Friday, July 14, 2006

My impressions of VA Beach

Ok... tomorrow I travel that long road back to Pittsburgh. I want to leave early enough in the morning to avoid the massive exodus from Sandbridge at the end of the standard rental week. One must contend with approximately seven miles of one-lane roadway to leave the area.

I wanted to post a few thoughts about Virginia Beach before I got on the road.

Being a Southern destination, I noted a distinct difference in the way people here approach strangers. A passing smile is way more common here than in the beach towns of New Jersey. Up there that kind of greeting is going to be viewed with suspicion. People will extend a protective arm around their children and/or spouse, and scowl in return. Here though, I am aware of the true charm of southern society... I don't know what they say about me after I proceed on my way, but they sure seem happy to see me as I pass. Maybe they are visualizing a long-haired Yankee hanging from their favorite elm tree... I don't know.

Virginia Beach has the clubs, shops, and activities of any other populist beach destination, yet there are a few things that stand out. For one, there are multiple "no @$*%!" signs... which indicate either that profanity is not allowed, or that they aren't much into symbols around these parts.

Also, all the shops and typical boardwalk institutions are located on the street that runs parallel to the beachfront. In between this street (Atlantic Ave.) and the ocean is a walk that is fronted on the land-side by huge hotels. Instead of a boardwalk, it is a concrete promenade with a separate lane for surreys and bikes. Look both ways or be run down by a wild-wheeled Grandpa.

Every night of the week there are musical performers playing their non-offensive tunes on Beachstreet USA (Atlantic Ave., again). We saw a capella groups, Jimmy Buffet wannabees, middle-aged classic rockers, and blues acts. There was also a magic show, and a skinny German guy plying the juggler's act with acerbic running commentary and off-color jokes. Notably, tipping these performers is not allowed, and there are signs admonishing passersby not to do it. Evidently these guys get their compensation directly from the city. That legitimizes them, and I suppose gives the city some measure of control over the atmosphere.

There are several "dark ride" attractions. I tried to shoot the Pirate Adventure, but I fumbled with my camera settings, and then ran out of space on my compact flash card. The haunted houses use live actors but prohibit photography, so I skipped them. There is also a 3D funhouse where I hesitated paying the $5 admission fee. These attractions almost invariably suck. But not this one. The promises of "Eye-Boggling!" fun were fulfilled. There were multiple rooms painted with flourescent, trippy designs that got even more psychedelic when viewed through the paper 3D glasses. Each room had a theme (Star Wars, Beatles- "Lucy in the Sky...") and included reasonably-volumed background music that accentuated the experience. I was allowed to take my time and photograph all I wanted. The strange thing was that I exited onto a rusty steel staircase that overlooked a parking lot in the back of the building. The garbage stench from the dumpsters next to the stairs was overwhelming. Nevertheless, if this type of thing appeals to you at all, I recommend the 3D funhouse.

I completed my VA Beach experience at the Upper Deck restaurant, that bills itself as the "Original all-you-can-eat seafood buffet". It has been under the same management since 1964, and the old-fashioned decor and Frank Sinatra music reflected this fact. The food was marginal and the price was purely for tourists, but I wasn't unhappy I chose to eat there. Hell, if I'm going to be at this place I might as well get a taste of the traditional sucker's experience.


Blogger Dagrims said...

I'm really enjoying reading your posts. I need to check out that 3D funhouse if I ever get to VA Beach.

9:01 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

Some people get too many vacation days.

8:37 PM  
Anonymous DeeA2Z said...

If you liked Va Beach you'll love Key West. Every evening sunset is a party, and I mean that in the most literal sense. Next time you head south, head to Key West.

2:56 PM  

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