Navigating Norfolk: A Visitor’s Guide to the Waterfront City

waterfront city of Norfolk with key landmarks and scenic views

Welcome to Norfolk! Whether you’re drawn to its rich history, diverse cuisine, unique entertainment, or scenic beauty, this historic seaport city offers something for everyone. From shopping and dining to outdoor adventures and cultural experiences, Norfolk has it all. Use this guide to explore the best that Norfolk has to offer, ensuring a memorable visit to this vibrant city.

Key Takeaways

  • Norfolk is a historic seaport city with a rich blend of history, cuisine, entertainment, and scenic beauty.
  • The city offers a variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment options, especially around downtown and Granby Street.
  • Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy activities such as fishing, boating, and surfing in the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay.
  • Cultural experiences abound with museums, art galleries, theaters, and historical sites like the Chrysler Museum of Art and Nauticus.
  • Norfolk is home to numerous parks, gardens, and recreational spots, making it an ideal destination for family-friendly activities.

Exploring the Historic Ghent District

waterfront city of Norfolk with historic Ghent district

Charming Boutiques and Shops

The Historic Ghent District is a treasure trove of charming boutiques and shops. Strolling down Colley Avenue, you’ll find a variety of unique stores offering everything from vintage clothing to handmade crafts. It’s the perfect place to find a one-of-a-kind souvenir or gift.

Historic Homes and Architecture

Ghent is renowned for its stunning historic homes and architecture. The neighborhood boasts beautifully preserved Victorian and Colonial Revival houses, each with its own story to tell. Take a leisurely walk and admire the intricate details and craftsmanship of these architectural gems.

Local Eateries and Cafes

When it comes to dining, Ghent does not disappoint. The area is home to a plethora of local eateries and cafes, offering a diverse range of cuisines. Whether you’re in the mood for a casual brunch or a fine dining experience, you’ll find something to satisfy your taste buds. Don’t miss out on the local favorites like freshly brewed coffee and artisanal pastries.

Ghent’s blend of historic charm and modern amenities makes it a must-visit destination in Norfolk. Whether you’re shopping, dining, or simply exploring, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant district.

Waterfront Adventures at Town Point Park

scenic view of Norfolk waterfront with Town Point Park, people enjoying outdoor activities, boats on the water, and city skyline in the background

Seasonal Festivals and Events

Town Point Park is the heart of Norfolk’s waterfront, hosting a variety of seasonal festivals and events throughout the year. One of the most anticipated events is the Norfolk Harborfest, a symphony of maritime wonder that brings music, food, and maritime festivities to the downtown Norfolk waterfront. This event is free and open to the public, making it a must-visit for both locals and tourists.

Picnic Spots and Scenic Views

For those looking to relax, Town Point Park offers numerous picnic spots with scenic views of the Elizabeth River. Whether you’re enjoying a family outing or a romantic date, the park’s lush green spaces and waterfront benches provide the perfect setting for a leisurely day out.

Waterside Activities

Adventure seekers can indulge in a variety of waterside activities at Town Point Park. From kayaking and paddleboarding to boat tours, there’s something for everyone. The park’s proximity to the water makes it an ideal spot for both beginners and experienced water enthusiasts.

Town Point Park is not just a park; it’s a vibrant hub of activity that captures the essence of Norfolk’s waterfront culture.

Discovering Nauticus and the Battleship Wisconsin

Norfolk waterfront with Nauticus museum and Battleship Wisconsin

Interactive Exhibits

Nauticus offers a range of interactive exhibits that bring maritime history to life. Visitors can engage with hands-on displays and learn about the civilization, historical period, and culture of the past 5,000 years. These exhibits are designed to be both educational and entertaining, making them perfect for visitors of all ages.

Guided Tours

Explore the USS Wisconsin, the world’s largest battleship, through guided tours. Knowledgeable guides provide in-depth information about the ship’s history and its role in various naval operations. Don’t miss the chance to walk the decks of this historic vessel and imagine life as a sailor.

Maritime History

Dive deep into maritime history at Nauticus. The center features extensive collections and exhibits that cover everything from ancient navigation techniques to modern naval warfare. This is a must-visit for history buffs and anyone interested in the evolution of maritime technology.

Nauticus and the Battleship Wisconsin offer a unique blend of education and adventure, making it a highlight of any trip to Norfolk.

Strolling Down Granby Street

waterfront city Norfolk Granby Street

Granby Street is the heartbeat of Norfolk, offering a vibrant mix of retail, dining, and entertainment options. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, there’s always something new to discover on this bustling street.

Unique Retail Stores

Granby Street is home to a variety of unique retail stores that cater to all tastes. From chic boutiques to quirky shops, you’ll find everything you need and more. Walking across Granby Street, you’ll notice the eclectic mix of stores that make this area a shopper’s paradise.

Fine Dining Options

When it comes to dining, Granby Street does not disappoint. The street is lined with a plethora of fine dining options that offer a range of cuisines. Whether you’re in the mood for Italian, seafood, or something more exotic, you’ll find a restaurant that suits your palate. Many of these eateries also offer outdoor seating, perfect for enjoying Norfolk’s pleasant weather.

