Norfolk is a naval town with rich military history. A battleship, the USS Wisconsin, that’s been deactivated and docked at the Nauticus museum complex certainly commands attention. But also helping the second largest city in Virginia score high in the amenities category is the buzzy arts and culture scene, which is exemplified by the hip Neon district, the home of public art, bursts of neon and murals that are packed with powerful stories and metaphors.
Local Obsession: Mermaids are the unofficial mascot in this naval town. Legend has it the mythical creatures serenaded soldiers to help guide their ships safely back to shore. You’re not dreaming: Dozens of mermaid sculptures can be spotted throughout Norfolk.
Climate Described in 6 Words Or Less: Mostly comfortable, with some summer humidity.
Top Industries and Employers: The military and cargo ports. Norfolk is home to Naval Station Norfolk, which is the world’s biggest naval base.
Local Dream Job: An art instructor teaching watercolor classes at the Norfolk Botanical Garden.
Quintessential Meal: She-crab soup and Chesapeake Bay oysters are must-haves. But save room for an ice cream cone at Doumar’s Barbecue. The restaurant’s founder is credited for inventing waffle cones.
Favorite Weekend Activity: Chances are there’s a festival in town. Tons of great festivals fill up the Norfolk events calendar every year, celebrating everything from jazz music to crawfish to beer.
After-Work Meetup Spot: Unwind with a walk or bike ride along the scenic Elizabeth River Trail. The 10.5-mile trail stretches shows off the iconic waterfront.
Best Brewery/Local Beer: Benchtop Brewing Company comes up with some wildly delicious beers. We recently spotted a gose made with grasshoppers, chipotle peppers and lime zest on the menu.
Beloved Bookstore: Book Exchange. Children with good report cards can get in-store credits.
Free Way to Have Fun: Spend an afternoon at the Chrysler Museum of Art, which has local artists in residence, as well as a collection that spans from ancient artifacts to modern masterpieces.
Truly Hidden Gem: Documentary nights at Naro Expanded Cinema. Also, it might surprise you that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, calls Norfolk home. PETA claims Norfolk is a “vegan’s paradise.”
- Brittany Anas