6 Fun Things to Do in Norfolk, Virginia

Downtown Norfolk, Virginia
Downtown Norfolk, Virginia

Norfolk (yes, it is pronounced that way) is one of the oldest cities in the Commonwealth of Virginia, having been founded in 1705. Its history is deeply intertwined with the sea, long being a center for shipbuilding and naval operations. It is the anchor (no pun intended!) of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area, which also includes Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, and Newport News. Norfolk is home to Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval base in the entire worldShipbuilding and the military are major aspects of life in Norfolk. 

Having said that, Norfolk is also home to historic neighborhoods, museums, cultural attractions, and nightlife. Read on for 6 Fun Things to Do in Norfolk, Virginia! 

1. Chrysler Museum of Art

Chrysler Museum of Art
Chrysler Museum of Art

Founded when the son of the founder of Chrysler Motors donated his entire private collection, the Chrysler Museum of Art packs a lot of incredible art into its interior! I especially like their collection of Buddhist and Ancient Near Eastern art, athough they are equally famous for their contemporary art and glass collection. 

Cost: Free!

2. Elizabeth River Trail

I’m a big fan of walking trails because not only are they relaxing and scenic, but they also help to acquaint you with a new city. In the case of Norfolk, the Elizabeth River Trail snakes from Downtown to around the Elizabeth River, allowing you to take in everything from skyscrapers to naval yards to the beauty of the inland sea. 

Elizabeth River Trail, Norfolk, Virginia / Image courtesy of WPArch.com
Elizabeth River Trail, Norfolk, Virginia / Image courtesy of WPArch.com

3. Ghent

Ghent, Norfolk, Virginia

Ghent’s history goes back to the early-1800s. There are several theories on how the area got its name, but all agree that it has to do with the Treaty of Ghent, which officially ended the War of 1812.

Having fallen into decline after World War II, Ghent has been heavily gentrified in recent decades, and today is a pleasure to stroll around and admire. I found Ghent to be similar to the Fan District in Richmond, if you’ve ever been there. 

Local points of interest include the Naro Theater, built in 1936, which screens a lot of art house films and foreign films. It’s also locally famous for putting on a good production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show every year. 

If you like ice cream, be sure to stop by Doumar’s Cones & BBQ, credited with inventing the ice cream cone. 

Ghent, Norfolk, Virginia
Ghent, Norfolk, Virginia

4. The Neon District

Neon District, Norfolk, Virginia / Image Courtesy of SignShop.com
Neon District, Norfolk, Virginia / Image Courtesy of SignShop.com

The “Neon” in Neon District is actually an acronym: New Energy Of Norfolk. 

The Neon District is primarily an arts district, and you can see all kinds of murals and art installations, as well as visit all manner of glass-blowing studios and art classes.

Then you have Granby Street, the nightlife epicenter of the district, featuring all manner of clubs, bars, and dining options. 

5. Nauticus

USS Wisconsin
USS Wisconsin

The sea is of course a huge part of Norfolk’s history and culture, and so you know they’re going to have an impressive naval museum. Nauticus–also known as the Hampton Roads Naval Museum–explores the history of the United States Navy and Merchant Marine.

The big show? The USS Wisconsin battleship moored right outside! The Wisconsin is a storied battleship, not just for its role in World War II, but also for being the last battleship manufactured in the US, right there at the Norfolk Shipyard. 

6. Pagoda & Oriental Garden

The Pagoda & Oriental Garden were a gift from the government of Taiwan in 1989, in recognition of their trading ties with the city of Norfolk. From the top of the Pagoda you can look out over an acre of tranquil oriental garden, replete with walking trails and bamboo. 

Pagoda & Oriental Garden, Norfolk, Virginia / Image courtesy of MapofPlay.Kaboom.org
Pagoda & Oriental Garden, Norfolk, Virginia / Image courtesy of MapofPlay.Kaboom.org

Conclusion

Have you been to Norfolk? Have anything to add to the list? Let me know in the comments section below!
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7 Responses

  1. peachy says:

    Awesome post!

  2. Greg says:

    Love the East Coast, so many historical places to see from early on in this country’s life. Great drone footage!

  3. Wow never heard of this city, museums look awesome and love the river trails. Lovely place..

    • There are a number of cities in the US that don’t have the star power of New York or Philadelphia or DC, but have just as much history and nice places to check out.

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