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Virginia Beach Magic

This past Labor Day I had the unexpected pleasure of vacationing in Virginia Beach. Unexpected because the true intention of the trip was to attend a send-off for one of my wife's young cousins --- he enlisted with the Army. My wife did everything, arranged for the room, rented the car (a minivan - my arch nemesis of vehicles) for the very long, but manageable drive from Atlanta to Virginia Beach and bought enough snacks (including fruit) to feed a small army which is what I suppose we are. Her plan was to visit family at the appropriated times and be on the beach at every other time.

For starters the minivan was pretty amazing. Leather seats, two DVD players, wireless headphones so the movies didn't bother anyone else in the car, satellite radio, a backup camera and storage for days. Although I am pretty positive I will never own one they definitely serve a purpose.

After a fiasco of and experience leaving town we arrived at our hotel at 5am, beaten, broken and exhausted. The kids slept most of the way, of course. So imagine our terror when our daughter popped up at 8:30 am ready to go. But she was on to something. Outside on the balcony of our hotel was the beach pictured above. I went for a quick run along the boardwalk and after hunting down some food, we hit the beach.

As a man whose first beach experience was in Aruba and then since then has mostly set foot on Caribbean beaches such as St. Thomas, The Bahamas, Barbados and a couple of South American ones in Copacabana and Ipanema, Brazil, I'm a bit of a snob. I don't like cold water and I can't stand dirty water. Virginia Beach was a dream, clean, relaxing, spacious and extremely family friendly. The water was cold, but it was too hot to just lay out on the beach so I spent a lot of time in the Atlantic. An monster of an inflatable water slide was set up on the beach and I emptied out my wallet going down it with my daughter and the wife. Even though it was against my workout ethic I couldn't eat enough hotdogs and snow cones from the Boardwalk vendors.

But there was more than just the beach. We rode a four-person bike with friends who were also in town, which unfortunately for us and malfunctioning equipment, left quite a bit to be desired. We perused The Strip, frequenting candy and ice cream shops, small businesses and the local eateries. Our favorite by far was a place called The Raw Bar, an open air eatery that lived up to it's name. Excellent sea fare and excellent drinks. In the evening we enjoyed the energy of the night crowd that filled the streets for the music fest that was taking place at the time (they occur throughout the year - different genres and hosts). And then there was the Atlantic Fun Park, a permanent carnival, which gave each of us a chance to be a kid again. It wore my daughter out so she'd go to bed and stay asleep. Everyone left with something, except for me, but you heard it here first, I let my wife beat me at those games although she has a different take on what happened. It was a much needed opportunity for the two of us to relax and remember what it's like to enjoy each others company.

There was plenty more to do off the beach and the strip via museums, aquariums, boat rides with dolphins, para-sailing, etc. But there simply wasn't enough time. I suggest staying for more than four days to get it all in. Besides we had a cousin to wish well on his journey to boot camp.

This isn't a paid or sponsored post. I don't have any links to share or any disclosures to make. Just an impassioned plea. If you're married with kids, and even if you aren't, make it a point to set aside money for vacations. No matter how long it takes you to save. Make the time to take a load off, to see a different place, to partake in a different vibe and culture and to remember that life is to be enjoyed and not simply endured. And if you need some beach time and just can't get out of the country, or simply choose not to, Virginia Beach is the place to go. This wasn't my first time. But this trip made me a believer.

Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter at @EPayneTheDad.

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