By Chloe Mulliner, on August 5, 2019

A Guide to the Neptune Festival in Virginia Beach

The Neptune Festival in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is the seaside resort’s pride and joy. Over the course of the entire year, the fest hosts more than 40 events, from sand sculpting competitions to wine sampling events. Read our guide to find all the info you need to know about some of the most popular events and attractions.

Things to know about the Boardwalk Weekend

Tents and people set up on the boardwalk with a sign that reads, "Virginia Beach Neptune Festival."
Via Annie F./Yelp

This year, Virginia Beach is celebrating the 46th anniversary of Neptune Festival’s Boardwalk Weekend. This free event features 32 blocks of activities and attractions on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk. The boardwalk comes alive with concerts and art exhibits, and visitors swarm the oceanfront to see what all the buzz is about. Along with the boardwalk extravaganza, a number of other events take place throughout the weekend.

When is the Neptune Festival Boardwalk Weekend?

The Neptune Festival boardwalk event takes place across three days, starting on Friday, September 27, from noon to 11 p.m. On Saturday, the festivities start as early as 10 a.m. and last until 11 p.m., and on Sunday, the event runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.


What are the Boardwalk attractions?

Three stages set up at the boardwalk at 17th, 24th, and 31st Streets.  Throughout the weekend, 35 musicians will perform, starting at 6 p.m. on Friday night. On Saturday and Sunday, the first bands will take the stage at 1 p.m. Local, regional, and national bands will perform, including acts like UB40, the Psychedelic Furs, and Rebirth Brass Band.In addition to the live music, the Art & Craft Show sets up on the boardwalk, too. Considered one of the top shows of its kind in the nation, this art exhibit includes more than 250 artisans showcasing their work. You can browse the handmade artwork on display, but artists aren’t allowed to sell their wares. On Friday, the show lasts from noon to 7 p.m.; on Saturday it goes from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and on Sunday it starts at 10 a.m. and wraps up at 6 p.m.

What are the attractions beyond the boardwalk?

You don’t have to stick to the boardwalk to get in on the action. There’s also an 8K Race, the Grand Parade, a Volleyball Tournament, Youth Art Show, Atlantic Regatta, and Neptune’s Final Toast. The International Sand Sculpting Championship also takes place during this weekend, and you can find more details about that event in the next section.

  • Neptune’s 8K: Occurs September 28, from 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m, but the run starts at 8 a.m. The run begins and finishes at 31st Street.
  • Grand Parade: Runs from 16th to 32nd Street on September 28, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Volleyball Tournament: Takes place September 28-29, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 32nd to 36th Streets.
  • Youth Art Show: Sets up from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on September 29 on 27th to 28th Streets.
  • Atlantic Regatta: Boats sail from Cape Henry to Rudee Inlet on September 28, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Neptune’s Final Toast: Happens on September 29, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Reserve tickets in advance to celebrate the city’s Hometown Heroes during brunch.


How is the weather during the Boardwalk Weekend?

It’s still technically summer, so the weather in Virginia Beach is usually pleasant during this time of year. The daily temperature lingers around 75 degrees F. The event takes place down along the boardwalk, so you’re sure to feel the ocean breeze—it may even be warm enough for a dip in the sea! Even though the temperature is comfortable, be sure to wear a hat and bring plenty of sunscreen.


Things to know about the International Sand Sculpting Championship

Intricate dragon sand sculpture on the beach at the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival.
Via Cathy T/Flickr

Neptune’s International Sand Sculpting Championship is no child’s play. This signature event is considered one of the best contests of its kind, as it invites 32 sculptors from 11 countries to participate in the grand competition. For three days, 12 solo and ten double teams build 22 masterpieces out of sand.

Venture into the massive tent—set up on 6th and 8th Street—and marvel at the intricate sculptures. Take photos, meet the sculptors, and even take part in one of the sand clinics to learn the art of sand sculpting. This exhibit occurs during the Boardwalk Weekend and continues for several days afterward.

When is the International Sand Sculpting Championship?

