The Virginia Beach Boardwalk is one of the largest and most popular attractions along the Atlantic Ocean. The destination attracts thousands of visitors each year. It’s one of the more affordable places to visit along the East Coast and can be enjoyed year-round. It’s no wonder that USA Today named it the 5th best boardwalk in the U.S. in 2016.
Virginia Beach Boardwalk—Guide to Its Statues and Festivals
The Virginia Beach Boardwalk boasts many great attractions along its 3-mile span. Strolling along the boardwalk to snap some Instagram-worthy photos of the many statues and memorials and visiting during a big festival are unique ways to visit the boardwalk. Here’s a guide to those statues and festivals.
The Monuments and Statues
Strolling along the Virginia Beach Boardwalk will allow visitors to check out the monuments and statues along the way. They make for quite the set of Instagram-worthy photos. Many nautical sculptures also exist on the side streets leading to Atlantic Avenue, the main street along the ocean in Virginia Beach.
King Neptune Statue
The centerpiece of the statues along the Boardwalk is the King Neptune statue, which measures 34 feet and weighs 12 tons. It stands at the Neptune Festival Park on 31st Street entrance, welcoming visitors to the Boardwalk. As the God of the Sea holding his trident, he is surrounded by sea creatures, honoring the area’s maritime history. It’s a photo opportunity not to be missed, particularly at sunrise or sunset.
John Wareing Monument
This monument is dedicated to the local war hero and business owner, John Wareing. The bronze statue, created in 2004, stands on a granite base. Since he was the founder of Wareing’s Gym, the sculpture portrays him in a show of strength. It is located at 17th Street.
Naval Aviation Monument Park
As a significant Navy hub on the East Coast, it’s fitting the community honors that history along the Boardwalk. This monument at 25th Street was dedicated in 2006 by the Hampton Roads Squadron of the Naval Aviation Foundation.
The Monument Park features nine bronze statues depicting Navy Aviation history through three historic periods. First, visitors can wander through the very start of naval aviation and the flight of Eugene Ely circa 1910, which took place locally. Next up, the display honors the “greatest generation” during World War II. The final one shows off today’s modern force, naval aviation in the 21st century, featuring the first female combat pilot. Among the monuments exist granite storyboards sharing the naval aviation history from 1910 to the present.
Visitors can find the Norwegian Lady statue mere steps from the Naval Aviation Monument Park at 25th Street. The statue honors the shipwreck of the Dictator and stands as a remembrance to those who have perished at sea. This nine-foot-tall statue replaces the wooden female figurehead that used to sit there in the 1900s. There is a matching statue in Moss, Norway, the sister city of Virginia Beach, and a symbol of friendship.
Virginia Beach Law Enforcement Memorial
This 19-foot-high monument at 35th Street honors local law enforcement officers who lost their lives protecting the city. It was erected by the Virginia Beach Police Foundation in 2011 and features the words “honor, valor, pride, integrity, and courage etched in gold.
Navy SEAL Monument
The newest monument to explore on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk was installed in 2017, honoring the Navy SEAL program. The six-foot-tall statue of the Naked Warrior at the center highlights it at 38th Street. Unlike the other boardwalk statues, which are larger than life-sized, this one was intentionally made life-sized. Next to the Naked Warrior is sand from over 100 locations worldwide where SEALs have served and trained. The stellar 76-year-long history of the SEALs is brought to life well here.
There are also three monuments off the boardwalk: Virginia Legends Walk on 13th Street, the Tidewater Veterans Memorial to 19th Street at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, and Virginia Beach: Along the Oceanfront between 36th Street and Pacific Avenue.
Virginia Beach Boardwalk Festivals
While there are plenty of things to do on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk, attending one of the many outdoor festivals is another unique experience. Some of the largest and most popular festivals are courtesy of the Neptune Festival, a private nonprofit organization that has been helping the community celebrate beach life since 1974. They now produce over 40 events each year in the great Virginia Beach area.
Neptune’s Annual Spring Festival
One of the largest and most well-attended events is Neptune’s Annual Spring Wine Festival, which takes place annually in May. The Festival includes over 70 wine tastings from as many as eight wine regions worldwide. A ticket to the event includes a souvenir wine glass, all tastings, live music, and food for purchase from local food trucks.
Chalk the Walk
The Chalk to Walk Festival features a gathering of artists who transform the boardwalk in all sorts of images and colors. Participants draw four-by-four-foot chalk drawings across three blocks of the boardwalk. The panel of judges chooses winners based on an “out of this world” theme using various criteria such as color, composition, and creativity. Artists of all levels can participate in three categories: Amateur, Professional, and Youth. The winners receive trophies and cash prizes.
Coastal Edge East Coast Surfing Championships
This event, held annually in August, is the world’s oldest continually run surfing competition, spanning 60 years in Virginia Beach. The week-long festival also offers beach-oriented sports, recreation, and entertainment, including beach volleyball, a boardwalk 5k run, street skate and ramp contests, swimsuit contests, food and drink concessions, art and craft vendors, and live music on the beach.
Annual Neptune Festival Boardwalk Weekend
There is no more significant celebration of the Boardwalk than this signature weekend, drawing over 400,000 people from around the world. This 30-block-long celebration features concerts, wine tastings, and athletic events. 2024 will mark the 50th Anniversary of the Festival, which includes the International Sandscuplting Championship on the beach. Free concerts take place from over 20 local, regional, and national recording artists, and over 200 artisans display their work at the Art & Craft Show as part of the weekend’s festivities. The festival also includes a volleyball tournament, a parade, a regatta, and a family fun zone.
Other festivals in the Boardwalk area include Holiday Lights at the Beach in November and December, the Beach IT! Country Music Festival in June, the Atlantic Coast Kite Festival in May, and the Stars and Stripes Festival on July 4th. During the high summer season, concerts occur nightly on four stages at 7th, 17th, 24th, and 31st Streets. Many of them are free to the public.
Virginia Beach has rapidly become one of the most popular U.S. vacation destinations due in part to the popularity of the Boardwalk. The Boardwalk features a separate bike path for those visitors taking in the sights on wheels. The monuments and statues along the Boardwalk allow visitors to stroll, learn history, and capture great photos. Festivals and concerts are also a considerable part of the popularity of the Boardwalk and would be a highlight of anyone’s visit to the Virginia Beach Boardwalk.