FORGIVE ME, Virginia Beach, for all those years I shunned you, preferring to play on the shores of Maryland and Delaware. For speeding past you while hurrying to the dunes in the Outer Banks. For sneering when friends suggested you might be worth visiting. They were right.

You should be accustomed by now to being overlooked, Virginia Beach. For years your neighboring cities amassed great naval and maritime power, wealth and fame while you lanquished as a farming area that just happened to have a beach. But now you're getting the last laugh. Now you are the biggest city in the Old Dominion, and the fastest-growing one on the Atlantic Coast. And perhaps now your long, uncrowded beaches and the many attractions both in and near your city will be acclaimed at last.

Nowadays Virginia Beach is actually two cities: a small, older beach resort, lacking the high-rise condos of Ocean City and the trendy boutiques and restaurants of Rehoboth Beach, and a boom town whose new shopping centers and housing developments are swallowing up farmland.

The oceanfront area of Virginia Beach projects an image of compactness. The main streets are narrow, the hotel and shop entrances close to or on the sidewalks, not across a big parking lot. From Rudee Inlet on the south to the stately Cavalier Hotel on the north, the commercial strip is just 37 blocks, short enough to walk or bicycle. Its golden-sand beaches are less crowded than Delaware's and Maryland's (and the way the rental people line up those umbrellas is so European). The uncrowded, uncommercial boardwalk (actually a broad cement road) can be used for biking, walking and jogging all day, and the off-beach attractions are far superior in both quality and quantity to those of its sister beaches.

Some of the attractions are overhead; several times a day, Navy jets roar over the beach, heading out to sea on practice patrols or to check out offshore anomalies. Back on the ground, the main streets of attractions and distractions -- Atlantic and Pacific Avenues -- have a honky-tonk air, but it's only a few square blocks that really try to live up to that description. The traffic's bad on a weekend night, but one can get around it. And, perhaps most surprising of all, the prices are often lower than at the hereinabovenamed beachtowns.

There is one bad thing about Virginia Beach. We'll get to that later.

Its appearance belies the fact that Virginia Beach is a boomtown. The blast began around 1963, when the city annexed a large part of Princess Anne County and grew from four square miles to 310. Since then the population has soared from 75,000 to more than 350,000, threatening the pick-'em-yourself farms in the southern part of the county and stirring new battles between developers and no-growth forces.

A tour of Virginia Beach should begin at the center of the city, at a monument marking a tragic day in the city's past and a building housing its history.

On the Boardwalk at 25th Street is a solemn bronze statue of a woman called the Norwegian Lady. It's a memorial to Jahanne Pauline Jorgensen, her son and five seamen, who lost their lives when the Norwegian bark Dictator ran aground off the beach in 1891 and broke up. Jahanne's husband was the captain, J.M. Jorgensen. The men of the Life-Saving Service, forerunner of the U.S. Coast Guard, could save only 10 of the 17 aboard.

The story goes that Mrs. Jorgensen stood on the deck and watched as her husband tried to carry their son Karl to shore. But the boy was lost in the rough seas, which soon also claimed Mrs. Jorgensen and the Dictator. J.M. was among those who watched from shore as the ship broke up.

After the storm, the Dictator's figurehead washed ashore, and was displayed in a hotel lobby for years as a reminder of the tragedy. In 1962, the people of Moss, Norway, the Dictator's homeport, presented the Norwegian Lady to the people of Virginia Beach.

A block south of the statue, almost hidden by the hotels on the Boardwalk, is a modest two-story frame-and-shingle building housing the Virginia Beach Maritime Historical Museum, where visitors can learn more about shipwrecks like the Dictator. Displays in the 84-year-old building include pictures and artifacts of wrecks, and other exhibits on this maritime region.

The museum's just north of what might be called the center of the resort strip. Comparing it to boardwalks in Ocean City or Rehoboth Beach is difficult, but one difference really stands out. In Virginia Beach, the Boardwalk is a place to stroll, jog or bike -- at any time of day. The crowds can vary from sparse to slightly crowded, but never come close to the mob scenes in Maryland or Delaware, mainly because the Boardwalk here is noncommercial rather than a walkway between games, rides, bars and shops. The beach also has fewer people, particularly in the residential area in the north end of the town. You can actually walk from surf to the Boardwalk without stepping over, on or into something or someone. The way the rental folks line up their chairs and umbrellas helps. The lines leave corridors in which you can walk along the beach or off the beach. Plenty of people, but also plenty of space.

