More Than Just a Seaport
You can always find adventure in Norfolk, VA: world class museums, miles of pristine Chesapeake Bay beaches, a historical downtown, and limitless waterfront attractions. While most travelers come to the city for conventions, conferences, or to board a departing cruise ship, Norfolk is a destination all its own.
On a recent trip I stayed at the Sheraton Waterside Hotel. The room was fit for a king with a royal view of the waterfront. The balcony and view were so great, I kept my door open for most of my stay. I also had the pleasure of enjoying a few meals at the hotel’s City Dock Norfolk Restaurant while ships sailed by. A major bonus about the Sheraton is its pet package that includes a comfy dog bed for the duration of your stay, doggie treats and bags, a bowl, and a plethora of local dog business discounts.
My first morning in Norfolk started on the water with a brisk morning kayak down the Elizabeth River. Kayak Nature Tours has wonderful tour guides that will make you feel like a pro in minutes. For the more adventurous spirit, kayak through the ocean surf right along with dolphins. Floating alongside cruise ships and the Battleship Wisconsincan make a person feel pretty small, but it was a great way to see the town.
I was in town during a wine festival and happily spent my afternoon at Town Point Park. The park is a newly renovated part of downtown featuring eight acres of outdoor space on the banks of the Elizabeth River. Every October people gather to savor more than 30 of Virginia’s finest wineries at the Town Point Virginia Wine Festival. This festival is like no other; guests bring picnics, buy wine by the bottle, and settle in for an afternoon of music and fun. General admission includes pours of more than 200 varietals and a souvenir glass.
While seaside, visit the Nauticus, Norfolk’s maritime museum, and take a walk on the retired Battleship Wisconsin. The Wisconsin is one of the last battleships built by the United States Navy and won five battle stars during World War II. Learn everything you wanted to know about a seaport, the navy, and marine life. Check out the Nauticus website to plan your trip and learn about special exhibits. Tours of the Norfolk Naval Base, located uptown, are also available.
After a day of waterfront adventure, I took a trip and my appetite to the corner of 20th Street and Monticello Avenue. Doumar’s is famous for its North Carolina barbecue sandwiches, fresh-squeezed limeades, and invention of the waffle cone. The cone was invented during the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair by Abe Doumar. He built a four-iron machine that is still used every morning by his nephew, Albert. The prices are still reasonable, and everyone in town says you can’t go wrong with a barbecue sandwich and a limeade.
Visitors should not miss Norfolk’s Virginia Zoo. The 53-acre grounds are home to more than 400 animals, and the size is just right for a short visit. Check out the underwater tiger and otter viewing area for a unique sight. You can also enjoy seeing the world from a different angle in the prairie dog holes. While the Virginia Zoo may be on the small side, the animal habitats are beautiful and the education provides an afternoon of fun. I know that zoos are one of my favorite attractions on a trip.
Brunch the next morning was served on board the American Rover sailing cruise. There is nothing better than a mimosa and the wind beneath the tall sails. The cruise was very smooth and peaceful, and the American Rover offers ample seating above and below deck. I enjoyed discussing mermaid lore below deck while chowing down on my hearty breakfast.
I spent my afternoon strolling the Stockley Gardens Fall Arts Festival in historic Ghent. This festival is free and open to the public. It features live music, kids’ activities, and displays from more than 145 artists. I really enjoyed the work of Jennifer Nielsen, Sara Hunter, Brandon Thompson, and Peter Stolvoort. This festival has something for everyone.
Walking and water make a girl pretty hungry so dinner at Byrd & Baldwin Bros. Steakhouse hit the spot. Located walking distance from the waterfront this steakhouse was an easy choice. It served up a traditional Caesar salad and tasty tomato-basil skewers that will make your mouth water. The filet mignon absolutely melted in my mouth, and the skin on mashed potatoes was a perfect compliment. Byrd and Baldwin Bros. is famous for its lobster Mac ‘n’ Maytag bleu cheese, which was just the right amount of crispy and creamy.
I also had a special tour of the restaurant’s wine condos. A unique offering for customers looking for a place to store their wine, the wine condos came about when the owners began renting out space underground. Clients can rent a small rack or a big space with a small tasting area and everything in between. I wished that I owned all of the delicious-looking wines.
A few days was not enough time to see every sight in Norfolk, but it was just enough to pique my interest. Whether you stroll through Town Point Park, kayak down the Elizabeth River, feel the heat at the Chrysler Museum’s Glass Studio, or eat ice cream from a waffle cone made on the original machine, Norfolk will never cease to delight you.