Sherry Friel
Sherry Friel
A Natural Photographer
Sherry Friel graduated from Old Dominion University with a Master of Arts in English and has since spent time as a community news reporter and photographer, a seventh grade English teacher, and most recently worked in healthcare writing and marketing. She continues to work part-time on healthcare-related projects, but her greater efforts today are dedicated to her family and the volunteer work she does in her son’s elementary school library. Sherry is a Hampton Roads native and has lived in Virginia Beach for 17 of those years. She fell in love with Virginia Beach while she was an intern in the city’s public information office, where she worked on a variety of projects that gave her an intimate view of the city’s natural beauty. Sherry enjoys walking the neighborhoods, trails and parks of Virginia Beach along with her husband and eight-year-old son, and capturing points of beauty along the way. Sherry truly “lives the beach life” through her love of nature photography. She and her son share that passion and together have photographed everything from the glorious Spanish moss at First Landing State Park to breathtaking sunsets at Great Neck Park and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Author Entries

The Beach Report – September 5, 2014

Friday, September 5th, 2014 by Sherry Friel

This week in The Beach Report we’re treated to the fruits of others getting up with the sun – amazing dawn sunrise shots! Thank you, Sherry & Nathaniel, for the pics and the post.  Have a great weekend, everyone!

Good morning sunshine!

And when the morning light comes streaming in, I’ll get up and do it again. Amen.

-Jackson Browne, The Pretender

blue sunsetOkay, I should admit this right off the bat: I like to sleep in. Late. The idea of venturing out to watch the sun rise has never been at the top of my list of fun things to do in Virginia Beach, but somehow, by some divine miracle, I found myself awake before dawn a couple weeks ago. After gazing up at the starry sky and noting the time, I realized if I woke up my 11-year-old son Nathaniel (who also enjoys sleeping in), we’d have just enough time to walk the beach and see the day’s first rays of sunlight. Nathaniel was happily snoozing away when I whispered in his ear, “if we go right now, we can see the sun rise.” And guess what? He rose immediately! After hastily dressing and grabbing my camera and some coffee, we headed out, arriving at the oceanfront beneath a dark and hazy sky. We could still see stars.

After slipping off my sandals, and walking the path to the water, I quickly realized I wasn’t going to be able to juggle both camera and coffee. So I stowed my cup behind a bench and wandered out into the darkness. We were completely alone. Just my son, my camera, and the sky. Within minutes, the sky started lightening up, and a pink/orange haze emerged. Those same colors reflected in the rippling water and waves. And then slowly, ever so slowly, the pink turned more orange and deepened. The clouds took on an other-worldly quality with vibrant colors, layers, depths and surreal dimensions that had me hypnotized. So I started snapping photo after photo after photo. After 1,000 shots (yes, 1,000) I decided it was time to head back sunset

As I hesitantly took the path toward home, I looked over my shoulder, hoping for one more glimpse of that luminous sky. But the sun wasn’t finished with its show. It had more beauty to reveal, more magic to share with me, so I heeded its call. I am so happy I did not give up and go home too soon, because what happened next was amazing. The sun, partially obscured by clouds, peeked out and shone like a brilliant orange globe onto the water below.

Some days, when life feels especially chaotic, I pull up my sunset photos and remember how it felt to be powerfully compelled, called, and drawn to the water and sky in a way that suspended every single fear, every single worry, and every single anxious thought. And now I am pleased to have some sun rise portraits to reflect on. I think if I could head to the beach every morning, and meditate on the beauty of this extraordinary gift lapping at my feet over and over and over and refusing to let me go, then perhaps it would be easier to let go of the things that worry me. I continue to believe living the life truly does mean basking in its beauty in a way that inspires inner reflection and a deeper peace. In Virginia Beach, it’s waiting for you every morning. Sometimes you just have to set down the coffee and let the sunlight do it’s magic.


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Our summer was fabulous!

