Already have your maps handy? Great! Still not sure how awesome our maps can be in your life? There’s an article for that. Plain and simple, Pocket Ranger® puts the app in mapping and offers fantastically interactive ways to immerse yourself in the many magnificent state and national parks that are just a few taps away.
Now that we explored Virginia Beach’s natural areas, let’s enjoy its beach destinations, prefect for a spring day full of water and land sports! “Live the Life,” as you roam through Virginia Beach’s diverse beach landscapes, local restaurants, and its vibrant downtown area.
Explore the beaches!
Virginia Beach promises calm waters with distinct scenic views. Some to keep in mind include Resort Beach, Sandbridge Beach, and Chesapeake Bay Beach.
Sometimes we just want to relax and stroll down an endless pier! Resort Beach features a 3-mile boardwalk, great for jogging and biking. The boardwalk is lined with restaurants, hotels, beach playgrounds, souvenirs shops and plenty of other attractions. There’s Grommet Island and the King Neptune statue, a 34-foot-tall, cast bronze god of the mythical sea. You can bike, boat, kayak, parasail or paddle board in Resort Beach. Restaurants around here range from fine dining to crab and oyster shacks, or catch your own lunch at a nearby fishing pier!
And when you’re off biking, me sure to carry the Virginia Pocket Ranger® App. Its advanced GPS Maps allows you to access trail data, record tracks from hikes, runs, or bike rides, and view elapsed time and distance traveled.If exploration and seclusion is more your thing, Sandbridge Beach is the place! Along with the island vibes and serene views, you’ll have a chance to explore the outdoors, and discover trails, marshes, and the open waters of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park whether on bike or by foot. There’s also surfing lessons available from local outfitters. And you don’t necessarily have to leave comfort out of the equation. Enjoy amazing ocean views from available hotels, rental homes or condos.
The scenic Chesapeake Bay Beach is the ideal location for sunsets and sunrises. It also features gentle waves perfect for swimming and splashing, especially for the little ones learning how to swim. Here visitors can enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding, sand castle building, volleyball and more! It’s truly a romantic escape with multiple dockside seafood restaurants, offering incredible sunset views over the Lynnhaven Inlet. And for the historian in you, visit the Cape Henry Lighthouse to learn a little more about Virginia.
We want wildlife and adventure!
While you’re exploring Chesapeake Bay be sure to visit the bottlenose dolphins that live in estuaries year-round. From May to October visitors can get close to playful marine mammals during a guided dolphin-watch on kayak! Guides will take viewers to see the dolphin’s favorite areas. Document the experience through photos as dolphins frolic between feeding grounds. And use the Virginia Pocket Ranger® App as your guide when you’re off exploring those nature spots beyond the beach. With the app you can mark and record the coordinates of plant life, animal species, or landscape views with the photo waypoint feature.
You’ll also find a thrilling adventure while zip-lining through trees in the brand new Adventure Park at the Virginia Aquarium. Virginia Beach has five campgrounds! Pitch a tent in one of Virginia Beach’s five campgrounds, 1,800 campsites, or stay in one of their 70 rustic cabins, that include restrooms, showers, guest laundry, bicycles, playgrounds, pools and boat ramps.
Savor the local cuisine
Virginia Beach has some of the freshest coastal cuisine. From oysters to crab cakes to rockfish, there’s plenty of local fish to try at Virginia Beach restaurants. For drinks, head to anyone of the five artisan breweries for a fresh pint! If you want to learn more about oysters, there are oyster-farming boat tours on the Lynnhaven River where you can taste fresh harvested bivalves. Also, be on the look out for farmer’s markets and roadside stands, selling fresh, sustainable and local produce. Though this area is know for its strawberries, thanks to the annual Strawberry Festival, it also grows blackberries, cantaloupe, kale, blueberries, among other produce.
See what its like to live on a sustainable farm. New Earth Farm offers educational programs from how to sheer sheep to how to make cheese, kombucha, noodles and other dishes. They also offer cooking classes taught by top chefs at the farm’s Food Lab. Kids as young as 10-years old can sign up and start making meals from scratch, as well as harvesting eggs, washing and chopping produce and putting it all together to make a dreamy farm feast.
Stay tuned for Spring events at Virginia Beach from March to May, inluding PANorama Caribbean Music Festival, Festival of the Arts, Strawberry Festival, and others here!
