Norfolk's waterfront maritime attractions: At the Nauticus, the National Maritime Center, the main attractions include Nauticus
, a hands-on ocean-related science and technology center, and battleship U.S.S. Wisconsin
, one of the last battleships built by the U.S. Navy; it earned five battle stars during World War II and is docked adjacent to the center. Inside Nauticus, there's also the Hampton Roads Naval Museum
, focusing on all things naval. Nearby on the waterfront is the Armed Forces Memorial
(look for the large American flag) which features poignant letters, cast in bronze, from soldiers who did not make it back from battle. Take the two-hour Victory Rover Naval Base Cruises to see the world's largest Naval facility; the narrated cruise goes past aircraft carriers, nuclear subs and guided missile cruisers. Tickets are available at Nauticus or buy a combo with Nauticus admission. (One Waterside Drive; 757-627-7406)
Another fascinating military-oriented museum is the Douglas MacArthur Memorial
, which features exhibits and artifacts from the Spanish American War, World Wars I and II, the occupation of Japan and the Korean War. Open Monday - Saturday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. (MacArthur Square, 421 E. City Hall Avenue; 757-441-2965)
Tour historic Norfolk on foot via Journey to Freedom, Hampton Roads' Cannonball Trail and the Underground Railroad
. It begins at 401 Freemason Street and winds through the city, pointing out some 40 points of historic interest.
The Chrysler Museum of Art
is the city's art showplace, featuring permanent exhibitions of American and European masterpieces along with collections of decorative arts and glass. It's in the historic Ghent neighborhood. Open Wednesday 10 a.m. - 9 p.m., Thursday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sunday noon - 5 p.m. (245 W. Olney Road; 757-664-6200)
Shopping fanatics should head to Norfolk's premier mall -- MacArthur Center
-- right downtown and featuring some 140 stores (including more than 50 not found anywhere else in the area) anchored by Nordstrom's and Dillard's, movie theaters and restaurants. Open 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. (300 Monticello Ave.; 757-627-6000)Ghent
is Norfolk's arty, fashionable historic neighborhood, with plenty of boutiques, antique shops, restaurants and cafes. Drive there from the ship pier.
Catch a ballgame. The AAA Norfolk Tides
is the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, and a member of the International League.
Go for a sail on a three-masted ship. American Rover Tall Ship
offers two- and three-hour narrated trips on schooner-style vessels. (333 Waterside Dr.; 757-627-7245) The Carrie B Showboat
, a 19th-century riverboat, also offers an over-water expedition. (1238 Bay Street, Portsmouth; 945-609-4735)
Sun lovers should head to nearby Virginia Beach
(a 20-minute drive) where there's a rollicking boardwalk (you can rent bikes and roller blades) and beach scene. Beyond beaches, key attractions in Virginia Beach include Virginia Marine Science Museum with its 800,000-gallon open-air ocean aquarium (717 General Booth Blvd., Virginia Beach; 757-385-7777); First Landing State Park, with some 2,888 acres of marshes, mosses, and forests plus 27 miles of hiking and cycling trails (2500 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach; 757-412-2300); and, for new-agers, the programs and a fabulous book/gift shop at Association for Research and Enlightenment, devoted to the study of Edgar Cayce, a major 20th-century psychic. (215 67th St., Virginia Beach; 800-333-4499/ 757-428-3588)
Take a drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
. The 17.6-mile span connects Virginia with the Eastern Shore. The views are fabulous -- it's a great place for birdwatching, as well -- and there are numerous scenic pull-offs.
Seek history, tourist-style. Historic Colonial Williamsburg
is just 45 minutes away; this living history museum features a view of American life from 1699 to 1780 and encompasses more than 500 buildings, homes, trade shops and taverns. (E. Francis St., Williamsburg; 757-229-1000/ 800-447-8679) Also near the city of Williamsburg is the fabulous Busch Gardens
, a European-themed theme park with main stage productions and some 35 rides. (One Busch Gardens Blvd.; 800-343-7946)
Visit the animals. The 100-year-old Virginia Zoo
in Norfolk has an exciting new exhibit called Africa which features creatures from the Okavango Delta including giraffes, zebras, elephants, lions, white rhinos, baboons and more. Open daily 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. (3500 Granby St.; 757-441-2374)