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    Virginia Beach,

    Virginia

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    Virginia Beach is an independent city located on the southeastern coast of the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. The population was 459,470 as of the 2020 census. Although mostly suburban in character, it is the most populous city in Virginia and the 43rd-most populous city in the nation. Located on the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia Beach is the largest city 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, military bases, a number of large corporations, Virginia Wesleyan University and Regent University, the 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, which was the world's longest bridge-tunnel complex until the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge opened in 2018.
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    Inspiration

    Cruise Along These Holiday Lights Drive-Throughs Across The U.S.

    As the current pandemic is changing how we celebrate the 2020 holiday season, the tradition of seeing public holiday lights displays at night can now be done from the safety of your car. From readapted walking tours to first-time happenings or continuing events, here are holiday lights drive-throughs around the U.S. to take a ride-along. Check their websites for tickets and health and safety protocols before attending. New England Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay has reimagined its annual Gardens Aglow as a drive-through event happening now through Jan. 2. The gardens will still dazzle with over 650,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights depicting trees, animals, flowers, and other delights. Plus, they’ve all been designed by the gardens’ staff. Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, R.I. is hosting its first Drive-Through Holiday Lights Spectacular now through Jan. 10. The inaugural spectacular features festive larger-than-life luminous displays and over 1.5 million illuminated lights. Now through Jan. 2, the Magic of Lights at the Toyota Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Conn. is presenting the latest LED technology and digital animations in this holiday experience. Now through Jan. 3, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Concord is holding the “Gift of Lights,” a 2.5-milelong drive-through show with 3.5 million lights, a new 150-foot RGB Tunnel of Lights, and characters from popular children’s books. There are also fan-favorite displays, including the 12 Days of Christmas scene. Hershey Sweet Lights, presented by T-Mobile. Mid-Atlantic “Wegmans Lights on the Lake” at Onondaga Lake Park in Liverpool, N.Y. is happening now through Jan. 10, and is a two-mile route featuring towering holiday displays, a larger-than-life land of Oz, twinkling fantasy forest, Victorian villages and a variety of animated scenes. Located down the road from Pennsylvania’s Hersheypark Christmas Candylane, ”Hershey Sweet Lights presented by T-Mobile” is happening now through Jan. 3 and consists of two miles of fields and wooded trails decorated with nearly 600 illuminated, animated displays created from about two million LED lights. Through Jan. 3, “Bayport Credit Union Holiday Lights at the Beach” is Virginia Beach Boardwalk’s festive nautical holiday lights display featuring festive fish, musical crabs, and elves join a surfing Santa and a new 40-foot dancing Christmas tree. Southeast At Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., “Speedway Christmas” is happening now through Jan. 17 and has more than four million LED lights in displays along a 3.75-mile stretch. This event also has holiday movies shown on a large HDTV screen Thursdays through Sundays. For an additional fee, attendees can skate on a 5,400-square-foot ice rink; mask-wearing is required. In Columbia, S.C., the South Carolina State Fair is putting on “Carolina Lights” at Lexington Medical Center Fair Park at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds now through Dec. 27. More than 100 individual LED light displays along a mile-plus stretch including a nativity scene and a 25-foot-tall Frosty the Snowman. In Savannah, the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens’ “December Nights & Holiday Lights” has been turned into a drive-through event, on now through Christmas Eve. Now through Jan. 2, “Jax Illuminations” will feature two mega trees, a 300-foot tunnel of lights and custom Christmas scenes at the Morocco Shrine Center in Jacksonville, Fla. Through Jan. 2, the Pinnacle Speedway in Lights at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee spread across a four-mile route illuminated by more than 2 million lights among 250 displays. In Nashville, at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, the Jingle Beat is designed by the same artists and local creatives that behind some of the music industries biggest tours. This light show is helping to support the local music industry that has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Southern Lights Holiday Festival at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington is a three-mile driving tour full of a lot of twinkling lights, happening now through New Year’s Eve. “Santa Claus Land of Lights” at the Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort. Photo by Eric Scire. Mid-West Billed as Central Ohio’s largest drive-through Christmas light show, Wonderlight's Christmas at the National Trail Raceway in Hebron is now through Jan. 3. It has over one million LED lights synchronized to traditional and contemporary Christmas music played through your own car stereo. “Santa Claus Land of Lights” at the Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort in the (fittingly called) Santa Claus, Ind. happens now through Dec. 27. The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is depicted through lighted displays and storyboards. Now through Jan. 3, “Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum” in Lisle, Ill. has guests remaining in their cars and tuning to a synced musical soundtrack while driving nearly two miles among the Arboretum’s trees. The Wisconsin Christmas of Carnival Lights in Caledonia, 20 minutes south of Milwaukee at Jellystone Park™ Camp-Resort, features over two million twinkling lights on an over 1.6-mile path. Now through New Year’s Eve, the show allows attendees to experience lights on all sides, with displays ranging from forest friends and reindeer to Santa and his elves. South-West “Lights of Joy” in Branson, Mo. is located off of the Shepherd of the Hills Expressway and contains more than 300 displays with over one million twinkling LED lights throughout this 1.2-mile drive. The Automobile Alley Art Light Display in Oklahoma City has colorful LED lights covering buildings on eight blocks of North Broadway and district side streets. Various shops and restaurants will also feature window displays. The event is part of Downtown in December and runs now through Jan. 31. “Gift of Lights” at Fort Worth’s Texas Motor Speedway now through Jan. 3 is made up of over one million twinkling lights that people can see from their own cars. Lights at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Photo by Gabe Ginsberg West “Christmas in Color” at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo. is having drivers cruising along more than 1.5 million lights perfectly synchronized to holiday music heard through your car radio. Drive by giant candy canes, snowmen and more now through January 3. The Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s “Glittering Lights” features more than five million LED lights intertwining throughout a 2.5-mile course through the speedway, through Jan. 10. The Phoenix Zoo’s Cruise ZooLights can be seen from your car now through Jan. 31, with millions of twinkling lights and dazzling animal sculptures from the comfort of your vehicle. Now through Jan. 2, “Holidays in Your Car” is taking place both at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego and Ventura County Fairgrounds, with more than 1 million LED lights and some fixtures standing at 40 feet tall.

