Southern Living has partnered with to form a guest blogger network. Today's post is provided by guest blogger Brianna Simmons of Casual Travelist. Check back every Monday and Thursday for new ways to explore the state of Virginia.

Virginia Beach may be best known for miles of beaches, its iconic 3 mile long boardwalk and laid-back coastal lifestyle. Just a few blocks back from the resort area, a renaissance of sorts is happening. The ViBe Creative District, encompassing 13 blocks between the Convention Center and the boardwalk, is a non-profit initiative designed to foster creativity and community in Virginia Beach. A growing number of forward thinking chefs, artists and entrepreneurs now call this area home.


Mural: Studio 17 Gallery, Shop & Event Space by OnieTonie™ Designs

A mix of East Austin and East Coast surf, the flavor here is 100% local. Don't miss the monthly "First Friday Vibe", held the first Friday of each month to highlight a changing roster of local artists, chefs and musicians. Here are a few of my favorite businesses making the ViBe Creative District an exciting addition to Virginia Beach.

Commune Immediately upon entering Commune, you know this café is someplace you want to be. Concrete floors highlight the modern rustic space anchored by a long community style table and flanked by an inviting espresso bar. Farm to table with a conscious isn't just a concept here, it's a way of life. If it isn't grown in the onsite garden they share with neighboring bistro Esoteric, it's sourced from only the best local farmers, watermen and purveyors. The menu is ever changing based on what's fresh and in-season but you can never go wrong with a savory buckwheat crepe filled with smoked Surry ham, melted cheese and fresh-from-the-garden greens served alongside an all too addictive burnt honey latte.


Chartreuse Chartreuse design and arts studio is the passion project of Cindy Pennybacker. The furniture found at Chartreuse is whimsical with a hint of urban edge. Reclaimed wood finds new life as a communal dining table; an antique chaise gets a modern spin with a black angel wing print. Hosting seasonal pop-up shops, in-house artists and with a calendar of art classes in the works, Chartreuse's vision is to cultivate and nurture the creative spirit in Virginia Beach Three Ships Coffee In a city dominated by Starbucks, Virginia Beach was long overdue for a well-crafted coffee without pretense. Brad Ewing and his wife Amy, a certified wine professional, began roasting in their garage and selling their beans and brew at the Old Beach Farmer's Market. Roasted in small batches, Three Ships Coffee is fruity and complex, highlighting the nuances of each coffee whether served as a pour-over or cold brew. With the new space in the ViBe creative district housing their roaster and full service coffee counter, Three Ships aims to be a meeting place and become an east coast coffee destination while fostering an appreciation of good coffee in the local community.


Chesapeake Bay Distillery Virginia is well known for its exploding beer scene but Virginia Beach's Chesapeake Bay Distillery is at the forefront of the booming craft spirits movement. Owner Chris Richeson recently relocated his operation to its 17th Street beach cottage location where you can sample Chesapeake Bay Distillery's latest offerings in their onsite tasting room. I've long been a fan of their signature Spirits of the Blue Ridge vodka which is clean and easy to sip neat or as the basis of your favorite martini, while their new ghost pepper infused vodka has a spicy kick just perfect for your next bloody mary. Chesapeake Bay Distillery also supports the local military community by donating 10% of their proceeds to the Navy Seal Foundation.

Esoteric Sharing the same Virginia Beach Historic Registry 1940's era building and garden as Commune, Esoteric pairs creative fare with a diverse and eclectic beer menu. The brainchild of owners Kristina and Tim Chastain, Esoteric aims to provide an intellectual yet playful dining experience while paying homage to Virginia's local producers. Start off with a draft from one of the best curated beer menus in the area and while the menu is always changing, the house made pickles or bacon sliders are always a good bet.

North End Bag Company No matter what you're carrying, everyone deserves a well-made bag and that's just what Aaron and Sarah McLellan at North End Bag Company are doing. Handmade at every stage of design, these timeless bags are fashioned with sumptuous full-grain leather, durable waxed canvas and finished with hand hammered copper rivets. Rather than gather dust in your closet, these bags are designed to be stuffed, slung and tossed; North End bags are crafted with daily use in mind and will each develop a unique patina over time.

Photo: Ryan Rish/The Mother Road Creative

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