My family and I love to travel and explore new places. We have been blessed to travel across the United States.
For our family vacation in 2017, we drove out to Virginia on a week-long road trip. We spent the first three days in Virginia Beach, which is an incredible place to visit. We also spent some of that time in Norfolk, which was incredible. It is home to one of NATO's two Strategic Command headquarters as well as the largest Navy base (Naval Station Norfolk) in the world. It also has mile after mile of shoreline and a large natural harbor. There is so much to see and do there. Here is a look at the top 10 things to do in Norfolk, VA.
1. Explore the Norfolk Botanical Gardens
The Norfolk Botanical Garden is incredible. It is 175 amazing acres with 14 miles of paved and unpaved trails that take visitors past gardens of roses, camellias, and crape myrtles. It also has a butterfly house and a children's garden. It is surrounded on three sides by water and next to the Norfolk International Airport. Each year the Norfolk Botanical Garden holds several annual events, including a Butterfly Festival, Virginia Honeybee Festival, Barks & Brews, and the Norfolk Botanical Garden Million Bulb Walk. It is also great as a wedding venue.
We spent a few hours exploring the Norfolk Botanical Garden. The roses were in bloom as well as the crape myrtles. It was amazing. The butterfly house was great as well. I highly recommend it.
2. Tour the USS Wisconsin
The Battleship Wisconsin (BB 64) is an Iowa-class battleship and one of the largest ever made. It first entered service on December 7th, 1943. The USS Wisconsin saw action in World War II, the Korean War, and Operation Desert Storm. In 1991, it was retired from active service. It is now a museum docked across from Nauticus in downtown Norfolk, VA. Admission to Battleship Wisconsin (BB 64) is part of a regular Nauticus admission, which includes a self-guided tour of the deck. There are additional options for guided tours. The sheer size of the ship is incredible. It is a must see when visiting Norfolk.
3. Visit Nauticus
Visiting Nauticus in downtown Norfolk, VA, is a great learning experience. It is also known as the National Maritime Center. It offers interactive exhibits and theaters, aquaria, Hampton Roads Naval Museum, and a wide variety of educational programs. It is also home to the Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center, which is a terminal for ocean-going cruises as well as offering 23,000 square foot event venue.
The other attraction is the USS Wisconsin (BB 64), which is an attraction itself. There are two different ticket options for admission to Nauticus: Basic ($15.95 for adults) and Gold ($35.95 for adults). Both tickets include admission to Nauticus, self-guided Battleship Wisconsin tour, and 3D movies. The Gold offers a guided interior Battleship Wisconsin tour. It is well worth a visit.
4. Take a Tour of Naval Station Norfolk
Taking a tour of Naval Station Norfolk allows visitors to see aircraft carriers, destroyers, amphibious assault ships, and a busy airfield. It is the largest naval base in the world. It is home to 75 ships including four carrier strike groups and 134 aircraft that fly out of Chambers Field. Air Mobility Command conducts an average of 275 flights per day including passenger, refueling, and cargo flights.
U.S. Navy personnel run the Norfolk Naval Base tours. Each tour lasts about 45 minutes. Tours leave from the Naval Tour and Information Center at 9079 Hampton Boulevard in Norfolk, VA, near gate number 5. It is $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and $5 for kids between 3 and 11. Visitors over 18 must have a valid picture ID to enter the military base. It is a great place to take kids and let them see the amazing ships that protect us.
5. Visit the Ocean View Fishing Pier
The Ocean View Fishing Pier is a must see when visiting Norfolk, VA. The pier juts out into the Chesapeake Bay and is just shy of being 1,700 feet long. It is home to the Ocean View Fishing Pier Restaurant, bait and tackle shop, equipment rentals, and restrooms. The restaurant offers outdoor seating with great views of the water. It is $10 for adults to fish and $8 for senior citizens (over 64), military personnel, and kids under 10. It is a cool place to hang out and enjoy the beautiful views.
