April 4, 2021 / By mikerbrady
Looking for the best things to do in Norfolk, VA? You don’t have to look too hard in Virginia’s third-largest city. Incorporated all the way back in 1705, Norfolk is a gem of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area and serves as the region’s historic and cultural epicenter. There’s so much to do that it can be hard to figure out exactly what the best things to do in Norfolk might be. But we’re here to help.
Below you’ll find a list of the most exciting, fun, and unique experiences you can encounter in Norfolk and Virginia and there is truly something for everyone. Art lovers won’t want to miss the Chrysler Museum of Art and Barry Art Museum, nature lovers will want to flock to the Norfolk Botanical Garden or the Virginia Zoo, history buffs will appreciate the Nauticus National Maritime Center and USS Wisconsin Battleship, and that’s just the beginning.
Whether you’re looking to move to Norfolk, inherited a home here, want to find a real estate agent, or want to connect with a real estate solutions provider you can trust, this is helpful information for you to have while you’re in town. Let’s take a closer look at the 15 best things to do in Norfolk, Virginia.
Inside the Chrysler Museum of Art, you’ll find over 30,000 original works of art, from modern marvels to relics that go back 5,000 years. It’s also home to the Perry Glass Studio, a 7,000-square-foot space that is home to glasswork from some of the great masters as well as burgeoning artists. It’s the only museum glass studio in the Mid-Atlantic and includes space for glassblowing, casting, and more. The museum features an interactive space for families to enjoy. Admission to the museum is free and the glass studio offers free public demonstrations twice a week.
If you’re looking for a great botanical garden in Virginia, look no further than Norfolk Botanical Garden. The 175-acre space is home to 52 gardens, all of them with their own themes. They include Bristow Butterfly Garden, Fragrance Garden, Renaissance Garden, and Tropical Garden. You’ll also find almost 100 species of birds and 30 different types of butterflies here. There are gardens just for kids so it’s a great way to get children excited about learning more about plants and the environment.
Opened in 1900, The Virginia Zoo is a 53-acre space ideal for the animal lovers in your life. They feature animals from just about every continent, including red pandas, lions, cheetahs, and many more. You can take a tour on the zoo train to get some inside information about the animals there and help chart out the rest of your day. The zoo also has gardens, orchards, and other naturalistic habitats for the animals here. The zoo is open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. but make sure you stop by their website first to reserve tickets.
Located along the waterfront in downtown Norfolk, you’ll find the Nauticus National Maritime Center. Featuring interactive exhibits that focus on STEM and STERN programming for kids, you’ll find this to be an ideal family stop to learn about military history, the environment, and so much more. Along with the museum, it’s also home to Battleship Wisconsin, Schooner Virginia, and a sailing center.
Located in the Nauticus National Maritime Center, the Battleship Wisconsin is appreciated for being one of the largest battleships that were ever constructed by the U.S. Navy. It was also one of the last ones ever built, earning five battle stars in the process, making it a bridge across generations. You’ll be able to walk the deck and explore on your own or, if you don’t mind paying, you can take the guided tour.
Norfolk is renowned for having a stunning collection of public art that so many people can enjoy. You’ll find the streets lined with large sculptures, iron statues, and even a massive kaleidoscope among the many pieces. In fact, you’ll be able to take a scavenger hunt to find over 50 pieces of art scattered throughout the city. Keep an eye out for Metalmatisse, a futuristic flower pot, Wind and Tide, a multi-colored image located within a sheet of glass, a Lone Sailor, a tribute to the U.S. Navy.
Running from Norfolk State University to Terminal Boulevard along the Elizabeth River, you’ll find a former railroad line that is now the city’s premier trail for walking and cycling. You can hop on or off the trail at various points across the city but no matter where you are you’ll be able to appreciate scenic views of the river and gain further appreciation for the history of Norfolk.
Named for Miss Mary Denson Pretlow, the dome of Pretlow Planetarium stands 40-feet tall and boasts a digital projector as well as 5.1 surround audio to create some of the most stunning shows and experiences you’ll witness in Norfolk. When the planetarium reopens, you’ll want to make sure you find the show (or shows) that interest you and your family. There’s something for everyone and a one-of-a-kind experience.
Located at Old Dominion University, the Barry Art Museum acts as a cultural hub for the city and region, showcasing diverse art and research for the public to discover and interpret. Museum programming changes often and is sometimes linked to the work being done by students at the school. Consider the glass sculptures and artwork galleries as great gateways to explore.
The Hunter House Victorian Museum is a relic of the Victorian era, having been built in 1894, and an ideal spot to understand what life was like back in the 19th century in Norfolk. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, you’ll be able to walk through the museum to appreciate furnishings from the time period and memorabilia that brings you back through time.
History buffs will want to make time to visit this memorial to Douglas MacArthur, a veteran of both World Wars and the Korean War. Along with the memorial, it’s also a museum with an education center, research center, and theater. Take a tour, enjoy the military memorabilia, and keep an eye out for special events.
They love their gardens in Virginia and Norfolk’s Hermitage Museum and Gardens is further evidence of that. Based around an old estate, it’s now a museum, garden, and special place for those who know it. Located on the banks of the Lafayette River, you’ll find over 40,000 items to appreciate in the museum and over 12 acres of green space that range from wetlands to forest.
You’re going to work up a healthy appetite traversing Norfolk so you’ll want to make time to eat. The ideal spot for that is Doumar’s, an All-American diner spot that has been serving the city for over 100 years. It also doesn’t hurt that this is the place that claims to have invented the waffle cone, so you know you’ll have to get one.
Named for Crispus Attucks, this theater has been referred to as The Apollo of the South, and with good reason. It’s a hot-spot where some of the biggest performers in America have made a local stop. There are unique and interesting performances going on at all times of the year here, so take a look at the calendar when you’re in town and enjoy the show!
Clearly, there’s plenty of things to do in Norfolk. Whatever reason you want to be here, whether you’re visiting, looking to buy a house, or claiming an inherited property, you’ll have lots of great experiences to choose from.
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