by total area and third-largest city land area. The average elevation is 12 feet (3.7 m) above sea level. A major portion of the city drains to the Chesapeake Bay by way of the Lynnhaven River and its tributaries.

The city is located at the southeastern corner of Virginia in the Hampton Roads area bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The Hampton Roads Metropolitan Statistical Area (officially known as the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA) is the 37th largest in the United States, with a total population of 1,707,639. The area includes the Virginia cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Williamsburg, and the counties of Gloucester, Isle of Wight, James City, Mathews, Surry, and York, as well as the North Carolina county of Currituck. While Virginia Beach is the most populated city within the MSA, it actually currently functions more as a suburb. The city of Norfolk is recognized as the central business district, while the Virginia Beach oceanside resort district and Williamsburg are primarily centers of tourism.

Neighborhoods

Virginia beach from space
Virginia Beach from space

When the modern city of Virginia Beach was created in 1963, by the consolidation of the 253 square miles (660 km2) Princess Anne County with the 2 square miles (5.2 km2) City of Virginia Beach, the newly larger city was divided into seven boroughs: Bayside, Blackwater, Kempsville, Lynnhaven, Princess Anne, Pungo, and Virginia Beach.

Virginia Beach has many distinctive communities and neighborhoods within its boundaries, including: Alanton, Aragona Village, the largest sub-division in Tidewater when completed, Bay Colony, Bayside, Cape Henry, Chesapeake Beach, Croatan Beach, Great Neck Point, Green Run, Kempsville, Lago Mar, London Bridge, Lynnhaven, Newtown,The North End, Oceana, Ocean Park, Pembroke Manor, Princess Anne, Pungo, Red Mill Commons, Sandbridge, Thalia, and Thoroughgood.

Climate

The climate of Virginia Beach is humid subtropical (Köppen: Cfa). Winters are cool and snowfall is light. Summers are hot and humid. The "official" weather statistics are recorded at Norfolk International Airport on the extreme northwestern border of Virginia Beach. The mean annual temperature is 59.6 °F (15.3 °C), with an average annual snowfall of 5.8 inches (150 mm) at the airport to around 3.0 inches (76 mm) in the southeastern corner around Back Bay. Average annual rainfall is higher; between 47 inches (1,200 mm) at the airport to over 50 inches (1,300 mm) per year at Back Bay. The wettest seasons are spring and summer, although rainfall is mostly constant year round. The highest recorded temperature to date was 105 °F (41 °C) in July 2010, and the lowest recorded temperature was −3 °F (−19 °C) in January 1985, both being recorded at Norfolk International Airport.

Additionally, the geographic location of the city, with respect to the principal storm tracks, is especially favorable which is why it has earned the reputation as a vacation destination. It is south of the average path of storms originating in the higher latitudes, and north of the usual tracks of hurricanes and other major tropical storms, with the exception of Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Because of the moderating effects of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, Virginia Beach is the northernmost location on the east coast in which many species of plants will reliably grow. Spanish moss, for example is near the northernmost limit of its natural range at First Landing State Park, and is the most northerly location where it is widespread. Other plants like Sabal palmetto, Pindo Palm, Windmill Palm, Hardy Citrus, and Oleander are successfully grown here while they succumb to the colder winter temperatures to the north and inland to the west.


Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 7,793
1850 7,669
1900 11,192
1910 11,526 3.0%
1920 13,626 18.2%
1930 16,282 19.5%
1940 19,984 22.7%
1950 42,277 111.6%
1960 84,215 99.2%
1970 172,106 104.4%
1980 262,199 52.3%
1990 393,069 49.9%
2000 425,257 8.2%
2010 437,994 3.0%
Est. 2015 452,745 3.4%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000

According to the 2010 Census, the racial composition of Virginia Beach was as follows:

  • White or Caucasian: 67.7% (Non-Hispanic White: 64.5%)
  • Black or African American: 19.6%
  • American Indian: 0.4%
  • Asian: 6.1% (4.0% Filipino, 0.5% Chinese, 0.4% Indian, 0.4% Vietnamese, 0.3% Korean, 0.2% Japanese)
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 0.1%
  • Some other race: 2.0%
  • Two or more races: 4.0%
  • Hispanic or Latino (of any race): 6.6% (2.2% Puerto Rican, 1.9% Mexican, 0.3% Dominican, 0.2% Panamanian, 0.2% Salvadoran, 0.2% Cuban, 0.2% Colombian)
Race and ethnicity 2010- Virginia Beach (5559880747)
Map of racial distribution in Virginia Beach, 2010 U.S. Census. Each dot is 25 people: White, Black, Asian, Hispanic or Other (yellow)

As of the census of 2000, there were 425,257 people, 154,455 households, and 110,898 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,712.7 people per square mile (661.3/km²). There were 162,277 housing units at an average density of 653.6 per square mile (252.3/km²).