    Inspiration

    Outdoor holiday celebrations around the United States

    It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and many parts of our country are feeling festive despite the pandemic. If you are still cautious, or on the fence, or simply prefer an outdoor experience, this list is for you! Here are a few places around the U.S. where you can get into the holiday spirit outdoors and admire holiday decorations and lights from walking paths. Here’s where to celebrate the holidays this year— remember to check out our private booking platform with discounted rates! Northeast New York City, New York The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will be lit daily from from 6am-12am. On Christmas Day, the Tree is lit for 24 hours and on New Year’s Eve it is lit from 6am to 9pm. New Hampshire The 2.5-mile drive-through light show at the New Hampshire Speedway in Loudon features 400 different lighting displays with snow-covered mountains in the background. Woodstock, Vermont Celebrate the holidays Victorian style at Billings Farm & Museum, where you can try your hand at candle dipping, watch traditional holiday cooking demonstrations, create your own gingerbread ornaments—or just head straight to the onsite Dairy Bar for cider donuts. Mid-Atlantic Maryland At Ocean City, Maryland's Winterfest of Lights guests can explore zillions of sparkling holiday lights, animated light displays, and a 50-foot holiday tree on display along a paved path in Northside Park. The Annmarie Sculpture Garden is transformed into an outdoor wonderland until January 1st with many light sculptures of wild animals, winter wonderlands, musical holiday scenes, and magical beings. Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia The White House isn’t the only place in the nation's capital that’s getting in on the holiday spirit. Civilians can enjoy the undeniable festive energy in the District through New Year’s Day by visiting the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The National Menorah will be lit throughout Hanukkah. About 25 minutes away in Vienna, Virginia, celebrate the season at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens’ Winter Walk of Lights. Stroll the one-way half-mile path full of holiday lights and festive decorations, admire the Fountains of Lights and watch as the “sing to me” tree’s lights dance along with all your favorite holiday tunes. Timed tickets must be purchased online ahead of time and are available on a limited basis. Roanoke, Virginia Treat yourselves to a lovely half-mile walk through the woods, toast marshmallows around the fire, shop for presents at the Artisan Christmas Market, donate canned goods to help others, meet Santa and his elves, and feast your eyes on more than 500,000 lights during the Illuminights Winter Walk of Lights at Explore Park. Purchase timed tickets online or by phone to access this event. Virginia Beach, Virginia Head to Virginia Beach for a unique beach-themed holiday lights display. At the Holiday Lights at the Beach, you’ll drive on the Atlantic Ocean boardwalk that has been transformed into a nautical lights display, including a surfing Santa. Southeast Aiken, South Carolina Enjoy more than two miles of beautifully lit paths with over 100,000 lights and holiday decorations at Christmas in Hopelands Gardens. This year, the colorful displays will be lit up all December long to help keep spirits bright. The Christmas Craft show features handmade crafts and goodies made by talented artisans from across the Southeast. There is sure to be something for everyone’s style, taste, and budget. The Christmas Craft Show is also a great place to shop for your holiday gifts and décor. South Walton, Florida If you’re in the Florida panhandle, don’t miss 12 Nights of Lights at The Village of Baytowne Wharf, located about halfway between Pensacola and Panama City Beach in South Walton. Enjoy a festive light show every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday leading up to Christmas! This sparkling event will also be featured during our special holiday edition of the Wednesday Night Concert Series. Watch three dazzling shows each night! Houston, Texas The Space Center in Houston is hosting Galaxy Lights, a technological holiday celebration featuring kinetic light shows, choreographed light and music sequences, an interactive light pad, a large light tunnel and the chance to see a film about astronauts celebrating the holidays in space, among other themed attractions. Galaxy Lights requires its own tickets, which can be purchased online, and takes about 90 minutes to fully enjoy. