21 Things To Do In Norfolk VA

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Norfolk is the oldest, the third most populous and the sixth largest city in Virginia. Set on Chesapeake Bay, on the North Atlantic Ocean, it was originally settled by the British and named after the English county of the same name. Virginia’s Norfolk is one of the most historic destinations in the region.

While you would think a historic city with a stature and reputation like that would be a hotspot, it is often overlooked, much like many other parts of the state of Virginia. So many of its top attractions are not as well-known as they would be if they were located in other cities or states.

Some things to do in Norfolk include visiting the city’s top attractions, with options that cover all tastes and show you a little bit of everything that Norfolk is known for. This should ensure everyone can enjoy a dream vacation in a destination affectionately known as “Mermaid City, USA”.

Norfolk, Virginia

Top 3 Norfolk Tours

21 Things To Do In Norfolk VA

things to do in norfolk at night
Looking for things to do in Norfolk at night? Check out our suggestions.

1- See Some Of The City’s Best Art At The Chrysler Museum

In 1933, the museum was known as the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences, but it was renamed after the heir to the Chrysler Corporation donated his art collection in 1971.

The Chrysler Museum became one of the largest art museums in southeast USA.

Set on a beautiful body of water called The Hague, the museum houses more than 30,000 objects covering everything from ancient to contemporary art.

With ceramics, glass, paintings, photos, and sculptures, as well as various tours, exhibitions, lectures, films, concerts, rotating displays, family events, various other programs, and even a library and archive, the Chrysler Museum is the ultimate destination for any art fans visiting the region.

Chrysler Museum Of Art is at 1 Memorial Place, Norfolk, Virginia, 23510. Join this history walking tour to find out more.

2- Hop Aboard The Nauticus And Learn About Naval History

things to do in norfolk with kids ship
Exploring the USS Wisconsin is one of the things to do in Norfolk for war history lovers.

Built in 1994, Nauticus is a waterfront science centre and maritime museum complex.

It contains the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, one of the largest battleships ever built, the USS Wisconsin, a sailing centre, aquarium, various interactive theatres, hands-on exhibits, and educational programs.

It is the perfect place for people interested in the ocean or naval history to explore, see first-hand artefacts, and dramatically expand their knowledge.

The Nauticus is at 1 Waterside Drive, Norfolk, Virginia, 23510.

Tip: Buy the Norfolk Passport attractions pass to save money on entry tickets to Nauticus, USS Wisconsin and other attractions.

3- Enjoy A Performance At The Harrison Opera House

Created to host USO shows during World War II, the Harrison Opera House was remodelled in a modern style and renamed in honour of the founding president of the Virginia Opera, Edythe Harrison, before being reopened in 1993.

Capable of seating over 1,600 people, it provides the opportunity to see some of the best concerts, operas, and plays Norfolk has to offer in truly historic surroundings.

Harrison Opera House is at 160 West Virginia Beach Boulevard, Norfolk, Virginia, 23510.

4- Learn About The Town’s History At The Moses Myers House

things to do in norfolk
Exploring the city’s historic centre is one of the free things to do in Norfolk VA.

The Moses Myers House is a beautiful building built at the end of the 18th century.

The building has Federal architecture and was designed, built, and lived in by Jewish merchant Moses Myers and his family and contains notable features like a two-storey service wing and kitchen.

Converted into a museum in 1931, the house still contains around 70% of the original furniture and the Myers family’s personal effects, including ceramics, glass, portraits, and silver.

It’s a perfect place to see how people of the city of Norfolk would have lived throughout the ages.

The historic building was added to the United States National Register Of Historic Places in 1970 and then acquired by the Chrysler Museum in 1971.

Moses Myers House is at 323 East Freemason Street, Norfolk, Virginia, 23510. Join this historic walking tour.

5- Go On A Cruise Along The Elizabeth River

things to do in norfolk va night lights
Looking for things to do in Norfolk VA? Here’s our list of the top 20.

The Elizabeth River is a 6-mile (10 km) long waterway along Norfolk’s west, south, and east edges.

Dotted with commercial, naval, and recreational sites, taking a cruise along the river is a fabulous way to truly appreciate the city of Norfolk in the most relaxing way possible.

Many options are available for an in-depth experience and up-close views of the naval sights, including dinner cruises, buffet lunch cruises and Sunday buffet brunch cruises.

6- Have A Walk Along The Elizabeth River Trail

The Elizabeth River Trail is easily your best option for those who want to explore the city’s waterfront by land.

