The heart of the Hampton Roads area, this town is much more than a naval base. Views of Chesapeake Bay, a collection of historic neighborhoods, and its rich maritime history are worth exploring.
Norfolk (insider tip: don’t pronounce the “l”) is the second most populous city in the state behind Virginia Beach. And while summertime hordes invade the sandier cousin to the east, Norfolk offers more than just boardwalks and beach towels.
Thanks to some serious revitalization projects, you don’t have to wonder what there is to do in Norfolk. Home to one of NATO’s Strategic Command Headquarters, it should come as no surprise that the bay is filled with naval ships. You can, however, aboard the WWII-era battleship USS Wisconsin and tour it without being thrown in the brig. The nearby Waterside has gone through several identity crises over the last few decades, but what was once a barren shopping mall has been transformed to a hot spot for local breweries and restaurants.
Just off the water is the Ghent District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This well-kept, highly walkable area is home to some buildings in the Queen Anne, Colonial and Tudor Revival styles, and are visual reminders of Norfolk’s storied past. It’s not just high-brow history here, either; Doumar’s Cones & BBQ claims to have created the world’s first ice cream cone, and it still serves up nostalgic sweet treats.
Norfolk continues to evolve: rough bars and dives have given way to NEON (New Energy of Norfolk), which offer plenty of things to do at night in Norfolk. Anchored by the Chrysler Museum of Art and the Harrison Opera House, these few short blocks are great for checking out local muralist, improv comedy, and the local nightlife. If you time your visit right, on the first Friday of every month after March you can enjoy live music while you sip locally crafted suds.