Portsmouth is a historic town steeped in culture and art. Visitors love exploring the 300-year-old landmark neighborhoods, antique and boutique shops, art galleries, and some of the best restaurants on the Southeast coast. Portsmouth is a pedestrian-friendly town with most attractions being within walking distance of each other. The quaint town is also only a few minutes from Virginia Beach, the colonial settlement of Williamsburg, and just a quick ferry trip to downtown Norfolk.

1. Lightship Portsmouth Museum

Lightship Portsmouth Museum
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Lightships were started in 1820 as a portable lighthouse to be used as a navigational aid for ships near the coast. The Lightship Portsmouth was constructed in 1915 and served for almost five decades off the Virginia, Delaware, and Massachusetts coasts. The ship was retired in 1964 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989. The ship is now a museum depicting the quarters of the ship crew, and unique artifacts related to the ship’s time in service. Browse our Romantic Weekend Getaways in Virginia guide for more ideas.

Water and London Streets, Portsmouth, Virginia, 23704, Phone: 757-393-8591

2. Skipjack Marine Gallery

Skipjack Marine Gallery
© Skipjack Marine Gallery

kipjack Nautical Wares is a unique shop that is every sailor or marine lover’s haven. Skipjacks offer home décor, Marine Salvage and Hardware including ships bells, doors, flags, and more. Sailors can find nautical sailing instruments, ship models, toys, antique furniture, jewelry, pet collars, and military memorabilia at the Nautical store. The Marine Gallery, located inside the retail store, exhibits the Herb Jones Maritime Collection and The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation Collection. Marine art is also for sale in store and online. You can reach Skipjack on foot, car, or boat!

620 High Street, Portsmouth, Virginia, 23704, Phone: 757-399-5012

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3. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum
© Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum

More than 250 years of Naval history is explored at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is the oldest in the United States, as well as the largest and was used in the Revolutionary War. Enemy armies have tried to burn down the Shipyard three times and many historic ships, including the CSS Virginia, and the nation’s first battleship: the TEXAS, as well as the first aircraft carrier: the LANGLEY. Portsmouth Shipyard once employed more than 43,000 Virginians and offered a detailed history lesson from Colonial times through the Civil War as well as the modern use through the 20th century.

2 High Street, Portsmouth, Virginia, 23704, Phone: 757-393-8591, (website link)

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4. Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve, Portsmouth, Virginia

Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve, Portsmouth, Virginia
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Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve spans 142 acres at the mouth of the James River. Hoffler Creek borders the preserve, and the area has deep historical significance dating back to the colonies, Revolutionary War, and War of 1812. Virginia Department of Transportation owned the acreage from the 1960s through the ’90s when a group of citizens petitioned for the area to be turned into a recreational area and nature preserve. The city took ownership of the property, and the Hoffler Creek Wildlife Foundation was a citizen-formed group tasked with taking care of the land. Visitors to the Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve can enjoy hiking, walking, fishing, oyster gardening, kayaking, and birdwatching.

4510 Twin Pines Road, Portsmouth, Virginia, 23703, Phone: 757-686-8684

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5. The Hill House Museum, Portsmouth, Virginia

The Hill House Museum, Portsmouth, Virginia
© The Hill House Museum

The Hill House Museum is a historic property in Portsmouth that is furnished with original family artifacts from the 1800s and 1900s. The home was built in 1825 by a slave owner and entrepreneur, John Thompson, a captain during the War of 1812. Thompson and his wife could not have children of their own, but they adopted an orphaned nephew, John Thompson Hill. The house was given to the adopted son and was passed down through the Hill family for generations. Descendants of the Hill family founded the Portsmouth Police department and served in the Civil War. In remaining Hill, Sisters donated the property to the Portsmouth Historical Foundation along with all the family artifacts and furnishings amassed within the house.

221 North Street, Portsmouth, Virginia, 23704, Phone: 757-393-0241

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6. Jewish Museum and Cultural Center

Jewish Museum and Cultural Center
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The Jewish Museum and Cultural Center was opened in 2008 after being restored by the Friends of Chevra T’helim. First constructed in 1917 as a Jewish Synagogue by four Portsmouth families, Chevra T’helim was the centerpiece of the immigrant Jewish Community in and around Portsmouth for decades. The synagogue closed in 1985 and sat unused until being restored and becoming a museum that celebrates Eastern European Jewish Orthodox history and culture. The museum displays priceless religious artifacts such as a 19th century Torah Scroll that was nearly destroyed in the Holocaust. Visitors can enjoy a summer music series, guest lectures, and auctions at the museum.

