February 12th, 2014 by Katherine Jackson
One of the things I love about living where I live – in the oceanfront area of Virginia Beach near Rudee Inlet – is that in addition to biking for exercise, I can use my bike instead of my car for transportation. I bike to dinner at restaurants with ocean views. I bike to concerts at open air stages. I bike to the library and even to the grocery story from time to time.
I also bike to the Old Beach Farmers Market, which takes place in the parking lot of Croc’s Bistro on Nineteenth Street, about three miles from my house. During the winter, the market runs every third Saturday in the month from 9 a.m. until noon (in Feb. it’s this coming Saturday, 2/15); in the summer, it’s open every Saturday. Even during the colder months, locally-grown produce is available. At the market in January, people bought kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, sweet potatoes, turnips and squash. In addition to fresh produce, vendors offer organic food items such as crusty bread, artisan cheese, handmade pasta and granola. There are meats and seafood, sauces and salsas. Many vendors offer taste tests. Although some purchases are for later use, others can be consumed on the spot: ham biscuits, sausages, pastries and coffee. Adjacent to the food stalls, artists sell everything from jewelry to cutting boards to knitted hats, all of which are made from natural/recycled/repurposed materials. One of my favorite stalls has used books, and at another stall, I sometimes buy handmade, goat’s milk soap. There’s always a festive air around the market, with neighbors greeting neighbors, and vendors calling out to returning customers. People swap recipes, and cookbook authors sign and sell their books. Naturally, everyone packs purchases in reusable shopping bags. The vendors vary from Saturday to Saturday, depending on the season, and that’s part of what makes the market interesting and fun.
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February 1st, 2014 by Mike Halperin
Lonnie Longtin and his prize catch
What better way to share the story of our world-class fishing than to talk with avid local angling expert Lonnie Longtin about his passion for Virginia Beach fishing. Lonnie has been successfully fishing our waters from beach and boat for twelve years.
A Conversation with Lonnie Longtin
Q: What makes Virginia Beach a premier fishing destination?
A: The wide variety of fishing waters, including inlets, jetties, wrecks, beaches, piers, and inland waters as well as the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. This provides year-round fishing as several species are always biting.
Q: What are the best places for visitors to fish?
A: The surf at Sandbridge, the three piers (Lynnhaven, Va. Beach, and Sandbridge), inland back waters by canoe or kayak, First Landing state park, and the Rudee Inlet sea wall. There are also half and full day fishing trips on head and charter boats. Other than the charter trips, most opportunities are at little or no cost.
Q: How would you describe Virginia Beach fishing?
A: Exceptional, ever-changing by season, featuring a wide variety of species. There are normally several species feeding in our waters each season of the year.
Lonnie Longtin & a recent flounder catch
Q: What are your favorite species?
A: Flounder and speckled trout from the beach and mostly striped bass but some cobia and flounder by boat. These fish are available seasonally and offer a good bite.
Q: Can you share why you’re partial to light tackle?
A: I grew up fishing light tackle in fresh water and I decided to adapt the technique to the local fishing.
Q: What was your best or most unique day fishing?
A: One January day I saw flocks of gannets diving just south of the Rudee Inlet jetty. I quickly went and found my son and we launched our boat. Within a few hours we had caught and released 70 to 80 rockfish up to 40 pounds!
On another January day, we were catching stripers off Cape Henry when a group of five humpback whales started feeding all around us. Suddenly one of the whales surfaced just five feet from our boat. As the whale swallowed a mouthful of menhaden, he looked my fishing partner right in the eyes from maybe five feet away and then slowly slid beneath the surface.
Q: What would readers be amazed to know about your fishing?
A: That I catch surprisingly large fish on light tackle and have been known to be out in my open center console boat “On the Rocks” in strong winds, rough seas and below freezing temperatures.
Many thanks to Lonnie for inspiring fishermen to visit Virginia Beach this year. Following is a representative sample of fish available by season.
Blueline Tilfefish by Duane Raver
At the start of the year in February and March, our bottom fish typically include tautog, blueline and golden tilefish, grouper, and yellow bellied rosefish, all top attractions for fishermen. These fish happen to be “all stars” in their own right on the dinner plate. Bluefin tuna approaching 300 pounds or more have also excited anglers in February during recent years.