Nightlife and Entertainment

As the sun sets, Granby Street transforms into a lively hub of nightlife and entertainment. From cozy bars to vibrant nightclubs, there’s something for everyone. The street is also known for its live music venues, where you can catch performances from local and touring artists. For those who prefer a more laid-back evening, there are plenty of theaters and cinemas to choose from.

Granby Street is not just a place to shop and eat; it’s an experience that captures the essence of Norfolk’s vibrant culture.

Relaxing at Norfolk Botanical Garden

Norfolk waterfront city and botanical garden

Norfolk Botanical Garden is a haven for nature lovers, offering a stunning array of seasonal blooms and meticulously curated gardens. Each season brings a new wave of colors and fragrances, making every visit unique. Don’t miss the rose garden in full bloom during the summer months.

The garden is not just for adults; it offers a variety of family-friendly activities that make it a perfect outing for all ages. From interactive children’s gardens to educational programs, there’s something for everyone. Kids will especially love the butterfly house and the splash fountains.

To fully appreciate the beauty of Norfolk Botanical Garden, consider taking one of the tram or boat tours. These guided tours provide insightful commentary and allow you to see parts of the garden that you might miss on foot. The boat tour, in particular, offers a serene view of the garden from the water, making it a must-do activity.

Cultural Experiences at Chrysler Museum of Art

Norfolk waterfront with Chrysler Museum of Art

Art Collections and Exhibits

The Chrysler Museum of Art, considered one of the Top 20 museums in the USA, features masterworks from every major civilization, historical period, and culture of the past 5,000 years! Visitors can explore an extensive collection that includes everything from ancient artifacts to contemporary pieces. The museum’s diverse exhibits ensure there’s something for everyone to appreciate.

Perry Glass Studio

Adjacent to the museum, the Perry Glass Studio offers live glassblowing demonstrations and hands-on classes. This unique experience allows visitors to witness the artistry and skill involved in glassmaking. Whether you’re an art enthusiast or just curious, the studio provides an engaging and educational experience.

Educational Programs and Workshops

The museum offers a variety of educational programs and workshops designed for all ages. From guided tours to interactive sessions, these programs aim to deepen your understanding of art and its cultural significance. The Chrysler Museum of Art is dedicated to making art accessible and enjoyable for everyone.

The Chrysler Museum of Art is not just a place to view art; it’s a cultural hub that offers enriching experiences for all visitors.

Outdoor Fun at Ocean View Beach

waterfront city with beach activities in Norfolk

Swimming and Kayaking

Ocean View Beach is a haven for water enthusiasts. Whether you’re into swimming or kayaking, the beach offers pristine waters and a safe environment for all ages. Don’t forget to bring your sunscreen!

Beachfront Parks

The beachfront parks at Ocean View Beach are perfect for a family outing. With well-maintained picnic areas and playgrounds, there’s something for everyone. Relax under the shade of a tree or enjoy a game of beach volleyball.

Fishing and Picnicking

Fishing at Ocean View Beach is a popular activity, with several designated spots for anglers. Bring your fishing gear and enjoy a peaceful day by the water. For those who prefer to stay on land, the picnic areas provide a great setting for a leisurely meal with a view.

Shopping at MacArthur Center Mall

waterfront city shopping mall Norfolk

Popular Retail Stores

MacArthur Center Mall is a premier shopping destination in Norfolk, offering a wide spectrum of shops and services. From high-end fashion boutiques to popular retail chains, there’s something for everyone. Explore top shopping centers and discover unique finds and experiences.

Dining Options

After a day of shopping, indulge in a variety of dining options available at the mall. Whether you’re in the mood for a quick bite or a sit-down meal, you’ll find numerous eateries to satisfy your cravings. The mall’s food court and restaurants offer a range of cuisines to suit every palate.

Entertainment Venues

MacArthur Center Mall isn’t just about shopping and dining; it also offers entertainment venues for the whole family. Catch a movie at the state-of-the-art cinema or enjoy seasonal events and activities hosted at the mall. It’s a comprehensive guide to shopping in Chesapeake, from malls to boutiques.

Enjoying a Game at Harbor Park Stadium

Norfolk waterfront with Harbor Park Stadium

Norfolk Tides Baseball

Catch the excitement of a Norfolk Tides baseball game at the 12,000-seat Harbor Park Stadium. Only steps away from downtown hotels, it’s the perfect spot for sports enthusiasts to enjoy America’s favorite pastime. The stadium offers a vibrant atmosphere, making it a must-visit for both locals and visitors.

Stadium Amenities

Harbor Park Stadium is equipped with a range of amenities to enhance your game day experience. From delicious food and beverages to comfortable seating, the stadium ensures a pleasant visit. Don’t miss the chance to explore the various concession stands offering local favorites.

Family Fun Activities

Bring the whole family for a fun-filled day at the ballpark. The stadium features family-friendly activities, including a kids’ play area and special event nights. Enjoy the fresh air and create lasting memories with your loved ones.

