Plan a weekend trip to Norfolk in Southeastern Virginia where you can take a guided tour of the largest naval station in the world, view over 30,000 objects at the Chrysler Museum of Art, and take a stroll through the beautiful Norfolk Botanical Garden.

Best things to do in Norfolk for families include the Virginia Zoo, Nauticus National Maritime Center and Harbor Park.

1. Chrysler Museum of Art

Chrysler Museum of Art
© Chrysler Museum of Art

Located in the artistic district of Ghent overlooking a small body of water known as The Hague, the Chrysler Museum of Art is one of the major art museums in the Southeastern United States and one of the best things to do in Norfolk, Virginia. Originally founded as the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences in 1933, the museum grew through a large donation of art by automotive heir Walter Chrysler and today is home to over 30,000 objects that span thousands of years of world history.

The collection includes sculpture from the Middle Ages, and American and European paintings by famous artists such as Tintoretto, Eugene Delacroix, Edouard Manet, Auguste Rodin, Paul Gauguin, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and Franz Kline. The Museum also houses one of the world's greatest collections of glass, distinguished decorative arts, and an excellent collection of photography. Admission is free. Browse our Romantic Weekend Getaways in Virginia guide for more ideas.

One Memorial Place, Norfolk, Virginia, Phone: 757-664-6200

2. Norfolk Botanical Garden

Norfolk Botanical Garden
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Norfolk Botanical Garden is a 155-acre public botanical garden that features over forty themed gardens, including seasonal gardens and a special WOW Children’s Garden.

Located on Azalea Garden Road, themed gardens include a tranquil Japanese Garden designed in the traditional hill and pond style of Japanese gardens; an Enchanted Forest filled with ancient oak, hickory, and pine trees that creates a haven for birdwatchers and nature lovers; a Hummingbird Garden that boasts a mixture of annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees that attract these tiny birds; and an amazing Tropical Display House, which features lush foliage and bright flowers that are found in tropical rainforests around the world. If you are wondering what to do in Norfolk, Virginia with kids, this is a great place to visit.

The World of Wonders: A Children’s Adventure Garden is a must for the kids with several interactive educational areas where children can learn about plants and botany through play.

6700 Azalea Garden Road, Norfolk, Virginia, Phone: 757 441 5830

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3. Virginia Zoo, Norfolk, VA

Virginia Zoo, Norfolk, VA
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The Virginia Zoo is situated next to Lafayette Park in Norfolk and is home to more than 500 animals from the African elephant to the tiny dart frog, as well as countless plant species.

The Zoo features several specific habitats that house animals from Africa, Asia, Australia, North America and a variety of excellent exhibits. ‘Trail of the Tiger’ features unusual and rare animals from Asia such as Malayan tigers and tapirs, orangutans, oriental small-clawed otters, siamangs, and binturongs.

The Zoo is also well known for its beautiful gardens, which are designed to provide fresh plant treats for the zoo’s residents. The Zoo holds a variety of educational and conservation-focused events throughout the year, including the popular ‘Zoo Snoozes,' where visitors spend a fun-filled night at the zoo, playing games and activities and visiting the nocturnal animals. More info

3500 Granby St, Norfolk, Virginia, Phone: 757-441-2374

4. Battleship Wisconsin

Battleship Wisconsin
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Tthe USS Wisconsin is a battleship that served in the Pacific during World War II and later during the Korean War.

After being decommissioned, it was reactivated in 1986 and was used during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. After being once again decommissioned in late 1991, it became a museum ship operated by Nauticus, the National Maritime Center.

Visitors can take self-guided tours where they can see several areas and levels of the ship including officers’ staterooms, offices, a post office, a chapel, and the mess where sailors ate their meals.

On the 90 minute guided “Topside Tour,” visitors can see additional areas such as the captain’s cabin, the admiral’s cabin, and more.

One Waterside Drive, Norfolk, Virginia, Phone: 757-664-1000

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5. Nauticus National Maritime Center, Norfolk, VA

Nauticus National Maritime Center, Norfolk, VA
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Founded in 1988, Nauticus National Maritime Center opened to the public in 1994 at the location of the former Banana Pier. The nautical-themed center includes many activities and things to see including a large screen theater, hands-on exhibits and interactive theaters.

The Hampton Roads Naval Museum is on the second floor where visitors can see other science exhibits, a shark lab, and a horseshoe crab touch tank. Opened in 2007, the Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center is a cruise ship pier, an event venue, a marina, and a museum. The USS Wisconsin is also a part of Nauticus.

