Overview of Norfolk, Virginia
The first thing you need to know about Norfolk is how to pronounce the city’s name. It’s Nor-fok or Naw-fok – you’ll hear both pronunciations among locals. Norfolk, which is adjacent to the Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean and many rivers, offers many water-related attractions for visitors in this Navy town. The city recently received an award as the “Favorite American City” in 2018 and was also named as one of the “Top 50 Places to Travel” in the world in 2017.
Why has Norfolk received such accolades among all the world’s premier travel destinations? It’s because the city has undergone a renaissance like many southern cities. Norfolk now features a thriving arts community, multiple galleries, international culinary delights, fresh seafood and opportunities for harbor cruises, kayaking, fishing and appealing activities for everyone in the family.
History of Norfolk
Like many cities in Virginia, the history of Norfolk mirrors the history of the United States. Established in 1682, Norfolk grew to 6,000 residents by the time of the Revolutionary War. British forces bombarded the fledgling American troops off the Norfolk coast in 1776 and again in 1812 at the Battle of Craney Island where Americans expelled British troops from the area. Norfolk surrendered to Union forces in 1862 after the historic battle between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia, which was formerly known as the USS Merrimac.
In recent years, this naval town has created a multicultural environment with great shopping, historic attractions, culinary excellence, diverse neighborhoods and top cultural offerings. The city’s permanent population is more than 247,000, but the naval presence increases that figure dramatically.
Norfolk hotels offer accommodations to suit any budget and taste. These properties offer waterside views, single and family accommodations and hotels for indulgent weekends and longer vacation stays. The Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel is the only downtown hotel featuring uninterrupted views of the Elizabeth River. Other top hotels in Norfolk include:
- Holiday Inn Norfolk Airport: This hotel is near the airport and Botanical Garden.
- Hampton Inn & Suites Norfolk Airport: This accommodation is ideal for families and those staying for longer times.
- Hampton Inn Norfolk Naval Base: Perfect for history buffs, this hotel offers easy access to naval base tours and informal sightings of aircraft and ships.
- Wyndham Garden Norfolk Downtown: This centrally located property offers easy access to Norfolk’s key attractions such as the Arts District, museums, art galleries, beaches and iconic attractions.
There are plenty of accommodations for budget-conscious visitors in Norfolk and nearby areas. Norfolk is situated among multiple coastal cities and big-name area attractions such as Colonial Williamsburg, Busch Gardens and other family attractions.
Norfolk restaurants offer an international smorgasbord of flavors, cuisines, seafood dishes and local favorites. Fine dining establishments include Saltine, 456 Fish, Grain and the Chartreuse Bistro. Those looking for moderately priced food will enjoy Freemason Abbey, Mannino’s Italian Bistro and the No Frill Bar and Grill. Captain Groovy’s and Handsome Biscuit Grill offer local cuisine for those travelers who love trying local culinary favorites.
Norfolk, a naval town, obviously caters to sailors on leave with a wide selection of local craft breweries and nightspots. Norfolk breweries include Benchtop Brewery and Coelacanth Brewing Company in nearby Hampton Roads, which is the first Environmental Quality Certified Green Brewery in the city and one of only 12 in the state. The O’Connor Brewing Company offers craft beers in a low-key atmosphere with live music and nearby food trucks. Craft breweries are exploding in coastal Virginia, and visitors can schedule a 4.5-hour Norfolk Craft Beer Tour at tastevirginia.com.
Things to Do in Norfolk
Things to do in Norfolk include world-class shopping, sailing, relaxing on the waterfront, taking a history tour and enjoying the nightlife and outdoor festivals. Nature lovers will enjoy the parks, Harbor Park, Norfolk Botanical Garden and the Virginian Zoo. The trendy Ghent district features the Chrysler Museum of Art, which ranks among the most famous in the world. Other appealing Norfolk attractions include the Wells Theater, General Douglas MacArthur Memorial, Nauticus National Maritime Center and Hunter House Victorian Museum.
Naval Station Norfolk
Naval Station Norfolk supports 75 active ships and 134 aircraft divided among 14 piers and 11 hangars, which makes it the world’s largest naval station. The base houses the largest concentration of Navy forces in the world, and air operations handle about 275 flights per day, which averages about one every six minutes. Visitors to Norfolk can enjoy a 45-minute tour of the station located at 9079 Hampton Boulevard near gate 5. There are some security concerns, however. Each visitor must supply one form of valid identification that’s TSA-compliant. If not, then two government-issued IDs are required. You can find the state IDs that aren’t currently compliant at www.military.com/base-guide/naval-station-norfolk.
Norfolk Botanical Garden
The Norfolk Botanical Garden grew from a Works Project Administration project in 1938 to a world-class attraction featuring 155 acres of themed gardens, thousands of plants and horticultural information. The gardens are renowned for exceptional beauty and the attraction’s educational programs.
Norfolk tourism offers exceptional variety, historical ambiance and southern charm. The area boasts some of the most compelling attractions in the world for families and history buffs, and outdoor types will enjoy watersports, ball games, parks and nature trails.