To explore more of Virginia Beach don’t forget to download our free Virginia Pocket Ranger® App!
While Virginia Beach prides itself on having calm beaches, a lively boardwalk with restaurants and shops, we shouldn’t forget about the Seashore to Cypress Birding Trail! With 130,000 acres of natural land, this place draws in nature and wildlife lovers alike.
Among the cool nature spots within the Seashore to Cypress Birding Trail, First Landing State Park and False Cape State Park are prime areas for birding, hiking and biking. And what better companion than the Virginia Pocket Ranger® App to guide you along! With the app you can mark and record the coordinates of plant life, animal species, or landscape views with the photo waypoint feature. Make use of the advanced GPS Maps, which allows you to access trail data, record tracks from hikes, runs, or bike rides, and view elapsed time and distance traveled.
That’s not all! The Seashore to Cypress Birding Trail links other areas, including Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, and the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Start from the northern part of the trail at Chesapeake Bay where you’ll find thousands of sea ducks gathered around the rock islands. We hear winter is the best time to see them. Also be on the look out for scoters, long-tailed ducks, scaups, red-breasted mergansers, cormorants, and the rare harlequin ducks. And don’t be surprised if you see Northern Gannets driving for baitfish!First Landing State Park is definitely worth a visit. It’s both seashore and cypress, with ample birding, diverse habitats, from dunes to beaches. If you take the Cape Henry Trail, you’ll pass through the Cypress swamp and maritime forest, then the ancient dunes, and lastly the waters of Broad Bay. Want to do birding on a bike? Cape Henry is also a bike trail, so hop on. There are birding opportunities all year round, including warblers in the maritime forest and ospreys in the salt marsh near Broad Bay. They typically arrive in March and stay until fall. Tanagers, thrushes and other songbirds appear during spring and fall migrations.
Already feeling overwhelmed with the number of birds? Use the Pocket Ranger® Bird Feed App to keep track of bird sightings at Seashore to Cypress Birding Trail. Complete with advanced GPS mapping features, a photo/video sharing community, where you can post your findings, add notes, leave comments and tips, as well as view other users’ sightings on one map, record and share tracks of your favorite nature trails, and mark waypoints of locations.If you want to explore a remote public park in the state, False Cape State Park is the place! Head for the elevated platform to view waterfowl and songbirds in the myrtle thicket. Along the ocean coastal forest there’s a cemetery, church site, and remnants of a village from the early 1900s. This spot is also popular with waterfowl hunters. Picnic tables are also available here, so be sure to take a lunch break here.
If winter is turning out to be inhospitable, travel to one of these desert national parks where temperatures range from the 50s to 70s during winter. These National Parks are home to scenic landscapes, rich biodiversity and boundless geologic history. While you’re contemplating the timeless beauty of deserts and finding peace, don’t forget to roll down the sand dunes, and embrace your wild child nature. This is our version of a winter escape in the desert at some of the most breathtaking national parks in the country!
Joshua Tree National ParkImagine landscapes filled with Joshua trees, twisted and spiky, rugged mountains, sand dudes, dry lakes, and endless flat valleys. Joshua Tree National Park is abundant in scenic views, but also wildlife with 6 species of rattlesnakes, desert bighorns, desert tortoises, lizards, jackrabbits, and pacific flyway migratory birds. The park is especially popular with rock climbers with many routes and levels of difficulty. For novice hikers there are shorter trails, such as the one-mile hike through Hidden Valley, which offers a chance to view the beauty of the park without straying too far into the desert. Some look out points include: Keys View, south of the park, offering views of Coachella Vally and the Salton Sea. Longer trails include Ray Mountain, Lost Horse Mine, Warren Peak, and many more. Visit between October and April for cool, crisp weather as opposed to the heat madness of summer. To see the wildflowers visit from March to April, but always check park reports for their status. And if you want to hike at night, don’t leave out stargazing in Black Rock Campground and Pinto Basin.
