Family-Friendly Norfolk: Activities for Kids and Parents

family enjoying activities in Norfolk

Norfolk, Virginia, is a treasure trove of family-friendly activities that promise fun and learning for both kids and parents. From exploring wildlife at the Virginia Zoo to sailing on the American Rover, there’s something for every family member to enjoy. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures, educational experiences, or creative play, Norfolk has it all.

Key Takeaways

  • The Virginia Zoo offers interactive exhibits, animal encounters, and family programs that are perfect for a fun and educational day out.
  • Norfolk Botanical Garden features a dedicated children’s garden, seasonal events, and beautiful nature trails for the whole family to explore.
  • Set sail on the American Rover for family cruises, educational tours, and picturesque sunset sails that everyone will love.
  • Slover Library provides enriching storytime sessions, interactive learning opportunities, and special events tailored for children.
  • Ocean View Beach is the ideal spot for beach activities, picnics, and playground fun, making it a great destination for family outings.

Exploring the Virginia Zoo

family visiting Virginia Zoo in Norfolk

Interactive Exhibits

The Virginia Zoo, home to over 500 animals from around the world, offers a variety of interactive exhibits that are both fun and educational. Children ages 3 to 12 will particularly enjoy these exhibits, which include the Serengeti Crossing and the Asian Aviary. Elevated boardwalks provide a unique perspective, allowing visitors to see the animals up close.

Animal Encounters

Animal lovers will be thrilled with the zoo’s animal encounters. From elephants and lions to zebras and giraffes, the zoo offers opportunities to learn about and interact with a diverse range of species. The knowledgeable staff are always on hand to answer questions and share fascinating details about the animals.

Family Programs

The Virginia Zoo also offers a variety of family programs designed to engage and educate visitors of all ages. These programs include workshops, games, and special events that make learning about wildlife a fun and memorable experience. Don’t forget to take a ride on The Wild Side Express Train and enjoy a treat from the Zootique Café at Zoo Farm.

The Virginia Zoo is a fantastic destination for families visiting Norfolk, Virginia. With its wide variety of animals and engaging activities, it’s a place where both kids and parents can have a great time.

Fun at Norfolk Botanical Garden

family enjoying time at Norfolk Botanical Garden

Children’s Garden

The children’s garden is full of fun and educational games that teach kids about plants. Teens, adults, and kids over three may have a great time at the Norfolk Botanic Garden. This site features over 30 acres of plants and trees including rare species from around the world brought here through exchange programs between other gardens. Enjoy walking trails, butterfly houses and even boat tours around Lake Whitehurst during warmer months.

Seasonal Events

Norfolk Botanical Garden offers a variety of seasonal events that cater to families. From spring flower festivals to holiday light displays, there is always something exciting happening. These events provide a great way to spend some time outdoors and enjoy the beauty of nature.

Nature Trails

Explore the beautiful nature trails that wind through the garden. These trails offer a peaceful escape and a chance to see a wide variety of plants and wildlife. Whether you’re walking, biking, or taking a tram tour, the guide is friendly and informative, making it a great way to learn about the garden’s diverse ecosystem.

Norfolk’s outdoor adventures include beautiful gardens, family-friendly parks, kayaking tours, fishing spots, biking trails, wildlife reserves, picnic areas, outdoor sports, and historical attractions.

Sailing on the American Rover

family sailing on a boat in Norfolk

Family Cruises

Set sail on the American Rover, a majestic schooner that has been a landmark in the Elizabeth River and Hampton Roads region since 1986. These family cruises offer a unique way to explore Norfolk’s waterways, blending beautiful scenery with live acoustic music from April through October. The schooner can hold up to 125 passengers, making it perfect for family outings.

Educational Tours

The American Rover also offers educational tours that are both fun and informative. These tours provide a narrated experience, making it an excellent outing for kids aged 6 to 15 to learn about marine life and Norfolk’s naval heritage. The narrative is engaging and educational, ensuring that children and parents alike will have a memorable experience.

Sunset Sails

For a more relaxed experience, consider taking a sunset sail. These two-hour narrated cruises are perfect for families looking to unwind while enjoying the stunning views of the sunset over the water. The atmosphere is enhanced with live acoustic music, making it a truly magical experience for all ages.

The American Rover offers a blend of relaxation and education, making it a must-do activity for families visiting Norfolk.

Discovering Slover Library

family reading books together in a modern library

Slover Library is a treasure trove of knowledge and fun for families. Located in the heart of Norfolk, this modern library offers a variety of activities that cater to both kids and parents. It’s a perfect spot for a family day out.

