20 Best Things to do in Norfolk, Virginia Beach (2024)

Naval Museum, Norfolk by Ewelch1-Wikimedia Commons.

Norfolk lies next to the beautiful shores of Chesapeake Bay, in the bustling area of Hampton Roads, and is one of the most historic areas in Virginia. With rich naval history, being home to the massive Naval Station Norfolk and Nauticus, a thriving art scene, beautiful beaches such as Ocean View, the sensational Norfolk Botanical Garden, and a lot more to see, Norfolk is hardly out of things to do for both visitors and locals. It borders the thriving Virginia Beach, and hopping on a short day trip to Norfolk from the city is a brilliant idea because you’re in for a good list of stuff to do and enjoy for the day! A lover of history? Spending the afternoon at the beach? An art fanatic? An outdoor soul that thrives in parks and gardens? A foodie who doesn’t mind some great beer or wine tour? Well, Norfolk awaits! Here are the 20 best things to do in Norfolk.

1. Savor the creations at the Chrysler Museum of Art

Bonifacio de Pitati’s Lot and his daughters at Chrysler Museum of Art- Bonifazio Veronese on Wikimedia Commons.

You’ll be pleased to know that is one of the best free things to do in Norfolk. This museum houses an amazing collection of beautiful art and antiquities, and a majority of these are glass collections. If you’re into paintings, sculptures, contemporary art, and even ancient works, you’ll be sure to find a brilliant piece of all that here. The museum’s permanent collections include masterpieces by Henry Matisse, and you don’t need to feel as if you have exhausted all there is in one visit. Temporary exhibitions mean that you’ll be coming back next time for a renewed artistic experience! Another thing, the museum is bordered by the Chrysler Museum Glass Studio, otherwise known as the Perry Glass Studio. Here, get to watch as glass artists perform their magic with the craft of glass making. Join a workshop and learn something about the process too!

Check out the 15 Free Things to do in neighboring Virginia Beach.

Practical Information
Address: Chrysler Museum of Art, 1 Memorial PI, Norfolk, VA 23510
Call: + 1 757 664 6200
Open: Tuesday-Saturday 10 am to 5 pm

2. All things U.S Navy history: Visit the Hampton Roads Naval Museum

Hampton Roads Naval Museum by LittleT889-Wikimedia Commons.

This is another free thing to do, so you can leave your wallet on an afternoon and join in the fun of learning about U.S. Navy history. It lies right next to the Battleship Wisconsin, in the Nauticus Building. Learn about the U.S. Navy in Virginia, and its history from the Civil War through to the Cold War. While the museum is relatively small, it has useful displays including Navy uniforms, model ships, and lots of historical information. If U.S. Navy history excites you, then this is a worthwhile stop in Norfolk.

Practical Information
Address: 2nd Floor of Nauticus, 1 Waterside Dr. Suite 248, Norfolk VA 23510
Call: + 1 757 322 2987
Open: Tuesday-Saturday 10 am to 5 pm

3. Family fun? Visit the Children’s Museum of Virginia

Children playing by Anja-Pixabay.

Looking for something to do with your kids around? The Children’s Museum of Virginia is one of the top picks when it comes to family fun if you’re near Norfolk. It’s only a short drive away, so technically, it makes the list. It has a lot of interactive and thrilling things to do, including tugboats, a planetarium, a musical store, and a bubble-blowing station among others. Fascinated by trains? The place has a fantastic train exhibit featuring over 800 trains in a miniature setting. You’ll hardly get bored as there is a variety of things to do or check out with your kids here.

Have a look at the 15 Best Things to do with Kids in Virginia Beach.

Practical Information
Address: 221 High Street, Portsmouth, VA 23704
Call: + 1 757 393 5258
Open: Wednesday & Thursday 9 am to 4 pm
Friday & Saturday 9 am to 6 pm

4. Check out the Virginia Zoo

Image by Alexa-Pixabay.

Rhinos, tigers, lions, giraffes, elephants, all the big-name animals! All of these can be viewed here in real life, and what a pleasant sight it is. You will find numerous kinds of wild animals at the Virginia Zoo, and there are several options for viewing, including elevated boardwalks for that breathtaking view below. If you’re visiting in summer, you might want to consider a cool morning or evening to escape the hot midday sun. No worries about hunger while at it, there’s a cafeteria restaurant and several food bars for your snacks and drinks.

Practical Information
Address: 3500 Granby Street, Norfolk, VA 23504, United States
Call: 1 757 441 2374
Open: 9.30 am to 4 pm Daily

5. Take a day tour at Battleship Wisconsin

Partial view of Battleship Wisconsin by Peter Pryharski-Unsplash.