But what if you love the crowds and miss the hum of neon and moving-lights signs? Cross the Boardwalk to Atlantic and Pacific Avenues, the main north-south roads. Here you'll find the Royal London Wax Museum, the famed gift and clothing stores called Souvenir City and Souvenir World, the Haunted Fun House and many of the city's nightclubs and games. This entertainment district runs between the avenues from 26th Street on the north to 15th Street on the south. There are clubs both north and south of this district, even some nightspots worth a visit in Norfolk, but we'll get to them later. First, let's head south on Pacific and cross the Rudee Inlet Bridge to General Booth Boulevard.

Just over the bridge and down the boulevard is the Virginia Marine Science Museum. This museum, which opened last summer, is a wonderful place to spend a few hours learning about the animal life of the bays, ocean and marshlands. There is a hands-on exhibit where children and adults can handle a large horseshoe crab or touch other yucky-looking bay animals. Other exhibits include a huge aquarium of up to 50-pound red drum, a simulated deep-sea dive, a machine that shows the properties of waves, and computers that amuse while teaching about pollution.

Outside the museum is a walkway that takes you out into the marshes, perhaps the most interesting part of a visit. Marshes are not a place where most people venture. From the walkways you can look down on wetlands filled with life: thousands of fiddler crabs meander on the mudbanks, while larger blue crabs scuttle around in the the water. On land (or on mud) the grasses play host to snails, other crabs, small mammals and insects. The museum is great fun and educational, which is why I'll lead us on to our next stop: It's educational, but keep an open mind.

Back over the Rudee Inlet bridge and north of downtown Virginia Beach at 67th and Atlantic is the Association for Research and Enlightenment, the 56-year-old educational and research center that studies the works of Edgar Cayce (pronounced Casey), a clairvoyant whose "readings" and holistic health regimens reportedly helped heal the sick. Cayce was not a faith-healer; rather he was a psychic who went into trances, during which he offered advice on dealing with common life problems or prescribed courses of treatment (which sometimes included regular medical help) for patients seeking his advice. After he de-tranced or whatever you call it, he could not remember what he said. A stenographer took down his words, and today the 14,256 "readings" are indexed and catalogued at the A.R.E. Library, which is open to the public.

Cayce also believed in extrasensory perception, and visitors to A.R.E. can be tested. The two test subjects sit on opposite ends of a table. On the table are two machines, each with little windows bearing symbols of a circle, cross, star, square and waves. One machine selects a symbol and lights the window. The "sender" in the tests concentrates on it while the other test subject, hopefully after receiving the mental transmission of the image, then pushes the window of the image he or she believes is lit on the other machine. Score is kept and a test involves a run of 25 images.

I took the test, which takes only a few minutes, and didn't show any real sign of ESP (although I do know what you are thinking right now).

The handsome large frame house behind the A.R.E. Center is the hospital Cayce built in the 1920s to treat his followers. He lost it during the Depression, but the foundation bought in back in 1956, 11 years after Cayce's death, and it is used today as offices. Between the two buildings is the Meditation Garden, where a Pyramid Power experiment is being conducted. (See, I do have ESP. I know you want to ask what that experiment is, but I'm not going to tell you.)

If you visit A.R.E., go to the third floor, where silence is maintained, and visit for a while in the tranquil pink, blue and violet meditation room that faces the ocean.

After your mood ring has turned mellow, continue your journey north on Atlantic Avenue (it becomes U.S. 60) to Fort Story and Cape Henry, where colonial history began. You'll have to have your seatbelts buckled and some identification to receive a pass; Fort Story is a military base and visitors are restricted to certain areas.

Drive straight back in the Fort and you will come to two lighthouses. The Old Cape Henry Lighthouse, the sandstone tower on the bush-covered mound on the left, was authorized by the first Congress and helped keep ships from coming to grief on the Virginia Capes from 1792 until 1879, when it was replaced by the black-and-white lighthouse across the road. Take time to climb the old tower and enjoy the view from the top. The new lighthouse, made of cast-iron, is automated and turns itself on at sunset.

Farther up the street is the Cape Henry Memorial, where a simple cross marks the place where the Jamestown colonists landed on April 26, 1607, before sailing up Chesapeake Bay to found the first permanent English settlement in the New World.

