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The Break Dance

"What?" Jerry said blankly.

We were definitely too old for this crowd. A half-hour later, we resumed our stroll along Atlantic Avenue, passing packs of women in high heels and men in basketball jerseys, all hoping to find the next fiesta. We spotted a long line outside Club Lagoon and another at the Cave, the entrance to which looks like a cavern. Eventually we coasted into Envy, a dimly lit shoebox of a bar where feet stick to the floor. Soon I was singing along with Kelis's "Milkshake," about two drinks from letting Frank the Tank out to play. But drowsiness got the better of us, so we headed back to our hotel.

The temperature was in the 70s the next day, but rainy. We walked the boardwalk in the drizzle, had lunch at the Jewish Mother, a fabulous deli, and took catnaps. By late afternoon, as the clouds dissipated, we were ready for another night on the town.

March madness: Spring breakers party at Peabody's in Virginia Beach, where the nightlife is warmer than the water. (D. Kevin Elliott - For The Washington Post)

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This time, we headed to the Shore Drive area, a quieter section of Virginia Beach where older spring breakers like ourselves feel a little more at home. The nightlife options in that part of town were more spread out, which meant we had to establish a designated driver and travel by car. But the crowds skewed a bit older (mid-twenties and up) and mellower, which was fine by us. First we ate massive amounts of seafood at the Duck-In, a restaurant with beautiful views of the Chesapeake Bay. Our waitress told us about the huge Friday night parties on the sandy beach behind the restaurant, where young people gather for drinking, mingling and soaking in the sunsets.

Alas, the parties don't start until April, so instead we visited nearby H2O, which looked like a dive from the outside but was cozy, contemporary and tastefully decorated. We grabbed seats near the bar, relaxing with generous glasses of cabernet and watching as a bubbly regular sent a couple of barstools crashing to the floor. Her husband sheepishly retrieved them as the woman stage-whispered to the bartender: "We had a couple of margaritas." We weren't the only people over 30 still acting like spring breakers.

An hour later, we settled into a booth at the Reef Lounge, the sort of place where there are only three beers on draft, two of them Budweiser. It was karaoke night, so the locals who frequent this homey joint took turns belting into the microphone.

With off-key Abba still ringing in our heads, Kim and I made one last stop at Hot Tuna, where a band called the Dave Waltrip Project played energetic covers of "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Blister in the Sun" as devoted young fans jumped up and down in front of the stage.

Virginia Beach in March felt like . . . spring break. Sure, no one was flashing their goodies for beads or hanging at the MTV Beach House, but there was youthful fun to be had, for partiers of all ages. When our hotel room lights went out, the thump of car stereos, honking horns and late-night laughter drifted up from the street.

Comforting proof that even after seniors like me are asleep, the party will go on.


GETTING THERE: Virginia Beach is about 200 miles south of Washington. Take the Beltway to I-95 south, to I-295, then to I-64 east, which connects with Interstate 264. I-264 leads directly to the oceanfront and intersects with Atlantic Avenue, the city's main drag.

WHERE TO STAY: Virginia Beach offers a variety of lodging options, from large chain hotels (Clarion, Marriott) to small motels. We stayed at the Dolphin Inn (1705 Atlantic Ave., 757-491-1420), an all-suite hotel where rates vary but generally range from $59 to $189 from January to Memorial Day. (We paid $129 a night, with an AAA discount.)

WHAT TO DO: Nightlife-wise, the lively section of Atlantic Avenue stretches roughly from 17th to 24th streets. In that area, which features numerous bars, we visited Abbey Road Pub & Restaurant (203 22nd St., www.abbeyroadpub.com), Peabody's (209 21st St., www.peabodysvirginiabeach.com) and Envy (1718 Atlantic Ave.). Farther north off Shore Drive, we found H20 (3152 Shore Dr.), the Reef Lounge (2913 Shore Dr.) and Hot Tuna (2817 Shore Dr.). If you extend your stay, the nightlife of downtown Norfolk is a short drive away. Naturally, there are the usual beach-town activities and attractions in Virginia Beach.

WHERE TO EAT: The aforementioned Abbey Road Pub serves generous portions at reasonable prices, as does the Jewish Mother (3108 Pacific Ave., www.jewishmother.com), a deli that also hosts live music, movie nights and other special events during the evenings. And the Duck-In Restaurant & Gazebo (3324 Shore Dr., www.duck-in.com), open since 1952, serves seafood with striking sunset views.

INFO: Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, 800-822-3224, www.vbfun.com.

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