This one is a tour back in time in the downtown Norfolk area. The Battleship, USS Wisconsin, is one of the largest battleships built by the U.S. Navy, and it fought in World War II and the Korean War. Situated next to the Nauticus building, you’ll first walk through the many historical navy-related displays, before arriving at the deck. The battleship has a magnificent towering presence, and walking through it is even more awe-inspiring. You can take a self-guided tour, or check out some of the guided tours available in the area. Marvel at the impressive layout of the ship, as you learn about the history of both the battleship and the U.S. Navy in the region.

Practical Information
Address: 1 Waterside Drive, Norfolk, VA 23510
Call: + 1 757 664 1000
Open: Tuesday- Saturday 10 am to 5 pm
Sunday 12 pm to 5 pm

6. Take a break from the city at the Hermitage Museum & Gardens

This is a unique one; an 1895 arts and crafts house right at the waterfront. It was originally built as a summer residence by William and Florence Sloane. It has eventually become a splendid art museum with 42 rooms, and a few additions to its original plan. You can find old furnishings as well as beautiful works of art indoors and outside the house. What’s more, there are open green spaces along the waterfront, perfect for an afternoon stroll with your loved one or just unwinding alone. In summer, the Hermitage Museum hosts a concert series on Thursday evenings, and you’ll be lucky to be around for that!

Virginia Beach is just a few miles away, so check out the Top 10 Fun Things to do near Virginia Beach.

Practical Information
Address: 7637 North Shore Road, Norfolk, VA 23505
Call: + 1 757 423 2052
Open: Tuesday-Sunday 10 am to 5 pm

7. MacArthur Memorial

Part of MacArthur Memorial, tombs of Douglas and Jean MacArthur-Toohool on Wikimedia Commons.

Built in honor and memory of the U.S. General and Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, Douglas MacArthur, this is one of the top attractions in Norfolk. It also honors those who served in the Spanish American War, the Civil War, World War I and World War II, and the Korean War. The complex is situated in an old courthouse building, and it consists of both the memorial building and a visitors center. On display, you’ll find galleries showcasing MacArthur’s life, and relevant historical events. There’s a gift shop as well for your souvenirs, and this is an easygoing place to check out any day.

Practical Information
Address: 198 Bank Street, Norfolk, VA 23510
Call: + 1 757 441 2965
Open: Tuesday- Saturday 10 am to 5 pm

8. Stroll through Norfolk Botanical Garden

Image by Erda Estremera-Unsplash.

What better way to savor nature’s best, calm your nerves, and take in the splendor of trees, flowers, and everything naturally beautiful than to visit such a garden! Stretching over an impressive 175 acres, this unique garden goes back to the late 1930s. It now holds thousands of flowers, shrubs, and trees, which are tended to by staff and volunteers. The location of the garden near the water on three sides, and canals cutting across the acres adds to the serenity of this place. It’s a perfect outdoor activity for everyone, including kids, so bring them all along for a family day out. There are tours on offer during spring and summer, but you can also take a self-guided one. Seasonal events are also held here throughout the year, and you can check out upcoming ones on their website.

Practical Information
Address: 6700 Azalea Garden Road, Norfolk, VA 23518
Call: + 1 757 441 5830
Open: 9 am to 5 pm Daily

9. Go shopping at MacArthur Center

Image by Freestocks-Unsplash.

Conveniently at a central location in town, and opposite the MacArthur Memorial Museum, the MacArthur Center shopping mall is one of the biggest in the area and is home to an array of shops, boutiques, and restaurants. These include shops like Pottery Barn, Lush, and Dillard’s department stores. If you’re looking to spend some money shopping away or munching on great food in a cool mall, then this one makes the pick. Parking is available at an affordable fee, and the security is good. After you’re done, take a look at what’s on display at the MacArthur Memorial, which is right across the street.

Practical information
Address: 300 Monticello Ave, Norfolk VA 23510
Call: + 1 757 627 6000
Open: Monday-Saturday 10 am to 8 pm
Sunday 12 pm to 6 pm

10. Enjoy fresh craft beer at O’Connor Brewing Co.

Image by Carolineandrade-Pixabay.

Not too far off downtown Norfolk, O’Connor Brewing Co. sits on a 35,000-square-foot building, with a production and tasting room. This is where the magic of beer crafting takes place, and you get to savor the end product right here. It is family-owned, and the local community spirit is pretty evident here. It’s all about getting together to enjoy the highs and lows of life over some good food and great beer, and of course, good company. Having been in operation for over 10 years, they’ve mastered the art, and you can confirm that by visiting this place! Great and wide selection of beers, and the food trucks know exactly what they’re serving up. Tag your squad along, and savor an afternoon over flavorful beer and tasty food. Parking is available in their private parking lot, and alternatively, you can go for free street parking on 23rd and 24th Street.

