Southern Belle in Training

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle Blog || Est. 2012 || Virginia Beach, VA

June 14, 2019

TRAVEL GUIDE: What to See & Do in Norfolk, VA

     I absolutely loved my weekend stay in the beautiful coastal city of Norfolk! After living in Charlottesville for over a year and barely hearing anyone talk about Norfolk, I'm convinced this is one of the most underrated cities in Virginia- possibly most underrated in  the South as a whole as well! I'm excited to recap everything that I got to experience in today's blog post- I already can't wait to go back again and discover even more. My friend Perrin accompanied me on this weekend trip to help capture the photographs featured in this post, and we both had nothing but good things to say about this beautiful city!

    Fun fact: I have been to Norfolk once before! My parents took me to Colonial Williamsburg for our family vacation in 2003. That was actually my very first trip to the South, and last trip until I went back in 2012 for college visits! We did a day trip to Norfolk during that vacation- and apparently the South clearly made enough of a good impression on me that I wanted to move there years later. 😉I was really excited to come back to Norfolk as an adult!

Thank you for VisitNorfolk for hosting me for this press trip, and providing complimentary accommodations, excursions and select meals. All opinions in this post are honest and my own. 

     Norfolk is a coastal city in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, located in the southeastern part of the state. I didn't know this before visiting, but it's actually the second largest city in Virginia!! (Second only to neighboring Virginia Beach- I had previously though Richmond was larger!) Norfolk is most known as a military city, and it's home to the largest naval base in the world. It's also one of the Hampton Roads cities that is linked by bridge-tunnel roadway complexes- and the state of Virginia is home to the only bridge-tunnels in the US!
     In addition to the military presence in the city- there are many other things that Norfolk is known for! It's home to a beautiful downtown area, many museums, historic neighborhoods, universities, and other attractions. The symbol for the city of Norfolk is the mermaid- and they are found all over the city in public art and other symbols! 

      Norfolk is an easy 2.5 hour drive from Charlottesville! You just follow I-64 East past Richmond, Williamsburg and Newport News- and then you're there! Since I visited during Memorial Day Weekend, my drive there and back took more like 3-3.5 hours with the traffic, but that's to be expected for a holiday weekend. I found Norfolk itself to be very easy to navigate, and the downtown was very walkable! If you're visiting Norfolk from further away, there is a good sized airport in Norfolk, and another smaller one in Newport News. It would be easy to extend your trip and also spend time in nearby places like Virginia Beach or Williamsburg!

     Perrin and I were generously hosted by Hilton Norfolk The Main, located conveniently downtown. I enjoyed our hotel stay so much that I wrote a separate blog post recapping the room, the hotel restaurants, and the whole stay experience! Read my review of the hotel here.

     Oh my gosh- the food in Norfolk was definitely one of the highlights of the trip! SO good! We did eat a few of our meals at restaurants located within our hotel, but we also discovered some great local places as well. I highly recommend every place that I ate at, but there so many great places in Norfolk that I'm sure there's tons of other wonderful options besides for these!
  • Saltine (100 E. Main Street) - the best brunch that I've had in 2019 so far, and possibly the best brunch that I've had ever! Saltine is a top ranked seafood restaurant for lunch and dinner in Norfolk, but they do an incredible brunch on Saturdays which shouldn't be missed, I had a wonderful mojito with my brunch and was able to sample several of the popular menu items- there wasn't anything I didn't like! The Dutch Baby pancake was especially good, and the presentation was beautiful.
  • Lamia's Crepes (401 Granby Street B) - I love a good sweet crepe for breakfast, and Lamia's was incredible! I had the S'mores crepe, which was super sweet, but incredibly delicious. The perfect holiday weekend breakfast treat! Lamia's also has a lot of savory crepes on their menu. 
  • Cure (503 Botetourt Street) - A fun coffee shop located in the Freemason district. I was treated to breakfast here on my last day by Sarah and Nicole from VisitNorfolk! I love a good chai latte, and the one at Cure didn't disappoint. The Freemason area is filled with beautiful, historic homes- I wish I could've spent longer exploring the streets near here!
  • Wisteria Cafe (inside Chrysler Museum of Art) - Perrin and I spent part of Sunday afternoon checking out the Chrysler Museum, so we decided to eat lunch in the museum cafe. It was wonderful. I loved the decor (there's lots of Wisteria inspired things!), and Perrin and I also really enjoyed the food. The mini sweet potato ham biscuits are incredible. 
  • The Grilled Cheese Bistro (345 Granby Street) - We actually had dinner here the first night in Norfolk instead of lunch, but I think this would probably be a better lunch spot since it's very casual! This is the destination if you love grilled cheese sandwiches. They have tons of varieties of gourmet ones on the menu!
  • Varia (100 E. Main Street) - This is the Italian restaurant and wine bar within Hilton Norfolk The Main! Perrin and I enjoyed glasses of wine and split a charcuterie board to start, and then had a pizza. We thought the food and wine was great, and I also loved the incredible decor and atmosphere of the restaurant. It's so gorgeous inside that a bridal party for a wedding happening at the hotel came into the restaurant just to take their pictures!

