Norfolk, Virginia is a city full of history, culture, and attractions. There are so many things to do in Norfolk that it can be hard to know where to start. This guide will help you navigate Norfolk like a pro and make the most of your time here.
From popular tourist destinations to lesser-known gems, we’ve got you covered. Here are 18 things to do in Norfolk VA that you and your crew are going to love.
CHRYSLER MUSEUM OF ART
Let’s start with the Chrysler Museum of Art, shall we? The Chrysler Museum of Art is one of the most visited museums in Virginia. It features a collection of over 30,000 objects, including paintings, sculptures, glassworks, and photographs. The museum also has an extensive education program that offers classes and workshops for all ages.
The Chrysler Museum of Art was founded nearly a century ago in 1933 by Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. It is located between Norfolk’s downtown district and Ghent. You’ll be amazed at the architecture of the building itself, which was designed in the Beaux-Arts.
As you arrive, the iconic “Torchbearers” statue will greet you. What’s cool about this establishment is the fact that it’s always free admission and parking! The museum focuses on rotating exhibitions, which means that there’s always something new to see.
The main themes of the museum’s collection are American art, European art, and ancient art.
In addition, you can also visit the Perry Glass Studio at the Chrysler Museum of Art. Here you can see how the collections of glassworks came to life, by taking in a free glassmaking demo, or participating in one of their classes or workshops.
NORFOLK BOTANICAL GARDEN
If you’re looking for something outdoor instead, then head on over to the Norfolk Botanical Garden. This is a 158-acre public garden that features over 60 gardens and plant collections. The gardens feature a variety of flowers, trees, and plants from all over the world.
The Norfolk Botanical Garden also has several events and programs throughout the year. They offer classes, workshops, and even summer camps for kids. Be sure to check their website for the most up-to-date information.
Spring is especially a beautiful time to visit as the gardens come alive with color. The Norfolk Botanical Garden is located just a few minutes from downtown Norfolk.
The Virginia Zoo is a legendary zoo that’s been around since 1900, making it one of the oldest zoos in the country. The zoo is home to over 500 animals from all over the world, including lions, tigers, giraffes, and rhinos.
The Virginia Zoo is also committed to education and conservation. They offer a variety of programs for all ages, including classes, camps, and field trips. Virginia Zoo is located in Norfolk’s historic Lafayette district.
At 53 acres, it is relatively small compared to other zoos. However, it more than makes up for it with its variety of animals and commitment to education. This can also be seen as a positive thing since you don’t have to block out an entire day to explore everything.
NAUTICUS & BATTLESHIP WISCONSIN
Nauticus is a maritime museum and science center located on the downtown waterfront. It features interactive exhibits, theaters, and a variety of rotating exhibitions.
One of the most popular attractions at Nauticus is the Battleship USS Wisconsin. The Battleship Wisconsin is a retired United States Navy ship that served in World War II and the Korean War. Visitors can explore the ship and learn about its history.
A mix between a science center and a maritime museum, Nauticus is a great place to learn about the science of the sea. It’s also a great place to get a unique view of Norfolk’s harbor. Take a self-guided tour of the Battleship Wisconsin or explore the hands-on exhibits at Nauticus. Either way, you’re sure to have a great time.
Less than 10 minutes away on foot from Nauticus is Selden Market. This market is a food hall that features local vendors selling everything from coffee to ice cream.
In addition to the food, Selden Market also has a number of shops and boutiques. You’ll find everything from clothes to books to jewelry. There’s also a stage where live music is often performed.
Selden Market is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat or shop. It’s also an excellent place for people-watching and enjoying the vibe. The mall has a more upscale feel than some of the other shopping centers in Norfolk, which is reflected in the experience.
HERMITAGE MUSEUM & GARDENS
The Hermitage Museum & Gardens is a historic house and museum located in Norfolk’s Ghent neighborhood. The property is known for its picturesque backdrop by the water.
The immense gardens add to the property’s charm, and they are often for a leisurely walk.
The Hermitage Museum is also home to many rotating exhibitions. The museum focuses on American art from the 19th and 20th centuries. For example, the Sloane Collection is a display they’ve featured, with over 5,000 objects from 1908 to 1936.
HAMPTON ROADS NAVAL MUSEUM
Next on the list is the Hampton Roads Naval Museum. This maritime museum covers the naval history of the Hampton Roads area, which includes Norfolk. The museum has some interactive exhibits, as well as a research library.
In addition to the exhibits, the Hampton Roads Naval Museum also offers educational programs. These include classes, camps, and field trips. The museum is located in Norfolk’s historic Willoughby district.
MOSES MYERS HOUSE
The Moses Myers House is a historic house museum that dates back to 1792. It’s the oldest surviving Jewish residence in the United States. The house has been preserved to look as it did in the early 19th century.
The Moses Myers House is open for tours, and it’s also available for rental for events such as weddings and parties. It’s a popular venue for its historical significance and picturesque setting.
PAGODA AND ORIENTAL GARDEN
An Asian-inspired garden in Norfolk? Yes, please! The Pagoda and Oriental Garden is a serene spot in the middle of the city. The garden features a replica of a Japanese Pagoda and a koi pond. Bamboo, azaleas, and other Asian-inspired plants add to the garden’s beauty.
There is even a tour to learn about the Chinese inspiration behind the gardens and its plants.
