Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Norfolk, VA

  • Published 2023/02/22

Norfolk is at the heart of the Virginia metropolitan area; it is a place overflowing with things to do and sights to see.

There are art museums to tour and botanical gardens to walk through.

A visit to this city will undoubtedly be an exciting ride for any tourist who decides to undertake the journey.

You’ll meet a deluge of art, history, and culture when you get there, so come prepared.

Here are the best things to do in Norfolk, VA:

Visit the Chrysler Museum of Art

Exterior of Chrysler Museum of Art

Sherry V Smith /

The Chrysler Museum at One Memorial Place is, perhaps, one of the most recognizable museums in the entire country and undoubtedly one of the first things you’ll want to see in Norfolk.

Though founded in 1933, the museum gained fame in 1971 when Walter P. Chrysler Jr. brought his art collection of more than 10,000 pieces to the city.

The atrium of Chrysler Museum of Art

Alexanderstock23 /

One of the coolest exhibitions in the Chrysler Museum is their glass collection, containing thousands of pieces from 3,000 years of history.

You can also head over to the McKinnon Galleries to glimpse exciting and unique modern and contemporary art pieces.

The place also features galleries for ancient and non-western art, which you can view if you’re interested in expanding your art horizons.

Art exhibit in Chrysler Museum of Art

James Kirkikis /

Spend Time with the Animals of the Virginia Zoo

Exterior of Virginia Zoo

Sherry V Smith /

Visiting the local zoo should be your top priority if you love animals.

If that’s the case, go on to 3500 Granby Street to visit the Virginia Zoo.

A guinea hog in Virginia Zoo

Josh Koke from Chesapeake, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This establishment has everything you could dream of, from big cats to gorgeous and elegant snakes.

They also have farms that house peafowl, alpacas, cattle, pigs, etc.

And, if you’re lucky, you might even catch one of the events the zoo hosts throughout the year to promote their animals and wildlife conservation.

Vibrant flowers at Virginia Zoo

Jena Dawn Blancard /

Explore Town Point Park

Aerial view of Town Point Park

Kyle J Little /

Town Point Park is a waterfront park that’s a perfect stopover for people looking for a nice view and peace.

When you get there, you’ll find eight acres of open outdoor space nestled against the banks of the Elizabeth River.

You can chill out, chat, and spend time with your traveling companions; maybe have a picnic by the riverside and admire the beautiful area.

Welcome sign of Town Point Park

LittleT889, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Of course, that’s not the only thing you can do, and Town Point Park is a place that has a few tricks up its sleeve.

It’s also a premier events venue, and you’re bound to catch a celebration, festival, or concert there.

So make sure to join the fun if you can, and have a grand old time with the locals and other visitors.

Homecoming statue at Town Point Park

Anne Katherine Jones /

See the Exhibits of Nauticus

Front exterior of Nauticus

Wangkun Jia /

Maritime discovery is like an adventure most people dream of, conjuring up images of battleships and submarines and venturing into the dark beyond that comprises our great oceans.

The Nauticus, also known as the National Maritime Center, is a maritime discovery museum that seeks to bring this mysterious topic to more people.

Aerial view of Nauticus

Kyle J Little /

Located in downtown Norfolk, it has several exhibits about sea travel that you’ll indeed find exciting and educational.

One of the things you can learn there is the history of drone technology, where you’ll get a bird’s eye view of the convergence of aeronautics, engineering, science, and other forms of technologies.

A moving walkway in Nauticus

Aaron F. Stone, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Learn about the USS Wisconsin BB-64

Evening view of USS Wisconsin BB-64

LorraineHudgins /

The USS Wisconsin, which you can also find near the Nauticus Museum, is a grand sight and deserves a spot in any list of Norfolk attractions.

It’s an Iowa-class battleship and is the second ship in the US Navy named after the state of Wisconsin.

USS Wisconsin BB-64's deck

Nate Ellingson /

During its service, the ship saw action in the Pacific theater of World War 2, attacking enemy fortifications and screening American planes during air raids.

The Navy decommissioned the ship in 1991, decades after the Korean War.

Then they sent it to Norfolk as a museum ship.

 The battleship USS Wisconsin docked beside Nauticus

Joe Benning /

Go to the Hampton Roads Naval Museum

The joint building of Hampton Roads Naval Museum and Nauticus

Anne Katherine Jones /

The Hampton Roads Naval Museum, located at One Waterside Drive, is another tribute to the long and exciting history of the United States Navy.

One of the most extensive exhibits in this establishment is their displays on the Vietnam War.

Bird's eye view of Hampton Roads Naval Museum

Bill Chizek /

You can learn about the beginnings of the war, the work of intelligence officers, and the actions of the surface navy.

