When the historic Cavalier Hotel opened in 1927, General J. Leslie Kincaid, president of the American Hotels Corporation, proclaimed, “It is the finest resort hotel in America, and I have seen them all.” It seemed as if the Cavalier Hotel put Virginia Beach on the map as America’s hottest beach resort destination.
As soon as you spy the hotel perched on the hill facing the Atlantic Ocean, you know you’ve arrived somewhere remarkable. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello was the inspiration for the main entrance with a classical four-column portico and three stone steps.
If you arrive by car, you have the option to valet or self park. If you arrive via the Norfolk International Airport, you can rent a car, or take an Uber to the hotel.
Note: My stay at the Cavalier was hosted. All opinions are my own.
A Glamorous Past Still Visible Today
I expected the Cavalier to be luxurious — I was not disappointed. There is an elegance that illuminates the Cavalier; from the moment I arrived I felt as if I was the most important guest in the house. Every detail of the recent restoration meticulously preserved the hotel’s glamorous past, whenever possible. In the Grand Lobby, terrazzo floors, colonial era woodwork, and a detailed plaster rotunda welcome guests. A glass of sparkling wine is offered at check-in.
No doubt, some of the glow from the Cavalier’s golden age lives on. In 1929, when the Cavalier Beach Club opened, it became an esteemed venue for big bands. Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, and Glen Miller all performed there. Every performance was broadcast live coast to coast. It’s easy to imagine dancing all night to the sounds of Glen Miller, or crooner Frank Sinatra.
The Cavalier became a favorite for celebrities and luminaries of the arts and letters. Ten U.S. presidents and many icons of the era stayed at the Cavalier. F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda were regulars on a long list of legendary figures who favored the Cavalier — names like Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Bob Hope, and Elizabeth Taylor.
Pro Tip: Notice the photographs of celebrities and other personalities hanging in the hallways on every floor of the hotel.
Originally, there were 195 guest rooms, but during the remodel, the decision was made to have fewer rooms. Today, there are 85 spacious guest rooms. The decor is fun, elegant, colorful, and comfortable, while catering to the needs of today’s traveler.
Dining Options At The Cavalier
There are several restaurant options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — you will not go hungry. Tulus is a casual beachside cafe located at the Marriott property across the street. You can enjoy breakfast or lunch in a large, bright, and airy room, or outside with a beach view.
Becca is located at the Cavalier and serves modern garden-to-table cuisine in a beautiful setting. Seafood dishes are a good choice here. Try the oysters with fried green tomatoes and arugula. Becca is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch.
The Hunt Room at the Cavalier is open for dinner only. As you might expect, the theme here is casual food in a traditional setting. This is the perfect spot for late night drinks and a burger. On the weekends, the Hunt Room is open until 1 am.
Located at the Marriott, Orion’s Rooftop is the place to go for an elegant dinner with panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. There’s outdoor seating when the weather allows, however, most tables in the main dining room have an ocean view.
I dined with friends, so I was able to try several entrees. I ordered the whole red snapper. Scored and lightly breaded in cornstarch then fried, it was light and flaky and easy to eat, in spite of looking a bit intimidating at first. The scoring made it easy to pull off chunks of fish and I soon gave up the utensils and ate with my fingers. We also tried the sushi made fresh on-site, and one of the most delicious pad thai I’ve ever tasted. If you’re a wine lover, note that Orion’s Rooftop has a deep list of over 600 bottles.
The Tarnished Truth Distillery
The Tarnished Truth opened in 2019 as the first distillery inside a hotel. Tarnished Truth produces several different bottles of bourbon along with vodka, gin, and a bourbon cream.
Book a tour of the distillery, it’s fun and educational. I’m not a big imbiber of spirits but I did a tasting after the tour. I loved the bourbon cream but the namesake Tarnished Truth was also delicious, smooth, and a bit smokey.
The name of the distillery is a nod to the stories surrounding the Cavalier. One of the more infamous stories is that former president Richard Nixon burned hours of Watergate tapes in the big fireplace of the Hunt Room. The truth shall remain unknown.
If a wellness weekend is more your style, you can indulge at the Seahill Spa. There’s a full service hair and nail salon, sauna, and massage service, as well as facials and other body treatments.
The newly imagined Beach Club is located across the street and features a private beach with cabanas, towel and umbrella service, a beachside bar, and infinity pool.
Pro Tips: Any time of year is a great time to visit the Cavalier, but for good weather and fewer crowds, avoid summer and go from September through May. The hotel has a shuttle service that will drop you off at nearby attractions like the boardwalk. I took the shuttle to the Vibe, a colorful artsy neighborhood, and walked back to the hotel.
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