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee Dolly Parton’s Dollywood features an award-winning spectacle, set in the backdrop of the Smoky Mountains. The festival features over 5 million lights, and even include fireworks this year. Midwest Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin Visit the Tree of Light, a 55-foot silver maple tree decked out in 30,000 lights near the River Walk in Wisconsin Dells. As the holiday season kicks off, Wisconsin Dells will deliver a little extra cheer again this year with one of the biggest and brightest displays of all. In the open-air located off the River Walk in downtown Wisconsin Dells, a towering 55-foot silver maple tree will showcase 30,000 dazzling points of light, making it the only – and we mean only – light display of its kind in the Midwest. Stroll along the River Walk and view additional lighting in the form of 70 holiday trees, all sponsored by area businesses. Indiana The Santa Claus Land of Lights is a 1.2 mile Drive-Through Family Christmas Light Adventure located inside Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort. Enjoy the largest campground holiday light show in North America and the only light show that tells a story in lights and storyboards! Create new family memories and family traditions this Christmas Season at the Santa Claus Land of Lights – Family Christmas Light Adventure! For more themed light displays cruise through The Christmas Lake Village Festival Lights. The gated community of Christmas Lake Village invites you to drive through nine miles of festive light displays! Awards for Judges’ Favorite, Kids’ Favorite, Reason for the Season, and Best Lights will be awarded to four homes. Cheyenne, Wyoming Celebrate the holiday season Western-style this year in Cheyenne, where you can get your letter to Santa stamped by an Elf and see the mail get picked up by a Pony Express rider, visit holiday horses at Santa’s Saloon and Stables, hear Cowboy Carolers sing and meet Mr. Claus by the fire at Kringle Ranch, part of an event by the Little America Hotel & Resort. Check the calendar for more Old West holiday festivities happening through December 31. West Sonoma County, California Cue that legendary piano music and celebrate trees of all shapes and sizes all December long at Windsor’s annual Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Grove. This year, more than 200 trees were decorated by neighborhood families, classes, small businesses and community groups for you to enjoy on a socially distanced stroll through Windsor Town Green. San Luis Obispo, California Don’t miss San Luis Obispo’s annual Light Up Downtown event, the region’s destination for making holiday memories for more than 40 years. This year, they will feature the return of our annual Holiday Parade, Santa's House, and the Classic Carousel. Explore and celebrate local businesses and check out the lights, sights, and family fun in the Holiday Plaza! Nevada The Polar Express in Carson City, Nevada drive-through lights experience is operating until Christmas Eve. The brilliant light show will feature Santa, Mrs. Claus, and dozens of elves busy at work as they prepare for Christmas. Guests are encouraged to wear their favorite holiday pajamas and bring hot chocolate as they travel through the North Pole experience. Hawai’i Get into the Mele Kalikimaka spirit at the 25th anniversary of Kauai’s Festival of Lights. The displays use recycled and reclaimed materials at the Historic County Building park and can be enjoyed until New Year’s Day. Millions of colorful lights illuminate the park’s looming coconut palm trees wrapped in colorful lights as well as upcycled decorations including aluminum can flowers and water bottle butterflies. Arizona Make the best of the holidays at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. The gardens offer a dash of holiday magic with 8,000 hand-lit luminaria bags and thousands of white twinkle lights. Las Noches de las Luminarias includes pre-recorded carols to enjoy during the experience. In Lake Havasu City experience London Bridge Resort's Festival of Lights—the Bridgewater Channel is lit up with over 500,000 lights that set the water aglow and spark the holiday spirit.