One Waterside Drive, Norfolk, Virginia, Phone: 757-664-1000, (website link)

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6. Naval Station Norfolk

Naval Station Norfolk
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Naval Station Norfolk is the largest naval station in the world. The base takes up about four miles (six km) of waterfront and contains seven miles (11 km) of pier space. There are 11 aircraft hangars and 14 piers as well as 134 aircraft and 75 ships.

The base is also the home of the largest number of U.S. Navy forces in the world. There are 45 minute tours guided by naval staff who show visitors the many ships and aircraft carriers in addition to one of the busiest airfields in the U.S.

9079 Hampton Boulevard, Norfolk, Virginia, Phone: 757-444-7955

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7. General Douglas MacArthur Memorial

General Douglas MacArthur Memorial
© General Douglas MacArthur Memorial

The MacArthur Memorial is a museum dedicated to the memory of General Douglas MacArthur.

It is located on Bank Street and consists of a welcome center, an education center, an archive and research center, and a theater.

The memorial preserves the story of General MacArthur and also those who fought with him during World War I, World War II, and the Korean War.

In the museum there are artifacts, murals, paintings, sculptures, and vehicles.

In addition to the museum, the memorial offers tours, outreach activities, and special events such as film screenings, lectures, and more.

MacArthur Square, 198 Bank Street, Norfolk, Virginia, Phone: 757-441-2965, (website link)

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8. Hermitage Museum and Gardens, Norfolk, VA

Hermitage Museum and Gardens, Norfolk, VA
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Located on North Shore Road, the Hermitage Museum and Gardens is a historic home and art museum. The Sloane house sits on the shore of the Lafayette River and is an example of an arts and crafts estate dating from the early 20th century. The Sloane collection consists of more than 40,000 objects that represent 5,000 years of fine art and history from 30 different countries.

In addition to its permanent collection, the museum offers temporary exhibits in its Changing Galleries space. The gardens consist of 12 acres of forest, wetlands, and semi-formal gardens that are often used as the setting for special events.

7637 North Shore Road, Norfolk, Virginia, Phone: 757-423-2052

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9. American Rover

American Rover
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Sailing Harbor Cruises is a cruise company located on Waterside Drive. It has been operating the American Rover since 1986 and offers cruises through the waters around Norfolk and surrounding areas. Carrying up to 129 passengers, the ship is 135 feet long and is known for its red sails: these are red tan bark sails.

There are two hour narrated harbor cruises and sunset cruises. The topside deck is shaded while the two lounges below deck are climate controlled. On board there is also a bar and a store. The American Rover can be rented for special events such as corporate meetings, birthday parties, weddings, and more.

333 Waterside Drive, Norfolk, Virginia, Phone: 757-627-7245

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10. Mermaid Factory, Norfolk, VA

Mermaid Factory, Norfolk, VA
© Mermaid Factory

Mermaid Factory, located on West 21st Street between Colley Avenue and Hampton Boulevard, is a craft store and studio that makes clay mermaids and dolphins. All of the mermaids and dolphins are hand made in Norfolk. Visitors can purchase mermaids that have already been hand painted; or visitors can decorate the blank mermaids at the studio by using a variety of materials such as charms, fabrics, glitter, paint, rhinestones, shells, and much more.

The studio can accommodate up to 25 people and can be rented for corporate events, parties, and more. The craft shop also sells other dolphin, mermaid, and nautical-themed gift items.

919A W 21st Street, Norfolk, Virginia, Phone: 757-233-0733

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11. Hampton Roads Naval Museum

Hampton Roads Naval Museum
© Hampton Roads Naval Museum

Located on Waterside Drive, the Hampton Roads Naval Museum is a maritime museum that is a part of Norfolk’s Nauticus complex. Operated by the Naval History & Heritage Command, the museum commemorates the history of the U.S. Navy’s presence in the Norfolk area. The museum’s collections include ship models, naval prints, and underwater archaeology.

It contains material on the 1781 Battle of the Chesapeake, the American Civil War, World War II, and the Cold War. There are also the remains of two Civil War shipwrecks, the USS Cumberland and the USS Florida. Outreach programs include lecture series, guided tours, and special temporary exhibits.

One Waterside Drive #248, Norfolk, VA, Phone: 757-322-2987

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12. Harbor Park

Harbor Park
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Harbor Park is a 36 acre park that includes a baseball stadium located on Park Avenue on the Elizabeth River in downtown Norfolk. Opened in 1993, the stadium is the home of the Norfolk Tides minor league baseball team and it can seat 12,067 people. There are two decks of seating, a picnic area for private parties, 20 luxury skyboxes, a restaurant with a panoramic view of the playing field, and other concessions selling food and drinks to guests.

In addition to baseball games, the park hosts other events such as concerts, high school football games, and an annual Halloween event called the “Haunted Harbor Park.”