Leaving Fort Story's entrance, turn right and go to Shore Drive, which will take you to the Seashore State Park and on to a number of restaurants that face the bay and ocean. The park has a visitors center and dunes, lagoons, cypress swamps and trails for hikers and bikers. Farther along on Shore Drive are a number of bayside restaurants, which have good food and a better view (that big bridge that disappears over the horizon out there is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, which ties Virginia Beach to the tip of the Delmarva Peninsula).

After returning to Virginia Beach, perhaps even on another day, drive to 22nd Street and turn west. This will take you to Route 44, which everyone 'round there calls "the expressway." The 25-cent toll buys passage to three of Tidewater's top attractions.

Drive west on Route 44 until you see the sign for the Chrysler Museum. Take that turnoff and follow the signs to the museum, where you will probably find parking. Just stay in the right lane after you get off the expressway. All your turns are rights.

The Chrysler Museum, founded in 1933 as the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences, became nationally acclaimed when Walter P. Chrysler Jr. donated his vast art collection. The museum's collection includes thousands of pieces of glass, with pieces of Tiffany, Sandwich, French and American art glass, and some Persian and Roman glass vessels. The sculpture and painting collections include works from the Orient, Greece, Rome and the Americas and represent such artists as Gainsborough, Rodin, Delacroix, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Cezanne, Gaugin, Matisse, Picasso, Homer, Pollock and Warhol.

Sadly, the museum is undergoing expansion and renovation. Six galleries are open, showing the cream of the collections. Current exhibits include "The Aura of Neo-Impressionism," a collection of works by Georges Seurat, Claude Monet, Henry Rosseau and Edvard Munch. This exhibit will close August 23. On September 18, a private collection of photographs with works from Anna Atkins and Henry Fox Talbot will inaugurate the new Alice and Sol B. Frank Photography Gallery. Future exhibitions include "Antique Prayer Rugs of Ancient Persia" (September 28 to November 20) and "African Masterpieces from Munich" (October 1 to December 13). The prayer rugs will be exhibited at the Museum's Seaboard Gallery a few blocks away.

Though the exhibits are temporarily limited, the Chrysler Museum is a must-visit. As you wander the galleries, think of the wonders you will see when the expanded museum reopens entirely late next year.

After your mind is filled with the delicacies of art, return to your car and take Duke Street next to the museum south to Brambleton Avenue, turn right and go to Hampton Boulevard. Turn right again and drive to a place where delicacy gives way to brute force.

The Norfolk Naval Base, the world's largest, is home to the Atlantic Fleet. Visitors to the base should check in with the Naval Tours and Information Office (next to the Sub Base entrance) on Hampton Boulevard and join one of the hour-long guided tours, which cost a few dollars and leave every half-hour during summer. In these perilous times, security precautions could force changes or even cancellation of tours; call ahead (444-7955).

The visit is worth it. Warships of all sizes, including an aircraft carrier or two down on Pier 12, can be spotted during the visit. The carriers are awesome. You know they're big. Everyone knows they're big. But just how big they are doesn't sink in until you get a close-up look. They tower over docks, buildings, other ships and you.

On weekend afternoons, the Navy allows visitors to swarm over one of the ships. Also on the base is the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, which has exhibits from Revolutionary days to the present. They include models; artifacts from sunken ships, including U.S.S. Monitor; art; photographs; maps and more. The museum, located in the Pennsylvania Building, a two-thirds replica of Independence Hall built in 1907 for Jamestown's tercentennial, is a stop on the guided tour. You can visit it without going on the tour by getting a museum pass from the base visitors office. On the back of the pass is a map to the museum, which is near the carrier piers.

If it's time for a breather from museums, leave the Navy base, take Hampton Boulevard south to Brambleton Avenue, turn left and then drive to Duke, where you take a right. Duke leads you to Waterside, Norfolk's clone of Baltimore's Harborplace. Next to Waterside is Town Point Park, site of Norfolk jazz and blues festivals and weekly musical events. Al Hirt, Dizzy Gillespie and others will keep the jazz festival jumping in September.

The next -- and last -- stop on this beach tour can be made when you come into Virginia Beach or as you are leaving it. The Mariner's Museum and Peninsula Fine Arts Center are in Newport News. From I-64 in Newport News, take the J. Clyde Morris Boulevard south exit and follow the signs to the Mariner's Museum.

