VA beach, Colonial Williamsburg and the Outer Banks

First Landing State Park and Cape Henry, VA
Jockey Ridge state park, Wright brothers national monument and beach in NC
Colonial Williamsburg garden
Colonial Williamsburg

Busy busy busy

Between work and company in town, its been a busy few weeks!

The end of September my mom was in town, we did a bit of touring and a lot of baking and crafting and playing with Gizmo.

Virginia Beach

pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

mixed berry pie

Then, in the beginning of October, J’s parents were in town and we traveled to the OBX! We tried to visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial, but due to government shut down we only saw the entrance. We did climb the dune at Jockey Ridge State Park and went to the aquarium on Roanoke Island. Gizmo tried to swim with his little life jacket, but didn’t like it too much, he did enjoy digging in the sand.

Outer Banks, NC

Now we both have colds and are working a lot. Oh well…

Oh, and yesterday we bought a set of Coast Guard Lego’s and built it because we had the day off… yes, we’re still kids at heart.

Beer and Sushi

Two weeks ago we ventured into Norfolk, specifically the Ghent area.

The first time was for sushi, J found a really fantastic little spot Kotobuki sushi bar. They had a great vegetarian selection and it felt very authentic. We’ll be going back I’m sure!

The second time was for beer. We found Smartmouth brewing on Yelp and had to check it out because of our love of craft beer and J’s dream to open up a brew-pub eventually. We each had a flight of beer and a pretzel. The pretzel was super dry and tough, I’ve had better (Naked City Brewing is a personal favorite). I liked the first 4 beers I tried out of the flight, their amber was more like a Guinness and I didn’t care for the IPA’s, Jordan liked the IPA’s but didn’t care for the beers that relied on additional citrus flavoring (he doesn’t like Blue Moon). We thought about doing their tour, however, we’ve done the Redhook tour a few times so we know how beer is made. We’re still going to keep looking for other local breweries to check out though.

I really want to check this one winery, Mermaid Winery in Norfolk. I hope it doesn’t disappoint. There are mermaid sculptures all over Norfolk and Dolphin sculptures all over Virginia Beach. Hence, mermaid winery in Norfolk. 

beer flight (there were 6, if you look just up and to the right you see the 1st of 6 beers not in the tray) and pretzel.

The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center

Here’s my review on the aquarium. Just my opinion of it, what I like and didn’t like.

Oh where to begin about the Virginia Aquarium… First of all, we went on the Wednesday in the middle of the day thinking it wouldn’t be that crowded. Wrong. We waited in line for 20 minutes just to buy our $22 admission tickets. Then we waited in line to get into the exhibits, but not before you could stop and have a very cheesy tourist photo taken.

The whole set up is one big line. You follow this narrow path through the entire “aquarium” to see their exhibits. But it gets so congested with people and strollers stopping to take pictures (with their flash on, don’t even get me started on how annoying I find this!) of every little thing. After the photo opportunity you are then forced into a small hallway to go see butterflies… butterflies at an aquarium? Apparently! Then you get to see a coastal river exhibit. Then you move on to the scenic overlook. It was of a river or something… nothing exciting was happening when we went to look. After that, there is a tiny little room of Chesapeake bay information, I found it less than informative and I’ve noticed that the Chesapeake Bay doesn’t have as much diversity as I’m used to. Don’t get me wrong, the functions of the Chesapeake bay are vital to ecosystem health for the region, its just not very exciting looking.

Next, you fight your way on another narrow path to see Komodo Dragons. Yes, that’s right, there are Komodo Dragons at the aquarium. After the dragons you go through an underwater tunnel to see tropical fish and what not. It was almost impossible to get through it was so narrow and crowded, I’d like to see it on a less busy day. Then it was a “science shack” hands on activity center, a very small red sea exhibit, an even smaller coral exhibit, the “conservation station” another hands on activity center, sea horses and hedgehogs (I don’t actually remember passing this part, but its what the map says), yet another “science shack” and crocodiles. You end that section with their one very sad touch pool that had 3 crabs in it. You can then make a sharp right to see some rays that you can pet and follow this narrow path to a big window of Chesapeake bay fish. Then you have to back track past the rays and a wave tank (that I also missed somehow) to make your way over to the 3 adult sea turtles, and some juvenile sea turtles they have. A very crowded spot, that also featured some hands on ocean exhibits, very sad looking jelly fish and a huge lobster. I liked their Coral Nursery section where you could see behind the scenes of the coral growing. I also liked the suspended whales and whale skeletons from the ceiling. After that its the sharks. Not much to say about the sharks except it was equally crowded and they had a few big shark on display with some fish. I did like the faux submersible that gave you an underwater view of the sharks. So that was building one.

After a 3 block “nature trail” walk to the other building you get to see more reptiles, birds, river otters, bunnies, crabs and sea horses again. Luckily it wasn’t that hot out to walk to the other building, but honestly it was a waste of time…They offer a shuttle for those that are mobility challenged Their harbor seals are outside of the aquarium before you go in to buy tickets. So, you don’t actually have to pay admission to see them which was interesting. We caught the end of one of their talks where a harbor seal made a painting.

They also have an IMAX theater and a couple of cafe’s. There supposedly were “special” exhibits, however they were not featuring anything when we were there. The gift shops were also lacking anything exciting, just so-so.

I think they should maybe change the name to just “Virginia Science Center”, it was hardly an aquarium. They have done a good job with the hands on education materials for the most part. Its really geared towards elementary aged kids, significantly less exciting for adults. We kept comparing it to other aquariums we’ve visited (SeattleMystic CT, Monterey Bay, Boston and Chicago, Vancouver Canada, Newport OR) and it felt more like the Pacific Science Center to us. Perhaps, one of the major differences between the Virginia Aquarium is that it is run and operated by the city of Virginia Beach, as opposed to the Seattle Aquarium which is a non-profit organization. I’ve volunteered at the Seattle aquarium, I would not volunteer at the VA aquarium. I would give them two stars out of five. However they are AZA accredited, somehow.

After the aquarium we found a Scottish restaurant in VB. it was pretty cool, most of the stuff on the menu I had no idea what it was so I had fish and chips lol

And now some disappointing pictures…

Komodo Dragon

underwater tunnel 

underwater tunnel



Chesapeake bay fish

touch pool

coral nursery 

a humpback whale hanging around… haha its a pun, get it?

(play jaws theme song)

submersible view

river otter

snapping turtles

Harbor seal painting