As area waters begin to warm in April, flounder will join the party from their offshore winter grounds. Chesapeake Bay blue crabs begin to emerge from the mud in May to provide one of our tastiest combos: crab stuffed flounder! By the end of May, sea bass normally arrive on offshore wrecks along with chopper bluefish.
Norfolk Spot by Duane Raver
With the start of summer weather patterns and predictable southwest winds in June, Norfolk spot, cobia, red and black drum, and Spanish mackerel are normally on the scene. All three species are great eating with the drum and cobia providing epic battles from fish that can easily top 50 pounds!
Blue Marlin release - estimated @ 300 lbs.
Once students are out of school, premier game fish including white and blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, swordfish and king mackerel show up. Trigger fish and spadefish are an added bonus during the summer.
Fall brings the added bonus of much larger fish that have fed all summer on Chesapeake Bay fish and crabs. On top of that, many species tend to “school” in large groups just prior to fall migration, thereby offering easy pickings for fishermen. What more could an angler ask for!
In case you think I totally forgot, I have saved the best for last — Striped Bass! This revered game fish, which also manages to delight the palate while appearing in small to extra-jumbo sizes, is pretty much with us year round. Anglers just need to check size and creel limits as well as changing locations that are permitted for catching rockfish. With spring and fall offering the best shot at a trophy bass, and due to year-round striper presence, Virginia Beach enjoys the title of Rockfish Capital of the World. By example, note Corey Wolfe’s 74-pound state record striper that was caught in the month of January. And the size of our state record striped bass just seems to get bigger and bigger every few years.
With beaches, inland waters, fishing piers, boat ramps and charter boat facilities, the many fish species in Virginia Beach waters can be easily accessed in a variety of ways. A trip awaits that should fit almost any vacation budget. So while planning that vacation visit to the Beach, don’t forget to save some time for a family fishing outing. There is much fun to be had and great fishing memories to be made, no matter when you visit!
Captain’s Log: The March fishing blog will summarize catch trends and citation results from the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament for 2013. This can help to decide when and where to fish to target specific species as well as trophy fish in 2014.
Captain’s Tip: Now is the perfect time to clean and lubricate reels, make any needed repairs and spool fresh line for the coming season. Then you’ll be ready to battle citation-worthy fish on short notice.
Wishing all tight lines and hard strikes!
January 31st, 2014 by Katherine Jackson
This week in The Beach Report Blogger and Author Katherine Jackson recounts our recent RARE snow fall in Virginia Beach.
Magical Mystery Tour
The author enjoying a rarity in VB - snow!
Virginia Beach usually gets a few inches of snow each winter, but real snow days – with enough snow to close schools and bring out the snow shovels – are few and far between. According to the local newspaper, our most recent snowstorm fell just short of the top ten on the list of snow storms recorded in the area. Although the storm caused problems for lots of folks, I saw it as a gift from nature, and a perfect opportunity to break out my snowshoes. Yes, despite the dearth of snow in Virginia, I own snowshoes and enjoy using them from time to time in the mountains of West Virginia. Red Wing Park in Virginia Beach, with eight to ten inches of snow on the ground (or more in some places!), became an ideal arena for snowshoeing. Midmorning: the bulk of the storm had passed in the night, but the sky was still cloudy and gray, and a few snowflakes were still falling. We bundled up, strapped on snowshoes and headed into the deserted park. How beautiful it was under a thick quilt of snow, how quietly enchanting. The Japanese garden with its stands of bamboo and quaint red bridge seemed mystical and ethereal. Hundreds of bare-limbed cherry trees created a snow-filled promenade, and the broad, snow-covered fields were like pure white canvases, unbroken by man or animal. At the east end of the park, we trekked down a trail that wanders through a copse of tall trees. The snow had obscured the trail, but fortunately, colored slashes on trees marked the way. Deep in the woods, we spotted a red-headed woodpecker and stopped to watch him at work. We saw deer tracks, or so we assumed, the prints enlarged and reshaped in the deep snow. In a garden at the west end of the park, we tramped along the path through a landscape filled with evergreen trees and shrubs, holly bushes and frozen camellias. Red Wing is usually well-traveled, with its dog-park, basketball courts, walking paths and playgrounds. But on this snow-filled morning, we only had to share it with a few other intrepid snowhounds. Snowshoeing through ten inches of unbroken snow on un-cleared trails is a good workout and an awesome adventure. With the solitude and the snow and the sun beginning to peek out from the clouds, it was a magical mystery tour. I won’t go so far as to say it was a once in a lifetime adventure, but in Virginia Beach, it certainly was once in a decade.
