Difference between revisions of "Norfolk (Virginia)"
Revision as of 02:50, 4 December 2012
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 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. 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. 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.
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 back ups 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.
Passenger ferry from Portsmouth.
There is also a boat taxi that will take you around the Norfolk and Portsmouth waterfronts. It is 7 dollars per person. Call 757-439-8294 and he will pick you up wherever you want!
The HRT or Hampton Roads Transit is one of the ways to get around, although the buses are usually not exactly on schedule.
The Hampton Roads Transit Trolley Tour is a good way to see the city and get your bearings. The NET electric buses cover the downtown and are free.
Norfolk is in the process of building a starter light-rail line extending from the Newtown area at the Norfolk/Virginia Beach border to Downtown Norfolk and Sentara Hospital by the Midtown Tunnel. The line is expected to be operational by May of 2011.
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 you 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 and end up in a dangerous area.
Take a cruise from Norfolk  to Bermuda or the Caribbean. Ships depart from the downtown waterfront. 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.
There are several main shopping areas in Norfolk.
Downtown, the MacArthur Center is one of the best malls in the area and has a variety of great shops, like Pottery Barn, Coach, Williams & Sonoma, an Apple store, JCrew, EQ3, H&M, a beautiful Barnes & Noble academic superstore, etc. The mall is anchored by Nordstrom and Dillard's. There are a few shops and art galleries on Granby Street, but not many. Also downtown is the D'Art Center, which features a large selection of local art. Waterside used to be a popular shopping area, but there are several empty spots now and retailers are suffering. There are a few kiosks, with everything from fake designer sunglasses to caricatures. There are a few other stores, including souvenir shops and a dollar store.
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. Commonwealth on 21st Street is a popular urban-style store, and has been featured in national magazines. There are also quite a few antique stores around Ghent and throughout Norfolk.
The signature symbol of Norfolk is the mermaid, and there are several stores that sell unique mermaid sculptures, pins, jewelry and more.
Three sections of Norfolk have concentrations of bars and nightclubs: Ghent, Granby Street, and the Waterside Festival Marketplace. Ghent is the most laid-back, Granby Street is a trendy place for dates, and the Waterside is the wild place for the kids. Just follow the noise.
A popular local lesbian bar is the Hershee Bar at 6117 Sewells Point Rd, +1 757 853-9842, .
Norfolk's good hotels are clustered downtown and near the airport.
Crime is less bad than before, but the city's slums are obvious and should be avoided at night. There have been incidents downtown so use caution at night, especially if you are alone.