When you enter the museum, the first exhibit is overwhelming: an enormous gilded eagle, its wingspread more than 18 feet, stands in the foyer, the figurehead for the bow of the U.S. steam frigate Lancaster from 1881 to 1921. The carved Lancaster eagle is perhaps the most striking of the 85 figureheads on display at the museum. Others include women, mythical (mermaids, Circe), royal (Queen Victoria) and patriotic (wrapped in an American flag), and assorted animals (bears and lions).

The museum also displays naval artifacts, ships' china and crystal, miniature boats, photographs, a collection of working boats, and amazingly detailed models of ships. Around a corner is an even more stunning collection of miniature ship models, displayed in a darkened room in cunningly lighted cases with magnifying windows.

Across from the Mariner's Museum is the Peninsula Fine Arts Center, which displays crafts and art made by Tidewater artists.

And that's about it for the highlights of a Virginia Beach visit. There are more sights. Norfolk has a wonderful zoo, Portsmouth has a large historic district of renovated homes, Williamsburg and Busch Gardens/The Old Country are just an hour away, Jamestown and Yorktown are nearby, too. Yes, Virginia Beach, you have almost everything for a wonderful beach vacation. Golden sands, undercrowded beaches and warm ocean waters. All but one thing: Thrasher's French Fries. How can you expect beach visitors to survive without Thrasher's? There must, or oughtta, be a law . . .GETTING THERE

Virginia Beach is about 200 miles from Washington. Take I-95 south to I-295 just north of Richmond. Take I-295 east to I-64, I-64 east to Route 44 east. Route 44 will take you to Atlantic Avenue, the main beachfront road.

Weekends and evenings, Atlantic and Pacific Avenues become clogged with gawkers, cruisers, bicyclists, pedestrians and trolleys. Consider riding the trolleys, which run on Atlantic and the Boardwalk. If you must drive but aren't going to the center of the resort, take Baltic Avenue, two blocks west of Atlantic, and bypass the bustle.

Parking lots located near the center of the nighttime action can be found at 25th and Atlantic and 21st and Pacific, across from Peabody's T-Shirts. OFF THE BEACH

Like any big urban area, Virginia Beach and the nearby communities of Norfolk, Hampton, Newport News and Portsmouth have a variety of historic sites, museums, parks and entertainment. But the theme of many attractions in this area is definitely different from Ocean City and Rehoboth. Here, the mariner, past and present, is king. Many of the museums celebrate the military or the region's maritime heritage, and some, like the Chrysler Museum, would be major attractions in any city. Here is a quick rundown: HISTORIC SITES, MUSEUMS, ETC.

ADAM THOROUGHGOOD HOUSE --

Said by some to be the oldest English-built house in the nation, this 300-year-old mansion and its gardens are open for tours 10 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday, 12 to 5 Sunday. Closed Monday. $2 adults, $1 children. This home is one of three operated by the Chrysler Museum. Call 622-1211 for information about the other two, the Moses Myers House and the Willoughby-Baylor House. The Thoroughgood House is at 1636 Parrish Road. 460-0007.

ASSOCIATION FOR RESEARCH AND ENLIGHTENMENT --

This library and conference center focuses on the work and life of psychic Edgar Cayce. Exhibits, lectures, tours, a meditation room and free extra sensory perception testing available. Open 9 to 10, Monday-Saturday, 1 to 10 on Sundays. 67th Street and Atlantic Avenue. 428-3588.

CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK --

Pat Robertson's "The 700 Club" originates here (he's off campaigning for the GOP presidential nomination). Tours 11:30, 1, 2 and 3 Monday through Friday. For tour and "700 Club" tickets, call 424-7777, extension 2745.

CHRYSLER MUSEUM --

Called one of the top 20 museums in the nation by The Wall Street Journal, the Chrysler Museum's collection of glasswork, particularly Tiffany, is among the world's finest. Permanent collection includes works by numerous American and European masters. Renovation limits the museum to showing only the best, but don't miss it. Olney Road at Mowbray Arch, Norfolk. Open 10 to 4 Tuesday through Saturday, 1 to 5 Sunday. Free, but donations requested. 622-1211.

FARMERS MARKET --

Open daily, weather permitting, this market features produce from the many pick-your-own farms in the southern part of Princess Anne County. 1989 Landstown Road.

GENERAL DOUGLAS MacARTHUR MEMORIAL --

A restored former City Hall houses 11 galleries of memorabilia about the war hero, and his crypt. City Hall Avenue and Bank Street, Norfolk. Open 10 to 5 Monday-Saturday, 11 to 5 Sundays, Free. 441-2965.