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 by Sherry Friel

Nat back to schoolIt has certainly been a fast-paced, fun-filled summer! It’s hard to believe Fall is almost upon us. Where did the time go? Those who live the life in Virginia Beach tend to deny summer is over well into November because the Virginia Beach weather is so mild. With school having officially started, I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on the season and recap a few of its highlights:

The Adventure Park. I cannot rave enough about this newest attraction in Virginia Beach. It’s an aerial park in the forest custom-built for tree-climbing, adventure-seeking adults and children. This unique park features 170 tree platforms, ziplines, and 13 different color-coded aerial trails for novice as well as advanced climbers. It was such a hit with my 11-year-old son Nathaniel that we’ve already made plans to return.laughter

Sublime Relaxation. When I reflect on the moments that gave me the most pleasure over the summer, my mind always goes back to that 86-degree day I spent in a beach chair, finishing up the mystery novel Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. It was the most relaxed I had been in quite some time and I allowed myself to sink heavy in the chair and alternate between reading, sleeping, and enjoying the sights, sounds, and relaxed rhythm at the shoreline.

Surfing. We’ve maintained a hectic pace this summer, and while it wasn’t easy getting up early for swim team practice or martial arts classes, I have to appreciate the muscles and increased strength my son gained through his commitment to these activities. He is now able to keep paddle out and surf right alongside his Dad, and I even witnessed them catching the same wave together! It warms my heart to see them bond this way. When a father and son share a passion, it’s a beautiful thing to watch unfold.

surf buds

Now that he is officially a pre-teen, (or is he a tween?), it’s obvious Nathaniel will continue seeking greater challenges. Watching him swim with ease, scale tall trees, and surf bigger and bigger waves has been a huge leap of faith for me as a parent. Of course I worry, but I can’t help but feel grateful we live in Virginia Beach, a city that seems to continuously grow and change in ways that excite his spirit and make family life all the more fun. It’s a wonderful place to live the life, a fabulous place to call home.

Photo credits: Sherry Friel

Catch patio

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The Beach Report – July 18, 2014

Friday, July 18th, 2014 by Sherry Friel

Local blogger and mom Sherry Friel is definitely in tune with all the latest outdoor fun in Virginia Beach. She and son Nathaniel took on our newest attraction and her post gives us all the details – enjoy this fun read!

adv park 3 (3)

Virginia Beach gives “adventure” two snaps, a twist and a ZIP!

We did it ! My 11-year-old son Nathaniel and I spent an afternoon and evening at Virginia Beach’s newest attraction-The Adventure Park. There’s been a great deal written in local newspapers and on the city’s tourism web site about this aerial tree park at Virginia Aquarium. I even wrote a column myself in anticipation of what we were about to experience. But truth be told, the park exceeded any expectations I had by such a long shot that I am hesitant to even attempt to describe the fun we had. You just have to go there. I can say that the park was much larger than I expected. It also was more challenging for the mind, body and spirit than I imagined. In addition, experiencing it when the sun was low in the sky until after sunset made the time even more special. The park is open until 11 p.m during the summer so we timed it just right to enjoy the unique appeal of it at night.

When I say The Adventure Park was larger than I expected, I am not only referring to scale, but the varying levels of difficulty it offers to kids and adults. The 170 tree platforms, ziplines, and 13 different color-coded aerial trails were challenging enough for novice as well as advanced climbers. When I first entered the park, I felt a bit overwhelmed as I tried to take in all the options. Fortunately, the staff does a fantastic job at gauging your level and leading you through the courses accordingly.

To say the Adventure Park is a challenging experience for the mind and body is an understatement. After observing people of all ages for several hours, I now believe it to be a phenomenal growth experience for anyone. I watched my son and his friend, in the course of just three hours, go from being timid and unsure about navigating their way through the trails to wanting to tackle harder courses. Their words as we exited the park, “We will be back.” As a parent I am always searching for ways my son can grow and build confidence. Our climbing adventure was definitely time well spent and we look forward to returning really soon.

