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Beach Vacation on a Budget

by Chelsea Ayers

Traveling can become very expensive and very stressful pretty quick, especially for college students. Luckily, there are still options that will get rid of your stress for those that have a hard time getting away. With multiple activities that cost less than $50 or are  completely free, Virginia Beach is a great vacation spot for college students on a budget. Most of the activities located in the area are very easy on the wallet, making it an attractive spot for three of WVU Parkersburg’s own students. Jamie Frymier, Kira Holbrook and Shiann Watson have visited the beach multiple times over the past few years and plan to go back in the future.

“Virginia Beach is a great place to visit for people that have many different interests. It has great beaches, a boardwalk, a bunch of restaurants, night spots, a variety of amusement rides, golf courses, kayaking and hiking trails. There is something for everyone, and it is not expensive to visit,” Jamie said.

Virginia Beach Fishing Pier sunrise

“It is the perfect place to come to and never get bored. There are so many different options no matter what you enjoy. You could visit multiple times and never do the same thing twice. I enjoy every second that I am there; it has a great atmosphere,” Jamie continued. 

Virginia Beach has 14 miles of public beaches, 18,000 acres of state parks and a three mile boardwalk which allows visitors to not feel overcrowded. Being able to access these three points for free is a huge plus when vacationing on a budget. You can travel there, pay for your food and hotel and enjoy the beach and the boardwalk atmosphere completely free.

“I enjoy going to Virginia Beach, because the travel time is shorter than most beaches, and it is has so many options for fun activities that do not cost too much. My favorite part about it is the boardwalk or trying new restaurants,” Shiann said.

Virginia Beach also allows people to create their own “summer bucket list” and complete it at an affordable cost. This makes a trip fun by giving yourself different tasks to complete throughout your stay. Their example of a bucket list includes many different activities from zip lining to claiming your own piece of paradise by hiking six miles of pristine beaches.

Located in Adventure Aquarium, the Adventure Park is where you can zip line through trees and climb platforms. This adventure is for anyone that wants to be on the edge no matter their skill level. They offer different levels of difficulty that you can seek for two to three hours, and it costs less than $55.


One thing that most people do on vacation at the beach is build a sand castle. While you are at Virginia Beach, try to build the ultimate sand creation for free. This is a fun activity that can get the whole family involved to build a masterpiece to show all of your friends back home. One of the best parts is the Neptune Festival which holds an International SandSculpting Championship. The event is held under a large football-field size tent where 32 of the world’s most talented artists come to sculpt. This event is just one of 40 that the Neptune Festival produces each year, and it only costs $5 to get in.

One Virginia based sculptor, Paul DiPasquale, was chosen to create the Neptune statue, which is a 34 foot, cast bronze Neptune that stands at the gateway of Neptune Park and the threshold of the sea. Its construction was made possible through the contributors of the Neptune Festival.


Another bucket list item is taking a walk on the historic side. You can hike or bike in the footsteps of history at the First Landing State Park, which is a national historic landmark. This park marks the site of England’s Jamestown. Colonists arrived there in 1607, and it is completely free to enter. The next one is a historic selfie, which can be done for just $8 at the top of Cape Henry Lighthouse. The lighthouse provides a breathtaking coastal view making the perfect backdrop for a selfie.

“I have always loved going to the beach since I was a little girl. I love the ocean and the warm weather. My favorite place to be is the beach, and I could stay there the rest of my life if I could afford it,” Kira said.  

You may not be able to move there, but when looking for a place to stay, it is important to find the one that you can afford and meets your needs. Hotels can be very pricey, especially when they are close to the ocean. In mid-July, the Royal Clipper Inn and Suites has rooms for just $115 a night and being that it is just steps from the beach, it makes a great place to stay. Being able to walk to different attractions, restaurants and the beach is another bonus when looking for an affordable place to stay.


For those that would rather stay away from the thrills of completing a bucket list, the beach is still the place to be. When you just want to relax and enjoy the atmosphere by having a good time, there are plenty of options to just live the beach life. With 14 miles of beaches, you can claim your spot on the sand and relax by the water.

When you need a break from the beach, you can take a stroll through the farmers market to grab some fresh local produce for lunch or dinner. The farmers market is open May 15 through Sept 25. It has over 14 vendors that sell baked goods, dairy, flowers, fresh meats, fruit, gifts, kettle corn, seafood, vegetables and much more.

Once the evening rolls around, you can enjoy some nightlife entertainment after spending the day in the water. Beach Street, U.S.A is one thing that makes Virginia Beach so special. Along the sidewalks of Atlantic Avenue 17 through 25, are special themed entertainment including: jugglers, magicians, puppets, bands and more. During the summer, there are free live concerts and theatrical productions that perform seven nights a week.


Beach Street is also known for its oceanfront festivals and events. Every weekend is packed with events along the beach. Some of which are the Atlantic Coast Kite Festival, American Music Festival, Holiday Lights on the Beach, Sandstock, a Tribute to Rock and Roll and the Virginia Beach Craft Beer Festival.

So if you find yourself desperate for a vacation but are not sure how you can afford it, consider Virginia Beach your new getaway. With the added bonus of just an eight hour drive from Parkersburg, it makes it the perfect perfect place to go for a quick weekend or longer. By finding the right hotel and taking advantage of the many free, or nearly free events and activities, you are sure to keep the piggy bank from cracking.


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