    Inspiration

    Best spots for fall foliage in the South and Mid-Atlantic

    SOUTH and MID-ATLANTIC Alabama Close to Birmingham, Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham with 50 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, with prime fall foliage viewing spots at Peavine Overlook and Peavine Falls. The Cheaha State Park is jam packed with woodlands, thanks to being both surrounded by the Talladega National Forest and nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Arkansas In the northern Arkansas, the Ozark National Forest gets colorful usually from October through early November and links to the Scenic 7 Byway, while St. Francis National Forest is smaller in size but known for its finest bottom-land hardwood. The Talimena National Scenic Byway goes to Queen Wilhelmina State Park in Mena and contains Rich Mountain, Arkansas’ second highest peak. ©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock Georgia Protecting more than 6,000 acres around Dukes Creek, Smithgall Woods State Park in Helen is perfect for fall fly fishing and picnicking near the creek. In Northwest Georgia, Cloudland Canyon State Park offers easy-to-reach rim overlooks and challenging hiking trails; the five-mile West Rim Loop is moderately difficult but offers great canyon views. Maryland Western Maryland’s Deep Creek Lane has 69 miles of shoreline for viewing fall foliage. At Elk Neck State Park in North East, walk up inside the Turkey Point Lighthouse and gaze down at the 100-foot bluff at Elk Neck Peninsula’s southern tip. Or see trees up close via the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, a scenic byway paralleling the Potomac River. New Jersey High Point State Park in Sussex is where on a clear autumn day, visitors can see 80 miles of fall colors with a panorama of rich farmland and forest, soft hills, and lush valleys across three states. For scenic hikes through a shaded hemlock ravine, Hacklebarney State Park in Long Valley is one of the Garden State’s undiscovered treasures. North Carolina Southeast of Asheville, Chimney Rock State Park reportedly sees its lower elevations make this area one of the last to reach its peak colors in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In mid-October, the Cradle of Forestry in Pisgah National Forest in Western N.C. hits its colorful prime. South Carolina Congaree National Park in Columbia has largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern U.S.; kayak or canoe along the Cedar Creek waterway. In Pickles, Table Rock State Park fits the bill for natural fall beauty, between October and November, with the opportunity to hike to its namesake mountain. A winding road through the Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Credit: Tennessee Tourism. Tennessee In 2017, Tennessee developed the first scenic viewers to help those with red-green color deficiency take in the full beauty of the fall. There are currently 12 scenic viewers at overlooks and parks throughout the state, including the I-26 Westbound Scenic Overlook and Highway 111-Sequatchie Valley. View the full list at www.TNfallcolor.com. Texas Lost Maples State Natural Area takes its name from several isolated stands of Uvalde bigtooth maples, plus hold walnut, sycamore, and red and lacy oaks. The park’s website lists a foliage report, updated weekly October through November. East of El Paso, Guadalupe Mountains National Park’s McKittrick Canyon shelters stands of bigtooth maple, Texas madrones, walnut, ash, and grey and chinquapin oaks, plus desert sumac shrubs, for blasts of bright red, yellow, and orange. ©OGphoto/Getty Images Virginia Virginia Beach’s First Landing State Park provides canopies of color for strolling along, while Shenandoah National Park, which is 75 miles from Washington, D.C., entices with its 105-mile Skyline Drive and plentiful hiking trails. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson National Forests are a massive unit, with over 1.66 million acres and over 2,200 miles of trails plus 23 federally designated wildernesses within mountainous terrain ranging in elevation, topping at the 5,729-foot Mount Rogers.