HERMITAGE FOUNDATION MUSEUM --

A fine arts museum in a country house, displaying tapestries, ancient glass and Chinese bronzes and jade. Open 10 to 5 Monday through Saturday, 1 to 5 Sunday. Admission is $3 adults, $1 children. 7637 North Shore Road, Norfolk. 423-2052.

MARINERS MUSEUM AND THE PENINSULA FINE ARTS CENTER --

Maritime history, art, artifacts and models are on displays at the Mariners Museum. Open 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday, 12 to 5 Sundays. Admission is $3 adults, $1.50 children. 595-9398. Across the street, the Peninsula Fine Arts Center features Tidewater artists and craftspersons. Workshops, lectures and special programs are also offered. The park has grounds for picnicking and a lake for fishing. At U.S. 60 and J. Clyde Morris Boulevard. Open 10 to 4 Tuesday-Saturday, 1 to 4 Sunday. Free. 596-8175.

MARINE SCIENCE CENTER --

Marine life of the coastal plain is displayed in striking exhibits. A large, walk-around aquarium, a hands-on exhibit of marine life, a walkway through a marsh and other exhibits bring the shore and marshes to life. Admission is $3 adults, $2.50 senior citizens and $2 for children. Open 9 to 9 Monday through Saturday, 9 to 5 Sunday through Labor Day; 9 to 5 the rest of the year. 717 General Booth Boulevard. 425-3476.

MARITIME MUSEUM --

An 84-year-old Life Saving/Coast Guard station serves as a Maritime Museum displaying nautical artifacts, scrimshaw, photographs, ship models and other marine items. Open 10 to 9 daily except Sunday, when it's open 12 to 5. Admission is $2 adults, $1.50 for senior citizens and military, and 75 cents for children. 24th Street and Oceanfront. 422-1587.

NASA LANGLEY RESEARCH CENTER --

NORFOLK BOTANICAL GARDENS --

This 175-acre park has a Japanese garden, a colonial garden, flowering arboretum and rose garden, among other attractions. Take the Azalea Garden Road adjacent to the airport eight miles east. Open 8:30 to sunset daily. Admission is $1. 441-5386.

NORFOLK NAVAL BASE

and the naval air station nearby host one of the largest concentrations of naval forces in the world. Tour buses leave every half hour from the Naval Tours & Information Office, 9809 Hampton Boulevard. Tours take you to the "Open House Ship" and the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, although you might catch quick looks at warships, including aircraft carriers and submarines. Tour prices are $3 adults, $1.50 forseniors and juniors. Bus tours from Waterside also available, but will cost a bit more. Tours are offered 9:30 to 2:30 daily. The Naval Museum is open 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, 9 to 4 Saturday and 10 to 4 Sunday. Free. 444-7955.

NORFOLK SCHOOL OF BOATBUILDING --

Learn how boats are built by walking through this school. You'll be able to see boats in various stages of construction and reconstruction. Pier B, on the waterfront. 627-7266.

NORWEGIAN LADY STATUE

at 25th and Oceanfront commemorates the tragic wreck of the Norwegian bark Dictator off Virginia Beach in 1891.

OLD CAPE HENRY LIGHTHOUSE --

Authorized by the First Congress, this lighthouse was built in 1791. Across from it is the new black-and-white automatic lighthouse, just 108 years old. Nearby is the Cape Henry Memorial, where the first English settlers of Jamestown landed in 1607. The old lightouse is open for tours from 10 to 5 until Labor Day. Both lighthouses and the memorial are located on Fort Story, on U.S. 60 north of Virginia Beach.

PAVILION --

Virginia Beach's convention center, hosting a beach party with Bill Deal and Fat Ammons on August 28. Tickets $3 advance, $4.50 at the door. Parks Street between 21st and 19th streets. 428-8000.

PORTSMOUTH NAVAL SHIPYARD MUSEUM

displays thousands of naval items, including uniforms, flags and models. 2 High Street at the Elizabeth River. Open 10 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday, 1 to 5 Sunday. Free. 393-8591.

UPPER WOLFSNARE --

VIRGINIA BEACH ARTS CENTER --

Changing exhibits and classes for children available during the summer. 18th and Artic Avenue. Open 8:30 to 5 Monday through Friday, 10 to 4 Saturday, 1 to 4 Sunday. Free. 425-0000.