A 10.5-mile (17 km) hike and bike trail, active visitors can enjoy traversing it at their own pace, either on foot or two wheels, to see some of the best attractions, wildlife, and waterfront views the city has to offer.

The Elizabeth River Trail Foundation is at 101 West Main Street, #1000A, Norfolk, Virginia, 23510.

7- Soak In The Views From Town Point Park

Town Point Park is a beautiful park and garden in southwest Norfolk, on the bank of the Elizabeth River.

It boasts landscaped, wide-open green spaces, fountains, and picnic areas, while offering stunning views of historic vessels and the neighbouring city of Portsmouth across the river.

Also, regularly hosting seasonal festivals and performances, it is a wonderful place to relax, take in the city, and embrace the great outdoors.

Town Point Park is at 113 Waterside Drive, Norfolk, Virginia, 23510.

8- See The Animals Of Virginia Zoo

things to do in norfolk va this weekend
Visiting the zoo is one of the fun things to do in Norfolk with kids.

Virginia Zoo is a 53-acre zoological park home to more than 400 animals.

With 115 species, including lions, tigers, ostriches, zebras, a variety of reptiles, and various other creatures from Africa and North America, it is a fabulous destination for animal lovers to visit during their stay in Norfolk.

Virginia Zoo is at 3500 Granby Street, Norfolk, Virginia, 23504. Skip the line and order your Norfolk Passport attractions pass to enter the zoo.

9- Pay A Visit To The Owen B. Pickett U.S. Custom House

The Owen B. Pickett U.S. Custom House is a historic customs building erected in 1852.

One of the oldest customs sites in the U.S., it is a rare example of exquisite Roman Temple architecture.

One of Norfolk’s iconic buildings has been listed on the U.S. National Register Of Historic Places since 1970 and is a must-see location during your stay.

Owen B. Pickett U.S. Custom House is at 101 East Main Street, Norfolk, Virginia, 23510. This tour will take you to Owen B Pickett US Custom House and 10 other historic places.

10- Pass The Time In The Norfolk Botanical Garden

things to do in norfolk, va
Relaxing in a garden is one of the things to do in Norfolk for some time out.

Opened in 1938, Norfolk Botanical Garden has 75 acres of gardens and also boasts an arboretum.

Best known for its April azaleas and 450 different types of roses, it also houses countless species of bushes, plants, and shrubs from around the world, plus features like Colonial and Japanese gardens.

Listed on the U.S. National Register Of Historic Places since 2005, it is an excellent destination for anyone interested in plants. In addition, it offers boat, tram, and walking tours to take in your surroundings.

Norfolk Botanical Garden is at 6700 Azalea Garden Road, Norfolk, Virginia, 23518.

11- Be Amazed By The Hunter House Victorian Museum

Hunter House Victorian Museum dates back to 1894 when it was built for businessman James Wilson Hunter and his family.

The museum is known for its Richardsonian Romanesque architecture and an extensive collection of Victorian furniture.

It also has impressive decorative arts on display and was converted into a museum in 1988 for guests to explore.

Hunter House Victorian Museum is at 240 West Freemason Street, Norfolk, Virginia, 23510.

12- Enjoy The Unique Stylings Of The Willoughby-Baylor House

The Willoughby-Baylor House is a house museum built in 1794 by William Willoughby.

It is well known for its iconic architecture, which includes a Greek Revival doorway and Greek Doric columns.

Containing much of the furniture and personal belongings of the owners from throughout history demonstrates how the city’s upper classes would have lived through the years.

It was acquired by the Chrysler Museum and added to the United States National Register Of Historic Places in 1971.

Willoughby-Baylor House is at 601 East Freemason Street, Norfolk, Virginia, 23510.

13- Study The Memorials In MacArthur Memorial Museum

fun things to do in norfolk
Visiting Norfolk City Hall (the MacArthur Memorial) is one of the top things to do in Norfolk Virginia to learn about the region’s history.

The MacArthur Memorial Museum is a collection of three buildings dedicated to General Douglas MacArthur’s memory, including the Memorial Building, Jean MacArthur Research Center, and Visitor Center.

Featuring General MacArthur’s Tomb, a movie theatre, statues, flags, medals, paintings, photos, sculptures, uniforms, vehicles, weapons, archives and memorabilia.

It also houses some of MacArthur’s personal belongings and effects, and it is an ideal destination for those interested in the life of a military hero.

MacArthur Memorial Museum is at 198 Bank Street, Norfolk, Virginia, 23510.

