Fun in the Sun: Virginia Vacations through Time
Planning a vacation in Virginia can be more difficult than you imagine—when presented with the array of amazing destinations mere hours from your doorstep, it can be a challenge to opt for just one vacation spot. Do you spend your time camping in the forested beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains? Do you stroll along battlefields once trod by the greats of Virginia history? Or, do you sail down the Chesapeake, sampling local seafood along the way? Choices, choices, choices.
Although I grew up in Maryland, my childhood summer vacations always meant a trip to Virginia Beach. I caught the beach bug early on, likely from my father, who grew up in Norfolk and had a fervent love for the beach. I’d willingly suffer through four hours of travel in the backseat of a Toyota Tercel, knowing hours of swimming, sand, and sunbathing lay ahead as my well-deserved reward. Somehow, summer didn’t seem official until I was slathered with SPF 50 and knee-deep in the surf on a stretch of beach off of 77th Street.
I wasn’t the first person to fall in love with the charms of Virginia Beach, of course; vacationers have been drawn to its coastal charms for generations. The resort area of Virginia Beach became an incorporated town in 1906, but travelers had gravitated to the area since electrification and rail service came there in the late 1880s. In the first four decades of the twentieth century, vacationers increasingly saw the town as a family-friendly destination, where they could frequent the new amusement parks and stroll along the boardwalk with their children.
The explosive growth continued after World War II; the four permanent military installations in the region meant a dramatic rise in residents, and the resort area benefited from that population boom. The development of highways and the increase in car ownership also drove up visitation to the town. Soon, visitors from across the nation were trekking to the shoreline for their summer vacations. Today, Virginia Beach boasts a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records as home to the longest pleasure beach in the world, and it rakes in more than 300 million tourism dollars yearly.
The photographs I’ve included in this post are just a few of the pieces I’ll be sharing with participants of my Behind the Scenes tour this Saturday (June 28, 2014) at the VHS. I’ve found a great selection of souvenirs, scrapbooks, postcards, maps, and other vacation-themed treasures from our collection. I hope you’ll join me this weekend for a stroll through our commonwealth’s vibrant vacation spots.
Caroline Legros is the School Program Coordinator at the Virginia Historical Society.