5 things to do on your first trip to Norfolk, Virginia

Whether you’re passing through on a larger East Coast road trip or a day trip from Virginia Beach (25 minutes), Richmond (90 minutes) or Washington, DC (3.5 hours away), Norfolk, Virginia offers plenty of interesting attractions for visitors of all ages and budgets. Here’s a rundown of some of our favorite things to do there.

Visit the battleship USS Wisconsin

If you’re staying in Downtown Norfolk, don’t miss the chance to get an up-close look at the battleship USS Wisconsin at Nauticus, home of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum. Tickets start at $15.95 for adults (ages 13 and older) and $11.50 for children (ages 4-12) and include access to the galleries and exhibits at Nauticus, as well as self-guided access to the outdoor decks, the cloakroom, the officers’ quarters, CPO lounge, barber shop, chapel, galley and mess deck, sailors’ berths, dental office, library and brig, among other areas aboard the battleship. Additional 90-minute tours of the ship’s control areas with a historical interpreter can be added starting at $20 per person.

Get inspired at the Chrysler Museum of Art

Head north to the Neon District to view artistic creations at the Chrysler Museum of Art, which is always free to enter. The permanent collection includes contemporary art by Warhol, Pollock, Lichtenstein and Rothko, more than 4,000 photographs, one of the world’s largest collections of glass art, and more than 30,000 European, ancient, American and modern works of art. It is also home to the Perry Glass Studio, where you can see glass production demonstrations from Tuesday through Sunday at noon.

Enjoy old-school desserts at Doumar’s

After a long day of sightseeing, head to Doumar’s, an old-fashioned restaurant in Ghent that houses the world’s first four-iron waffle cone machine, which you can still see in action today – the device was created by Abe Doumar in the 1904 World’s Fair after an ice cream vendor, who was selling his wares at a waffle stand, ran out of paper plates, and he helped come up with a delicious solution. Enjoy a North Carolina-style barbecue, burgers, and refreshing limeades or stick to dessert items like floats, shakes, sundaes, and hand-rolled cones served with custom ice cream.

Explore the Norfolk Botanical Garden

Enjoy the great outdoors at the Norfolk Botanical Garden, the largest in Virginia at 175 acres. Book your tickets online in advance — $15 for adults, $13 for seniors over 65, kids ages 3-17, and U.S. military personnel — and spend some time roaming the seven miles of paved trails (or seven miles of dirt trails if you want to be inclined), visiting collections of roses and camellias, viewing the three-acre children’s garden and enjoying the butterfly garden. Boat and tram rides are available seasonally, as is an on-site cafe, but you are welcome to bring picnic items.

Taste locally made wine, beer, cider and mead

From Tuesday through Friday from 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM, stop by Mermaid Winery in Ghent for happy hour specials, including $5 glasses of wine and $7 mimosas made with hibiscus, watermelon, and chewing gum among others. Wine flights are also available if you would like to sample different varieties.

Craft beer enthusiasts can check out Benchtop Brewing and the Smartmouth Brewing Company in Chelsea, Elation Brewing Company in NoCo (North Colley), and the O’Connor Brewing Co. in the Railroad neighborhood of Norfolk. If you stick to downtown, make it a meal at Grain, the city’s only rooftop beer garden, or Grilled Cheese Bistro, each offering locally-made brews alongside mouthwatering comfort food. If you like craft beer, mead, and cider, try The Birch in Chelsea, home to 21 craft beer options, five cider and mead taps, and a menu of artisan meats and cheeses to pair with your drink of choice.

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