If you are looking to get out of town this holiday season, Norfolk, VA is the place to be.
Norfolk is a waterfront city located in southeastern Virginia. It is home to the Naval Station Norfolk, a massive naval base on Chesapeake Bay. Other attractions include the Nauticus maritime museum, the Chrysler Museum of Art and the Virginia Zoo.
The city is a great place to visit any time of year, but it is especially exciting during the Christmas season. Here are some things you can see and do when you’re in town.
Winterfest on the Wisconsin
Winterfest is the region’s only waterfront light festival. It takes place on the Battleship Wisconsin from mid-November until early December. It includes the following attractions:
• A dazzling walk-through light trail with over 250,00 lights
• Special tree lighting ceremonies
• A Winterfest tour of the Battleship Wisconsin
• Santa and elf sightings
• Live entertainment
• A lighted sailboat parade (6PM on Saturdays only)
• Holiday snacks and beverages
• Nightly snowfall
New lights are added each year ensuring each event is more spectacular than the last.
Zoolumination is a light display that happens at the Virginia Zoo. The Zoo has recently added 29 inflatable animals to the display including a trio of 30-foot giraffes and a five-foot-tall crocodile. Guests can travel the grounds by car to see the animals come to life.
Thanksgiving Day Lunch Cruise
If you are in Norfolk for Thanksgiving, don’t miss out on a Thanksgiving Lunch Cruise hosted by City Cruises by Hornblower. Relax onboard while enjoying views of the Atlantic Fleet. The package includes:
• A lunch buffet
• A 2.5-hour cruise on the Elizabeth River
• DJ entertainment
• Interactive games
• A dance floor
New Year’s Day Brunch Cruise
Sprit of Norfolk by Hornblower offers brunch and lunch cruises on New Year’s Day.
The brunch event is jazz themed. It includes:
• Live jazz ensembles, including the trio from Forte Jazz Band, performing on every deck
• A 2-hour cruise on the Elizabeth River
• Unlimited mimosas for guests 21+
• A buffet brunch
The evening cruise offers:
• A 2-hour cruise on the Elizabeth River
• A buffet lunch
• Complimentary champagne for guests 21+
• A live DJ
• Festive décor
• A champagne toast
Ice Skating at MacArthur Center
Ice skating is a great winter activity and MacArthur on Ice is the place to do it. Spin around the rink while snow falls to really get into the holiday spirit.
Then head next door to MacArthur Center to get holiday shopping done at the 140 plus shops while enjoying the 18-screen theater and the beautiful 70-foot atrium. There will also be meet and greets with Santa.
The Lighted Boat Parade
The Sailboat Parade is part of the Winterfest event. It takes place on a Saturday in mid-December. Guests can gather along the Elizabeth River to see the fleet of sailboats decorated with holiday lights sail by. The Norfolk Fire Department boat will be bringing Santa onboard.
The boats in the fleet are part of Sail Nauticus, a youth sailing program that serves at risk students throughout the region.
Norfolk Botanical Gardens
Norfolk Botanical Gardens is a Virginia’s largest botanical gardens and arboretum. It hosts a Christmas event that has been called one of the “best Botanical Garden holiday light shows in the country”.
The event typically includes a Million Bulb Walk that takes visitors through morphing lights in the arboretum, falling snow lights and an underwater scene. There are also 44-foot-tall trees and a Polar Prop Station.
Due to COVID 19, the event will be presented in drive through version only. Guests will have the opportunity to ride the Tinsel Tram through the Dominion Energy Garden of Lights. Hot cocoa is available from the Marigold & Honey Café food truck.
Check out the Tree at Townebank Fountain Park
Townebank Fountain Park is a terrific picnic spot for the family. It offers family-oriented games and hours of outdoor entertainment. During the Christmas season, a holiday tree is erected on the waterfront making for an ideal location to take photos. Afterward, stroll around the nearby Waterfront District to check out the many shops and restaurants.
Holiday Shopping at Selden Market
Selden Market is a shopping mall with a twist. Located in the heart of downtown, the innovative retail space houses local startups and pop-up shops so there is always something new and exciting. It’s a great place to find holiday gifts.
Visit the Ghent Neighborhood
Many neighborhoods will be dressed to the nines for the holiday season, but the historic Ghent neighborhood is one that you won’t want to miss. The tree-lined residential streets are filled with beautifully decorated homes. There are also terrific parks, water views of the Hague and fantastic shops and eateries.
Try the Holiday Helper IPA at Smartmouth Brewery
Smartmouth Brewery is located on the banks of the Elizabeth River. It features a tasting room where you can relax and sip on the unique brews. Free tours are also available.
During the holiday season, the company releases a Holiday Helper Red IPA which has a sweet, spicy aroma and a rich chocolate caramel taste. Stop by to enjoy a pint on tap.
During the holiday season, many bars erect firepits outside their bars making for comfortable sidewalk and rooftop drinking. They can be found outside hotspots like Perro Blanco, O’Connor Brewing Company, TASTE Ghent, Hank’s Filling Station, Mermaid Winery, Torch, Leone’s and throughout the Waterside District.
Norfolk offers the perfect mix of charm and modernity making it the ideal place to visit during the holiday season. What will you be doing first when you get to town?