The International Sand Sculpting Championship is from September 27-October 6, 2019. For the first two days of the event, the Land of Sand Tent will be open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. On that Sunday, September 29, the tent will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The following week, September 30 to October 6, you can visit from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.Want to learn how to build your own sand sculptures? Join Master Sculptor, John Gowdy, on the beach at 6th Street for a clinic. He’s hosting several classes from September 28-29, including Sand Building 101 and The Art of Sculpting a Dolphin in the Sand. Space is limited, so arrive early!


How is the weather for the International Sand Sculpting Championship?

Because the sand sculptures are protected under the tent, this event goes on rain or shine! There’s no need to check the weather in advance, but you can expect temperatures to be in the 70s F during this time of year.


How much are the International Sand Sculpting Championship tickets?

The cost to enter the Land of Sand Tents is only $5. If you’re visiting with kids under the age of 12, they get in free of charge. Each ticket comes with a discounted lunch coupon to use during the Boardwalk Weekend.


Things to know about the Wine Fest

Tents and people set up on the boardwalk in front of the famous Neptune statue in Virginia Beach.
Via Tony Alter/Flickr

Come sample some of Virginia’s finest wines! At the Neptune Wine Festival, you can sip wine in the sunshine with a front-row view of the beach. This grape fest sets up shop right along the boardwalk at Neptune Street and Atlantic Avenue.

This year marks the 23rd annual event, in which you can spend all day tasting 70 different wines, ciders, and mead. You’ll find 17 different participating wineries, from Bright Meadows Farm and Cobbler Mountain Cider to Pearmund Cellars and Rebec Vineyards.

The festival also has live entertainment on both days. On Saturday, The Gold Sauce will play from noon to 2 p.m., followed by Borderline Crazy from 2:30-5 p.m. On Sunday at noon, Mike Proffitt Duo will take the stage, and BJ Griffin & Galaxy Groove will close out the festival from 2:30-5 p.m.

When is Wine Fest?

Each year, the Wine Fest takes place over the course of two days in September. This year, the event will occur in mid-September (September 14-15, 2019 from noon-5 p.m. Can’t make it in the fall? Don’t worry, Neptune’s Wine + Food Festival occurs each spring during the month of May.
Note: The Wine Fest does not take place at the same time as the Boardwalk Weekend.


What are the options for Wine Fest tickets?

When you purchase admission, your ticket comes with a commemorative wine glass and wine tastings. Your ticket will only admit you into one day of the event, so you can choose between a Saturday or Sunday ticket.

Take advantage of the early bird tickets, which are available through July 31, or the advance tickets, which you snag until September 8. Tickers are still available from September 9 onward until they sell out, but they’ll be $10 more.

Looking to up the ante? For $50, you can purchase a Saturday VIP ticket in advance, which gets you exclusive early access an hour before the event begins.  Other upgraded perks include tables and chalets for rent. Table purchases include eight tickets, while the chalet includes 20 VIP tickets.

Tickets are only available for guests 21 years of age and older.


Are there food and drinks at Wine Fest?

Obviously, there will be wine! In addition to wine, the event is hosting two food trucks: Capt’n Crabby and The Boardroom. Capt’n Crabby serves up their own versions of Maryland crabcake sandwiches along with Greek cuisine and a number of other kinds of sandwiches. As for The Boardroom, it has Virginia craft beer, wine, and cheeseboard selections.

You’re welcome to pack your own lunch, bringing in outside food and non-alcoholic drinks. Keep in mind that your bags are subject to search.


Virginia Beach tips

Visiting from out of town? You can book flights to Virginia Beach and arrive at Norfolk International Airport. The airport is roughly 25 miles west of Neptune’s Park Virginia Beach.

As for hotels in Virginia Beach hotels, you have your fair share to choose from. Keep in mind that rooms may fill up fast during these big events, so book early to snag a good one!

  • Hotels near the oceanfront are located closest the events and all the boardwalk entertainment. You’ll also find yourself just steps from the sand and sea. Though it will be busy, this is the prime place to be for the Neptune events.
  • The Great Neck neighborhood is slightly west of the waterfront, but still just a 5- to 10-minute drive from both the ocean and Chesapeake Bay.

Check out these amazing attractions during the Neptune Festival in Virginia Beach, but don’t miss the other events that occur throughout the year.

Header image via Jeff Futo/Flickr