The racial makeup of the city was: 67.7% White (64.5% non-Hispanic white), 19.6% African American, 0.4% Native American, 6.1% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 2.0% from other races, and 4.0% from two or more races. 6.6% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 154,455 households out of which 38.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.7% were married couples living together, 12.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.2% were non-families. 20.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.70 and the average family size was 3.14.

The age distribution was 27.5% under the age of 18, 10.0% from 18 to 24, 34.3% from 25 to 44, 19.8% from 45 to 64, and 8.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 98.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $48,705, and the median income for a family was $53,242. Virginia Beach had the 5th highest median family income among large cities in 2003. The per capita income for the city was $22,365. About 5.1% of families and 6.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.6% of those under age 18 and 4.7% of those age 65 or over.

Religion

34.4% of the city's population is affiliated with religious congregations, compared to the 50.2% nationwide figure. There are 146,402 adherents and 184 different religious congregations in the city.

  • 28% Catholic Church
  • 14% Southern Baptist Convention
  • 13% United Methodist Church
  • 12% Charismatic Churches Independent
  • 33% Others

Culture

AdamThoroughgoodHouse1957
Adam Thoroughgood House, before 1957 restoration

The city is home to several points of interest in the historical, scientific, and visual/performing arts areas, and has become a popular tourist destination in recent years. The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art features regularly changing exhibitions in a variety of media. Exhibitions feature painting, sculpture, photography, glass, video and other visual media from internationally acclaimed artists as well as artists of national and regional renown. MOCA was born from the annual Boardwalk Art Show, which began in 1952 and is now the museum's largest fundraiser. By operating at a national standard, MOCA received accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 2010.

The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center (formerly the Virginia Marine Science Museum) is a popular aquarium near the oceanfront that features the 300,000-gallon Norfolk Canyon Aquarium, containing sand tiger, nurse and brown sharks, as well as sting rays and other large open-ocean dwellers. There is also a 70,000-gallon sea turtle aquarium, sea turtle hatchling laboratory, hands-on ocean exploration exhibits, jellyfish and octopus aquariums, and even a life-size model of a humpback whale. Other features include the Owls Creek salt marsh and a nature trail.

The Virginia Beach Amphitheater, built in 1996, features a wide variety of popular shows and concerts, ranging from Kenny Chesney to Taylor Swift to Coldplay to Ozzfest. The Sandler Center, a 1200-seat performing arts theatre, opened in the Virginia Beach Town Center in November 2007. Virginia Beach is home to many sites of historical importance and has 18 sites on the National Register of Historic Places. Such sites include the Adam Thoroughgood House (one of the oldest surviving colonial homes in Virginia), the Francis Land House (a 200-year-old plantation), the Cape Henry Lights and nearby Cape Henry Light Station (a second tower), Bayville Farm, De Witt Cottage, Ferry Farm Plantation, Dr. John Miller-Masury House, Adam Keeling House, Old Donation Church, Pembroke Manor, Pleasant Hall, Shirley Hall (Devereaux House), Thomas Murray House, U.S. Coast Guard Station (Seatack), Upper Wolfsnare, Weblin House, and Wishart Boush House, and Wolfsnare.

The Edgar Cayce Hospital for Research and Enlightenment was established in Virginia Beach in 1928 with 60 beds. Cayce was a psychic from Kentucky who claimed healing abilities and made prophesies. Cayce is known as the father of the "New Age" movement of the 1960s. Cayce resided in Virginia Beach until he died on January 3, 1945. His followers are still active in Virginia Beach. The 67th street facility features a large private library of books on psychic matters, and is open to the public. The traditional beach-architecture headquarters building features massage therapy by appointment. Atlantic University was opened by Cayce in 1930; it closed two years later but was re-opened in 1985. Atlantic University was originally intended for study of Cayce's readings and research on spiritual subjects.

The city's largest festival, the Neptune Festival, attracts 500,000 visitors to the oceanfront and 350,000 visitors to the air show at NAS Oceana. Celebrating the city's heritage link with Norway, events are held in September in the oceanfront and Town Center areas. Every August, the American Music Festival provides festival attendees with live music performed on stages all over the oceanfront, including the beach on Fifth Street. The festival ends with the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon.