The museum also hosts various events to celebrate the US Navy throughout the year, so participate if you can and pay your respects.

Wander the Norfolk Botanical Gardens

Colorful tulips and a water fountain at Norfolk Botanical Gardens

Anne Katherine Jones /

The Norfolk Botanical Gardens is a complete dream for nature enthusiasts interested in botany.

It’s the largest botanical garden in the entire state of Virginia, so you’ll never run out of things to do or incredible flora to view.

Lush trees surrounding the waters of Norfolk Botanical Gardens

GabrielaVreelandPhoto /

It has thousands of blooming flowers and plants that’ll make you feel like you stepped into a fairytale.

There are formal gardens and natural areas to ensure that every flower bud and leaf on a plant blooms in an environment that takes care of the best.

And it’s not just plants you’ll see in this place either.

You can also find various sculpture collections.

A statue at Norfolk Botanical Gardens

Anne Katherine Jones /

You can also visit the Butterfly House to make you feel like you’re in a fairytale.

You’ll find the well-loved monarch butterfly there and watch them interact in a lovely natural environment; stay awhile and stand as still as you can.

Maybe a few would even take a liking to you.

Japanese garden at Norfolk Botanical Gardens

Anne Katherine Jones /

Visit the Hunter House Victorian Museum

Norfolk is a place full of history, overflowing with historical sites and museums.

Another one of these places is the Hunter House Victorian Museum, a fine example of Victorian arts and architecture.

The museum offers several guided educational tours to tell the exciting and varied stories of people’s everyday lives from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The place also hosts several events throughout the year to generate more interest in their exhibits and their stories, so join in if you arrive in time.

Once you finish the tour and the events, buy a souvenir at the gift shop.

Learn about Norfolk History at the Willoughby-Baylor House

Exterior of Willoughby-Baylor House

Cathy1763, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Willoughby-Baylor House, located at 601 East Freemason Street, was built in 1794 and now contains a selection of exemplary American paintings and sculptures.

One of the first things you’ll notice as you approach this house is its distinctive red brick walls.

It represents one of the many middle-class dwellings built after the destruction of Norfolk in the Revolutionary War.

In 1964, the Historic Norfolk Foundation purchased the house, restoring it and turning it into the present-day museum.

Listen to Opera Performances at the Harrison Opera House

Opera isn’t as popular a pastime as it was back in the day, but it’s still a fun and unique experience that you can try when you get the chance.

When you visit the Harrison Opera House, you’ll witness the grand elegance of both the venue and the performance itself.

The location, once a World War II USO theater, was lavishly restored in 1993.

Once you enter this opera house and watch one of its performances, you’ll see compelling and artistic operas that’ll make your hearts soar as high as the soprano’s notes.

Some of the notable performances that played here include The Pirates of Penzance, Fellow Travelers, and La Traviata.

Pay Respects at the MacArthur Memorial

The MacArthur Memorial statue

James Kirkikis /

General Douglas MacArthur served as a general of the United States and Chief of Staff to the United States during the 1930s.

He has a long and memorable military career where he continuously served American interests throughout his life.

A plaque honoring the purple heart recipients at MacArthur Memorial

James Kirkikis /

The MacArthur Memorial at MacArthur Square was built so that people could honor and remember this great man.

The memorial consists of the monument itself, the visitor center, and the Jean MacArthur Research Center.

Aside from commemorating this great general, this memorial also pays respects to the millions of men and women who served during World War 1, World War 2, and the Korean War.

Exterior of MacArthur Memorial museum

Bryan Pollard /

Marvel at the Hermitage Museum and Gardens

Exterior of The Hermitage Museum and Gardens

Employee, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a lot of art in the world and not enough time to view them, but you can give it a good try.

One of the best places to view art is the Hermitage Museum and Gardens at 7637 North Shore Road.

The place has a nationally recognized art collection featuring several pieces from different eras in history.

There are indoor and outdoor exhibits, so you’ll have various pieces to check out.

There are also gardens you can tour where you’ll see and feel the natural beauty of Norfolk.

The garden features shrubs, trees, and flowering shrubs.

Take time as you walk through it, and let the calm and serene atmosphere steady your heart and give you the peace you’re looking for.

Explore the Halls of the Moses Myers House

Exterior of Moses Myers House

Cathy1763, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Moses Myers House at 323 E. Freemason Street is another one of the historic houses in the area that you absolutely must visit.

A visit to this place will give you a glimpse of life for a prosperous Jewish family throughout American history.

Five generations of Myers lived in this house from 1795 to 1931, and they’ve consistently held prominent positions in their community as leaders and entrepreneurs.

Their patriarch, Moses Myers, was born in New York City, and he moved around a lot as a child and as a young man before he met and married Eliza Judah Chapman,

The happy couple moved and settled in Norfolk.

