Are you looking for the best things to do in Norfolk Virginia? Well, you’re in luck because this list has it all! Whether you’re new to the area, visiting, or a longtime local, Norfolk is a vibrant and growing city with more to offer every year.
Did you know that Norfolk is home to the biggest naval base in the world? This brings a wonderful blend of diversity to the area that makes for some amazing events come festival season. This also makes the housing market in the area very active.
From miles of shoreline, live sports & shows, to the vibrant downtown and Granby St area, Norfolk VA is a city filled with history, charm, and a thriving social scene. Let’s jump in and get started with an epic list of the best things to do in Norfolk!
The 15 Best Things to do in Norfolk VA That You Can’t Miss
Norfolk Botanical Garden
No list of things to do in Norfolk is complete without the beautiful botanical gardens. Virginia’s largest botanical garden is right in the heart of Norfolk. About a 15-minute drive from downtown NBG has something for everyone! Daily events and workshops include morning yoga, painting watercolors, clay working, and so much more. You can even bring your furry friend on Sundays!
The gardens are powered 100% by renewable energy. Doors open daily to visitors from October 16th – March 31st, 9am to 5pm, and April 1st – October 15th, 9am to 7pm.
In Norfolk for the holidays? Be sure not to miss the “Million Bulb Walk” where you’ll marvel at more than 1.5 million lights beautifully scattered through the gardens. Bring a mug for your hot cocoa, you won’t find single-use cups here.
If you’re looking for a breath of fresh air and want to surround yourself with the sites and sounds of nature the Norfolk Botanical Gardens should definitely be on your list of things to do in Norfolk VA.
New Carnival Cruise Line out of Norfolk
While we are on the topic of cruising, one of the best things to do in Norfolk is to head for the islands on the new Carnival Cruise Line leaving from Norfolk, VA. You will find trips from 4-10 days leaving directly from Waterside taking you to all of your favorite Caribbean destinations.
Carnival runs cruises straight out of Norfolk from May to October. If you’re looking for things to do in Norfolk for families a trip to the tropics might just be it!
The Norfolk Zoo
If you’re not in the mood to try out your sea legs, The Norfolk Zoo is always one of the best things to do in Norfolk for families. This 53-acre property along the Lafayette River has been acquiring animals for more than 120 years!
Along with lions, tigers, and bears, the Norfolk Zoo is home to some of the world’s rarest animals and is a sanctuary of natural habitats for these animals that can no longer survive and thrive in the wild. The Zoo caters to all ages and is sure fun for the whole family.
Open daily from 9:30am to 4pm, check out their website for a list of events. There are exciting camps for kids throughout the year, and even teen volunteer programs. The Norfolk Zoo is a great place to get outdoors and test out your animal calls!
Springtime in Norfolk Virginia is marked with the locally famous “TIDES ARE IN” sign you will begin to notice around town. Grab a hat and glove and head for the park! This AAA ball club feeds players directly to the Baltimore Orioles, so you might just witness a future star being born in front of your eyes.
The boys begin playing in April, and if they play well the season extends all the way through October. There are 72 home games so you’ll have plenty of chances to catch a game. The stadium is packed with food & beverage vendors, gift shops and
Going to a Tides game is always a great date night. It’s one of the best things to do in Norfolk for couples. If you’re bringing little ones be sure to stick around until the end of the game. Head for the first base line where the kids can run the bases, and sometimes there are even firework shows over the river!
For you history and art enthusiasts, the Chrysler Museum of Art is a must-see. There is no entry or parking fee making this one of the best free things to do in Norfolk. This gorgeous museum boasts 50 galleries with more than 30,000 objects & artifacts.
Want to get hands-on? Check out the glass-blowing demonstrations at noon Tuesday – Saturday. Or if you’re an artist looking for inspiration the Chrysler Museum welcomes you to work amongst the galleries with dry media!
Pro-tip for couples, the Chrysler Museum is a wonderful place to begin a date night in Downtown Norfolk. Be sure to bring a camera too! You’ll definitely want to grab some photos in the grand entrance. The museum is closed on Mondays. Open Tuesday – Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and Sundays from Noon to 5 pm.
Ride the Peddle Bar Around Downtown Norfolk
If you took the date night advice and started at the Chrysler Museum, then you’re in the perfect spot! Because you’ll probably find yourselves ready for a drink and Norfolk’s hottest new bar is just around the corner!
Not the kind of bar you likely have in mind, but all the rave downtown is about the new Peddle Bar aka Trolley Pub. It won’t take long to notice this awesome, pedal-powered bar cruising Granby Street. There’s a full bar, they bump fun music and it’s just a fun new way to share a drink and laughs downtown.
You can hop off anytime, and they pick you up at the urban park known as “The Plot” just a block away from the Chrysler Museum. You might want to check the website and prebook because this thing is popular, especially through the weekend. The Peddle bar is definitely one of the more unique things to do in Norfolk.