WAR MEMORIAL MUSEUM OF VIRGINIA --

Contains 30,000 military items ranging from uniforms and weapons to posters and insignia, from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam. 9285 Warwick Blvd., Newport News. Open 9 to 5 Monday throughSaturday, 1 to 5 Sunday. Admission 50 cents adults, 25 cents children. 247-8523.

WATERSIDE --

Similar to Baltimore's Harborplace, with a wide variety of shops, food and entertainment. 333 Waterside Drive, Norfolk. PARKS

BACK BAY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE --

This 4,600-acre park has beaches, dunes, woodland and marshes and is the home for thousands of ducks, geese and swans. Visitors center. 721-2412.

DISMAL SWAMP NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE --

Forty miles long and 15 wide, this swamp stretches south of the Virginia Beach-Norfolk area and is a wonderland of dense forest, canals and lakes. Wildlife, some dangerous, abounds. Take U.S. 17 south.

LAFAYETTE ZOOLOGICAL PARK --

This 55-acre park is home to more than 350 animals kept in simulated natural environments. Open 10 to 5 daily, with free admission during the first hour. Tickets are $1 adults, 50 cents children. 3500 Granby Street, Norfolk. 441-2706.

NEWPORT NEWS PARK --

Picnicking, an arboretum, archery, bicycle rentals, a lake and fishing. You can rent canoes and paddleboats. One mile north of Routes 105 and 143. 877-5381.

SEASHORE STATE PARK --

This 2,570-acre park offers swimming, hiking, biking and fishing in a landscape of lagoons, cypress trees and sand dunes. The visitors center offers exhibits and programs. Five miles north on U.S. 60 near Cape Henry. 481-2131. CRUISES

HARBOR CRUISES --

With dinner and dancing aboard the New Spirit; leaves from Waterside daily and evenings. 625-7466.

NORFOLK-PORTSMOUTH HARBOR TOURS --

Replica of a 19th-century riverboat takes 1 1/2- and 3-hour tours of the naval shipyard and harbor. Leaves from West Main and Waterfront Drive, Norfolk. 393-4735.

NORFOLK ROVER --

This topsail schooner offers morning, afternoon and moonlight sails. Leaves from Willougby Bay Marina, at the west end of Ocean Avenue, Norfolk. 583-1470. SPORTS

BIKING --

Bicycles can be rented along the Boardwalk, where you can also ride. Seashore State Park also has biking trails.

BOWLING --

Throw strikes at the Brunswick Plaza Bowl, 111 North Plaza Trail, 340-1313; the Lynnhaven Bowling Center, 2601 Lishelle Place, 468-1000, or the Thunderbird Bowling Lanes, 1577 Laskin Road, 428-5897.

FISHING --

It's illegal to fish from the beach south of 42nd Street until after Labor Day. Try fishing from the Virginia Beach Pier (428-2333) at 15th Street and Oceanfront, the Lynnhaven Inlet Pier (481-7071) on Starfish Road off Shore Drive, the Little Island Pier at Sandbridge, Atlantic Ocean (426-7200) or Rudee Inlet, at the south end of Virginia Beach. Fishing and crabbing equipment and bait sold and rented. Deep sea fishing can be arranged by the Virginia Beach Sport Fishing (422-5700), the D&M Marina (481-7211), Rudee Cove (422-0225) and other marinas in the area.

GOLF --

ICE SKATING --

Even when it sizzles outside, you can skate inside at the Iceland of Hampton Roads, 4915 Broad Street, Virginia Beach. 490-3907.

ROLLER SKATING --

Haygood Skating Center, 1036 Ferry Plantation Road (460-1138), and Kempsville Family Skating Rink (420-9400), 5351 Lela Lane.

SAILING, JET SKIS --

Hobies, jet skis and sailboards can be rented from Sandbridge Sailing Center, 2548 Sandfiddle Road. 721-3440.

SURFING --

Check where you are first. Surfing is prohibited during prime beach hours in many areas. The beaches around Rudee Inlet are reserved for surfers. For more information about a specific area, call 428-9133. For the surf report, call 428-8513.

TENNIS --

If the place you are staying doesn't have courts, try the Owl Creek Municipal Tennis Center, 928 S. Birdneck Road and General Booth Boulevard, 422-4716, or the daylight and occasionally night-lighted courts at many of the public schools.