Mojave National PreserveMojave is the third largest national parks outside of Alaska with 1.6 million acres of wilderness, unique vegetation and wildlife. There are four major North American deserts running through the park: the Mojave, Great Basin, and Sonoran. Many also come to see the cactus gardens, white fir, and chaparral. The landscape is comprised of mountain ranges, dry river beds, great mesas, towering sand dunes, cinders cones, domes and lava flows. There are ancient rocks that date back to 2.5 billion years old discovered in the Clark Mountains. For creepier sights, there’s a defunct railroad depot and the ghost town of Kelsoare. The depot is now a visitor center. The park offers hiking, backpacking, camping, 4-wheel driving, wildflower viewing, and hunting. Even if you don’t have much time, you can experience the Mojave scenery by visiting the Kelso Dunes and Kelso Depot visitor center for exhibits. Other points of interest include Providence Mountains, Ivanpah Valley, and the Lava tube.
Navajo National MonumentThere’s no need to travel far to see ancient ruins. Navajo National Park has three preserved cliff dwellings: Keet Seel, Betatakin, and Inscription House. This monument is high on the Shonto Plateau overlooking the Tsegi Canyon System. Built by the prehistoric Ancestral Puebloan People, the ruins were constructed within sandstone alcoves within the canyons. The villages date back to AD 1250. Visitors can also appreciate roof beams, masonry walls, and even rock art. The park has a museum, two short self-guided mesa top trails, two small campgrounds, and a picnic area. If you’re on your way to Monument Valley, this national monument is the perfect stop to learn about the early civilizations of Arizona and embrace the spiritual energy of the land. Don’t forget to check out the Sandal Trail, an accessible self-guided walk that provides spectacular views of the canyon lands and its rugged topography.
Death Valley National ParkThe peak season for Death Valley runs through the cool winter and spring months into the middle of April. Here you’ll find colorful badlands, snow-covered peaks, beautiful sand dunes, rugged canyons, the driest and lowest spot in North America, and the hottest in the world. Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North American has a dreamy landscape of salt flats. After heavy rain a temporary lake may form in which case you’ll need a kayak! Death Valley is famous for its spectacular, spring wildflower displays, but they are not always around in full array. Under perfect conditions the desert fills with a sea of gold, purple, pink or white flowers depending upon rainfall. Reptiles, butterflies, desert bighorn, coyote, bobcat, mountain lion, and mule deer call this place home. Other places to visit include ghost towns, ranches and mines. Take a picturesque tour at Scotty’s Castle, reminiscent of a Spanish mansion, and last occupied in the 1920s. Don’t miss Dante’s View, an overlook of more than 5,000 feet above the Death Valley floor, and Artist’s Drive, which offers magnificent vistas of the valley floor and distant peaks. During winter you can see Mars Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus in the night sky.
White Sands National Monument
Considered one of the world’s great natural wonders, the White Sands National Monument is 275 square miles of desert, and the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. The field of dunes are composed of gypsum crystals. Its origins date back to more than 10,000 years ago. Though it may appear barren, White Sands is teeming with life, and enchants visitors with its endless fields and starry nights. What to do once you’ve arrived? You can start on one of five hiking trails. The park offers a variety of guided tours, including the sunset strolls where a guide takes you through the sand dunes and discusses the geology, plants, and animals of the area. Sunrise and sunset hours bring out the color of the sand dunes so be sure not to miss it. For those wanting to discover their inner astronomer, this is the place to go stargazing! Though fall is considered prime-time, White Sands has the best dark skies in the lower 48 states thanks to its moon-like landscape. Many visitors say White Sands takes them to a different time and place, where they can find a spiritual and physical connection to the land. Be sure to call the park when there’s snow or freezing temperatures in the area, since the park gates might be closed.
Stayed tuned for our newest Pocket Ranger® mobile app, America’s National Park Passport where you’ll find activities, events, and wildlife!
There’s a Pileated Woodpecker pecking a tree, an Eastern Blue Jays flying around, and now a ruby red Cardinal! Ever find yourself losing track of bird sightings? All bird watchers have experienced this. Through years of bird watching, it’s hard to keep track of all the birds you’ve encountered. Most avid bird watchers document a bird’s location, characteristics (like shape and size), field marks, sounds, and lastly, a photo as proof.
Our new and free Pocket Ranger® Bird Feed App does all that and more! If you want to record bird findings and share them with a larger birding community, this is a great addition to your birding toolbox.
