The coastal city of Norfolk, Virginia, is situated south of Williamsburg and just west of Virginia Beach. The area is a perfect combination of historical significance and coastal playground.
Known for the Naval Station Norfolk, at her core, Norfolk is a naval town and home to the now-retired USS Wisconsin. But Norfolk has a softer side -- like the Chrysler Museum of Art, the Virginia Zoo, the Norfolk Botanical Garden, and a thriving waterfront -- that makes Norfolk a wonderful spot for a weekend getaway.
Things To Do In Norfolk
Whether you are a history buff, love the arts, or enjoy waterfront fun, Norfolk has something for your weekend agenda.
Tour A WWII Battleship
The Nauticus is a fascinating maritime museum filled with interesting historical exhibits. The museum showcases gun paraphernalia, sailor artifacts, and unique maritime tools and equipment. As you wander through the museum, consider how these non-state-of-the-art tools helped us win so many battles.
The USS Wisconsin, a WWII warship, is also included in the Nauticus complex. The battleship is open for self-guided tours along with guide-led, uniquely focused tours. The 90-minute Guided Command and Control Tour explores intimate areas of the ship. Visit the captain’s cabin, the admiral’s cabin, the navigation bridge, and more. Be prepared to climb up four different decks’ levels while you explore these areas that have, in the past, only been open to high ranking officials. Another interesting tour is the Guided Life in the Engine Room Tour. Travel down seven floors to the bowels of the battleship to explore the powerful engine room. On this tour, you will be required to climb steep ladders and share very close spaces, but the claustrophobic experience is worth the effort.
Explore The Chrysler Museum Of Art
Exploring the softer side of Norfolk includes taking in some exquisite art. From Tiffany and Chihuly to beyond, the pieces at the Chrysler Museum of Art will surprise and delight you. With no entry fee required and over 50 galleries and 30,000 works of art, this museum offers a journey into the beautiful world of glass and art for everyone to explore.
Before you plan your visit, scan their Event Calendar. The museum offers classes and demonstrations almost daily. You might find just the experience you desire, such as glass-blowing demonstrations or making your own art.
Say Hello To Your Favorite Animal
Explore the intriguing Virginia Zoo. Zoo visitors can discover far away continents with the likes of African giraffes and Asian red pandas. Home to over 500 animals from around the globe, from the plains of Africa to the jungles of Asia, the Virginia Zoo is a world of discovery. The zoo offers fun, education, and excitement for animal lovers.
The Virginia Zoo offers fascinating behind-the-scenes tours that bring you up close and personal with animals from around the world. Choose from over a dozen different and unique animal experiences. Consider a Masai giraffe encounter or learn about the care of the zoo’s African lion pride. Other interesting options include exploring the zoo’s two-toed sloths, white rhinos, or Malayan tapirs. It’s not every day you get an opportunity to learn about these exotic animals’ habitats, care, and feeding. The tour highlight is an animal meet-and-greet.
Stroll the zoo exhibits or jump on the zoo train for a ride around the zoo while the guide highlights interesting zoo facts.
Walk The Botanical Garden
The Norfolk Botanical Garden is home to 175 acres of beautiful gardens awaiting your discovery.
Guests are welcome to explore the grounds on foot, meandering through the meticulously maintained gardens. There are several guided tours available to learn about the botanical garden. The Guided Walking Tour will help you discover secret garden spots many would casually walk by and miss. The Narrated Tram Tour provides guests with historical information about the Norfolk Garden while meandering through the gorgeous property.
Seasonal gardens, a children’s garden, and gardens representing different regions draw you in for a closer look, a sniff, and contemplation. The WPA Memorial Garden, inspired by the work done in the late 1930s and early 1940s with the Works Progress Administration grant, is a must-see. The WPA grant financially supported African American women (and a few men) in working endeavors. The WPA Memorial Garden salutes these women and men who worked tirelessly to transform a Virginia swamp into a beautiful azalea garden.
Play On The Water
Norfolk is a port city that offers fun on the Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean, and all the rivers and tributaries that flow through the area. The Norfolk waterways are a perfect place to kayak, sail, fish, cruise, crab, and swim. If you are looking for a fun water-filled weekend, Norfolk has something to satisfy your oceanfront living, weekend getaway dreams.
A special boating treat is to set sail on a classic tall ship. The American Rover, a three-masted topsail schooner, welcomes you aboard. American Rover Sailing Cruises offers her guests the option to sit back and enjoy a sail or take a hands-on sailing journey and join the crew as they work the boat, expanding the spectacular view of Norfolk harbor.
Take A Day Trip To Williamsburg
Less than an hour north of Norfolk is historic Williamsburg, a must-visit for any history buff. Williamsburg is a thriving college town with an exciting vibe just waiting to be explored.
You will find yourself immersed in early American life as you wander through historic Williamsburg. Costumed historians deftly make history come to life through entertaining stories and demonstrations.
Our article “Visiting Williamsburg, VA, With The Whole Family: 9 Things To Do” will give you a good idea about all the wonderful things you can do in addition to exploring the historic sites.
Best Restaurants In Norfolk
Every region of the country has its own food style, and Norfolk is no different. With direct access to the Chesapeake Bay, Norfolk’s food scene is seafood-forward but also offers a variety of culinary options.
The No Frill Bar And Grill
Stop by the No Frill Bar And Grill, where you can indulge in some classic American cuisine accompanied by some local specialties. The Norfolk Hot Brown consisting of hand-breaded chicken tenders paired with ham, tomato, cheddar jack, and Norfolk Canyon Ale sauce on a sourdough toast makes a tasty lunch.
Wicker’s Crab Pot Seafood
Every East Coast seafood lover will tell you if you are in Virginia, you need to experience Chesapeake Bay crabs. Wicker’s Crab Pot Seafood offers the Steam Pot, which is chock-full of perfectly cooked local seafood.
Where To Shop In Norfolk
Every great vacation town has wonderful places to shop, and Norfolk offers several great options. You can wander through the waterfront area, find great little shops and lively pubs, or head over to the shopping malls for a more traditional shopping experience.
The MacArthur Center in downtown Norfolk has everything a shopper needs. Great food, first-class stores, and lots of space to stroll. Shop all the big names like Dillard’s and Talbots, then dine at Panda Express, rest your feet, and take stock of your fabulous finds.
For the authentic up-and-coming local Norfolk shops, visit Selden Market, where you will find unique and interesting wares. Try Pure Lagos for artisan treasures, then stop for a snack at S’Mores Amore for your afternoon pick-me-up.
Best Places To Stay In Norfolk
Norfolk is ready to welcome visitors who require an assortment of accommodations. You will find luxury hotels, quaint inns, and waterfront rentals that will surely fit your Norfolk weekend getaway adventure.
The four-star Hilton Norfolk The Main offers guests a modern design, river views, and outstanding service.
The historic Page House Inn offers comfortable, luxurious rooms and first-class amenities delivered with classic Southern charm.
If you prefer something more private, try this waterfront Airbnb that sleeps five and has on-the-bay views.
If you are lucky enough to visit Norfolk and have an extra few days, plan a day trip to Virginia Beach. You will find tips on the area in our article “Beautiful Virginia Beach: The Best Places To Eat, Stay, and Play.” Or, if you plan to experience Virginia by car, here are our stops on an epic and scenic Virginia road trip: Arlington to Virginia Beach. Plan your amazing weekend getaway in coastal Norfolk where you will have fun exploring her history and softer side.