Downtown Norfolk is home to many hidden gems and locals’ favorites. What’s even better is that everything is within walking distance so pack a good pair of shoes and your sense of adventure!
If you have friends and family in town, here’s a great one-day itinerary:
Morning: Elizabeth River Trail, Nauticus & Freemason District
Start your day at Town Point Park, a green space along the Elizabeth River. Town Point Park boasts spectacular views and is the site of many festivals and events in Norfolk. Take the Elizabeth River Trail (ERT) and head towards the Nauticus Museum and the Battleship Wisconsin. Step on board the WWII destroyer and step back in history. This is a great self-guided tour of one of the most formerly active ships in the US fleet, it’s also great for families and kids of all ages. Admire views of the city and the skyline as you reach the main deck. If you have any questions, be sure to ask one of the staff members on board, many of whom are veterans of the US Navy.
Make your way back to the ERT and meander through the Pagoda. In the Freemason District of Norfolk sits the Pagoda and Oriental Garden. A gift from the Taiwan Provincial Government, the Pagoda was completed in 1989. The gardens are a great opportunity for a photo. After admiring the bamboo and koi ponds, continue along the Elizabeth River Trail into the heart of the Freemason District. Be sure to stop and admire the homes and architecture of cities oldest neighborhoods that combines cobblestone streets, water views, and beautiful gardens. Stop in for a bite to eat at the Virginia Cheese Company and a coffee to go at Cure Coffeehouse next door on Botetourt St.
Afternoon: Chrysler Museum & Neon District
Cross over the train tracks and across W Brambleton Ave to pick back up on the ERT. As you walk across the iconic Botetourt Foot Bridge stop and look to your right. You’ll see the Chrysler Museum of Art which houses rotating art exhibits and a glass blowing studio. To your left is the impressive Eastern Virginia Medical College campus and some of Norfolk’s finest hospitals. As you cross onto the ERT that runs along Mowbray Arch, marvel at the mansions and some of Norfolk’s finest homes.
If you don’t mind walking, head up to W Olney Rd. and head towards Granby St. Walk around the Neon District, home to murals, sculptures, and interactive art installations. Pop into La Brioche French bakery for a snack. Notable mentions include: Hummingbird Macarons and Desserts and Zeke’s Beans and Bowls.
Evening: Granby Street & Colley Avenue
Head back down Granby Street towards downtown. Granby Street has restaurants, bars, hotels, a pharmacy, clothing retailers, coffee shops, and even a convenience store.
If you have more time, hop in an Uber and head to Colley Avenue for a drink, bite to eat, and some light shopping. Close to Old Dominion University, this bustling street is home to some of Norfolk’s best restaurants, breweries, and small businesses.
Some of my personal favorites:
- Stay: Glass Light Hotel
- Eat: Leone’s, No Frill Bar and Grill, Hank’s Filling Station, Luna Maya, Little Dog Diner
- Drink: Grace O’Malley’s Irish Pub, Elation Brewing, Grain Rooftop Bar at the Hilton Norfolk Main
- Shop: Go Less Than, Kitsch Homemade, Selden Market Downtown (various shops in an indoor mall space)
- Unique Stops: Norfolk Botanical Gardens, Oceanview Fishing Pier, Slover Library
What would you add to our list? For more Norfolk resources, click here.