Go There: A Magical Weekend in Norfolk, VA
From mermaids to museums, we've got the ultimate guide to a weekend in Norfolk.
Welcome to “Go There,” a Livability.com series about travel and how to maximize your time in some of our favorite cities. Do you have a place in mind that we should visit next? Let us know!
Today, we’re visiting Norfolk, VA. You know this waterfront city for its rich naval history and magical mermaids, but Norfolk is also teeming with delicious restaurants, making it a foodie’s dream destination.
Where to Stay
Located at the corner of Main and Granby Streets, The Main Hotel is one of Norfolk’s newest spots and is perfect for guests who want to stay in a popular area, take in sweeping views of the Elizabeth River and experience all downtown has to offer. Guest rooms are both cozy and sophisticated and the hotel is a great starting point as it houses three eateries.
Exploring by foot is made easy as the hotel is within walking distance to several attractions, restaurants and trendy shops. Or, if you’d rather stay closer to home, pop up to Grain, the hotel’s rooftop bar, to enjoy craft beers and sweeping views from Norfolk’s only rooftop beer garden overlooking the river.
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Looking for something a bit more cozy? Four Eleven York is a quaint boutique inn and restaurant in the Historic Freemason District. This chic bed and breakfast is home to four suites and luxuries like heated bathroom floors and the most comfortable mattresses this side of the Mississippi.
What to Do
Whether by foot, bike or boat, there is no shortage of things to do in Norfolk. One of the best ways to take in the sights of the city is to take a stroll along the Elizabeth River Trail, which extends 10.5 miles and shows off the city’s iconic waterfront.
For the history buff, make sure to visit Nauticus. The Nauticus is a contemporary museum that offers hands-on entertainment for the entire family as well as providing harbor for the famed Battleship Wisconsin, which is one of the largest and last battleships ever built by the U.S. Navy. Afterwards, be sure to explore the nearby historic Freemason District, where cobblestone streets and cozy shops await. Need a pick-me-up after all that exploring? Pop into Cure Coffeehouse for a latte.
Artists will rejoice at the Chrysler Museum of Art, which is home to nearly 100 galleries and houses 30,000 works of art from across the globe. Next door is the Chrysler Museum Glass Studio, which serves as an educational facility and one of only two comprehensive art museums with a Glass Studio. Take in a free demonstration at the Perry Glass Studio every Tuesday through Saturday at noon.
Where to Eat
Norfolk’s proximity to fresh water makes it perfect for seafood lovers, but there are dishes to delight everyone, making the city a foodie’s playground.
Downtown Granby Street’s "restaurant row" is full of flavor. Grab coffee and a breakfast pastry at La Brioche or a breakfast crepe at Lamia’s Crepes. Leone’s Italian is a local fixture, serving up classic Italian fare and an extensive wine list. If you’re looking for a perfect, no-frills piece of pizza, check out Granby Street Pizza, where they dish out thin crust slices and pies that will keep you coming back for more. Further down towards the NEON District is Commune, a true farm-to-table restaurant where the menu changes seasonally and most ingredients are sourced from their farm 20 miles away.
Located near the Ghent district, A.W. Shucks Raw Bar & Grill is a local favorite for authentic, regional seafood and a large selection of fresh oysters at their raw bar. To continue on your seafood spree, visit the Freemason Abbey Restaurant. A repurposed church from the 1700s, Freemason Abbey is famous for their award-winning specialty: she-crab soup, a perfectly seasoned blend of lump crab meat and cream with sherry. Pro tip: order extra to go ... it’s that good.
Where to Shop
Selden Market is the city’s one stop shop and serves as a home base for a rotating lineup of Norfolk’s up-and-coming concepts. Storefronts offer up every style from vintage, curated gifts and art to delicious brunch served up at Stockpot.
Bookworms can revel in the extensive selection at Book Exchange, and the store even has a report card incentive program for kids. Be sure to stock up on souvenirs at Prince Ink, which isn’t your typical tourist trap. What began as a full-service design and print studio has grown into a beloved locale that creates apparel with one of a kind designs. Other must-see stops include Kitsch and A. Dodson’s.
Norfolk has an artsy side. If it weren’t apparent from the dozens of mermaids lining the city streets, a couple of minutes inside of the city’s famed Neon District will seal the deal. The NEON District, short for New Energy of Norfolk, is a relatively new neighborhood. Since its inception in 2015, the District is Norfolk’s first official arts district and is home to more than 80 works of public art. In addition to the public art displays, the initiative works to drive creativity in the city and even has an alleyway where artists can practice.
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Both local artists and those commissioning pieces for the city travel to the area to decorate building’s walls with gorgeous murals and pieces. The works are rotated out every few years, so there is always something new being created in the neighborhood. Click here for a comprehensive guide on NEON’s public art.