     There seem to be endless fun things to do in Norfolk! And I suppose if you ever did run out of things to do there... you could just hop on over to another city in the Hampton Roads area. 😉Here are the things Perrin and I enjoyed doing during our weekend:

     The Virginia Zoo: It'd been quite awhile since I've been to a zoo, so I was excited when VisitNorfolk included this as a possible excursion on my itinerary! I really enjoyed my visit to this zoo. I've been to other zoos before where the animals are kept in very small enclosures and don't seem to be well cared for, but this zoo definitely isn't like that. The animal enclosures are spacious and well maintained, and you can see so many different types of exotic animals! My favorite things were the lions, red pandas and the monkeys, but there were so many cool animals. This of course is a great family friendly pick too!

     Explore the NEON District: This is a new neighborhood in Norfolk near downtown that's home to murals on every block, and lots of other art and culture! I loved visiting NEON District so much that I wrote a separate Travel Guide for visiting here.

     Take a tour with Norfolk Tour Company: Our wonderful guide Josh accompanied Perrin and I for our walking tour of the NEON District- which was so much fun! Norfolk Tour Company offers tours of many different neighborhoods in Norfolk though- if I go back to the city I'd love to take a tour with them of a different area of the city.

    Take in a show at the Virginia Stage Company: This is the Hampton Roads area's leading theatre company. They perform shows at the historic Wells Theatre, which is located right in downtown (walking distance from our hotel). It was the opening weekend of Matilda the Musical when Perrin and I were in town, so VisitNorfolk treated us to tickets to the show. It was incredible! I've been to a few small and low-key theatre productions here in Charlottesville, so my mind was kind of blown by the size and talent of the cast (especially the child actors), and the intricacy of the set design. If Virginia Stage Company has any shows going on while you're visiting Norfolk- definitely try and go!

     Watch a free glass blowing demonstration: The Chrysler Museum has a separate glass blowing studio building adjacent to the museum, and everyday at noon they offer free demonstrations! The lines to get in are pretty serious on the weekends- we went to the Sunday demonstration and even though we were in line before the doors opened, we still weren't the first ones there! It was incredible to watch beautiful glass creations be made right in front of our eyes- it truly is an art form.

     Visit the Chrysler Museum: I have to be honest- I'm not generally a huge art museum fan. But I really did enjoy the Chrysler Museum! I liked it especially because they had exhibits on so many types of art: everything from traditional paintings to other mediums like fine china and glass, and ancient Egyptian art. Admission and parking are always free at the museum- which is wonderful!

    American Rover Sailing Cruise: What a highlight this was! We got to go on a sunset cruise on the Elizabeth River with American Rover Sailing Cruises. Theses cruises operate April-October, and provide equisite views of the Norfolk and Portsmouth skylines, as well as some local naval highlights. There was even live music on board- the night we cruised a guy named Steve was playing his guitar and taking song requests (he even did an a cappella version of Old Town Road!).

    As I said earlier in this post, there is so much to do in Norfolk! I'm really hoping to make another trip back before 2019 is over, and if I do I'd love to check out these things that I didn't have time for on my first visit:
  • Nauticus - martitime themed museum and battleship.
  • Norfolk Botanical Garden - I adore botanical gardens, and this is the largest in the state.
  • MacArthur Center - Norfolk's mall, which is located in downtown. I have never really lived in a city that has its largest shopping center downtown, so I just thought this was cool! (In Charlottesville, our shopping centers are a few miles outside downtown.) 
  • Mermaid Winery - You know that I love my Central Virginia wineries! I wish I'd had time to visit this Hampton Roads area winery to see how it's similar and different to the ones in Charlottesville.
  • Explore Historic Ghent - A historic neighborhood that's filled with beautiful homes, I would've loved to walk around and explore. 

     I have had a great time on every travel blogging trip that I've had the chance to go on thanks to Southern Belle in Training, but my Norfolk trip was extra special. I truly felt that VisitNorfolk and Hilton Norfolk The Main gave me the royal treatment!! Plus this city was just too cool. Don't get me wrong- I love Charlottesville and Central Virginia, but now I'm constantly dreaming of my next trip to Norfolk and Hampton Roads! I'm also way overdue for my first visit to nearby Virginia Beach. 😊

     If you're thinking of visiting Norfolk, feel free to reach out with any questions about this Travel Guide! Hoping that I get a chance to go back soon so I can update it with more restaurants and things to do.

    God Bless,

    xoxo Annaliese 



  1. Your weekend in Norfolk looked so fun and I love places that are short road trips from us. I have never been to VA, but your making me want to come visit.

  2. This looks fun! The last photo in front of the sunset is lovely :)

    Anika |


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