Enjoy the Annual Harborfest
Festival fans anyone? Well, Norfolk festivals are plenty! Most notably the Norfolk Harborfest. Running for 45 years and counting this is America’s largest maritime festival. Best of all, it’s free! Though you’ll need the wallet to enjoy all the local craft beer and food pop-ups once you get inside.
The long weekend, usually early June, is filled with events, live shows, the annual Parade of Sail, fun family games and activities, military exhibits and demonstrations, fireworks, and just a full-on good time! Harborfest is no doubt one of the best free things to do in Norfolk.
Take an Uber, you won’t want to try parking downtown this weekend.
Harborfest isn’t the only festival in Norfolk that brings thousands to Town Point Park, another favorite is Wine Festival. Usually, there is a Fall and Spring event, you can get tickets online or at the door. Enjoy more than 200 vintages & blends from 30 different Virginia Wineries.
Locals advise, take an Uber to your closest Tide Tram stop and hop in for a quick shuttle downtown. This way you avoid the headache of trying to park and miss the traffic. This event & vendor list is long here so check out the Festevents site for details and tickets!
Take a Tour of the USS Wisconsin
While you’re hanging around Town Point Park you can’t miss one of the most unique things to do in Norfolk, VA. Go explore the USS Wisconsin! This giant battleship earned five battle stars in World War II, and today you can tour the entire ship.
The highlight of Nauticus, the USS Wisconsin is mesmerizing. It’s so big in fact, that when they cover it with lights for Christmas it can be seen from space! You can enjoy self-guided tours around the epic ship or hire a tour guide to really give a full walkthrough of the historic battleship.
One of the coolest things they do onboard is an overnight camp for kids. The little sailors will bunk in the original sleeping quarters, enjoy the chow hall, and be accompanied by our enlisted Navy members to share stories and even take them on a tour of parts of the ship not open to the public! Check the website for event dates and tickets.
Jump onboard Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am – 4 pm, and Sunday Noon – 4pm.
Enjoy the Revamped Waterside
One of the best things to do in Norfolk for couples is to go to Waterside. Here you’ll find restaurant pop-ups, breweries, fine dining, and dancing. It’s the perfect place for a night out on the town. Like many things on this list, Waterside is in the heart of downtown Norfolk and the perfect place to let loose any time of the year.
Park right across the street in the Main Street Garage and head for the water! There are live bands and shows throughout the venue most weekends so put on your dancing shoes, grab your partner, and head for Waterside, you are in for a great night!
Drink Craft Beer in Norfolk VA
When it comes to things to do in Norfolk VA for adults, the craft beer scene is alive all over the city. With over 50 breweries all trying to make their mark on the scene you’re sure to find a new favorite.
Makers Craft is a great place to start your brew tour through Norfolk. They have a huge outdoor space with firepits, yard games, food trucks and you can always bring your pup to grab a beer if your friends can’t make it!
You can find brewery tours around the city, or just google brewery close to me and you’re likely in walking distance of an ice-cold craft beer. Grab a sixer to go, toss it on ice, and head for the beach!
Go To The Beach
One of the best things to do in Norfolk, Virginia is to go to the beach. Norfolk has miles of beautiful sandy shoreline to enjoy and with the calm waters of the Chesapeake Bay, this is one of the best things to do in Norfolk for families.
East Beach is a growing beach community with wave breakers along the shoreline that make the perfect little wading pools in between. Up the beach, you’ll find Ocean View with an old-time beach community vibe. There is a giant fishing pier with a rooftop restaurant that has to be the best place in Norfolk VA to watch the sunset!
If you’re looking for things to do in Norfolk at night then you might be spoiled for choice! Head for the Granby Street area and you’ll find the Scope, Granby Theatre, The Norva, and Harrison Opera House all within walking distance of one another.
At the Norfolk Scope, you can find Admirals Hockey, college basketball tournaments, big-name comedy shows, and other live acts. Check out the website for a schedule of upcoming events.
The Norva and Granby Theatre both have impressive live performance lineups of their own. The Granby Theatre feels like a bit more of an intimate setting while The Norva can go full rave mode! Some pretty well-known names come through both venues so you’re sure to find a show to enjoy.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a romantic night out in Norfolk try Gershwin’s Piano Bar on Granby St or Harrison Opera House, also downtown might be more your speed. Norfolk has wonderful shows to enjoy year-round. If you’re looking for some unique things to do in Norfolk, VA definitely give these venues a look!
That Should Get You Going
This list of things to do in Norfolk VA should certainly get you started. This lively city just keeps getting better, and more things come to the area each year. So keep this article handy because if something new comes up that you just can’t miss, you’ll definitely find it here. Now get out there and enjoy yourself!