6. Take a Naval Base Cruise
Taking a Naval Base Cruise is essential when visiting Norfolk, VA. The Victory Rover offers cruises that leave from Nauticus, near the Battleship Wisconsin, in downtown Norfolk. The Victory Rover has a climate-controlled cabin with large windows as well as an open-air bow and top deck which offer great views. There is also a snack bar and gift shop on board. The cruises are two hours long and give visitors a chance to see majestic aircraft carriers, guided missile cruisers, nuclear submarines, and more. The captain does a great job of narrating the cruise and explaining the sites. It is recommended to make reservations, as this is one of the most popular cruises in Norfolk. I highly recommend it.
7. Visit the Virginia Zoological Park
The Virginia Zoological Park in Norfolk is a great place to spend a few hours. It is on 53 acres and is home to over 700 animals. The zoo is broken up into sections representing Africa, Asia, Australia, and North America. It also has reptiles area and a zoo farm. The zoo train offers visitors a chance to get off their feet and enjoy views of the zoo. The Virginia Zoological Park hosts many annual events, including a Mother's Day Brunch, Father's Day BBQ, Zoovies, Growl Fest, and Zoo Boo.
8. Explore the Chrysler Museum of Art and Glass Studio
Chrysler offers two incredible museums in downtown Norfolk, VA. The first one is the Chrysler Museum of Art and the second one is the Chrysler Museum Glass Studio. Parking and admission are free at both of these wonderful museums. They are open on Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm. On Sundays, they are open noon to 5 pm. Here is a closer look at each of them.
Chrysler Museum of Art
The Chrysler Museum of Art is incredible. It is home to over 30,000 original pieces of art, some of which, date back over 5,000 years. The museum offers something for everyone in the family. The Wonder Studio is an interactive gallery with digitals easels so kids can create masterpieces of their own. The museum also has areas dedicated to decorative, modern, contemporary, American, European, and Ancient Art.
Chrysler Museum Glass Studio
Adjacent to the Chrysler Museum of Art is the Chrysler Museum Glass Studio. It is one of two major art museums that have a Glass Studio in it. Every Wednesday through Sunday at noon, the Glass Studio offers free public glass blowing demonstrations. The Glass Studio also offers classes for all abilities. It is a must see. I highly recommend both of these cool museums.
9. Visit the MacArthur Memorial
The MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk celebrates the life of Army General Douglas MacArthur. The museum also pays tribute to the millions of American soldiers that served the United States in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. The MacArthur Memorial highlights the American values of Duty, Honor, and Country. It is in downtown Norfolk and is made up of a museum, education center, library, theater, and gift shop. Admission is free. It is an incredible place to check out for history buffs, home school groups, or anyone interested in learning more about General Douglas MacArthur.
10. Visit the Pagoda and Oriental Garden
The Pagoda & Oriental Garden in downtown Norfolk is unique and worth a visit. It is on the waterfront and also known as The Marine Observation Tower. The pagoda was donated to Norfolk by Taiwan in 1989 because of their trading ties with the City of Norfolk. It is also the highlight of the Oriental Garden. The pagoda offers beautiful views of the Battleship Wisconsin, sunsets over the Elizabeth River, and of the Oriental Garden. It is also home to the Pagoda Garden Tea House, which serves lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. It is also available as a wedding venue. It is a cool place to check out when visiting Norfolk.
Don't Miss a Chance to Visit Norfolk
Norfolk, VA, is a great place to visit. There is so much to see and do there. My family and I loved our visit and cannot wait to go back again.
Map of the Top 10 Things to Do in Norfolk
© 2019 Eric Cramer
Eric Cramer (author) from Chicagoland on April 02, 2019:
Thanks Alexander and Liz! We had a great time in Virginia.
Liz Westwood from UK on April 02, 2019:
You have put together a great list of things to do in Norfolk. A few months ago we were at a British naval base in Portsmouth. But your photos put it well in the shade. It's great to see that for those less interested in the navy, there are plenty of great alternatives.
Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on April 02, 2019:
Virginia is beautiful.