Summer is a crazy busy time for active families, and there never seems to be enough time during the day to do everything. When I started planning this special birthday outing for my son, I had to work around not only his summer schedule, but his friend’s plans as well. When I realized the park was open until 11 p.m., I was so relieved. Yes, I thought, we will be able to proceed with any plans we had during the day and do the Adventure Park too. But I worried that the kids wouldn’t be able to see the trails very well in the dark. I also was concerned they would be too tired. Of course I worried needlessly. They were able to work through the trails just fine at around 7 p.m., and after it got dark, the entire forest is beautifully illuminated with twinkling lights strung through the trees. It took on a truly magical quality after dark, and only enhanced what was already a wonderful experience.  We stayed until 10 p.m. and practically had to drag them out. The boys were just getting started!

I wholeheartedly recommend The Adventure Park for active, outdoors-loving kids and adults. In fact, when a 20-something neighbor asked my advice on an interesting place to take his girlfriend, I told him about this amazing aerial park. After they went, he was excited to tell me it was PERFECT and they had the best time! Do I foresee an Adventure Park wedding theme in their future? Why not!? I can’t think of a more exciting way to start Living the Life together!

Photo credits: Sherry Friel

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The Beach Report – June 27, 2014

Friday, June 27th, 2014 by Sherry Friel

We shoot, we score! Yesterday, reporter Jillian Beck of the The Virginian-Pilot wrote an article that included the following information:  “The Natural Resources Defense Council’s report, “Testing the Waters 2014: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches,” named Virginia Beach’s Little Island Beach North and Back Bay Beach, and the areas around testing sites at 28th and 45th streets in the resort area, in the nation’s top 35 beaches, based on the seashores meeting water-quality standards for the past five years. The Natural Resources Defense Council is an international nonprofit environmental organization.”  So it’s very fitting that today in The Beach Report, blogger Sherry Friel shares a post about our three different beaches and their unique vibes. Thank you, Natural Resource Defense Council and great timing, Sherry!  Have a great weekend, everyone.

SandbridgeLiving the balanced life in Virginia Beach, where families enjoy three different beaches, each with a unique vibe

I consider myself an avid listener. Whether talking intimately with a friend at a restaurant, or gleaning fragments of others’ conversations around me at the beach, I enjoy hearing what people care about, what they worry about, and what makes them happy. I spend a lot of time around families with small children, and one refrain I hear from parents over and over is the fact that everyone seems to worry-a lot-about scheduling just the right mixture and intensity of summertime activities for their children. How much time at the beach is too much? And which beach is best? Should we skip the beach and head for the pool or Ocean Breeze Water Park?

Answers to those questions most certainly vary, as every child is different, but some of the best decisions I’ve made regarding my 11-year-old son Nathaniel have come from intuition rather than the advice of friends. My better decisions come when I actively listen to my son and get a feel for what he wants rather than what I would have wanted to do at his age. This seems like such an easy thing, but for me it’s not, because often what I enjoy is so different from my son’s ideas about which activities and destinations are fun and rewarding.

I’m getting better at anticipating what Nathaniel enjoys though. After reading Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, I realized that while my son is a true extravert, I am his polar opposite: an introvert. He thrives on the energy of crowds, people, and conversation. I, on the other hand, feel drained by the buzz of too much stimulation and activity. I crave quiet conversation with a friend, solitude, and pastimes such as reading. The sort of dizzying pace he seeks out drains me. Our differences, now that I understand them better, complement rather than conflict with one another. Nathaniel’s influence has me getting out and socializing more, and my influence encourages him to settle down and focus on calming activities. It’s a good balance.