150 Park Avenue, Norfolk, VA, Phone: 757-622-2222, (website link)

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13. The Grilled Cheese Bistro, Norfolk, VA

The Grilled Cheese Bistro, Norfolk, VA
© The Grilled Cheese Bistro

The Grilled Cheese Bistro is a cozy, casual, home-away-from-home eatery that serves a menu of classic comfort food and beverages.

Owned by Dina Taylor and Chris Streebing who started the restaurant to share their passion for food with their community, The GCB's unique combination of freshly baked bread, fresh fruit and vegetables, locally sourced meats and cheeses and homemade sauces have come to delight the locals, who return time and again. The menu features traditional sandwiches with a twist, such as the ‘Woody Allen’, a delicious mix of smoked salmon, fresh dill, brie cheese, and capers, or the ‘Don Quixote’ with creamy Gouda cheese, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, and olive tapenade.

Add a fresh garden salad and regular sides like French fries, and wash it all down with an ice cold draft beer or glass of wine.

345 Granby St, Norfolk, VA, Phone: 757-233-2512

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14. Doumar's

Doumar's
© Doumar's

Doumar’s is a historical, family owned and operated eatery that has been serving classic all-American food for over 100 years.

Located on Hampton Road, the casual diner and curb service restaurant is famous for being the birthplace of the waffle cone and for its fantastic made-from-scratch ice cream, as well as North Carolina-style barbecue and killer milkshakes. Founder Abe Doumar created the first waffle cone at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 and the popular eatery has been serving waffle cone ice creams ever since.

If you are looking for romantic date night ideas, this is a great place to try. Tuck into sizzling barbecue, hamburgers, hot dogs, and an array of sandwiches with various fillings, before finishing off with a decadent dessert, ice cream sundae, or custom-made waffle cone ice cream.

1919 Monticello Avenue, Norfolk, VA, Phone: 757-627-4163

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15. The Elizabeth River Trail

The Elizabeth River Trail
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The Elizabeth River Trail is a multi-use trail which runs for 10.5 miles along the Norfolk waterfront between Harbor Park Stadium and Norfolk International Terminals. The popular trail is accessible from I-64 to the north and I 264 to the east. There are several options for parking along the trail and several of the business along the trail offer restroom facilities for walkers and runners. You are welcome to walk, jog, run, cycle and skate along the trail – slower users are urged to keep right so that faster users can safely overtake. Leashed dogs are also allowed on the trail. The annual Elizabeth River Run is a fun event which takes place each year in September.

The Elizabeth River Trail, Norfolk, VA 23510

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16. Coastal Food Tours, Norfolk, VA

Coastal Food Tours, Norfolk, VA
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Norfolk’s vibrant food scene is fueled by eager, talented chefs and ambitious restaurateurs and now you can experience some of the best on a Downtown Norfolk Food Tour. Stroll around the city visiting local restaurants that serve an array of international cuisine, from traditional coastal dishes to ethnic and sustainable fare.

Choose from a variety of tours that explore the history of each area and its culinary scene: The Granby Street Food Tour takes you through the heart of downtown Norfolk where you can enjoy a variety of traditional regional dishes as well as the modern cuisine at award winning restaurants.

The Historic Ghent Tour explores the beautiful architecture of this century-old suburb, which boasts great shopping and excellent restaurants, including the originator of the ice cream cone! The Ocean View Tour takes you along the picturesque shoreline of Chesapeake Bay which was once a thriving town in the 1850s and is back on the map. Phone: 757-320-2317

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17. The Birch

The Birch
© The Birch

Since opening, The Birch has built up a solid reputation for offering an impressive list of craft beers, both local and imported, and an interesting menu of foreign and grilled cheeses.

Friday nights see a special beer and cheese pairing menu served while on other nights, a regular menu of charcuterie plates, bar snacks, and melty grilled cheese sandwiches is on offer. The restaurant enjoys indoor and outdoor seating and hosts a variety of ‘themed festivals’ each week throughout the year.

1231 W. Olney Road, Norfolk, VA, Phone: 757-962-5400

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18. No Frill Bar and Grill, Norfolk, VA

No Frill Bar and Grill, Norfolk, VA
© No Frill Bar and Grill

Located just a stone's throw from the Naro Theater in Norfolk's Historic Ghent, the No Frill Bar and Grill is a casual, relaxed diner with a warm and welcoming atmosphere and a menu of classic American cuisine.

Open for brunch, lunch, and dinner every day of the week, the No Frill Bar, and Grill’s menu offers appetizers that include grilled portabella mushrooms and Nachos Grande, fresh garden salads, and hearty entrées such as meatloaf, Roadhouse ribs, and roasted chicken, as well as favorites such as hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches.