    Inspiration

    Spend some time on the sand watching these beach web cams

    With beachside vacations being put on hold with coronavirus-related closures, there’s an alternative way to access sand and surf – right from your screen. Across United States, the nation’s beaches are being represented on screen from coast to coast. Embrace these picturesque views across the United States through these web cams. In California, view Doran Beach in Bodega Bay’s Doran National Park in Sonoma County beach. Torrance Beach’s webcam captures this 1.5 mile stretch of sand. Meanwhile in Monterey County, the Tickle Pink Inn in Carmel keeps a camera’s eye on the Big Sur Coastline. In San Diego, the landmark Hotel del Coronado shows off its sandy scene online. On Visit California’s website, take a 360 degree VR experience along California’s North Coast Beaches; catch more of the Golden State’s beaches through LiveBeaches.com. Wisconsin’s Madeline Island, the largest of the state’s Apostle Islands, is home to the two-mile Big Bay Beach along with Big Bay State Park. In South Carolina, see different parts of Myrtle Beach through this EarthCam plus Edisto Beach on Edisto Island can be seen through video too. In Virginia Beach, view various filming angles of this coastal city, including its boardwalk, along with the waterside community of Sandbridge. The Wildwoods, NJ lights up with nine cameras throughout this five-mile island capturing its boardwalks and beaches. Also, find different feeds of the Jersey Shore beaches, from Asbury Park to Atlantic City and Cape May. Other Jersey beaches range from Jenkinson’s Point Pleasant Beach to Bay Head. Long Island, New York has live cameras on locations, including Long Beach, with its 2.2-mile boardwalk; Main Beach in East Hampton; Coopers Beach in Southampton; and Fire Island. Florida has their beaches covered and can be seen through the Visit Florida website. However, their respective regions are also showing their sand off. Paradise Coast is experiencing cameras across Naples and Marco Island, while The Palm Beaches have their eight beach cams collectively on one website; Florida Keys and Key West have a wide variety of water and beach view web cams. Also in Florida, South Walton is streaming Alys Beach and Grayton Beach and Grayton Dunes in Grayton Beach State Park. Pensacola Beach can be screened with east, west and south views. St. Pete/Clearwater through four live beach webcams of Clearwater Beach, Indian Rocks Beach and two different views of St. Pete Beach. Or check out Miami's sand scene with these beach cams.

    Budget Travel Lists

    10 Affordable Alternatives to This Summer’s Top Destinations

    Summer is approaching at a rapid clip, which means vacation-planning is in full force. And when it comes to booking hotels, flights, and the rest, value-hunting is the name of the game. According to TripAdvisor’s newly released 2019 Summer Vacation Value Report, you can score excellent hotel deals in the most popular destinations in the U.S. But those serious about saving will appreciate the study’s key finding: alternative options to the summer’s hotspots. The Most Popular Destinations from Coast to Coast The top picks will come as no surprise: Orlando, Las Vegas, and Myrtle Beach nabbed the highest three spots, followed by Maui, New York City, Key West, and New Orleans. Ocean City, San Diego and Virginia Beach finished off the list. The destinations were determined by a survey of more than 3,500 travelers, conducted in May. According to a TripAdvisor spokesperson, 92% of members are planning summer trips, up 12 percent from last year. Broadly speaking, the survey revealed that 48 percent of U.S. travelers this summer will vacation as a couple and 37 percent will travel as a family. The average length of a trip is one week. Appealing Alternatives According to the survey, straying just a little—but not too much—off the crowded paths can save you up to 38 percent on hotel prices. Orlando, the number-one summer destination, has hotel rooms averaging about $216 per night, but prices in Kissimmee, located about 23 miles south, clock in around $137. Las Vegas, which boasts some of America’s lowest hotel rates at an average of $167, is bested by Reno, where rooms can be had for about $144. Myrtle Beach prices hover around $250 while rooms in Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina’s Outer Banks are a cool $200. Thinking about Maui? Try Oahu instead, where seasonal hotel prices are about $200 lower than the Hawaiian hotspot’s $533. And if New York City has your heart but your wallet calls the shots, check out Philly, where prices average $258, a great deal compared to NYC’s $329. To round out the list, Key Largo is cited as the alternative to Key West, Miami is a good second-choice to New Orleans; Nags Head, North Carolina, should be your go-to if Ocean City rates are too high; hotel prices in Mammoth Lakes top San Diego's; and Williamsburg, Virginia is more affordable in the summertime than Virginia Beach.For travel inspiration, know-how, deals, and more, sign up for Budget Travel's free e-newsletter.