Parks and recreation

Virginia Beach is home to 210 city parks, encompassing over 4,000 acres (1,600 ha), including neighborhood parks, community parks, district parks, and other open spaces. Each park is unique and offers something for everyone, from wide open spaces to playgrounds, picnic shelters, and ballfields.

Mount Trashmore Park is clearly visible from I-264 when traveling to the oceanfront. The park is 165 acres (67 ha). The hill is 60 ft (18 m) high and over 800 ft (240 m) long, and was created by compacting layers of solid waste and clean soil. It is the highest point in Virginia Beach. The park also features two lakes: Lake Windsor and Lake Trashmore. Lake Trashmore is stocked with fish, but is unsanitary to fish in. Residents can also take advantage of a skate park.

Another major park in the city is Great Neck Park, a 70 acres (28 ha) park located in the Lynnhaven District. Facilities include five large group shelters, mini-shelters, family picnic tables and grills, three playgrounds, horseshoe pits, volleyball courts, vending machines, walking trails, four baseball fields, as well as a gazebo located at the end of a scenic walkway overlooking the Lynnhaven River.

VirginiaBoardwalkEntertainment
People riding a rental surrey on the boardwalk

The Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1938, is an 8,000-acre (32 km2) fresh water refuge that borders the Atlantic Ocean on the east and Back Bay on the west. The barrier islands feature large sand dunes, maritime forests, fresh water marshes, ponds, ocean beach, and large impoundments for wintering wildfowl. It is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

First Landing State Park and False Cape State Park are both located in coastal areas within the city's corporate limits as well. Both offer camping facilities, cabins, and outdoor recreation activities in addition to nature and history tours.

Munden Point Park is a rural park located in the deep southern end of the city, right on The North Landing River. It is owned and maintained by the city of Virginia Beach. The park features five shelters, three baseball fields, a boat ramp, boat rentals, three playgrounds, six horseshoe pits, volleyball nets, and light hiking trails. An outdoor amphitheatre is fully equipped with electrical outlets and is available for reservations of weddings, outside classroom activities and other events. Restrooms, parking, vending machines, playgrounds, gardens, and barbecue grills are also available for use. Canoes, boat ramps, and disc golf courses may also be rented to go.

Additionally, the famous 3 miles (4.8 km) boardwalk at the oceanfront is often packed with fascinating entertainment, outdoor cafes, concerts and people. Made of concrete, the boardwalk links forty hotels and other attractions and has a bike path.

Naval Aviation Monument Park was formally dedicated on May 6, 2006, by the Hampton Roads Squadron of the Naval Aviation Foundation Association. Planned since 1997 in partnership with the City of Virginia Beach, the park features heroic-scale statuary and reliefs to tell the history of Naval Aviation.

Pleasure House Point is an 118 acres (48 hectares) park of undeveloped land on the shore of the Lynnhaven River. Located just south of the Lesner Bridge and the Chesapeake Bay, it includes oyster beds, wetlands and a maritime forest. The location was the site of a planned condo development that collapsed in 2008. It was acquired by the City of Virginia Beach with help from the Trust for Public Land and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in 2012. It is one of the largest undeveloped parcels of land on the Lynnhaven River and will be preserved for future generations. It is also the location of the Brock Environmental Center which provides hands-on educational programs for students to learn about the Chesapeake Bay.

Lastly, of course, are the city's abundant and ample indoor recreational facilities, which often include basketball and racquetball courts, weight and fitness training rooms, and swimming pools. These centers also play host to many special programs for children, youth and adults. The Bayside facility, for example, offers classes in yoga and pilates, as well as various types and styles of dance, not to mention seasonal offerings for young children and senior citizens.

Virginia Beach's extensive park system is recognized as one of the best in the United States. In its 2013 ParkScore ranking, The Trust for Public Land reported that Virginia Beach had the 8th best park system among the 50 most populous U.S. cities. ParkScore ranks city park systems by a formula that analyzes the city's median park size, park acres as percent of city area, the percent of city residents within a half-mile of a park, spending of park services per resident, and the number of playgrounds per 10,000 residents.

Sister cities

Virginia Beach Sister Cities are:

In popular culture

In 2015, in honor of the game's 80th birthday, Hasbro held an online vote in order to determine which cities would make it into an updated version of the Monopoly Here and Now: The US Edition of the game. Virginia Beach, Virginia received the fourth highest number of votes in the online contest, earning it a green spot on the board. The top Boardwalk spot went to Pierre, South Dakota.

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