Like previous Pocket Ranger® apps, Bird Feed™ has advanced GPS mapping features, and in addition a photo/video sharing community where you can post your findings instantly, view other users’ sightings on one map, record and share tracks of your favorite nature trails, mark waypoints of locations, and see them again when needed.
You also can create a profile and show off your birding skills by posting photos and adding descriptive notes, anything from location to field marks. Posts can be shared on Facebook and Twitter. Also use hashtags or notes to tag and search for species. Before you know it, you’ll be tracking migration patterns!
Within the app, you can leave comments, birding tips and award other users. Make sure to earn points and get your name on the leaderboard by uploading posts, receiving sighting awards, and commenting. And don’t forget to participate in upcoming challenges, including photo/video contests, which come with cool prizes!Spring is gone and so are the songbirds, but there’s no excuse not to seek out the year-round bird residents. While you’re at it, pick up new birding skills to prepare for the coming busy spring migration.
The U.S. is one of the few countries to use a wide variety of flags, seals, floral emblems, trees, and birds, among other objects, as official state and national symbols actually written into law. Symbols are mostly used to give a state its identity, often drawing on cultural heritage and natural treasures as inspiration. The bald eagle is a native bird, recognized by many as a metaphor for all that is “American.” Since 1893, when the first floral emblems were adopted, the creation of state symbols has continued, even reaching the cookie level. In 1997, Massachusetts adopted the chocolate chip cookie as their state cookie after a third grader proposed the idea.
In the case of state birds, there’s no better idea then putting a bird as a symbol; not only does it draw on a natural treasure, but it draws attention to these sometimes neglected birds. To have the status of a state bird is a pretty high achievement for our small friends. Still, not all states put great thought into choosing, often mimicking other states. The cardinal is used six times and the mocking Bird four times–and yet not an owl or hummingbird in sight. With over 800 species in the U.S. and possibly new species, where’s the originality? Despite the current dullness, some state birds are actually exciting and colorful. Here’s a list of our picks.
Maine’s Black-capped Chickadee
Adopted as state bird in 1927, the tiny and outgoing black-capped chickadee is curious and energetic, even with humans. It likes to investigate its surroundings, often quickly finding home areas and bird feeders. This bird is beyond cute, with a round head, small frame, and its fee-bee chirp. When alarmed they have a slight sound variation adding more ee-ee notes They are found in forests, woodlots and residential areas. As omnivores, they eat caterpillars, spiders, and seeds and berries, sometimes hiding them in tree bark crevices, and surprisingly remembering where they hid them. The most amazing behavior trait occurs between males and females: when a pair bonds they remain together for life. Male chickadees are also of the helpful type, feeding their mate when she’s building the nest or when she is brooding. If only humans couples could be more likes this.
New York’s Eastern Bluebird
How lovely would it be to find you? Designated state bird of New York in 1970, the eastern bluebird is known for its wonderful royal blue hue. This plump, medium-sized songbird has a short tail, round head, and a short black bill. Females display a slightly duller hue. Still, it shouldn’t be too hard to spot. If you hear a Tu-wheet-tudu warbling whistle or dry chatter, you’ve got yourself a tiny blue friend. Their diet consists mostly of insects and small fruits. And when it comes to mating, these birds practice the opposite of reciprocity. The males use a nest demonstration to attract females by bringing materials for nest-building—going in and out of the nest, then flying above waving their wings, making it the only time they contribute. Clever male bluebirds.
Louisiana’s Brown Pelican
This gentle brown bird was a favorite of early European settlers in Louisiana for its kindness and nurturing quality towards kids, and since then it has remained a state symbol. Not only was it adopted in 1966, but it appears in the state’s flag, and the official nickname of Louisiana is the pelican state. The brown pelican is rare among the world’s seven pelican species; it’s the only dark pelican and the only one to dive down from the air to catch its food, which it scoops up with its oversized bill. It disappeared in 1961 due to use of pesticide, but was later repopulated by Louisiana, and recovered in 1995. The brown pelican prefers seafood cuisine—munching on anchovies, herring, and sailfin mollies in coastal areas.
Florida’s Northern Mockingbird
The northern mockingbird, made state bird in 1927, is known for its unique vocal abilities, singing up to 200 songs. They can even mimic other bird sounds, as well as insects, amphibians, and mechanical noises. So, if you think you’re hearing distinct birds—nope, it’s just the mockingbird playing tricks on you (hence the name). These birds can sing through the night. And if the name sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve read the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, and are aware of its symbol for innocence.