WINDSURFING -- Chick's Beach Sailing Center. Lessons and rentals. 3001 Shore Drive. 481-3004. Windsurfers also use the lake at Mt. Trashmore, on Holland Road south of Route 44. WHAT'S HAPPENING?

Virginia Beach's summer's-end celebration, the Neptune Festival, begins September 18. If you are a music fan, Norfolk's jazz festival in September and blues festival in October may be worth a visit.

Free Boardwalk entertainment also takes place every evening, with 14th, 20th and 25th streets the sites of shows ranging from puppets to rock 'n' roll. Call Ocean Occasions, 422-1080, for the schedule. Waterside and adjacent Town Point Park in Norfolk have entertainment every day except Monday. Folk music is featured on Tuesdays, outdoor movies on Wednesdays, lunchtime concerts Thursdays, and a variety of music and entertainment on Fridays and the weekends. All events are free. Call 627-7809.

Here is the calendar of some of the best events:

THIS FRIDAY, SATURDAY & SUNDAY --

Town Point Jazz Festival, featuring Roy Ayers, Betty Carter, Al Hirt, Dizzy Gillespie and others. Festival will be in Town Point Park next to Waterside. Norfolk. Friday 5 to 9, Saturday 2 to 10, Sunday 1 to 4:30. Free. 627-7809.

TUESDAY --

Folk music with Critten Hollow String Band, 7. Town Point Park. Free. 627-7809.

AUGUST 23 --

Clown festival, with mimes and activities for children. Town Point Park, 1 to 4. Norfolk. 627-7809.

AUGUST 25 --

Folk music with No Strings Attached, 7. Town Point Park. Free. 627-7809.

AUGUST 28-30 --

East Coast Surfing Championship, location to be announced.

SEPTEMEBR 1 --

Folk music with Tony Trishka and Skyline, 7. Town Point Park. Free. 627-7809.

SEPTEMBER 5-6 --

Norfolk Family Folk Festival. Town Point Park, 12 to 10 Saturday, 12 to 6 Sunday. 627-7809.

SEPTEMBER 11-12 --

Depression Glass Show, Virginia Beach Civic Center,

SEPTEMBER 18-27 --

Neptune Festival, citywide celebration of the end of summer with music, food, crafts and more.

SEPTEMBER 19-20 --

Octoberfest, with two German oompah bands. Norfolk Town Point Park, 5 to 10 Friday, 2 to 11 Saturday and 1 to 6 Sunday. 627-7809.

SEPTEMBER 26-27 --

Elizabeth River Blues Festival. Town Point Park, 1 to 11 Saturday, 1 to 6 Sunday. Norfolk. 627-7809.

SEPTEMBER 29 --

'50s Festival, with dancing and the group The Wild Robots. Otter Berth, next to Waterside. 627-7809.

OCTOBER 24 --

Hampton-NASA anniversary celebration. 865-3159. WHERE TO STAY

The good news is that the rates in Virginia beach are generally lower than in Ocean City and Rehoboth. Most of the major hotel and motel chains have inns in Virginia Beach, but many of the beachfront hotels do not belong to chains. Many of the inns require minimum stays and a 72-hour notice of cancellation. Get the brochure on hotels, motels, campgrounds, condos and cottages by writing the Virginia Beach Visitor's Center, P.O. Box 200, Dept. MTB, Virginia Beach VA 23458.SOME PLACES TO EAT

A full report on Virginia Beach's restaurants would take more time than I had. Here are some I tried and others I wish I'd had time for:

BLUE PETE'S --

In Pungo, south of Virginia Beach, this sprawling restaurant that looks like a lagoon lodge specializes in seafood, steaks and sweet potato biscuits. You can sit on the outside deck or walk over a bridge to an island in the slough and have a drink while you wait, which you will. No reservations. Call for directions. 1400 North Muddy Creek Road, Pungo. 426-2278.

DUCK-IN --

Set on the dunes on the bay shore facing the bridge tunnel, this restaurant serves up a great sunset and a fairly good meal. You can wait on the duneside deck, and eat in or out. Shore Drive at Lynnhaven Inlet bridge. 481-0201.

FOGG'S --

JEWISH MOTHER DELI --

A great spot for breakfast, an interesting spot for dinner and nightlife. The Jewish Mother serves up bagels, blintzes and advice. 3108 Pacific Avenue. 422-5430.

