Norfolk is in the metro area called Hampton Roads, in the state of Virginia. It is a port city with a large Navy and shipping presence. Neighboring cities are Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Portsmouth. Norfolk was designated an All-America City in 2013. The West Freemason neighborhood was named by the American Planning Association a Top 10 Great Neighborhood for 2013.
Norfolk has always been a Navy town. The world's largest naval base is located here. But it is also known as a major cultural center, with world-class museums, opera, symphony, ballet and a vibrant arts community. It hosts a growing university, Old Dominion University (ODU) and world renowned hospitals. In the last ten years or so, downtown area has experienced a major resurgence, with gourmet restaurants, shopping and attractions.
Town Point Park is a waterfront park area right downtown that hosts several festivals and events throughout the year such as the renowned Harborfest and the Bayou Boogaloo. A new cruise terminal was just built in 2007 making Norfolk one of the top cruise ports in the country.
Granby Street is the main downtown thoroughfare, lined with restaurants and bars.
Ghent is a historic district adjacent to downtown. Filled with historic homes, tree-lined streets and beautiful old churches, it is a good mix of residential and business. Colley Avenue and 21st Street are the main shopping and dining areas, with dozens of locally-owned boutiques, shops, antique stores, restaurants and bars. The Naro theater on Colley Avenue is the region's sole movie theater with indie flicks.
Ocean View is Norfolk's beach community, and features relatively uncrowded beaches on the Chesapeake Bay. During the '50s and '60s, Ocean View was in its prime and was a major beach destination for families and sailors. During the following decades, the beach community fell into a bit of a slump, succumbing to crime. The last five years, the city has been turning things around and now Ocean View is on its way to becoming one of the region's most sought after neighborhoods.
Amtrak offers train service to Norfolk as part of the Northeast Regional service that runs from Boston south to Washington, DC and various points in Virginia. It's worth considering given traffic. You can check times and purchase directly through Amtrak here:
Hampton Roads is only second in the state to the suburbs of Washington, D.C. such as Fairfax County and other outlying areas for horrendous traffic especially during the summer season when many tourists throughout the United States and Canada flock to the beaches of Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Be aware of the alternative of I-664/Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel instead of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, where backups can be as long as thirty minutes.
Route 460 is an alternative to the heavily used I-64 route. 460 extends from Petersburg, VA (just south of Richmond, VA) to Chesapeake (a suburb city to the Hampton Roads area) and you can easily connect from 460 onto the major beltway at the I-664 and I-64 interchange.
Interstate 64 will bring you to Norfolk from points west.
The HRT or Hampton Roads Transit is one of the ways to get around, although the buses are usually not exactly on schedule. HRT also runs the Tide light rail system, which currently goes 7 miles from the edge of the Ghent district (the Eastern Virginia Medical Center area) through downtown to the Virginia Beach border at Newtown Road.
The Hampton Roads Transit Trolley Tour is a good way to see the city and get your bearings.
If you must drive around the city, a good map and/or a local with knowledge of the roads is an absolute necessity. Stay on interstates for as long as possible, for once you leave, any signage is the responsibility of the city, not VDOT, and it shows. If your directions tell you to follow US 58, US 460 or state route 337 through the city, be prepared for a nerve-wracking drive. Directional signage (i.e., US 460 east, turn left) is virtually non-existent, and what signage does exist is more often than not inadequate or even incorrect. If there is a difference between signage and a map, the map is correct. Routes can and do change direction and shoot off onto side streets at a moment's notice, often without any signage advising travelers as to which road to follow. It is much easier than you might think to miss a turn.
Basilica of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception, 232 Chapel Street, ☎ (757) 622-4487, . edit
Cannonball Trail, 401 E. Freemason Street, ☎ (757) 441-1526. A heritage trail that connects historic sites and many popular attractions throughout the downtown area.edit
Christ & St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 560 West Olney Road, ☎ (757) 627-5665, . The church is an example of English architecture as interpreted by the Gothic Revivalists of the mid and late nineteenth century. Opening services were held on Christmas Day, 1910. Located in Ghent.edit
Chrysler Museum of Art, 245 W. Olney Road, ☎ (757) 664-6200, . edit
Freemason Street Baptist Church, 400 E. Freemason Street, ☎ (757) 625-7579, . A historic Baptist church which was designed by architect Thomas Ustick Walter and dedicated in 1850.edit
Hermitage Museum & Gardens, 7637 N. Shore Road, ☎ (757) 423-2052, . Closed Wednesdays and Thursdays. 10-17.00 Monday - Saturday. 13.00-17.00 Sundays. Norfolk's pride. Has a huge garden and exhibitions of art work.Adults $5. Students (with id) $3.00. Young people (6-18 years of age) $2.00.. edit
MacArthur Memorial, MacArthur Square Norfolk, VA 23510 (Park in the mall and cross the street, heading south.), ☎ 757.441.2965, . Closed on Mondays. Tuesdays - Saturday 10-17.00, Sundays 11-17.00. Memorial and Museum of General MacArthur. Free. edit
Nauticus and the Battleship Wisconsin, One Waterside Drive, ☎ (757) 664-1000, . Nauticus is a maritime-themed science center and museum.edit
Naval Station Tour- A 45-minute tour conducted by Naval personnel. See aircraft carriers and other huge ships.