    Inspiration

    5 Pride Events That Prove Virginia is for All Lovers

    (Courtesy Joey Wharton) Travelling to Virginia this year? If you’re anything like us, you’ll be trying to fill your itinerary with the best festivals in the region. Since Virginia hosts an extraordinary array of events year-round, we decided to narrow our search down to what we all know to be the best party of the year: Pride. Whether you’re looking for low-key community vibes and scenic escapes or dance parties, drag shows, and urban raucousness, these five events have got you covered. Just be sure to snap a selfie with one of the many LOVE photo ops scattered throughout the state while you’re there. 1. HAMPTON ROADS PRIDE WEEK (Courtesy Wirt Confroy) Dates: June 21-30, 2018 Location: Town Point Park, Norfolk Travelling during Pride month? Check out Hampton Roads PrideFest, which is celebrating 30 years of Pride this June. This festival is prefaced by an entire week of events covering everything from a Drag Brunch, to a beach concert, to a Pride Block Party on Friday night. And of course, it all culminates with PrideFest on Saturday. At PrideFest, partygoers gather for the country’s only Pride Boat Parade—a fitting event considering Norfolk’s 300-year maritime history. Watch the parade from shore or party on board the American Rover three-masted sailing schooner. Aside from Pride, visiting Hampton Roads in the summer also guarantees a glimpse at Virginia’s coastal culture. Whether you want to bask in the sun and white sands of Virginia Beach or discover nearby Colonial Williamsburg, festival season offers the perfect opportunity to explore. 2. SHENANDOAH VALLEY PRIDE FESTIVAL Date: July 21, 2018 Location: Court Square, Harrisonburg Next up is Shenandoah Valley Pride Festival, located in picturesque Harrisonburg. This event is smaller than the Hampton Roads PrideFest, taking place on one Saturday afternoon, but don’t let its size fool you: this festival showcases local music and vendors, attracts more than 3,000 visitors each year, and has a positive community vibe—not surprising, given Harrisonburg’s charming reputation. Once you’ve gotten your festival fix, head to Harrisonburg’s vibrant downtown district, which is home to the commonwealth’s first Arts and Culture and Culinary Districts. There’s no shortage of adorable boutiques and locally sourced meals in the area, so whether you’re craving a mouth-watering cheesesteak or creative cocktails, this city’s got you covered. While in the region, take a trip to Shenandoah National Park. A VA bucket-list must, this park is home to 300 square miles of stunning valley views and woodland trails, including the 105-mile-long Skyline Drive. If you’re staying overnight, there’s a ton of camping throughout the park; for a more upscale experience, book a room at the rustic Big Meadows Lodge. 3. 7th ANNUAL CHARLOTTESVILLE PRIDE FESTIVAL (Courtesy Jacob RG Canon) Dates: Sept. 8-15, 2018 Location: Charlottesville Just south of Harrisonburg you’ll find the city of Charlottesville, which provides an escape into the land of golf and wine. A small city (the kind where everyone knows your name), Charlottesville is known for its gay-friendly reputation, offering a wide range of resources, events, and support for the LGBTQ community. Last year, Charlottesville drew over 8,000 partygoers to its week-long celebration of sex positivity. This year, Cville Pride Festival will include a variety of events such as the Miss Gay Charlottesville pageant, film screenings, and drag and musical performances. In terms of where to stay, look no further than Montfair Resort Farm. Located 15 miles outside of Charlottesville, this sprawling property includes nine quaint, eco-friendly cottages (such as Holly Cottage) that offer a romantic vacation experience for every couple. 4. PETERSBURG PRIDE AND PROUD FESTIVAL Date: Sept. 16, 2018 Location: DJ’s Rajun Cajun, Petersburg The Petersburg Pride and Proud Festival is all about grassroots community, so if you’re jonesing for an intimate, community-driven Pride party, this is the one for you. Launched in 2017 by David “DJ” Payne, owner of DJ’s Rajun Cajun, this festival celebrates the strength and support of Petersburg’s LGBTQ community. The festival will be followed by the Out & Proud After Party at Benny’s Tavern. While in Petersburg, book a day to explore the art, architecture, and boutiques of Old Towne, a neighborhood well-loved by film makers for its cobblestone streets and historical sites. Stay at the Omni Richmond Hotel for an elegant Southern experience in a modern setting. 5. VA PRIDEFEST (Courtesy Joey Wharton) Date: Sept. 22, 2018 Location: Brown’s Island, Richmond Last but certainly not least, VA PrideFest is the largest annual celebration of the LGBTQ community in the commonwealth. Organized by Virginia Pride, the 39th annual VA PrideFest expects over 30,000 attendees this year. This festival always attracts a ton of outstanding local vendors and musicians to entertain the masses, making the event an epic party not to be missed. To add to its status as a top LGBTQ travel destination, Richmond will also play host to the state’s first Black Pride festival this year from July 20-22. If you do happen to visit during VA PrideFest, check out the Quirk Hotel’s Pride weekend packages. When you’re making your way through the country’s Pride events this year, be sure to include Virginia on your list of stops. This naturally beautiful state will be throwing 13 of the liveliest and most welcoming Pride events around this year (nearly double last year’s number!), which serve as the perfect jumping off point for exploring Virginia’s charming, historic cities. For more information on other events and LGBTQ-friendly places to stay, check out Virginia Tourism’s website. ____ This article is sponsored content paid for by Virginia is for Lovers. Love is one voice that speaks to us all. And love is here — just waiting for you to find it.

