Discover the arty side of this attractive port city, which promises waterfront views, craft breweries and an increasing number of cultural attractions.
Although it’s best known for being home to the world’s largest naval base, the port city of Norfolk is slowly starting to attract outsiders’ attention for its cultural and art-themed attractions. Explore thriving art districts, attend events and festivals and browse fascinating museums, which cover topics ranging from glass art to the life of World War II General Douglas MacArthur.
Having been originally settled by British colonists in the 17th century, Norfolk was officially incorporated in 1736. In 1776, during the Revolutionary War, much of the city was destroyed during a siege. In 1804, the city was significantly damaged again when a fire raged along the waterfront. Head to St. Paul’s Church, one of just a few buildings in town to have survived the 1776 siege. Look for a cannonball from the battle in its southeastern wall.
Life has long revolved around the water here. Learn about Norfolk’s naval history and inspect various vessels during a tour of the Norfolk Naval Base. Step aboard the Battleship Wisconsin and trace the history of the region’s naval fleet at the Hampton Roads Naval Center, both of which are located in Nauticus, a maritime-focused museum and science center. Alternatively, get out on the water with a harbor cruise.
Explore the city’s artier side by strolling around the mural-dotted NEON Art District. Look for striking interactive installations such as the interactive MetalMatisse, a 30-foot (9-meter) tall stainless steel sculpture that lights up and makes sounds in response to the movement of passers-by.
Nearby is the Chrysler Museum of Art, which has a collection that spans ancient to contemporary works. An on-site glass studio here offers glass-blowing workshops for visitors. Don’t miss the MacArthur Memorial, which recounts the life of the World War II hero.
Norfolk is located in east Virginia, about a 95-minute drive from Richmond. The nearest airport is Norfolk International Airport. To get around downtown Norfolk and the surrounding areas, walk and use the Tide light rail system. For craft beer bars and exciting dining options with views over the bay, head for the Waterside District or The Main.