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Virginia Beach holds the Guinness world record for “the longest pleasure beach in the world” and is one of the most popular vacation spots along the mid-Atlantic coastline. A little further north in Delaware lies Rehoboth Beach, nicknamed “The Nation’s Summer capital,” a popular resort town among D.C. natives renowned for its 5-star water quality. Both of these beloved beach towns offer dynamic, bustling boardwalks and fantastic fresh seafood: but which city best meets your vacation needs?
Virginia Beach is a cheaper and busier beachfront locale and is better for a vacation in offering more variety as far as activities and amenities; Rehoboth Beach is a quaint, walkable LGBTQ-friendly seaside town and is regularly ranked as one of the best places for family beach vacations.
|Category||Virginia Beach||Rehoboth Beach|
|Cost of Stay: Weekly (USD)||$721||$1,924|
|Things to See & Do||Beach and boardwalk, Sandbridge Beach, Military & Aviation Museum, Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art||Variety of beaches (including gay-friendly options), restaurant eateries and shops, Tanger Outlets|
|Family Fun||Virginia Aquarium and Marine Center, Adventure Park||Funland Beach Amusement Park, Jungle Jim’s|
|Outdoor Activities||First Landing State Park, Fishing, Parasailing||Cape Henlopen State Park, Gordon’s Pond|
|Eat & Drink||Blue’s Seafood & Spirits, Tautog’s Restaurant, Waterman’s Surfside Grille||Dogfish Head Brewery, Grotto Pizza, Nicola Pizza|
|Weather||Hot and humid summers, mild winters with infrequent precipitation||Steamy summers, cooler winters|
|Transportation||Car, Trolley, shuttle, Uber/Lyft, bike rentals, walking||Walking, car rental, Uber/Lyft|
Cost of Stay
On average, a weeklong Virginia Beach vacation will cost about $721 per person. Prices for accommodation range from $59 to $118 a night, while the average cost for an Airbnb or vacation rental is around $153 a night.
Rehoboth Beach is significantly more expensive, averaging about $1,924 per person for one week. Rentals will cost $240 to $720 per night for an entire home, though the price can be mitigated by reserving a house with a large group.
Hotels in the area range from $66 on the low end to $300 per night, with the average rate being $91. A summer hot spot on the Atlantic coast, seasonal rentals fill up rapidly, making it a good idea to reserve weeks or even months in advance.
Things to See & Do
The hub of activity in Virginia Beach is the beach and boardwalk, which offer lots of unique attractions and dining options. Individuals looking for a quieter beach experience will enjoy Sandbridge Beach. The Military Aviation Museum is a popular cultural highlight, as is the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art.
Similar to VA Beach, the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk is the centerpiece of the town. Renowned for its LGBTQ-friendly nature, two gay-friendly beaches are located in the area: Poodle Beach is a favorite among gay men, while lesbians frequent the North Shores Beach. Many popular restaurants and shops peruse, many of them owned by members of the LGBTQ community.
A boardwalk staple since 1963, the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand offers live entertainment during the summer months. Visitors in need of retail therapy will enjoy the proximity of the Tanger Outlets, just 2.5 miles outside of the city.
Visiting families should add the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center to their list; they have an Adventure Park in the same pavilion, an aerial obstacle course with zip lines, and treetop swings offering excitement for all ages.
Many Rehoboth Beach standby caters to families. Funland Beach Amusement Park, a boardwalk staple since 1961, offers rides, games, a haunted house, and an arcade. Jungle Jim’s is another popular amusement park, a “river safari water park” offering go-kart rides and bumper boats on the main strip.
Virginia Beach is home to 210 city municipal parks, including First Landing State Park, the first state park established in Virginia. Aside from beachside lounging, popular maritime sports include fishing and parasailing.
Close to Rehoboth Beach lies Cape Henlopen State Park, a more secluded beachfront area known for its swimming, fishing, and hiking opportunities. Take the trailhead to Gordon’s Pond for a coastal scenic overlook and optimal birdwatching.
Eat & Drink
With Virginia being known as the oyster capital of the East Coast, Virginia Beach benefits from the aquatic harvest of the Chesapeake Bay, an area known to produce some of the best seafood on the Eastern Seaboard. Regional favorites include crab cakes, fried shrimp, and she-crab soup, and US News recommends Blue Seafood & Spirits, Tautog’s Restaurant, and Waterman’s Surfside Grille as top traveler picks for fresh seafood fare.
While seafood is also popular in Rehoboth Beach, it’s not their only focus. Dogfish Head’s flagship brewery lies on the main strip along Rehoboth Avenue, featuring dressed-up pub grub and wood-fired pizzas paired with some of the finest craft beer in the country; Grotto Pizza and Nicola Pizza are popular hometown favorites as well.
Virginia Beach has hot and humid summers and mild winters with scant precipitation. The best time to visit is from late spring to early fall—the peak season begins in late May and ends in early September.
Virginia Beach remains a popular tourist destination in part thanks to its serendipitous location, a city too southerly for storms born further up the coast (like Nor’Easters) and just far enough north to avoid the traditional path of southern scourges like hurricanes and tropical storms.
Like VA Beach, Rehoboth Beach has hot, steamy summers and colder winters. The ideal time to visit is between May and August, when temperatures usually linger somewhere in the mid to upper 80s. You’ll find the best deals when heading into the shoulder season after Labor Day, with the city is less crowded and steep summer holiday prices decline. The weather is still pleasant this time of year, ranging from the high 50s to high 70s (about 14 to 26°C).
The most efficient way to get around Virginia Beach is by car, though parking can be hard to come by in the peak seasons. If staying downtown, it’s probably easiest to just hoof it, with the option of bike rentals and trolley rides available when necessary.
Visit Virginia Beach asserts that trolleys and shuttles are the best way to see and take advantage of all the city’s tourist amenities. You’ll want to check schedules ahead of your visit, as some of these services are only available during the summer season.
Cabs and rideshare services like Uber and Lyft also operate throughout the city. For those planning to arrive by air, Norfolk International Airport is the closest hub, about a half-hour’s drive from the city.
Although you’ll need a car to get to Rehoboth Beach, the city itself is just one square mile–as such, the best vehicle available will often be your own two feet. If you want to venture to sites outside of the downtown area (like Cape Henlopen State Park or the Tanger Outlets), you’ll need to drive or call a cab.
The closest airport is the Salisbury-Ocean City Wicomico Regional Airport, just over an hour away, though it offers limited service. About equidistant from Rehoboth Beach lie the larger hubs of the Philadelphia International Airport and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport—two-hours north and two hours and 20 minutes west, respectively.
Both perennially popular summer getaways, it all depends on what vacation experience you’re seeking. Virginia Beach is best for those looking to enjoy a more budget-friendly getaway with exceptional seafood and more general variety. At the same time, Rehoboth Beach proves attractive for its inclusiveness, walkability, and many family-friendly offerings.