Adventure at Ocean View Beach

family enjoying beach activities at Ocean View Beach, Norfolk

Ocean View Beach Park is the perfect destination for a family day out. Located along the Chesapeake Bay, this popular park offers a variety of activities that will keep both kids and parents entertained. Get ready for some fun in the sun at this beautiful beach!

Beach Activities

From swimming and fishing to crabbing and building sandcastles, there’s no shortage of things to do in Norfolk with kids at Ocean View Beach. The beach provides plenty of space for children to run around and enjoy the outdoors.

Picnic Spots

Pack a picnic and enjoy a meal with a view. The park has numerous picnic areas where families can relax and enjoy their food. Don’t forget to visit the snack bar for some ice cream and hotdogs!


The playgrounds at Ocean View Beach Park are a hit with kids of all ages. With plenty of equipment to climb on and explore, your little ones will have a blast. The park also features a big boardwalk and a beach handicap access ramp, making it accessible for everyone.

Indoor Fun at Bounce House

family having fun at an indoor bounce house in Norfolk

Trampoline Zones

Bounce House offers a variety of trampoline zones that cater to all age groups. From dodgeball courts to foam pits, there’s something for everyone. It’s a great way to keep the kids active and entertained, especially on a rainy day.

Toddler Areas

For the little ones, Bounce House has designated toddler areas that are safe and fun. These areas are designed to help toddlers develop their motor skills while having a blast. Parents can relax knowing their children are in a secure environment.

Party Packages

Planning a birthday party? Bounce House offers customizable party packages that make celebrating easy and stress-free. With options for food, decorations, and even a private party room, it’s the perfect venue for a memorable event.

Exploring Nauticus and the Battleship Wisconsin

family exploring Nauticus museum and Battleship Wisconsin in Norfolk

Hands-On Exhibits

Nauticus offers a variety of hands-on exhibits that make learning about maritime history fun for the whole family. From interactive displays to engaging activities, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Kids will love the touch tanks where they can get up close with marine life, while parents can appreciate the detailed historical exhibits.

Guided Tours

The guided tours of the USS Wisconsin are a must-do. Knowledgeable guides take you through the ship, sharing fascinating stories and insights about its history. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes, as there’s a lot of ground to cover. The tours provide a unique opportunity to explore different parts of the ship, from the deck to the engine room.

Special Programs

Nauticus also offers special programs throughout the year, including re-enactments and educational workshops. These programs are designed to be both fun and informative, making them perfect for families. Check their schedule ahead of time to see what’s on offer during your visit.

Visiting the USS Wisconsin is not just a tour; it’s an adventure through history. The ship’s storied past and impressive engineering make it a highlight of any trip to Norfolk.

Family Dining at Kid-Friendly Restaurants

family dining at a kid-friendly restaurant in Norfolk

Norfolk’s diverse culinary landscape offers traditional and innovative cuisine. Top dining destinations include Freemason Abbey, Saltine, No Frill Bar and Grill, The Grilled Cheese Bistro, and more. Finding a place where both kids and parents can enjoy a meal together is a breeze in Norfolk.

Outdoor Adventures at First Landing State Park

Hiking Trails

First Landing State Park offers a variety of hiking trails suitable for all ages and skill levels. Families can explore scenic paths that wind through lush forests and along the shoreline, providing opportunities to spot local wildlife and enjoy the natural beauty of Norfolk.

Wildlife Watching

Bring your binoculars and get ready for some exciting wildlife watching! The park is home to a diverse range of animals, including deer, foxes, and numerous bird species. It’s a fantastic way for kids to learn about nature and observe animals in their natural habitat.

Camping Sites

For families looking to extend their adventure, First Landing State Park offers well-maintained camping sites. Whether you prefer tent camping or RVs, the park provides all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay. Enjoy a night under the stars and make lasting memories with your loved ones.

Creative Play at Local Art Studios

family enjoying creative play at an art studio in Norfolk

Norfolk offers a variety of local art studios where families can unleash their creativity together. These studios provide a welcoming environment for both kids and parents to explore their artistic sides.

Painting Classes

At studios like Color Me Mine, families can enjoy paint-your-own pottery sessions. Great fun for kids and adults alike, these classes allow you to create pieces in any color and style you like. It’s a perfect way to spend quality time together while making something unique.

Craft Workshops

Wild Child Spa Entertainment offers craft workshops that are highly recommended for their kid-friendly atmosphere. The staff pays attention to all the little details, making the experience super cute and enjoyable for children. These workshops often include a variety of crafts, from simple projects to more intricate designs.

Family Art Days

Many local studios host Family Art Days, where families can participate in a range of activities. From painting and drawing to sculpting and mixed media, there’s something for everyone. These events are a fantastic way to spend a day together, fostering creativity and bonding as a family.