New Mexico’s Greater Roadrunner
When the Greater Roadrunner is not busy trying to escape from the evil grips of a coyote, it’s enjoying life in the deserts and shrubby areas of the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. The greater roadrunner, often called the chaparral bird, was adopted as state bird of New Mexico in 1949. Though it has the ability to fly, it loves hanging out in the ground, where it can run at a speed of 15 miles per hour or more when it’s running after insects, small reptiles, scary scorpions, and small birds, among others. This bird is a true renegade, distinguished by its quickness and ability to kill rattlesnakes. Hopi and Pueblo Indian tribes believed that the roadrunner protected against malignant spirits. The Greater Roadrunner’s X-shaped footprints were used as sacred symbols to keep evil spirits at bay.
Oklahoma’s Scissor-Tailed Fly Catcher
The scissor-tailed fly catcher was adopted in 1951, and is protected by law. Its diet consists of insect species such as grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles. These songbirds sing sharp notes with rising, speedy pitches. Their tails are twice as long as their bodies and they catch prey by aerial hawking, but they will also grab insects off plants. These birds are the type to hang out on tree tops and utility wires, exhibiting their striking tails. They typically have a late summer flock, with 1000 birds gathering before migration to southern Mexico and central America for the winter. The scissor-tailed fly catcher practices reusing, which we humans find so difficult. They use human materials to create nests: strings, cloth, paper, wool, carpet fuzz, and even cigarette filters.
Maryland’s Baltimore Oriole
With its vibrant orange color, the Baltimore oriole can easily be distinguished. Adopted in 1947, it lives in deciduous trees, though not deep in the forest but in woodland and forest edges. Females are typically brownish olive and dull orange, while the male’s plumage is a brighter golden orange, with a black tail and white edges. A provision was made to protect them in 1882, along with the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1975. It has experienced decline since the destruction of breeding habitat and tropical winter habitat. Toxic pesticide ingested by insects, which is a main component of their diet, has also lessened their numbers. The baseball team, the Baltimore Orioles, is named after this bird.
Iowa’s American Goldfinch
Also called the wild canary, the American goldfinch was adopted in 1933 and is found throughout Iowa, usually staying around for winter months. Its diet consists of dandelions, sunflowers, ragweed, and evening primrose. The American goldfinch is considered a strict vegetarian in the bird world, mostly eating vegetables and rarely munching on insects. Males have a bright yellow color with black wings, tails, and top of the head. The females’ colors are a muted olive yellow for the body, and dark brown tails and wings. Lovebirds of this species make the same flight call, and can differentiate between other couples’.
Spacious wooden benches are situated at scenic spots along the Salmon Falls River making them a great place to have a snack (or a nap!) before continuing on. Make sure to stop by at the Cow Cove bench on the Scenic River Run trail to get a picturesque view of the historic Hamilton House.Near the park entrance, Vaughan Woods State Park offers large picnic tables and grills for barbecuing, perfect for large groups. A small playground and meadow nearby keep the kids busy (and yet, in sight!) until the hot dogs are ready. However, for couples or small groups, the best picnicking spots are found on the lawns of the Hamilton House. Simply throw down a blanket, break out the cheese and crackers, and admire the view from the hilltop outlook over the Salmon Falls River. After lunch, take your time smelling the flowers in one of the perennial flower gardens. Using your Pocket Ranger® mobile app, snap a photo waypoint to share on Facebook or Twitter!
Hamilton House was built in 1785 by Colonel Jonathan Hamilton, and later purchased by wealthy Bostonian and horse enthusiast, Mrs. Tyson-Vaughan. Mrs. Tyson-Vaughan once rode her horses on many of the trails that wind through Vaughan Woods today, which is why horseback riding is still permitted at the park. During the warmer months, Hamilton House is open to the public through the Society for the Preservation of New England. For a small admission fee, visitors can tour the inside of the mansion, which houses original antique furnishings, handcrafted decorative arts, and two large, whimsical murals.If you’d like to learn more about Vaughan Woods State Park as well as other beautiful parks in the “Vacationland” state of Maine, be sure to download the FREE Official Guide for Maine State Parks & Lands mobile app!