LIGHTHOUSE --

On Rudee Inlet, between the bridge and the ocean, serving up good seafood and burgers. The sundaes were big enough to intimidate me. Oceanfront at 1st Street. 428-7974.

THREE SHIPS INN --

On Shore drive just west of the Lynnhaven Inlet, this elegant restaurant is called by some the best and fanciest restaurant in town. Country inn charm, romantic music. 3800 Shore Drive. 460-0055. NIGHTLIFE

There is nightlife in Virginia Beach. Too often, though, it is too loud, the rooms are too small, and covers are charged without any rhyme or reason. (We were charged sometimes, and the next couple wouldn't be. And vice-versa.)

With a little looking, however, you can find music ranging from folk to big-band sounds. Many of the clubs are located in the center of the resort strip, and unlike Rehoboth and, to a greater degree, Ocean City, you can park once and walk to a dozen clubs. It's Georgetown with sand.

ABBEY ROAD --

Looks like a pub whose owners are Beatles fans. The music ranges from rock to folk/country. Casual setting. The audience could actually hear the words. Occasional cover. 203 22nd Street. 425-6330.

BEACH CABARET --

Comedians Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, live Top 40 bands the rest of the week. 11th and Atlantic. 422-5000.

BEACH CLUB --

Elegant, high-tech decor makes this nightclub in the Beach Quarters Hotel on Fifth and Atlantic resemble BWI Airport. And the sound resembles that of jets taking off. Good (BUT LOUD) band when I was there. Few danced on the large floor, even fewer looked at other people. The sound system froze 'em. The cover of $5 was the highest I encountered on the beach. 422-3186.

DANCING --

square and otherwise, can be found the following places: European, Balkan and Mideastern dances, 7:30-10:30 every Friday in the A.R.E.'s outside patuio, 67th and Atlantic, 486-7349; Friday night hoedowns, 7 to 11, at the Farmers Market, 1989 Landstown Road, 427-4305; Top 40s and beach music on Saturdays at 9 on the Otter Berth next to Waterside, 628-7809; big band and swing music on the Waterside Promenade on Sundays at 8, 627-7809.

J. EDGAR'S --

Live acoustic bands Tuesday through Sunday. Dancing in small area in front of band. Nice, but the view from the second floor overlooking the stage is better. 1709 Pacific Avenue. 428-3327.

JEWISH MOTHER DELI --

Live music ranging from jazz to classical guitar except Sunday, when comedy takes over. Cozy club, Occasional cover. 3108 Pacific Avenue. 422-5430.

ORION'S --

Located on top of the Cavalier Hotel at 42nd and Atlantic, this lounge/restaurant offers jazz, swing and big band music. The music is meant to entertain the diners, which means the lounge patrons are stuck on the far side of the bar, out of sight of the band but in earshot of the music. Still, it's a nice change. Older crowd, good view. 425-8555.

RICK'S CAFE --

Home of the Virginia Beach Comedy Club, after dinner nightly. 3200 Atlantic Avenue. Casual place. 428-0606. KID STUFF

AMUSEMENT PARKS --

There are several in the area, plus Busch Gardens/The Old Country an hour away. The Seaside Amusement Park is at 31st Street and Atlantic Avenue, the Wild Water Rapids Water Park is at 1049 General Booth Blvd., and the Jungle Falls Water Slide is at General Booth Boulevard and Birdneck Road.

BUMPER BOATS --

22nd and Pacific Avenue, 422-1001.

GO-KARTS --

Ride 'em at the Virginia Beach Speedway, 962 Virginia Beach Boulevard. 428-2588.

HAUNTED HOUSE --

An old-fashioned haunted house. 20th and Atlantic Avenue. 422-1742.

KECOUGHTAN INDIAN VILLAGE --

A reproduction of an Indian village, complete with a lodge and artifacts. 418 West Mercury Blvd. 727-6248.

MINIATURE GOLF --

PHOTON --

"The ultimate game on the Planet Earth," this high-tech game of cowboys and Indians packs in the kids. Behind T.G.I. Fridays opposite the Lynnhaven Mall. Take exit 5 south from Route 44. 427-5550.

SKATEBOARDS --

Five ramps at Mt. Trashmore, Lynnhaven and Red Wing Parks. $1 fee. 471-2027.

WAX MUSEUM --

The Royal London has more than 100 wax figures in dozens of scenes. 1606 Atlantic Avenue. 425-3823.