Norfolk’s vibrant festivals showcase arts, heritage, food, and community spirit throughout the year, including Cromer Carnival and Hunstanton Kite Festival.

Learning at the Children’s Museum of Virginia

family enjoying interactive exhibits at the Children's Museum of Virginia

Interactive Exhibits

Just eight minutes away in nearby Portsmouth, the Children’s Museum of Virginia is perfect for younger kids who want to explore science, history, art, and technology through hands-on exhibits. Featuring interactive games and even an interactive submarine ride, it’s sure to provide hours of entertainment for both parents and kids.

Science Shows

Children will love the interactive displays and entertainment at the Children’s Museum of Virginia in Norfolk. This museum is especially great for families with children of all ages, as there is something for everyone to enjoy. Membership is highly recommended if you’re a local, as it can save you time and money on admission.

Art Stations

The museum provides a fun and educational experience for kids of all ages. Besides the horseshoe crab touch aquarium and the shark lab, there are plenty of other science displays to explore. Young visitors between 6 and 12 will get the most out of the museum.

Enjoying Festivals and Events

family enjoying a festival in Norfolk

Norfolk is a vibrant city that hosts a variety of festivals and events throughout the year, making it a perfect destination for families looking to create lasting memories. From seasonal celebrations to cultural festivals, there’s always something happening that will delight both kids and parents alike.

Annual Celebrations

One of the highlights of Norfolk’s event calendar is the Virginia Children’s Festival. Held every October at Town Point Park, this festival offers a day filled with fun activities, live performances, and interactive exhibits designed especially for children. Another must-see is the Fourth of July Fireworks, where families can enjoy a spectacular display over the downtown waterfront.

Family-Friendly Activities

Many of Norfolk’s festivals feature family-friendly activities that cater to all ages. For instance, the annual Christmas and Holiday Season Light Shows are a magical experience for children, with dazzling lights and festive decorations. Additionally, the Halloween parades and events provide a safe and fun environment for kids to enjoy trick-or-treating and costume contests.

Live Performances

Live performances are a staple at many of Norfolk’s festivals. Whether it’s a local band playing at a summer festival or a theatrical performance during the holiday season, there’s always something to entertain the whole family. The Virginia Children’s Festival, for example, often features live music, puppet shows, and storytelling sessions that captivate young audiences.

Norfolk’s festivals and events offer a unique blend of entertainment and cultural experiences, making it an ideal destination for family fun year-round.


Norfolk, VA, is a treasure trove of family-friendly activities that cater to both kids and parents alike. From the educational and exciting Virginia Zoo to the serene beauty of the Norfolk Botanical Garden, there is no shortage of adventures to embark on. Whether you’re exploring the indoor playgrounds, enjoying a meal at a kid-friendly restaurant, or setting sail on the American Rover, Norfolk offers endless opportunities for family fun. So pack your bags, gather your loved ones, and get ready to create unforgettable memories in this charming coastal city. Norfolk truly has something special for every family to enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some free activities for kids in Norfolk, VA?

Norfolk offers numerous free activities for kids, including visits to parks, playgrounds, and beaches. The Slover Library and various community events also provide free entertainment options.

Are there any family-friendly restaurants in Norfolk with play areas?

Yes, there are several family-friendly restaurants in Norfolk that feature play areas for children. These establishments often provide a fun and safe environment for kids to enjoy while parents dine.

What indoor activities are available for kids in Norfolk?

Indoor activities for kids in Norfolk include visiting the Bounce House for trampoline fun, exploring interactive exhibits at the Children’s Museum of Virginia, and participating in craft workshops at local art studios.

Can you recommend any toddler-friendly activities in Norfolk?

Norfolk has plenty of toddler-friendly activities such as the Children’s Garden at Norfolk Botanical Garden, toddler areas at indoor playgrounds like Bounce House, and storytime sessions at Slover Library.

What are some fun things to do with kids at night in Norfolk?

Fun nighttime activities for kids in Norfolk include attending family-friendly events and festivals, enjoying evening cruises on the American Rover, and exploring well-lit parks and playgrounds.

Are there any educational tours available for families in Norfolk?

Yes, families can enjoy educational tours at places like the Virginia Zoo, Nauticus and the Battleship Wisconsin, and through guided nature walks at First Landing State Park.

What seasonal events are family-friendly in Norfolk?

Norfolk hosts a variety of family-friendly seasonal events, including holiday light displays at the Norfolk Botanical Garden, summer beach festivals at Ocean View Beach, and annual celebrations at local parks.

Where can I find kid-friendly hiking trails in Norfolk?

First Landing State Park offers several kid-friendly hiking trails where families can enjoy nature walks, wildlife watching, and scenic views.

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