VIRGINIA BEACH, VA
[Personal Photo Collection]
Virginia Beach is an independent city located in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area of Virginia, on the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Although Fairfax County is the most populous jurisdiction in the state of Virginia, Virginia Beach is the most populous city in the state, as well as the 39th largest city in the United States, with a population of 437,994 according to the 2010 census.
Virginia Beach is the easternmost city of Hampton Roads that make up the core of the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA. This area, known as “America’s First Region”, also includes the independent cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, as well as other smaller cities, counties and towns of Hampton Roads.
Virginia Beach is a resort city with miles of beaches and hindreds of hotels, motels, and restaurants along its oceanfront. Every year the city host the East Coast Surfing Championships as well as the North American Sand Soccer Championship, a beach soccer tournament. It is also home to several state parks, several long-protected beach areas, three military bases, a number of large corporations, two universities, Edgar Cayce’s A.R.E. and numerous historic sites. Near the point where the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean meet, Cape Henry was the site of the first landing of the English colonists, who eventually settled in Jamestown, on April 26, 1607.
The city is listed in the Guinness Book of Records sa having the longest pleasure beach in the world. It is located at the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, the longest bridge-tunnel complex in the world.
Geography and Climate
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 497.3 square miles (1,288 km2). 248.3 square miles (643 km2) of it is land and 249.0 square miles (645 km2) of it (50.07%) is water. The average elevation is 12 feet (3.7 m) above sea level. A major portion of the city drains to the Chesapeake Bay by way of the Lynnhaven River and its tributaries.
The city is located at the southeastern corner of Virginia in the Hampton Roads area bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The Hampton Roads Metropolitan Statistical Area (officially known as the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA) is the 34th largest in the United States, with a total population of 1,576,370. The area includes the Virginia cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News,Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Williamsburg, and the counties of Gloucester, Isle of Wight, James City, Mathews, Surry, andYork, as well as the North Carolina county of Currituck. While Virginia Beach is the most populated city within the MSA, it actually currently functions more as a suburb. The city of Norfolk is recognized as the central business district, while the Virginia Beach oceanside resort district and Williamsburg are primarily centers of tourism.
The climate of Virginia Beach is humid subtropical. Winters are very mild, and snowfall is light. Summers are hot and humid with warm evenings. The mean annual temperature is 59.6 °F(15.3 °C), with an average annual snowfall of 8.1 inches (210 mm) and an average annual rainfall of 45 inches (1,100 mm). The wettest seasons are the spring and summer, although rainfall is fairly constant all year round. The highest recorded temperature was 103 °F (39 °C) in August 1957, and the lowest recorded temperature was 4 °F (−16 °C) in January 1985.
Additionally, the geographic location of the city, with respect to the principal storm tracks, is especially favorable. It is south of the average path of storms originating in the higher latitudes, and north of the usual tracks of hurricanes and other major tropical storms, with the exception of Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
Virginia Beach is best known for its tourism but the military and agribusiness sectors contribute to the City’s economy. The City’s economy also contains a large retail component at places such as Lynnhaven Mall. Major companies headquartered in Virginia Beach include Amerigroup, the Christian Broadcasting Network and Operation Blessing International, Lillian Vernon and Stihl (North American headquarters). Other major employers include GEICO, VT andNavy Exchange Service Command. Virginia Beach was ranked at number 45 on Forbes list of best places for business and careers.
Tourism produces a large share of Virginia Beach’s economy. With an estimated $857 million spent in tourism related industries, 14,900 jobs cater to 2.75 million visitors. City coffers benefit as visitors provide $73 million in revenue. Virginia Beach opened a Convention Center in 2005 which caters to large group meetings and events. Hotels not only line the Oceanfront but also cluster around Virginia Beach Town Center and other parts of the City. Restaurants and entertainment industries also directly benefit from Virginia Beach’s tourism.
Virginia Beach has a large agribusiness sector which produces $80 million for the city economy. One hundred-seventy-two farms exist in Virginia Beach, mostly below the greenline in the southern portion of the City. Farmers are able to sell their goods and products at the City’s Farmer’s Market.
Virginia Beach is most often associated with the larger American South. People who have grown up in the Hampton Roads area often have a uniqueTidewater accentwhich sounds different from a stereotypicalSouthern accent. Vowels have a longer pronunciation than in a regular Southern accent.
The city is home to several points of interest in the historical, scientific, and performing arts areas, and has become a popular tourist destination in recent years. The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center (formerly the Virginia Marine Science Museum) is a popular aquarium near the oceanfront that features the 300,000-gallon Norfolk Canyon Aquarium, containing sand tiger, nurse and brown sharks, as well as sting rays and other large open-ocean dwellers. There is also a 70,000-gallon sea turtle aquarium, sea turtle hatchling laboratory, hands-on ocean exploration exhibits, jellyfish and octopus aquariums, and even a life-size model of a humpback whale. Other features include the Owls Creek salt marsh and a nature trail.
The city’s largest festival, the Neptune Festival, attracts 500,000 visitors to the Oceanfront and 350,000 visitors to the air show at NAS Oceana. Celebrating the city’s heritage link with Norway, events are held in September in the Oceanfront and Town Center areas. Every August, the American Music Festival provides festival attendees with live music performed on stages all over the Oceanfront, including the beach on Fifth Street. The festival ends with the Rock and Roll Half Marathon.