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The Beach Report – June 20, 2014

Friday, June 20th, 2014 by Sherry Friel

Editor’s Note; This week in The Beach Report, blogger Sherry Friel shares her take on just one of the joys of being a local. Don’t forget that Sandstock – A Tribute to Rock and Roll – begins tonight at the Oceanfront and the bi-weekly firework shows start next weekend (weather permitting). After a long, hard winter, summer’s here, people………woooooooo hooooooooo!!

Catch patioRecently I’ve found myself dining in new places, meeting new people, and enjoying more time at the Oceanfront than ever before. The weather in Virginia Beach has been glorious, and this precious time out and about has given me new energy. I am excited about what’s to come in the summer months ahead, and if the past couple weeks are any indication, Living the Life in this unique oceanfront city keeps getting better each season.

If you haven’t visited the resort area lately, one thing you’ll notice is more and more restaurants along Laskin Road now offer patio dining. This makes perfect sense in a beach town such as ours, where no one really wants to go indoors, not even to eat. My family always seeks out restaurants with patios and lately I’ve found myself falling a little in love with more than a few. While I am not a food or restaurant critic by any means, I’d like to offer the top destinations where my family has enjoyed the service, food and atmosphere in equal measures. It was so hard to pick just four because honestly, there are so many wonderful restaurants in our city. You really can’t go wrong, but we’ve found the following offer something special:

Catch 31 Fish House & Bar - Located adjacent to our incredible Boardwalk, my family thinks Catch 31 is the place to enjoy the very best of the beach. Situated on a gorgeous, expansive terrace, the restaurant specializes in offering guests panoramic views of the Boardwalk, the Atlantic Ocean and evening entertainment at Neptune’s Park. My 10-year-old son and I ate lunch there after enjoying the recent Boardwalk Art Show and it was pure bliss. Service was fast and we ate a simple meal of burgers and fries that was tasty and cooked to perfection. Entertainment starts daily at 7 p.m. Check out the 31st Street Stage Schedule and plan a trip soon to this very special restaurant. The highlight for me was the gentleman passing by on bicycle with a small, white terrier in the basket. The dog sported a pair of sunglasses and appeared to be smiling as he breezed by. I attempted to snap a photo of the bicycling duo, but by the time I got the camera out, they were long gone.

Chops - This patio is a people-watcher’s paradise. I took my Dad, a friend, and my son here for dinner and we were delighted at every turn. Chops offers a fabulous bar and patio menu with selections such as burgers, crab cakes, and fish tacos. We enjoyed light acoustic guitar music while marveling at the number of vintage cars passing by. It was the perfect spot to watch visitors and locals enjoying the shops along the newly-developed 31 Ocean complex.  And, as a side note, the gentleman with the sunglass-sporting dog in his bike basket made an appearance here too! This time, I had the camera ready and snapped this pretty neat photo. pup ride

El Taco Loco - If you’re looking for a quieter patio dining experience, right off the bat I’d recommend El Taco Loco. This Mexican restaurant is just two miles from the resort area and nestled among the Shops at Hilltop-Hilltop East to be precise. My family has eaten here a number of times and the food, service, and atmosphere have been consistently good.

Aldo’s Ristorante - Gorgeous, gorgeous fine Italian dining at Aldo’s Ristorante is a sweet indulgence we reserve for special occasions. This is one restaurant where we are just as happy eating indoors as out on the patio because it is just so beautiful! Just a few miles from the resort area, this local’s favorite is in La Promenade Shoppes at 1860 Laskin Rd.

I could honestly write pages regarding my favorite patio restaurants in Virginia Beach. They are becoming more commonplace and that is a good thing. I have yet to try them all, but next on my growing list of restaurants offering waterfront/patio dining is Buoy 44. I recently saw an article about it that described a laid back, casual atmosphere catering to families and many locals.  I can’t wait to give it a try. Its precise location is 4536 Ocean View Ave. That’s just off of Shore Drive, where the beach on the gorgeous Chesapeake Bay also has a laid back vibe. Sounds like the perfect place for our family, or one of them anyway! It’s going to be a long summer but I suspect we will not run out of fun places to eat, especially outdoors or along the water.