The desserts and the coffee menu stand out with Key Lime Pie, Coconut Rum Cheesecake, Sheila’s Homemade Giant Six Layer Cakes and freshly brewed coffees. Sip signature cocktails and elegant martinis before dinner or bring the kids on a Sunday morning for the Grill’s famous Sunday brunch.

806 Spotswood Avenue, Norfolk, VA, Phone: 757-627-4262

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19. Hunter House Victorian Museum

Hunter House Victorian Museum
© Hunter House Victorian Museum

Hunter House Victorian Museum is located on West Freemason Street in the Freemason District of downtown Norfolk. The historic house was built in 1894 for James Wilson Hunter, a banker and merchant, and his wife Lizzie Ayer Barnes Hunter and their family.

Opened as a museum in 1988, the Hunter House contains Victorian decorative arts and furnishings that belonged to the Hunter family. The house is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The museum also hosts many special events.

240 West Freemason Street, Norfolk, VA, Phone: 757-623-9814, (website link)

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20. Pagoda and Oriental Garden

Pagoda and Oriental Garden
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The Pagoda and Oriental Garden offer an oasis of beauty and tranquility in the heart of the downtown waterfront in Freemason Harbor. Here you can lose yourself in one of the area’s most attractive outdoor green spaces. The lovely 2-storey Pagoda (a Marine Observation Tower) was a gift to the citizens of Norfolk from the then Governor of Taiwan in 1989. The beautiful Oriental Garden was constructed around the Pagoda, using more than 130 species of oriental plants and trees chosen for their beauty and their symbolism. There is a peaceful Koi pond enhanced by lotus and water lilies, several bridges and waterfalls.

Pagoda and Oriental Garden, 265 West Tazewell Street, Norfolk, VA 23510, 757-622-0506

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21. The Virginia Stage Company at The Wells Theatre

The Virginia Stage Company at The Wells Theatre
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The Virginia Stage Company has been thrilling audiences with professional live theatre performances since 1978. During the last 40+ years the company has presented no fewer than 28 world premier performances at The Wells, their home theatre. Built in 1912, The Wells is an outstanding example of the Beaux Arts style of theatre architecture in Virginia, and deserves a visit in its own right. There is always something enriching happening on stage at The Wells – the Virginia Stage Company produce at least 6 shows each year as well as special holiday classics. You can check their website to see what awaits you during your visit to Norfolk.

The Virginia Stage Company at The Wells, 108 E. Tazewell Street, Norfolk, VA 23510, 757-627-1234

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22. Smartmouth Brewing Company

Smartmouth Brewing Company
© Smartmouth Brewing Company

Ex lawyer and home-brewer Porter Hardy established Smartmouth Brewing Company in 2012, as one of the original craft breweries in Hampton Roads. Since then, the company has grown by leaps and bounds and has established a firm following of craft beer fans. Smartmouth Brewing places emphasis on using the very best quality ingredients to produce premium flavourful beers in unique styles. Craft beer enthusiasts are invited to visit their Norfolk headquarters and Tasting Room where you can become acquainted with their special beers. There are always several flagship brews on tap, as well as seasonal beers and limited editions. Most nights you will find a food truck waiting to serve you outside.

Smartmouth Brewing Company, 1309 Raleigh Ave, Suite 300, Norfolk, VA 23507, 757-624-3939

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23. Moses Myers House

Moses Myers House
© The Chrysler Museum of Art

Built to accommodate a growing family and to showcase his elevated social prominence, the Federal-style Moses Myers House was built by early entrepreneur Moses Myers in 1792. The house was home to 5 generations of the same family and today it offers visitors an accurate insight into the life and times of this prosperous Jewish family during the Federal period. The imposing house is filled with period pieces, art, crockery, personal effects and kitchen utensils. It is thought that part of the house, which has a separate entrance, was used as the first Synagogue in Norfolk. The house is enhanced by an appropriate garden developed by the Garden Club of Virginia.

Moses Myers House, 323 East Freemason Street, Norfolk, VA 23510, 757-333-1087

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24. Catnip Cat Cafe, Norfolk, VA

Catnip Cat Cafe, Norfolk, VA
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The Catnip Cat Café invites all cat lovers to stop by and enjoy a delicious coffee surrounded by some of the loveliest kitties in the state. The Cat Café concept started in Taiwan and has now spread all over the U.S. Their purpose is simple – they aim to have as many shelter cats as possible adopted by caring families who can offer them the ideal home. Catnip Cat Café is home to a number of shelter cats who (mostly) live happily together and are pleased to allow human visitors into their sanctuary. For obvious reasons, children under the age of three, who may hurt or startle the cats, are not admitted.

Catnip Cat Café, 1611-B Colley Avenue, Norfolk, VA 23510, 757-500-7218

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