Norfolk Botanical Gardens, 6700 Azalea Garden Rd., Norfolk, VA 23518, ☎ 757.441.5830, . April-October 15th: 9-19.00. October 16th-March: 9-17.00. Another landmark in Norfolk. Offers numerous tours by season and has all sorts of activities. Events change by season. The Botanical Gardens is pretty impressive in size and variety. It should be on the list of any visitor to the area. Members: FREE. Adults: $9. Seniors and Military: $8. Young People (3-18 years of age): $7. Very Young People (2 and under, with Adult): FREE. Website has a coupon for $1 off.. edit
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 201 St. Paul’s Boulevard, ☎ (757) 627-4353, . A historic church built in 1739, it is the sole colonial-era building which survived the various wars that Norfolk has witnessed. A cannon ball fired by Lord Dunmore in 1776 is still lodged in the church wall today.edit
Virginia Zoological Park, 3500 Granby Street, ☎ (757) 441-2374, . edit
Take a Carnival cruise from Norfolk  to Bermuda or the Caribbean. Ships depart from the downtown waterfront. Other cruises stop at Norfolk's cruise terminal as a port-of-call. Cruises are active in Norfolk in May and October.
Go on a 2 hour cruise around the Norfolk Naval Base. A guide will give a little bit of area history and describe some of the ships as you cruise past.
Spectator sports is popular in Norfolk. The Norfolk Tides is a AAA baseball team and the top affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. Their home games are played at picturesque Harbor Park. Beginning in the 2015-16 season, the Norfolk Admirals will return to the ECHL hockey league and become an affiliate of the NHL's Edmonton Oilers. The Admiral's won the AHL's Calder Cup in 2012 and won three championships in the ECHL prior to becoming an AHL team. The Admirals play their home games at the Norfolk Scope. The Old Dominion Monarchs and Lady Monarchs play in colleges Conference USA. Football is played at S.B. Ballard Stadium at Foreman Field and basketball is played at the Ted Constant Convocation Center, also known by students and locals as the "Ted."
Attucks Theatre, 1010 Church Street, ☎ (757) 622-4763, . Nicknamed the "Apollo Theatre" of the South.edit
Chrysler Hall, 215 St. Pauls Boulevard, ☎ (757) 664-6464, . Bringing Broadway to Norfolk. Shows such as Wicked, American Idiot, The Book of Mormon, Lion King, and Phantom of the Opera have had performances here.edit
Downtown Norfolk Restaurant Week, Locations Vary. Restaurant week is a great way to try the best offerings of the local restaurants. The price is typically for a 2 or 3 course meal at participating venues. This is not year round.$20-$30 Dinners. edit
Ghent Bar Tour, . For a small fee (which goes to charity), you get to see the most prominent bars in the Ghent area. Special discounts if you pay online and if you are the designated driver. This is a seasonal event and times vary, please consult the website for further info.$20-$30. edit
Harrison Opera House, 160 E. Virginia Beach Boulevard, ☎ (757) 623-1223, . Various events run by the Virginia Opera as well as concerts, musicals, and Broadway shows.edit
NARO Expanded Cinema, 1507 Colley Avenue, ☎ 757-625-6276, . Features major and independent films.edit
Ocean View Beaches, Ocean View, Norfolk. Enjoy the Chesapeake Bay at Ocean View on the furthest northern end of Norfolk. A great alternative to the crowded beaches at Virginia Beach.edit
Ocean View Fishing Pier, 400 W. Ocean View Avenue, ☎ (757) 583-6000, . The Ocean View Fishing Pier is, well, a pier that people fish off of. It hosts a restaurant and tackle shop. To go all the way out on the pier (which stretches out pretty far), costs $1 and the right to fish starts around $8. As always check the website for prices before venturing out. The best time to visit is at night so one can see the lights of the bridges that connect to the two tunnels.edit
O'Connor Brewing Company, 521 W. 25th Street, ☎ 757.623.BEER (2337), . Thur & Fri 16-19.00, Sat 14.00-19.00. One of two Norfolk breweries. O'Connor's produces several different styles of beer and offers tours, which are to be booked in advance.Tour $10. edit
Slover Library, 235 E. Plume Street, ☎ (757) 664-7323. The new addition to Norfolk's main library makes it one of the most technologically advanced libraries in the world.edit
Stockley Gardens Art Festival, Stockley Gardens Park, Ghent. Spring and Winter. An fun way to spend the day while enjoying the park. All sorts of artist display their art for the general viewing of the public.FREE. edit
Wells Theatre and the Virginia Stage Company, 108 E. Tazewell Street, ☎ (757) 627-1234, . A performing arts venue located in downtown Norfolk, the theatre opened on August 26, 1913. It has housed the Virginia Stage Company since 1979. The Wells Theatre is owned and operated by the City of Norfolk and is part of The Seven Venues. edit
West Freemason Area Historic District. A national historic district. Named by the American Planning Association a Top 10 Great Neighborhood for 2013.edit
There are several main shopping areas in Norfolk. The signature symbol of Norfolk is the mermaid, and there are several stores that sell unique mermaid sculptures, pins, jewelry and more.