Photo credits:  Sherry Friel

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Living the Happy Life: Simple Virginia Beach pleasures, sunny days, and making time for lemonade!

Friday, June 13th, 2014 by Sherry Friel
Nathaniel manning his lemonade stand

Nathaniel manning his lemonade stand

As far as timeless childhood pastimes go, hosting a lemonade stand is probably right up there with learning to ride a bike without training wheels. It’s an unwritten rule that every kid must, at some point prior to the age of 10, run a lemonade stand featuring the ice-cold beverage and a few snacks for sale.

Now, I don’t know if it was the particularly wet, dreary weather we had this winter, but my 10-year-old son Nathaniel and his 9-year-old buddy had lots of indoor time on their hands to plan the most elaborate lemonade stand in the history of lemonade stands in our neighborhood. After witnessing the level of detail these two went into prior to having their first sale last weekend, I have no doubt these kids are going to move mountains in their future. And I don’t even want to hear my son complain about his homework because nothing he’s even done in school could rival the work he put into this stand.

Here’s a rundown of the steps leading up to the big day, based on the mountain of lists, construction paper, and posterboard I finally rifled through out of curiosity. Well, truth be told, I had to finally remove these items from my table in order to make sure the table was indeed still there.


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The Beach Report – May 23, 2014

Friday, May 23rd, 2014 by Sherry Friel

This week in The Beach Report, blogger and photographer Sherry Friel reports on the bounty of fresh, healthy foods we have in Virginia Beach thanks to our rich, local agricultural industry.

Don’t forget this weekend is the Strawberry Festival – time for some gorgeous strawberries!  Monday is the day to thank our military community for their sacrifices. Remember those sacrifices are the real reason we enjoy living the life!

Living the Healthy Life in Virginia Beach: 2014 Vegetable and Fruit Yield is Incredible this Season!

When I was 12 years old my father grew early peas for the first time. Now, being the descendant of a long line of farming folk, I had certainly sampled plenty of fresh veggies as a child, but these peas were the first I had tried that were not of out of a silver Lesueur can. Our fresh spring/summer staples were always crisp green beans, juicy silver queen corn and lots of tender butterbeans, but not peas. Imagine my delight when I tried these peas! I still cannot stomach canned peas since experiencing the sweetness of the real thing, and always look forward to May and June when they are available locally.

asparagusIn anticipation of the first fresh vegetables of the season, I paid a visit to my favorite source for produce and flowers on First Colonial Road-Stoney’s Produce. I was not disappointed. Upon arrival, I found fresh, local asparagus, strawberries from Pungo, boiled peanuts, and row upon row of juicy red tomatoes. By the time my son Nathaniel and I had chosen our favorites, our Red Rider shopping wagon was overflowing!

In addition to vegetables, Stoney’s has always been a great source for flowers. I saw some varieties and color combinations this year that I had never seen there before. The reds and pinks were particularly striking, and the overall selection was incredible. I need to remember to pick up a few of their antique bottles for sale next time, as they make perfect vases for fresh flowers.

My foodie son and I have vowed to return to Stoney’s often and check out the Virginia Beach Farmer’s Market as the local produce season shifts into high gear. I’m getting hungry just writing this! I’m imagining summer afternoons shopping for veggies followed by a trip to Pollard’s Fried Chicken to accompany the good stuff. Spending springtime in Virginia Beach is truly living life at its freshest!violet flower

Editor’s Note: Don’t miss the upcoming Pungo Strawberry Festival held Memorial Day Weekend. Now in it’s 31st year, the festival is a family-oriented, fun-filled day featuring lots of fresh local strawberries, carnival rides, pie eating contest, pig races, youth art show, a parade, and continuous entertainment on three stages.strawberriesPhoto credits: Sherry Friel

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