Check out the 10 Best Breweries in Virginia Beach.

Practical Information
Address: 211 W 24th St, Norfolk, Virginia 23517
Call: + 1 757 623 2337
Open: Monday-Thursday 3 pm to 9 pm
Friday 1 pm to 10 pm
Saturday 12 pm to 10 pm
Sunday 12 pm to 7 pm

11. Catch some puffer at Ocean View Fishing Pier

A fan of fishing? Trying your luck for minutes or even hours and savoring that feel-good moment when you finally catch something? Try the Ocean View Fishing Pier. It stretches a good deal and is also perfect for just strolling after you’ve done your fishing. No need to worry about fishing gear, there are a couple of rentals around for a few dollars, that’s $ 10 plus a $ 20 deposit at the pier. Adult fishing admission is $11 and for children under 5, it’s free. However, it’s advisable to check their website for any changes. It does feel like a local’s place, and you’ll meet lots of fishermen here as well. However, visitors will feel just as welcomed by the friendly crowd here. There’s seafood and waterfront seating too! Oh, and beer, and co*cktails served up on the deck! Watch the sunset after the day’s toil over a drink, and your day at the pier can’t get any better.

More waterfront dining? Here are the 10 Best Virginia Beach Oceanfront Hotels.

Practical Information
Address: 400 W. Ocean View Ave, Norfolk, VA 23503
Call: + 1 757 583 6000

12. Attend a show at the Norva

Image by Sam Moghadam-Unsplash.

Concerts excite me, the thrill of art, performance, lights, sound, and an awe-struck audience! It’s picture-perfect. If you’re in for a good show at Norfolk, Norva is your spot. It’s a popular concert venue, hosting splendid musical performances throughout the year. It’s relatively small though, but the amazing line-ups and performances make up for it. The good thing about that also is that you get to see the performers on stage instead of having to squint at the monitors like in overly large arenas. The seating is comfortable, and the stage views are pretty great from any angle. A fan of bands? You’ll find many performing here, and you can sing along when you get the hang of it. Grab a drink, and get comfy at the Norva for a live show with friends. Tickets are reasonably priced and you can get these at the venue. They are all general admission and you can check out their lineup online before showing up.

Here’s Where to See Live Music and Concerts in Virginia Beach.

Practical Information
Address: 317 Monticello Ave, Norfolk, VA 23510
Call: + 1 757 627 4547

13. Paint a mermaid at Mermaid Factory

There are lots of statues around Norfolk, including mermaid statues, and the Mermaid Factory creates handmade, miniature, and pre-painted ones. Alternatively, you can come, paint your own and keep a souvenir! How cool is that! The atmosphere is relaxed, and everyone is looking to have a fun time painting cool designs on their mermaid. Perfect for family activities, the kids will love it! Not to say that adults won’t though; we all have that inner child in us, don’t we? Bring out the kid in you as you engage with the hand brush and paint on the working tables. Once done, your mermaid is packed into a cute little box for you to take home. If you’d rather just take one and go, you can buy the pre-painted ones as well.

Practical Information
Address: 919 W 21st St, Norfolk, VA 23517
Call: + 1 757 233 0733
Open: Sunday, Tuesday & Wednesday 12 pm to 6 pm
Thursday & Friday 12 pm to 9 pm
Saturday 11 am to 8 pm

14. Catch a baseball game at Harbor Park

Baseball game by Keith Johnston-Pixabay.

Home to the Norfolk Tides baseball team, this park makes a perfect joint to spend an afternoon over a nice game. The stadium is relatively small but it’s pretty decent for a minor league. There are several concession stands and the tickets are reasonably priced. Theater-style seating ensures you get a good view, and the monitors are in place too. There are good food options as well, and affordable too. The kids will have lots of fun for sure, and on Saturday night they have fireworks occasionally after the game. Parking is available at a fee, an average of $6 but subject to change so be ready for anything. Great outing plan for anyone, locals and visitors alike.

Sporty much? Check out Where to Play Golf in Virginia Beach, VA.

Practical Information
Address: 150 Park Ave, Norfolk, VA 23510
Call: + 1 757 622 2222

15. Picnic & Stroll at Town Point Park

Town Point Park is a 7-acre piece of green space, and wonderful ocean views, located at the waterfront near the Nauticus. There are benches and no picnic tables but you can sit and have your burger while taking in the views. It’s more popular for strollers than picnickers, with beautiful stretches of paths to walk on, and great sights of the Elizabeth River. Watch boats sail off, and listen to the breeze on a hot afternoon, then watch the sunset on the horizon in the evening. Look out for festivals held here once in a while.