Photo credit: Katherine Jackson
January 24th, 2014 by Teresa Diaz
As promised, here’s a post about my day trip last week – enjoy!
It was just what I needed – a change of scenery and a nice dose of art & culture. Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE VIRGINIA BEACH but every now and then, a day trip is good for the soul. There are many interesting and fun places to visit within an hour or two of Virginia Beach, by car, and many of our visitors build a day trip into their Virginia Beach vacation. Busch Gardens, Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown are favorites, as is our state capital of Richmond.
That’s exactly where I was last week with the crew from the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art - MOCA to locals – for one of their annual day trips to experience art in other Virginia museums. Executive Director Debi Gray and her team for the trip, Rita and Kay, were perfect hostesses for what turned into an amazing day.
About 30 early-risers joined me and my Aunt Margaret at MOCA last Saturday morning for breakfast before boarding a charter bus operated by Fun Tours. Following intros and an overview of the day ahead, we were treated to a screening of a classic, The Wizard of Oz. It was a beautiful clear, bright morning and a delightful ride to Richmond and our destination: the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Before we knew it we were looking straight into the glimmer of a pair of giant ruby-sequined slippers – we were there! As we made our way into the venue where we’d spent the next few hours, you could feel the excitement and anticipation of what was in store for us first: a guided tour of the wildly popular Hollywood Costume exhibit. Organized by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Hollywood Costume explores the central role costume design plays in cinematic storytelling. Bringing together the most iconic costumes from a century of cinema, this visual masterpiece of a collection is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the clothes worn by unforgettable and beloved characters in films such as The Wizard of Oz, The Birds, My Fair Lady, Gone with the Wind, Titanic, and The Dark Knight Rises. Tickets for this exhibit have sold out many times during its current world tour so we knew we were in for a real treat!
As Margaret and I made our way through the extensive exhibit, we heard (and exclaimed) one “ooh” and “aah” after another. Each section of the exhibit was arranged in themes, showing several costumes from select movies, and each had a short narrative describing the film name, year produced and by whom, the actors who wore the costume and other interesting facts. To add to the fun, the MOCA staff held a voluntary scavenger hunt for clues to “fill in the blanks” of trivia questions developed in concert with some of the films and costumes. It was one visual treat after another – almost 100 in all. My personal favorite was the gorgeous green gown designed by Travis Banton and worn by Claudette Colbert in the 1934 movie “Cleopatra.” It was absolutely breathtaking! I found this photo on Fashion Historia; isn’t it incredible?
Photo credit: Fashion Historia
We’d worked up quite an appetite and it was a bit after noon so we headed to lunch. Luckily Rita had given the group a heads up that the popular house restaurant, Amuse, would probably be sold out. We had reservations and although we were running late, the manager was more than gracious and sat us immediately. After an outstanding lunch and one of the best cups of coffee I’ve had in a long time (and I do my fair share of coffee drinking), we ventured out to take in some of the permanent exhibits which include early European 20th-century art, a Native American collection and Signs of Protest: Photographs from the Civil Rights Era. Having watched The Butler at home the evening before, I found this exhibit particularly moving.
Next on the agenda was entry to yet another new exhibit, Made in Hollywood: Photographs from the John Kobol Foundation. Kobal was an Austrian-born British based film historian responsible for The Kobal Collection, a commercial photograph library related to the film industry. Complementing Hollywood Costume, Made in Hollywood showcases more than 90 original vintage prints by the most important photographers working in Hollywood 1920–1960.
