Virginia Beach Oceanfront refers to the three mile (4.8 km) long (27 feet wide) boardwalk area in South East Virginia Beach on the Atlantic Coast. It is located North of the Rudee Inlet Bridge and includes the boardwalk itself, Atlantic Avenue, and Pacific Avenue.Virginia Beach is a resort city, and the Oceanfront is a main tourist attraction. The current version of the boardwalk was first constructed in 1988. It is made of concrete; the boardwalk links over forty hotels and other attractions and has a bike path.
With the construction of the rail system in 1883 tourism in Virginia Beach began to grow. Soon after the Virginia Beach Hotel was opened, offering tourists the first overnight accommodations. As more tourists began to spend their summers in Virginia Beach along the coast, construction began on the boardwalk in 1888. It was first built from wooden planks and expanded a mere five blocks. During the gilded age the boardwalk was home to the famous Peacock Ballroom, where performances were held by such artists as Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and Tommy Dorsey. By the early 1900s, Virginia Beach became a well-known vacation destination. In 1927, The Cavalier opened its doors. This was Virginia Beach's first grand hotel. The Cavalier was host to 7 US Presidents: Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. The hotel was also an attraction to national celebrities such as, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bette Davis, Jean Harlow, Judy Garland, Will Rogers and Fatty Arbuckle. During the 1930s through the 1950s the Cavalier hosted the most popular big bands in the world. Some of these performances included: Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Xavier Cugat, Cab Calloway and Lawrence Welk. The Cavalier even contributed to World War II. In 1942, the United States Navy asked for the hotel's help. They converted the stables into sailor's living quarters, drained the pool for training purposes and even had the hotel chefs feeding the Navy trainees. In 1973 in response to the growing number tourists visiting the area The Cavalier built an 11-story oceanfront hotel. In the following years the hotel was visited by President Gerald Ford, George Bush, and then Ambassador to China, to address the Virginia Bar Association and President Jimmy Carter to speak before the Southern Baptist Convention.
The oceanfront features many monuments to Virginians who have impacted the history of the state. Some of the monuments are located at the Naval Aviation Monument Park which was formally dedicated on May 6, 2006, by the Hampton Roads Squadron of the Naval Aviation Foundation Association. Planned since 1997 in partnership with the City of Virginia Beach, the park features heroic-scale statuary and reliefs to tell the history of Naval Aviation. The Virginia Legends Walk features famous historical Virginians such as Pocahontas, Edgar Allan Poe and George Washington. Many other monuments are scattered between hotels. A main monument is the statue of King Neptune - a colossal 34-foot-high bronze statue that rises from the sand at 31st Street & Atlantic Avenue, overlooking Neptune Park. Other attractions include various forms of artwork between hotels and other buildings. Many are sculptures including different starfish, dolphins, and sea turtles painted in many colors for people's viewing pleasure.
The Virginia Beach Oceanfront is home to Beach Street USA which lines up entertainment events during the summer months for tourists. Most events are free and include local and visiting performers from magic shows and musical talents, to psychics and palm readers. Some events do cost money, though. One of the most well known events at the ocean front hosted by Beach Street USA is McDonald's Holiday Lights at the Beach where guests can sit in their car and drive along the boardwalk to view many different holiday light setups. There are bikes for individuals and families for rent all summer which are accommodated on a bike path that stretches the entirety of the boardwalk. There are over forty hotels which are interspersed between small restaurants, photo studios, and other random shops. Night clubs are also in abundance on both Atlantic and Pacific Avenue. Another big tourist attraction at the Oceanfront is the 14th Street Fishing Pier. It is one of many fishing piers located in the state of Virginia, and the only pier accessible from the boardwalk.
The Virginia Beach Boardwalk has received national acclaim in recent times as one of America's favorite boardwalks by the Discovery Channel, and in magazines such as Coastal Living, Southern Living, and National Geographic Traveler.