Practical Information
Address: 113 Waterside Dr, Norfolk, VA 23510, United States
Call: + 1 757 441 2345
Open: 6 am to 7.30 pm Daily

16. Read a book at Slover Library

Image by Samantha Hentosh-Unsplash.

As a book lover myself, I’d easily imagine an afternoon spent at a library, just skimming through novels or magazines, with no assignments. Just reading for fun. If you’re that kind of person, Slover Library’s got you covered. It is located in Selden Market. It has an amazing, extensive collection of reads, films, children’s programs, lectures, video studios, and classes. The reading area is nice and quiet if you want to unwind over a novel, and generally, the library is well organized. The staff is helpful, and you’ll hardly feel stranded. You can get a book from the ‘for sale’ section to read elsewhere. Attend a lecture or show here as well if you’re lucky to be around for one. There’s never an end to learning, is there? Fantastic recommendation for anyone in the mood for a reading or lecture in Norfolk.

Practical Information
Address: 235 E Plume St, Norfolk, VA 23510, United States
Call: + 1 757 431 7491
Open: Tuesday-Saturday 9 am to 5 pm

17. Go biking along the Elizabeth River Trail

Biking by Rudy and Peter Skitterians-Pixabay.

Biking is one of the healthiest and environment-friendly ways to not only unwind but also keep fit. The Elizabeth River Trail stretches for about 10.5 miles through a beautiful neighborhood. Need to stretch a muscle and enjoy some relaxing views while at it? You only need to rent a bike and get pedaling. It’s near Harbor Park, and with a little searching, you’ll find the entrance. It winds along the waterfront, and the green spaces are nothing but colorful. The signage is relatively good, but be careful not to wander off. You’ll meet people jogging or just sitting in the shade, walking their dogs, or just strolling in the evening.

Practical Information
Address: 101 W Main St # 1000A, Norfolk, VA 23510
Call: + 1 757 681 1405
Open: 24 hours

18. Check out the d’Art Center

It’s everything art here, and I’m talking mind-blowing paintings, sculptures, name it! Located on the edge of the trendy, colorful NEON district, the d’Art Center is home to local artists whose exhibitions are quite a sight to see. You’ll hardly visit the center and leave without a souvenir. You get to meet the creators too since they’re also at work here. There are specialized studio spaces. The place displays monthly rotations of national exhibits, and solo shows once in a while. If you’re a genuine art lover, this should make you feel excited since you not only get to see the art, and meet the artist, but also get to join a class should you be interested to take one! Lots of styles on display, which adds to the authenticity and variety of art here.

Practical Information
Address: 740 Boush Street, Norfolk, VA 23510
Call: + 1 757 625 4211
Open: Tuesday-Saturday 10 am to 5 pm

19. Hunt for antiques at the Village Mermaid

Assorted antiques by Kukuh Himawan Samudro-Unsplash.

In for a treasure hunt? This is a cool antique shop in Norfolk, with lots of stuff to pick from including old records, paintings, carvings, jewelry, vintage furniture, and everything antique. The prices are reasonable, so you don’t have to break the bank. Enjoy the stroll through the shelves and lanes as you pick whatever gets you excited. Nice place for anyone looking for vintage home décor pieces as well and for a good price. The store is well organized, and shopping with a friend should be fun.

Practical Information
Address: 3900 Granby St, Norfolk, VA 23504
Call: + 1 757 752 4316
Open: Tuesday-Saturday 11 am to 5 pm

20. Watch a movie at Naro Cinema

Image by Jon Tyson-Unsplash.

There’s something oddly exciting about watching a movie at a cinema with friends on a weekend. Once in a while, you’ve got to let your Netflix account be, dress up and go out to a theater, sit on the chairs and grab your popcorn as you wait for the movie to start. Naro Cinema is one of the best places for such an experience with a 4.5-star rating in online reviews, a cozy ample seating theater room, great sound, and video quality, and of course, some of the freshest popcorn around. Pretty old school theater, with a classic retro feel, with just one theater room, and the crowds here are energetic and interactive. The staff is great, the prices reasonable and food and drinks readily available. They mostly show classic, independent movies. The concession stand is relatively small but you can always get on early and get your ticket. $ 10 for adults, but prices are subject to change.

See more of the 10 Best Movie Theaters in Virginia Beach.

Practical Information
Address: 1507 Colley Avenue Norfolk, VA 23517
Call: + 1 757 625 6276

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