Moses was active in his adopted home’s political and social landscape, even serving at the Common Council from 1794 to 1800.

If you want to learn more about this family and its other members, then visit this house, hear their stories, and see the home where they happened.

Travel to Fort Norfolk

A train arriving at Fort Norfolk

Trevor Howard Jones /

Fort Norfolk is a fort in the historic district of Norfolk and the last of the 19 harbor-front forts authorized in 1794 by George Washington.

The site overlooks the Elizabeth River, where you’ll find ramparts, dungeons, officer’s quarters, and barracks.

The fort itself has a long and varied history as a military base for different generations of Americans.

During the Civil War, the Confederates seized this fort and used its supplies for the CSS Virginia as it fought the USS Monitor.

The US Army Corps of Engineers also used the fort in 1923, and they still own the site.

Marvel at the Art of the Barry Art Museum

If you’re looking for unique art pieces, then go to the Barry Art Museum at 1075 W. 43rd Street.

They have glass art, paintings, dolls, and other pieces on paper, each telling exciting stories.

The museum has rotating exhibitions, so you’ll find something different depending on your visit.

Think of it as an adventure.

Maybe one day, you’ll find an entire floor filled to the brim with glass sculptures or an entire exhibit on robots.

Every trip to the Barry Art Museum is an adventure for any traveler.

See a Baseball Game at Harbor Park Stadium

Entrance to Harbor Park Stadium

Sherry V Smith /

Home to the Norfolk Tides Minor League Baseball team, Harbor Park Stadium is where you can watch baseball games in Norfolk.

Nestled on the Elizabeth River downtown, it has more than 11,000 seating capacity and opened its doors in 1993.

It features a natural grass surface with a pair of video boards and a restaurant, which gives panoramic views of the field.

Baseball field at Harbor Park Stadium

Kyle J Little /

Harbor Park Stadium has hosted many baseball leagues, including the 1998 Triple-A All-Star Game, as well as an exhibition game by the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals.

The Norfolk Tides Minor League Baseball team is located off Park Avenue.

People enjoyin a baseball game at Harbor Park Stadium

User:B, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Go Shopping at MacArthur Center

Established in 1999, MacArthur Center features nearly 150 spaces for stores, restaurants, and shops in an eclectic and charming three-story building.

From women, men, and children’s apparel, to spas, dining, movies, and many other events, you can find it here.

In 2005, the mall started operating an ice skating rink, which is open to the public every winter season.

Today, the mall has more than 70 active stores, which include Dillard’s, Bath & Body Works, H&M, and more.

You can find MacArthur Center on Monticello Avenue.

Watch Live Music at Ocean View Beach Park

Vibrant sunset at Ocean View Beach Park

Brandon Layne /

Home to many music festivals, Ocean View Beach Park is a go-to spot for those who love live music and performances.

The 6.5-acre beach park features a large bandshell for local and regional musicians, as well as dance presentations.

Every Sunday from May through September, everyone can enjoy live music at the park’s Gazebo with a sunset celebration.

Between June and August, there are also themed party nights happening at the park with children’s activities, games, food, and drinks.

Ocean View Beach Park also has a designated swimming beach in the summer with lifeguards on duty, a boardwalk, and beautiful green spaces.

It’s located at West Ocean View Avenue.

Buy Local Products at Selden Market

Exterior view of Selden Market

Felix Mizioznikov /

When you shop local, you support local.

This is what Selden Market wants to convey to everyone visiting Norfolk.

The market features diverse up-and-coming concepts such as food, jewelry, clothing, home decor, and a lot more.

These are all owned by small local businesses in the community both new and old in the industry, which allows the old ones to mentor the new entrepreneurs.

Selden Market showcases these local business owners to foster entrepreneurship and support for these entrepreneurs in Norfolk.

Visit Selden Market and check out interesting find that you may want to take home!

Get Your Coffee Fixed at Cure Coffeehouse

Specializing in espresso, Cure Coffeehouse is a place to relax and wind down after a day of getting around the city—or to kickstart your morning, for that matter.

It serves delicious lattes, mochas, cappuccinos, and many other coffee specials.

And of course, coffee isn’t complete without its mouthwatering pairs such as crème brûlée, avocado toast, and bagels, among others.

Cure Coffeehouse also serves specialty craft beer, pastrami, charcuterie, and sandwiches.

All these you can enjoy at the coffeehouse with an airy and relaxing atmosphere and warm smiles.

You can find Cure Coffeehouse on Botetourt Street.

Final Thoughts

Every tourist looks for history, art, and culture when traveling to a new destination.

Norfolk has all of that in spades, alongside many other things that will keep you interested.

So, what are you waiting for?

Book a trip to Norfolk now, and see what this city has to offer.

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