The Neon District is an up-and-coming area of Norfolk, home to several murals and street art. There is also a slew of new bars, restaurants, and shops. As the first official arts district in Norfolk, New Energy Of Norfolk, or NEON, is a growing hub for the arts. The neighborhood is home to several galleries, as well as performance venues.
You can take a guided tour of the Neon District or explore it on your own. Either way, you’re sure to be impressed by the talent on display. You’ll find that many people working or living in the district are free spirits with a creative flair.
KAYAK THE LAFAYETTE RIVER
One of the best ways to experience Norfolk is from the water. And what better way to do that than by kayak? The Lafayette River is a beautiful spot for an easy paddle.
The gentle river is located along Norfolk’s Lafayette Boulevard, and it’s a popular spot for both kayakers and fishermen. It’s also a great place to take in the city skyline. If you don’t have your kayak, no worries. Some companies offer kayak rentals.
The Lafayette River is also a bird-lovers dream, as it’s home to all your favorite species. So, keep your eyes peeled as you paddle. You might just spot an osprey or two.
AMERICAN ROVER SAILING CRUISE
Speaking of experiencing Norfolk from the water, another great option is a sailing cruise aboard the American Rover. The American Rover is a replica of an 1840s cargo sailing vessel, and it’s the largest vessel of its kind in operation today.
The large red sails of the American Rover are a familiar sight in Norfolk, and it’s a popular spot for both locals and visitors. Cruises last two hours, offering a great way to relax and take in the sights.
The American Rover isn’t just a pretty face. The vessel is also eco-friendly, and it uses wind power to sail. So, you can feel good about taking a cruise aboard this vessel.
Aboard the vessel, you may lend a helping hand or sit back and relax…it’s your choice. The captain will take you on a harbor tour, and you’ll even get a chance to navigate the Chesapeake Bay. For a more romantic experience, book one of their sunset cruises. There’s nothing better than watching the sunset over the water with someone you love.
OCEAN VIEW BEACH PARK
Norfolk is known for several beautiful beaches, and Ocean View Beach Park is one of the best. The park offers a wide range of activities, including swimming, fishing, picnicking, etc.
The sand is white, and the water is crystal clear, making it a popular spot to relax and soak up some sun. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even go for a swim. Just obey the posted signs and flags, as the ocean can be dangerous.
After a long day at the beach, you’ll work up an appetite. Luckily, the park hosts food trucks, so you can grab a bite to eat without leaving the beach. A visit here is one of the best things to do in Norfolk VA!
ELIZABETH RIVER PARK
If you’re looking for a place to enjoy the great Norfolk outdoors, look no further than Elizabeth River Park. While exploring, you’ll find historical sites like the Civil War-era Fort Norfolk. The fort is open to the public, and it’s a great place to learn about Norfolk’s history.
Harbor Park, located within the park, is where you can catch a Norfolk Tides baseball game.
GENERAL DOUGLAS MACARTHUR MEMORIAL
Douglas Macarthur was a five-star general who played a major role in WWII. He also served as the Supreme Allied Commander during the Korean War. After his death, he was buried in Norfolk’s MacArthur Memorial.
The memorial is located in MacArthur Square, and it features exhibits on MacArthur’s life and career. The museum is open to the public, and it’s a great place to learn about this important figure in American history.
The memorial also features a 12-foot bronze statue of MacArthur and his tomb.
SAMPLE THE SHE- CRAB
Norfolk is known for its seafood, and one of the best dishes to try is she-crab soup. The soup is made with crab meat, cream, and various spices. It’s usually served with sherry on top, and it’s delicious.
If you’re looking for a place to try this delicacy, the Freemason Abbey Restaurant and AW Sucks Raw Bar are great options. The Freemason Abbey Restaurant is located in an old church, and it’s one of the most popular restaurants in Norfolk.
The AW Shucks Raw Bar is a more casual spot, but it’s no less delicious. The bar is located in Ghent, and it’s a great place to relax and enjoy some seafood.
DAY TRIP TO VIRGINIA BEACH
As you can see, there is no shortage of things to do in Norfolk. However, if you’re looking for a change of scenery, Virginia Beach is just a short drive away.
Virginia Beach is where you’ll find top-rated attractions like the Virginia Aquarium, the Virginia Zoo, and the Ocean Breeze Waterpark. The beach itself is also worth a visit, as it is wide and clean, and there’s plenty of room to spread out.
If you’re looking for something to do, you can rent a surfboard or boogie board and catch some waves. You can also go for a swim, build a sandcastle, or just relax and sunbathe. A famous boardwalk runs along the beach, and it’s a great place to go for a walk or a bike ride.
DAY TRIP TO WILLIAMSBURG
Finally, another day trip option from Norfolk is Williamsburg. Williamsburg is a historic town that was once the capital of Virginia. Today, the town is home to many historical sites, including the Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area. The area includes several restored buildings and museums, and interpretive centers.
The ties to colonial America run deep in Williamsburg, and the town is a great place to learn about early American history. In addition to its historic sites, Williamsburg is full of shops, restaurants, and cafes. There’s also a lively nightlife scene, with several bars and clubs to choose from.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO VIRGINIA
- BEST OF VIRGINIA: 25 Things To Do In Virginia Everyone Will Love
- VIRGINIA BEACH: 21 Amazing Things To Do In Virginia Beach, VA
- RICHMOND: 17 Things To Do In Richmond VA On Your Next Visit
- WILLIAMSBURG: 21 Phenomenal Things To Do In Williamsburg, VA
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