MilFam Travel: 10 Things to Do Near Norfolk, VA

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Norfolk is a waterfront city situated in the Hampton Roads peninsula of southeastern Virginia. It’s also home to Naval Station Norfolk, the world’s largest naval base, which supports naval forces in the United States Fleet Forces Command. It was established following the United States’ involvement in WWI in 1917, when the Secretary of the Navy purchased the land to develop Naval Station Norfolk. Since then, NS Norfolk has played an integral role in supporting our naval forces through times of both peace and war. On January 26, 2017, NS Norfolk celebrated its centennial.

With plenty of beaches close by, a bustling downtown, and the relaxing countryside within reach, Military Families will never be bored living in Norfolk.

Looking for things to do in Norfolk? Start with these 10 ideas:


1. MacArthur Center

Grab your girlfriends and shop around MacArthur Center. This one-million-square-foot shopping mall, located on Monticello Avenue in downtown Norfolk, features a wide variety of retail, entertainment, and dining options for everyone in your group to enjoy.

Catch a movie at the Regal Cinema, get a mid-shopping bite to eat at the food court, or put on some skates and hit the ice rink for a fun date night. Plus, MacArthur Center’s Live 360° program offers patrons the opportunity to participate in unique events including farmers markets, cooking classes, book clubs, fitness studio demos, kids fashion design workshops, and more!


2. The Hermitage Museum and Gardens

The Hermitage Museum, an early 20th-century estate located on the Lafayette River, features a nationally recognized art collection spanning 5,000 years. The museum is composed of exhibition galleries as well as working artist studios, and is surrounded by 12 acres of gardens. The Hermitage is part of the Smithsonian Affiliations program — the only museum in the Tidewater region to be accepted into the program.

The Hermitage is not just a haven for art and nature lovers. It also offers field trips, summer camps, and a lecture series, hosts craft festivals, and serves as a gorgeous wedding venue. The beauty of The Hermitage is something you don’t want to miss.


3. Brewery Hopping

After a long week of working, cooking, cleaning, and chauffeuring the kids around, there’s nothing better than grabbing a drink with a group of friends. Make a Saturday of it and check out the different breweries located in downtown Norfolk.

Founded in 2010, O’Connor Brewing Co. is one of Coastal Virginia’s first craft breweries. This brewery hosts a slew of events year round and offers a variety of great specials, including discounts for all active-duty, retired, and Veteran Military Members every Military Monday.

Joining the Hampton Roads craft beer scene in 2012, Smartmouth is a beer lover’s paradise. Visit their tasting room in the Chelsea district of Norfolk for a pint of one of their flagship styles or seasonal offerings, a bite to eat from the food trucks, and live music.


4. Battleship Wisconsin

Located on the Elizabeth River on the south end of Norfolk is Nauticus, home of the Battleship Wisconsin. The USS Wisconsin, built in the WWII-era, is one of the largest battleships ever built by the U.S. Navy.

Now an exhibit of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, visitors can tour the deck of the ship and learn more about the USS Wisconsin’s role in our naval history, as well as explore an abundant collection of authentic uniforms, weaponry, and preserved artifacts.


5. Virginia Zoo

Take a walk on the wild side. Open year round, the Virginia Zoological Park offers fun and educational experiences the whole family can enjoy. The Virginia Zoo houses wildlife from the African plains to the jungles of Asia.

Meet and greet tigers, giraffes, snakes and more, take the kids for a ride on the Zoo Train, or stroll through the surrounding gardens!


6. Virginia Stage Company at The Wells Theatre

For theater lovers, a performance at The Wells Theatre is a must-see. Founded in 1978, the Virginia Stage Company is the premier professional theater in Hampton Roads.

The Virginia Stage Company is proud to support Military Families through discounts for active-duty and retired servicemembers, as well as select Military Appreciation Days. Military Families can also participate in VSC’s “Old Time Radio Daze” workshop free of charge.


7. Children’s Museum of Virginia

Encourage your child to play and explore, whatever their passions may be. At the Children’s Museum of Virginia, kids step inside a world where their imaginations can run free. Spend a rainy day creating life-size bubbles, chasing after shooting stars in the Beazley Planetarium, running and jumping around the Bodyworks wellness exhibit, learning to care after pets, and playing instruments with your children.

Check the calendar on the Children’s Museum of Virginia website to see when special events are happening. You can even book birthday parties!


8. Town Point Park

Engage in community events at Town Point Park. This waterfront venue offers a green oasis in the center of an urban city. With incredible views of the Elizabeth River harbor, Town Point Park is an excellent place for socializing, whether you’re grabbing lunch with a coworker, meeting friends for an afternoon walk, or getting some outdoor play time in with the kids. You can even access its free wireless network if you’re looking for an on-the-go office.

Town Point Park is also a booming events venue during select weekends throughout the year. Some featured events include Norfolk Harborfest, the Waterfront Jazz Festival, Opera in the Park, and the Christmas Market.


9. Mermaid Factory

Have you admired the mermaid statues around town? Since 1999, mermaid statues have been on display around the city of Norfolk, representing the spirit of the community. Join the Norfolk family by bringing home a mermaid of your own from Mermaid Factory.  

Mermaid Factory offers a variety of handmade miniature Norfolk mermaid statues. You can buy them pre-painted or you can paint one yourself in the studio — but be sure to make reservations ahead of time because the studio fills up quickly!

Read more: SpouseLink on Location: Love Anchors the Soul at the Mermaid Factory

Not only is an afternoon painting in the studio time well spent, but you also get to take home a piece of Norfolk and bring it wherever Military Life leads you next.


10. Chrysler Museum of Art

Immerse yourself in classic and contemporary art at the Chrysler Museum. Featuring the works of both notorious and lesser-known creators across various mediums, all art lovers can appreciate the beauty on display in the Chrysler Museum exhibits.

Make sure you stop by the museum’s Perry Glass Studio, too. The studio offers free, narrated glassmaking demos Tuesday through Sunday at noon, glassblowing workshops, and performance art events on the third Thursday of every month.


Enjoy the best of all worlds in Norfolk, VA. Whether you’re looking for kid-friendly activities, places to connect with friends, or ways to relax and get your much-needed “me time”, you’re sure to find plenty of things to do in Norfolk!


More Norfolk Events:

SpouseLink on Location: Tipsy Terrarium in Norfolk, VA

SpouseLink on Location: “October Mermaids” at Mermaid Factory in Norfolk, VA

SpouseLink on Location: USO’s Military Appreciation Day at Virginia Zoo, Norfolk, VA


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