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    DESTINATION IN Virginia

    Norfolk

    Norfolk ( (listen) NOR-fuuk) is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. At the 2020 census, the population was 238,005, making it the third-most populous city in Virginia after neighboring Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, and the 91st-largest city in the nation. The city was incorporated in 1705 and is one of the oldest cities in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area, and is considered to be the historic, urban, financial, and cultural center of the region. Norfolk is at the core of the metropolitan area, surrounding the Hampton Roads natural harbor at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. It is one of nine cities and seven counties that constitute the Hampton Roads metro area, officially known as the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA. The city is bordered to the west by the Elizabeth River and to the north by the Chesapeake Bay. It also shares land borders with the independent cities of Chesapeake to its south and Virginia Beach to its east. As the city is bordered by multiple bodies of water, Norfolk has many miles of riverfront and bayfront property, including beaches on the Chesapeake Bay. The coastal zones are important for the economy. The largest naval base in the world, Naval Station Norfolk, is located in Norfolk along with one of NATO's two Strategic Command headquarters. Additionally Norfolk is an important contributor to the Port of Virginia. It is home to Maersk Line, Limited, which manages the world's largest fleet of US-flag vessels. However, this low-lying coastal infrastructure is also very vulnerable to sea level rise, with water levels expected to rise by more than 5.5 feet by the end of the 21st century. The city has a long history as a strategic military and transportation point, where many railroad lines started. It is linked to its neighbors by an extensive network of interstate highways, bridges, tunnels, and three bridge-tunnel complexes.

    DESTINATION IN Virginia

    Hampton

    Hampton () is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 137,438; in 2019, it was estimated to be 134,510. Hampton is included in the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Statistical Area (officially known as the Virginia Beach–Norfolk–Newport News, VA–NC MSA) which is the 37th largest in the United States, with a total population of 1,729,114. This area, known as "America's First Region", also includes the independent cities of Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, as well as other smaller cities, counties, and towns of Hampton Roads. Hampton traces its history to the city's Old Point Comfort, the home of Fort Monroe for almost 400 years, which was named by the 1607 voyagers, led by Captain Christopher Newport, who first established Jamestown as an English colonial settlement. Since consolidation in 1952, Hampton has included the former Elizabeth City County and the incorporated town of Phoebus, consolidated by a mutual agreement. After the end of the American Civil War, historic Hampton University was established opposite from the town on the Hampton River, providing an education for many newly-freed former slaves and for area Native Americans. In the 20th century, the area became the location of Langley Air Force Base, NASA Langley Research Center, and the Virginia Air and Space Center. Hampton features many miles of waterfront and beaches. The city features a wide array of business and industrial enterprises, retail and residential areas, historical sites, and other points of interest, such a NASCAR short track, the oldest Anglican parish in the Americas (1610), and a moated, six-sided, historical bastion fort.