Virginia Beach: Too Cold For Comfort Or Tourists
I’d been living in Virginia Beach for about 10 years when I found myself lunching with a city official.
It wasn’t a social occasion.
At the time I was a member of The Virginian-Pilot’s editorial board and this politician was trying to sell me - and by extension the editorial page - on whatever cockamamie scheme city honchos were chewing on at the time. Maybe they were foolishly trying to turn the city into a “golf mecca.” Then again, it may have been when they were trying to lure the Dixie Stampede to town. Or it could have been when they were flirting with a developer who was promising a big entertainment complex on vacant city land near the beach.
So many flaky ideas. Who can keep track?
Chances are, the project involved millions of public dollars and was something Myrtle Beach had already tried.
For a time, Virginia Beach wanted to be Myrtle Beach. Yet no one who’d ever been to the South Carolina resort could figure out why.
Foolishly thinking this guy might be looking for my input, instead of my acquiescence, I innocently suggested that the Beach consider something unique and beachy instead: Summer stock theater, for instance.
You know, I told him excitedly, a clapboard theater in the round - nothing too expensive - that would attract soap stars in the summer and give local high school and college students summer jobs that didn’t entail scooping ice cream or renting bikes to tourists.
“Nope,” he said flatly, taking a bite out of his burger. “That won’t fill hotel rooms in the winter.”
He didn't seem to be joking. And that’s when it hit me: Virginia Beach city leaders weren’t interested in cultivating the casual ambiance of a Southern beach town. They seemed willing to turn the city into the East Coast’s cheesiest honky tonk as long as the “no vacancy” signs kept swinging in the stiff breezes year round.
Even today, Virginia Beach City Council keeps chasing pricey projects brought to them by their cronies in the hope that tourist dollars will flow into city coffers 12 months of the year.
But that is not likely to happen. The sad truth about Virginia Beach - and all of Tidewater - is that the months of January and February are dreary. Bleak beyond words. So are chunks of December and March. The sky and the water are the color of tin foil. The air is raw and damp. Sort of like Ireland, only chillier and without the warmth of the Irish to counteract the climate.
Sure, we locals get a few splendid winter days when the mercury suddenly shoots into the 70s and 80s. That’s when this place belongs to us. We jump into our shorts and drive around with our tops down, soaking up the sunshine and declaring that our neighbors who decamped to Florida for the winter were fools.
But they weren’t.
Because we get plenty of miserable days like Monday. Raw and bone-chilling. And days like today, which promises to be worse with a dreaded “wintry mix” in the forecast.
It gets to you, this weather. All anyone wants to do is hunker down. If you’re planning a trip to Virginia Beach, don’t come now.