15 Best Things to Do in Norfolk, VA

Norfolk, VA
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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
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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
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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
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Spend Time with the Animals of the Virginia Zoo

Exterior of Virginia Zoo
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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
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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
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Explore Town Point Park

Aerial view of Town Point Park
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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
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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
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See the Exhibits of Nauticus

Front exterior of Nauticus
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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
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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
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Learn about the USS Wisconsin BB-64

Evening view of USS Wisconsin BB-64
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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
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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
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Go to the Hampton Roads Naval Museum

The joint building of Hampton Roads Naval Museum and Nauticus
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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.

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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Marvel at the Hermitage Museum and Gardens

Exterior of The Hermitage Museum and Gardens
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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
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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
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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.

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.