Exploring the Virginia Zoo

The Virginia Zoo is home to a wide variety of animal exhibits, showcasing creatures from all over the world. From majestic lions to playful otters, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Don’t miss the chance to see the red pandas, one of the zoo’s most popular attractions.

For a fun and relaxing way to see the zoo, hop on the Zoo Train or take a ride on the charming carousel. These attractions are perfect for families and offer a unique perspective of the zoo’s beautiful grounds.

The Virginia Zoo is dedicated to conservation and offers several programs aimed at protecting endangered species and educating the public. Visitors can learn about the zoo’s efforts to preserve wildlife and even participate in some of the programs. It’s a great way to get involved and make a difference while enjoying your visit.

Historical Insights at the Moses Myers House

Norfolk waterfront with historical house

Guided House Tours

Step back in time with a guided tour of the Moses Myers House, a beautifully preserved example of early 19th-century architecture. Knowledgeable guides will lead you through the home, sharing stories about the Myers family and the history of Norfolk. The house was built with sandstone from nearby on the exterior and pine and white oak on the interior, showcasing the craftsmanship of the era.

Historical Artifacts

The Moses Myers House is filled with original furnishings and artifacts that provide a glimpse into the daily life of the Myers family. From elegant furniture to personal items, each piece tells a story. One of the highlights is the collection of family portraits that adorn the walls, offering a visual history of the home’s inhabitants.

Educational Programs

The Moses Myers House offers a variety of educational programs designed to engage visitors of all ages. These programs include hands-on activities, lectures, and special events that delve into different aspects of 19th-century life. Whether you’re a history buff or just curious, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Visiting the Moses Myers House is like taking a step back in time, offering a unique opportunity to explore Norfolk’s rich history through the lens of one family’s experience.

Boating and Fishing in the Chesapeake Bay

boating and fishing in Chesapeake Bay, Norfolk waterfront, scenic view, boats, water activities, city skyline, vibrant, sunny day

Boat Rentals and Charters

Exploring the Chesapeake Bay by boat is an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re looking to rent a small boat for a day or charter a larger vessel for a weekend, there are plenty of options available. Hopping on a boat is hands-down the most productive way to explore the bay. Many local companies offer guided tours, ensuring you get the most out of your time on the water.

Fishing Spots

The Chesapeake Bay is renowned for its fishing opportunities. From striped bass to blue crabs, the bay is teeming with marine life. Popular fishing spots include the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and various piers and inlets. Don’t forget to check local regulations and obtain the necessary permits before you cast your line.

Waterfront Dining

After a day on the water, nothing beats enjoying a meal at one of the bay’s waterfront restaurants. Many eateries offer fresh seafood caught right from the bay, providing a true taste of the region. Whether you’re in the mood for a casual bite or a fine dining experience, you’ll find plenty of options to satisfy your cravings.

The Chesapeake Bay offers a unique blend of adventure and relaxation, making it a must-visit destination for boating and fishing enthusiasts.


Norfolk is a city that truly has something for everyone. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, an outdoor enthusiast, or someone who loves shopping and entertainment, Norfolk’s vibrant waterfront and diverse attractions will leave you with unforgettable memories. From strolling down Granby Street to exploring the historic Naval Station, and from enjoying the scenic beauty of the Chesapeake Bay to indulging in the local cuisine, every corner of this city offers a new adventure. So pack your bags and get ready to discover all that Norfolk has to offer. We hope this guide helps you make the most of your visit to this charming waterfront city. Safe travels and enjoy your stay!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time to visit Norfolk?

The best time to visit Norfolk is during the spring and fall when the weather is mild, and there are numerous outdoor events and festivals.

How can I get around Norfolk?

Norfolk offers various transportation options including buses, light rail, taxis, and ride-sharing services. Walking and biking are also popular, especially in downtown areas.

Are there any family-friendly activities in Norfolk?

Yes, Norfolk has many family-friendly activities such as visiting the Virginia Zoo, exploring the Nauticus maritime museum, and enjoying the Norfolk Botanical Garden.

What are some must-see attractions in Norfolk?

Must-see attractions include the Battleship Wisconsin, Town Point Park, the Chrysler Museum of Art, and the historic Ghent district.

Where can I find the best local cuisine in Norfolk?

Granby Street and the Ghent district are popular areas for local cuisine, offering a variety of dining options from fine dining to casual eateries.

Is Norfolk a good destination for outdoor activities?

Yes, Norfolk is great for outdoor activities such as boating, fishing, kayaking, and enjoying the beaches at Ocean View and the Chesapeake Bay.

What shopping options are available in Norfolk?

Norfolk offers a range of shopping options including the MacArthur Center Mall, local boutiques in the Ghent district, and the Waterside Festival Marketplace.

Are there any annual events or festivals in Norfolk?

Yes, Norfolk hosts several annual events and festivals such as the Harborfest, the Virginia Wine Festival, and the Bayou Boogaloo Music and Cajun Food Festival.

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