MacArthur Center, 300 Monticello Avenue, ☎ (757) 627-6000, . In downtown, the MacArthur Center is one of the best malls in the area and has a variety of great shops such as Pottery Barn, Coach, Williams & Sonoma, Sephora, Michael Kors, Apple, JCrew, EQ3, H&M, a beautiful Barnes & Noble academic superstore, etc. The mall is anchored by Nordstrom and Dillard's. Several restaurants to include Max & Erma's, Chili's, and California Pizza Kitchen are accompanied by a food court. The mall also includes the Regal Cinemas 18.edit
Downtown has numerous shops and art galleries on Granby Street to include an Urban Outfitters, Norfolk Fair Trade Company, Stark & Legum, and Loja Leblon Swimwear & Lingerie. Also downtown is the D'Art Center, which features a large selection of local art. Monticello Arcade also has a few shops as well.
Ghent is a popular shopping area for locally-owned boutiques and antique stores. 21st Street and Colley Avenue are the main thoroughfares, but there are plenty of unique stores on the surrounding streets. The Palace Shoppes on 21st Street and Palace Station on Debree have some great little stores, including an adorable pet boutique call Wet Noses and a chic women's clothing store, NYFO. There are also quite a few antique stores around Ghent and throughout Norfolk.
Military Circle and Janaf used to be a great area to shop in. The Military Circle Mall has lost a lot of tenants in recent years due to crime with Macy's being the last remaining anchor store.
A.W. Shucks, 2200 Colonial Avenue, ☎ (757) 664-9117. Tucked behind a mini-mall Ghent, but it is a popular restaurant and watering hole with great burgers, seafood and beer selection.edit
Azar's Market and Cafe, 2000 Colley Avenue, ☎ (757) 664-7955, . A natural foods business specializing in Mediterranean specialties.edit
Baxter's Sports Lounge, 500 Granby Street, ☎ (757) 622-9837, . A sports bar and restaurant with multiple large screen TV's, pool tables, and a full bar. A great place to grab a bite to eat and a beer before an Admiral's game.edit
Belmont House of Smoke, 2117 Colonial Avenue, ☎ (757) 623-4477, . Smoked BBQ joint.edit
Cogans Pizza, 1901 Colonial Avenue, ☎ (757) 627-6428, . A pizza parlor with a full bar. Weekday lunch buffet. Open late.edit
Del Vecchios, 1080 W. 47th Street, ☎ (757) 440-9300, . Across from Old Dominion University. Order pizza by the slice or whole. The front side facing Hampton Boulevard is for dine-in and the backside is for take-out. Open late.edit
Doumar’s Cones & Barbecue, 1919 Monticello Avenue, ☎ (757) 627-4163, . The birthplace of the ice cream cone - Doumar's is Hampton Road's historic diner and curb service restaurant, home of the waffle cone, and the place where everyday is ice cream day. The world's first waffle cone machine is still used at Doumar's today. Doumar's is a Norfolk institution and has been featured on the television show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.edit
No Frill Bar and Grill, 806 Spotswood Avenue, ☎ (757) 627-4262, . Located at the corner of Colley Avenue and Spotswood just a stone's throw from the Naro Theater in Norfolk's historic Ghent district. The atmosphere can be described as electric - always busy with lots of energy.edit
Norfolk Seafood Company / Big Easy Oyster Bar, 111 Tazewell Street, ☎ (757) 227-6222, . New Orleans style.edit
Omar's Carriage House, 313 W. Bute Street, ☎ (757) 622-4990, . A restaurant in a converted 19th century carriage house.edit
O'Sullivan's Wharf, 4300 Colley Avenue, ☎ (757) 961-0899, . The best place to get the local flavor. It's self-dubbed as "A locals locale..." It's located at W. 43rd and Colley Ave, with a beautiful view of Knitting Mill Creek.edit
Rama Garden, 441 Granby Street, ☎ (757) 616- 0533, . Norfolk's Premiere Thai restauraunt in the heart of downtown.edit
Razzo, 3248 E. Ocean View Avenue, ☎ (757) 962-3630, . A highly-rated Italian restaurant in Ocean Viewedit
The Dirty Buffalo, 4110 Colley Avenue, ☎ (757) 226-7851, . Known for their buffalo wings. Close to Old Dominion University.edit
The Pagoda Restaurant, 265 W. Tazewell Street, ☎ (757) 622-0506, . A fresh menu full of local and seasonal items and house-smoked meats. Enjoy soups, sandwiches, and salads during lunch, Chef’s seasonal entrees during dinner, and fresh local eggs during Sunday brunch.edit