Selected from the Kobal Foundation collection in England the exhibition features prints of some of the greatest stars during the golden age of the film industry, including Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Swanson and Clark Gable. Although we enjoyed the costumes immensely, this was where my aunt’s fondest memories came alive as she recounted the story behind each and every actor and actress in every single photograph. She was in her glory as we moved around the room from picture to picture. I was beyond amazed at the details and facts she was able to share. It was like having a personal guide on a Hollywood set, going from stage to stage with someone behind-the-scenes and “in the know.” What a time we had! We even went around the room twice to take them all in again. It was a good feeling to see her so pleased.
Before we boarded the bus for the ride home, we visited the museum gift shop – fab! – and then sat in the main corridor as we waited for our group to gather. Margaret and I commented at how busy it was at 3 p.m.; families and couples were still pouring in and the lines for the exhibits were full. Locals and visitors were definitely eager to take advantage of this amazing museum with its outstanding exhibits.
The MOCA staff was right on point with the hours and itinerary for this day trip – we arrived at the VFMA at 11 a.m. and were back on the bus at 3 p.m. – ample time to see what you came for and enough to make you want to come back for more!
On the ride home, we were each treated to a goody bag of cheese, crackers and chocolates accompanied by a glass of wine, some great conversation and a Hollywood-themed gift. As our competent driver pulled into the MOCA parking lot promptly at 5 p.m., we vowed to book our seats early for whatever the next MOCA day trip is; when the word gets out about what a terrific time we had, the next trip is a sure sell out!
Hollywood Costume runs through February 17 and Made in Hollywood runs through March 10, 2014 at the VFMA.
About MOCA: Located at 2200 Parks Avenue in Virginia Beach, Va., the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art is the leading contemporary art institution in Virginia fostering awareness, exploration and understanding of the significant art of our time. Check out their Spring lineup right here.
January 17th, 2014 by Katherine Jackson
This week in The Beach Report, local author and walking guide Katherine Jackson takes us to another Virginia Beach gem – City View Park.
City View Park: A Glimpse of How the Locals Live
Like many travelers, I like to visit sites for which a place is well known. In Virginia Beach, that would include places like the Boardwalk, First Landing State Park and the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. However, I also like to find places where the locals hang out, to get a sense of what it’s like to live in the locale I’m visiting. In Virginia Beach, that would mean exploring the city’s parks and natural areas where local residents walk, play sports, and enjoy temperate weather year-round. On a mild, fifty-three degree day in January, I visited City View Park in the Kempsville section of Virginia Beach. It’s one of those hidden gems, a place to which people from adjacent neighborhoods walk or bike to enjoy the amenities. The best thing about the park from my perspective is that it has two trails: a one-mile paved path that circles the park and a quarter-mile pine straw path that loops through a wooded area. On the morning I visited, the park was quiet. A few children played on the swing sets and a few people were on the shared-use trail: a dad teaching his son to ride a tiny bike, a mom walking beside her daughter who was on a scooter, and several people walking their dogs. I walked through the woods alone. In addition to the trails, the park has picnic shelters, ball fields and basketball courts. Various pieces of equipment, such as horseshoes and cornhole boards, can be checked out at the park office.
Most importantly, what the park offers is an endless supply of fresh air in an open space surrounded by trees. According to Frederick Law Olmstead, the father of Landscape Architecture and designer of thousands of parks including Central Park in New York, parks should provide places of harmony and a shared sense of community to all citizens, regardless of their station in life. He believed that a well-designed greensward surrounded by trees could relieve stress by producing a sense of tranquility. Subsequent research supported his assertions. In addition, research has shown that people who walk regularly feel better mentally and physically. According to experts such as Dr. Bob Sallis of the “Every Body Walk!” website, just thirty minutes of walking five times a week is enough to produce significant improvements in health.
Virginia Beach visitors and locals can chose from a plethora of tranquil places to walk, including 265 city parks, two state parks, four natural areas and thirty-five miles of coastline. Exploring a city’s parks is an effective and enjoyable way to relieve stress, improve health and get a glimpse of how the locals live.