Great White Water Sports creates a harmony with the gentle crash of waves, the powerful growls of jet skis, and the excited yelps of families as they launch a variety of jet-ski rentals right from the sands of Chesapeake Bay. Ranked second on the Norfolk activity list by TripAdvisor, and backed by favorable attention from USA Today, their lifeguard-trained team also saddles up jet skis in waters warmer than the Atlantic and with smaller waves. Their jet skis are not equipped with any speed-restriction devices, allowing guests to rev up their engines and feel the wind hit their faces as they send wake waves rolling shoreward.
Before visitors to the AZA-accredited Virginia Zoo see any of its live animals, a life-size statue of an African elephant greets them. The zoo's 53 acres of landscaped grounds have welcomed new sculptures, enclosures, and eco-friendly innovations in recent decades that build on a 100-year legacy of conservation.
Mammals such as African lions and kangaroos, birds such as rhino hornbills and African crowned cranes, and a variety of snakes and amphibians roam themed habitats—some of which are interactive or equipped with viewing bubbles that protect visitors from any monkeys with paintball guns. Visitors can view these protected creatures by walking or by taking a narrated ride on the Zoo Train, a one-third scale working model of a C.P. Huntington steam engine. Zoo staffers work to preserve 16 of the resident species through cooperative breeding, field projects, and reintroduction initiatives as part of the AZA's Species Survival Programs.
Each year, Virginia Zoo staff and volunteers work together to design and plant 10 themed gardens filled with colorful exotic plants, many of which are given as treats to their 400 animals. In the garden, visitors can learn about composting, using rain barrels, and ticketing littering garden gnomes. Projects, such as recycling old tires into planters and industrial spools into stepping stones, teach children about reuse, too. The zoo also builds on its conservation efforts with an array of environmental conservation programs. Staffers use only natural rainfall and drip irrigation to water the gardens, establish rain gardens to absorb runoff, and educate visitors on environmentally friendly gardening practices in the eco-garden—earning the zoo a designation as a Virginia Green attraction.
With the Chrysler's household membership, art enthusiasts get a diverse palette of benefits, including unlimited free admission to all special exhibitions, such as Dawoud Bey's large-as-life photography of an economically varied set of high schools, which runs through August 8, 2010. You'll also receive special invitations to members-only exhibition previews, guest passes for friends and family, and numerous chances to learn about Monet's disregarded BMX dirt-bike sketches. Young, aesthetically minded professionals also gain membership to For Art's Sake, a social networking group that provides free admission to every Warm It! and Cool It! seasonal after-work concert for an audible edge to the visual feast. Check the museum's website for a full list of benefits, including discounts at The Museum Shop and Cuisine & Company at the Chrysler Café.
To stay true to the ever-changing genre it represents—and keep security guards entertained despite their short attention spans—the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art continually changes the artwork that adorns its 6,300 square feet of exhibition space. Though the exhibits predominately feature work from living artists, from the nature-inspired art of Richmond native Sayaka Suzuki to the fantastical landscapes of Jean-Pierre Roy, seminal pieces from late legends settle in from time to time, such as an Andy Warhol exhibit that borrowed pieces from the artist's eponymous gallery and banana farm in Pittsburgh. Beyond its exhibits, MOCA also promotes art education through studio-art classes—sometimes taught by the very virtuosos whose works grace the museum walls—and outreach programs. Held twice a year on the shores of Virginia Beach, outdoor art shows invite national artists to compete in juried contests by signing their own names on lost Picassos.
Day and night, the US Coast Guard–certified Lost Pearl, a replica of a 65-foot Spanish galleon, roams the waters of Virginia Beach while searching for scallywags. During family cruises, kids take in tales from the pirate crew and battle passing vessels with spewing water cannons while their parents sip on beer, wine, and frozen drinks. Come dusk, adults converge on the decks to mingle over cocktails and watch as onboard pirates present bawdy skits.
Peninsula Fine Arts Center isn't a passive art museum where guests stare silently at paintings and statues. Instead, the center uses rotating exhibitions of paintings, photographs, and pottery to inspire visitors to create their own artwork. To that end, the exhibiting artists often teach in the center's Studio Art School. Classes range from single-day workshops to 10-week sessions, during which instructors might teach small groups to paint with watercolors or change out a flat pottery wheel. The instructors keep their schedule balanced, leading classes that suit all ages and skill levels. Other classes, such as Little Helping Hands Adventure in Clay, let kids and adults create artwork together.
Kids don't need to sign up for classes to try out their art skills, however. In the Hands On for Kids interactive gallery, young patrons draw on a chalkboard wall, build with blocks, and complete various projects inspired by the exhibitions.