607 Effingham Street, Portsmouth, Virginia, 23704, Phone: 757-391-9266

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7. Lobscouser Seafood Restaurant, Portsmouth, Virginia

Lobscouser Seafood Restaurant, Portsmouth, Virginia
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Lobscouser is a sibling owned restaurant that specializes in fresh seafood with fine dining dishes in a casual atmosphere. The full-service restaurant is decorated with watercolor paintings that reflect the ambiance of cozy Portsmouth and newspaper columns highlighting renovation projects in the town. The name, Lobscouser, refers to sailor’s dishes of seafood and stewed vegetables with a biscuit or crackers. Lobscouser is also the nickname for a ship’s chef. The seafood restaurant serves lunch and dinner.

337 High Street, Portsmouth, Virginia, 23704, Phone: 757-397-2728

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8. Children’s Museum of Virginia

Children’s Museum of Virginia
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Created and designed specifically for kids, the Children’s Museum of Virginia is known for being a place where both education and learning are spelled as F-U-N. Children of all ages and needs are ensured a fascinating visit to the Children’s Museum of Virginia thanks to a ton of fun and interesting permanent as well as visiting exhibits. The STORYLAND exhibit, for example, allows children to enter the realm of picture books, while the Lancaster Antique Train and Toy Collection feature a huge diorama with functioning toy trains that chug through beautifully decorated terrains. Among the many other exhibits, there most popular has to be the Bubbles exhibit, while other experiences like Wegman’s, My Backyard and Beyond, and even the Beazley Planetarium are just waiting to be discovered.

221 High Street, Portsmouth, Virginia 23704, Phone: 757-393-5258, (website link)

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9. Longboards, Portsmouth, Virginia

Longboards, Portsmouth, Virginia
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Longboard’s Lounge, formerly Longboard’s Hawaiian Grill, is a Leutner-ranhorn Restaurant that is inspired by Island cuisine and Hawaiian dishes. Longboards Lounge was established in 2008 and featured Burgers, Wings, and Seafood. They are known for their homemade soups, traditional and boneless wings, and delicious fresh seafood entrees such as blackened yellowfin tuna, and classic fish and chips. If you love burgers, you’ll find some of the best, handcrafted burgers on the coast here along with fantastic fish tacos, and pork bbq.

440 High Street, Portsmouth, Virginia, 23704, Phone: 757-399-4010

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10. Pollards Chicken, Portsmouth, VA

Pollards Chicken, Portsmouth, VA
© Pollards Chicken

Pollard’s Chicken opened in 1967 with Pollard’s Chicken Ranch; A family-owned business with nine locations across the state. The catering business was started even earlier in 1953 that specialized in chicken dishes. Today, Pollard’s Chicken is an award-winning diner and catering business known for their fried chicken and philanthropic efforts in the Portsmouth community. The homestyle food offered at Pollard’s is chicken or seafood entrees as well as soups, stews, and desserts.

4806 George Washington Highway, Portsmouth, Virginia, 23702, Phone: 757-337-0707

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11. Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center

Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center
© Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center

At the Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center, every visitor is encouraged to simply “get to the art of it”. As the heart and soul of Portsmouth’s artistic community, the museum encourages art appreciation, education, as well as cultural experiences, and exposure through a well-curated permanent collection of works as well as rotating exhibits of world renown. Additionally, the Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center also frequently welcomes guest lecturers, offers a regular range of classes, and even hosts cultural and artistic performances. Visitors should be sure to appreciate the building that houses the museum as well. The historic building was built in 1846 and, for a decade, served as the county’s courthouse.

400 High Street, Portsmouth, Virginia 23704, Phone: 757-393-8543, (website link)

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12. LeMans Karting

LeMans Karting
© LeMans Karting

For Karting enthusiasts in Virginia, one of the more popular and exciting tracks to visit is none other than LeMans Karting, Virginia’s largest indoor karting track. Situated in Hampton Roads, LeMans Karting’s Portsmouth location is newly renovated and promises intense speed, real racing experiences, and the use of high-performance, top-of-the-line gas go karts, all from within a safe and welcoming environment. Race to your hearts content on a technical and challenging course while enjoying other amenities of the karting center like its brand-new laser tag arena, pool tables, and more. Great for parties, team building, and other events, LeMans Karting is a spectacular place to visit while in Portsmouth, Virginia.

2882 Airline Boulevard, Portsmouth, Virginia 23701, Phone: 757-606-1776

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