14- Experience An Event At The Norfolk Scope Arena

Norfolk Scope Arena is an indoor arena able to hold 13,800 people.

It features the largest reinforced thin-shell concrete dome on Earth and has won awards from the American Institute Of Architects.

Frequently used to host concerts, basketball and ice hockey games, pro wrestling events, and even circuses, it is among the best places to enjoy the city’s finest entertainment on your trip.

Norfolk Scope Arena is at 201 East Brambleton Avenue, Norfolk, Virginia, 23510.

15- Relax On Ocean View Beach

things to do in norfolk va beach
Spending time at the beach is one of the fun things to do in Norfolk, Virginia.

Ocean View Beach is a 7-mile (11 km) beach of beautiful, golden sand stretching along Norfolk’s north coast.

Easily the best beach in the city, it is ideal whether you want to take a swim, laze on the sand, top up your tan, or stroll along the shore with the sand beneath your feet.

16- Discover The Secrets Held Within Fort Norfolk

Fort Norfolk is a historic fort and district constructed between 1795 and 1809.

The last fortified harbour erected by George Washington in the 18th century features 11 buildings and includes a carpenter’s shop, guardhouse, main gate, officers’ quarters, and powder magazine.

Listed on the U.S. National Register Of Historic Places in 1976 and the Virginia Landmarks Register in 1975, it is an ideal destination for anyone interested in the American Civil or Revolutionary wars.

Fort Norfolk is at 801 Front Street, Norfolk, Virginia, 23510.

17- Explore The Hermitage Museum And Gardens

The Hermitage Museum And Gardens is an art museum and house museum surrounded by stunning landscaped gardens.

The interiors are beautifully decorated and filled with art, the architecture is exquisite, and the gardens are full of unique flowers and plants.

With tours of both the grounds and interiors available, as well as professional programs and art and history classes, it is a fabulous destination for those who want a deeper understanding of the city’s changing art and experience residents will have had through the years.

Hermitage Museum And Gardens is at 7637 North Shore Road, Norfolk, Virginia, 23505.

18- Appreciate The Works In The Barry Art Museum

The Barry Art Museum is a small art establishment on the grounds of Old Dominion University.

Its collection of dolls, glass, paintings, and drawings will appeal to traditional art fans.

Rotating exhibits on things like robots and movies make it a unique experience for other visitors as well.

Barry Art Museum is at 1075 West 43rd Street, Norfolk, Virginia, 23508. Looking for an art tour? Here’s a contemporary art tour of the Neon District.

19- Examine The Stunning Pagoda & Oriental Garden

The main building of the Pagoda & Oriental Garden was gifted to the city by Taiwan. It is a perfect example of Oriental architecture, with its red columns and sloping green roofs.

Surrounded by beautiful ponds, fountains, gates, walkways, bridges, and iconic oriental plants like bamboo, it is one of the most tranquil places in Norfolk.

It offers the opportunity for you to take a stroll, relax, and embrace a different culture during your visit to Norfolk.

Pagoda & Oriental Garden is at 256 West Tazewell Street, Norfolk, Virginia, 23510.

20- Tour Norfolk Naval Station Pier 14

best things to do in norfolk
Exploring the ships at the U.S. Military Base is one of the unusual things to do in Norfolk.

Norfolk Naval Station Pier 14 is a military pier on the northwest corner of Norfolk, surrounded by active military vessels.

You can tour some of the ships, hear from servicemen, or enjoy the range of festivals held here regularly, making it a fun way to get a glimpse inside the modern U.S. Navy.

Norfolk Naval Station Pier 14 is at Decatur Avenue, Norfolk, Virginia, 23511.

21- Hang Out At The Slover Library

unusual things to do in norfolk library building at night
Hanging out in the Slover Library is one of the things to do in Norfolk if you’re at a loose end.

The Slover Library is the city’s modern library with an innovative design that incorporates cutting-edge technology and is free to visit.

Spread across two historic buildings that have been renovated (the Seaboard building and Selden Arcade), connected by a three-story glass atrium and tower, this is an excellent place to hang out and learn about the history of the region.

The Slover Library is open from Tuesdays to Saturdays at 235 E Plume Street, Norfolk, VA 23510. 

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Steve Burden is an avid traveller and experienced writer. As a former pro wrestler, Steve used to travel frequently for work throughout the USA and Europe. Having spent the last decade travelling all over the world in search of new sights and experiences, he has turned his love for travel into a new career helping others decide on the best places to visit, as well as what to see when they get there.