Todd Jurich's Bistro, 150 W. Main Street, ☎ (757) 622-3210, . A unique dining experience in upscale dining — casual elegance.edit
Vintage Kitchen, 999 Waterside Drive, ☎ (757) 625-3370, . Featuring sweeping views of the Elizabeth River from the waterfront ballroom, terrace, and herb garden.edit
Voila, 509 Botetourt Street, ☎ (757) 640-0343, . International Cuisine tucked into a corner of Botetourt & York St. The menu offers an impressive selection of international dishes.edit
Ynot Pizza - Ghent, 1517 Colley Avenue, ☎ (757) 624-9111, . Hand-tossed pizza and other world-class traditional Italian dishes in the heart of Ghent.edit
Ynot Pizza - ODU, 4412 Monarch Way, ☎ (757) 502-8211, . Hand-tossed pizza and other world-class traditional Italian dishes in the heart of ODU.edit
Two main sections of Norfolk have concentrations of bars and nightclubs: Ghent and Granby Street. Ghent is the most laid-back and hip, and Granby Street is a trendy place in the heart of downtown. Just follow the noise. As in the rest of Virginia, there technically are no "bars" but rather "restaurants that happen to have alcohol." Noting this, most places in Norfolk that sell food have a bar like atmosphere as the night approaches.
AJ Gators Sports Bar & Grill, 244 Granby Street, ☎ (757) 622-5544, . edit
Granby Theater, 421 Granby Street, ☎ (757) 961-7208, . A popular dance club.edit
Hell's Kitchen, 124 Granby Street, ☎ (757) 624-1906, . Full kitchen and live music.edit
Mermaid Winery, 330 W. 22nd Street, #106, ☎ (757) 233-4155, . Norfolk's only urban winery.edit
Mo & O’Malley’s Irish Pub, 131 Granby Street, ☎ (757) 623-3466, . Traditional Irish pub. There are dollar bills and bras hanging on the walls, and somebody will be playing Irish music every night.edit
Tap House, 931 W. 21st Street, ☎ (757) 627-9172. 16.00-2.00. One of the best selections of beer in VA. Preferred by the locals. Nice atmosphere and the friendly staff. Frequently hosts bands performing a variety of music.edit
The Birch, 1231 W. Olney Road, ☎ (757) 962-5400, . Very extensive selection of beer, if not the most extensive in the whole state. Its a bar for a good time or serious conversation. Has growlers to go.edit
The Public House, 1112 Colley Avenue, ☎ (757) 227-9064, . edit
The Thirsty Camel, 394 W. Ocean View Avenue, ☎ (757) 587-1420, . Located in the parking lot of the Ocean View Fishing Pier.edit
Hershee Bar, 6117 Sewells Point Road, ☎ (757) 853-9842. The Hershee Bar is the 7 Cities' oldest and best known women's bar. Sit down, drink, dine and dance. Shoot a game of pool or try your luck at the infamous animal crane.edit
MJ's Tavern, 4019 Granby Street, ☎ (757) 648-8942, . In the Heart of the historic Riverview district.edit
The Wave, 4107 Colley Avenue, ☎ (757) 440-5911, . The atmosphere is very industrial with metallic accents and diamond plating everywhere. Three bars one large bar in front another on the far side of the dance floor and another large bar area in the back with pool and dining tables as well as an outdoor smoking area.edit
Freemason Inn Victorian Bed & Breakfast, 411 W. York Street, ☎ (757) 963-7000, . A completely renovated turn of the century Victorian home, in the Historic Freemason District of downtown Norfolk.edit
In recent history, Norfolk has had a fair amount of crime, however Norfolk has turned itself around in recent years.
As in all cities, crime happens. Downtown and the adjoining West Freemason are areas that have really turned itself around. Wandering around Old Dominion University late at night and alone a bit away from the university is not advised. ODU Police and Norfolk Police have teamed up, and now patrol the area frequently. Although Norfolk Police wander for real crime, Campus Police Department generally look for parties then real safety concerns, but if you have a real problem, just press a blue box around campus.
As with most places in the rest of the USA, the phone number of 911 is used to contact emergency services. The Norfolk Police Department can be contacted at (757) 441-5610, if not an emergency. Finally, the Virginia State Police Department can be contacted via (804) 674-2000.
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