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Norfolk, VA: Family Getaway | Insight Guides Blog

Norfolk, VA: Family Getaway

Norfolk Beach
Norfolk Beach

Norfolk, VA promises so many real-life nautical, artistic, and nature adventures that the kids will abandon their tablets and on-line games.

Start at Nauticus (, the massive exploration center on the Elizabeth River. It’s all about everything on, under, and around water. Stand on the observation deck while watching ships and tugs sail by and learn about maritime commerce. “Command” a submersible exploration vehicle and collect samples via a robotic arm. Budding meteorologists analyze weather patterns, experience storms in a hurricane simulator, and discover the latest in tsunami research. There are shark touch tanks and marine life labs for future marine biologists.

The battleship Wisconsin is berthed here. A self-guided tour is included in the admission fee. For an additional cost, the “Topside Tour” visits other areas, including the Captain’s Quarters and bridge. It’s a 90-minute tour for 8 years and older.

Norfolk is the world’s largest naval base. See the aircraft carriers, destroyers, and subs from the water on a 2-hour, narrated cruise ( or a 45-minute bus tour. (If you’re lucky, one of the massive ships will be in the even more massive dry dock.)

A complete change of pace is at The Chrysler Museum of Art ( The most kid-friendly gallery is the Ancient Worlds exhibit with Egyptian mummies. There’s a create-your-own art studio, too. Kids 10 years and older (and their parents) can take a quick class in glassblowing, flame working, or stained glass and finish with a unique souvenir.

The Norfolk Botanical Garden’s Children’s Adventure Garden ( is good for a half-day of activity. In good weather, get wet with the bubblers, foggers, and sprays at the interactive play area. Elsewhere, there’s a “dirt factory” with an oversized treehouse where it’s all about bugs and soil, and a “living wall” edible garden.

norfolk adventure garden

There are lots of packages available, including some family-oriented ones which include admissions and lodging. (

Don’t miss

Harborfest: June 5–7. A free festival with a tall ships sail-in, a “build a boat and will it float” contest, a tug muster, traditional Chesapeake Bay work boats, and fireworks on Saturday night. (

Doumar’s: An ice-cream lover’s shrine. It was here that the waffle cone was invented. Ice cream floats and sundaes, plus hot dogs and burgers. Curbside service, too! (

Chocollage: Near Nauticus. Mother-daughter bakery famous for homemade desserts. (

Ocean View Pier: Fish off the pier, which stretches out over 1600ft into the Chesapeake Bay. They rent and sell equipment and bait. There’s a restaurant, too. Nearby Ocean View Beach has lifeguards in season. (

Virginia Zoo: A large emphasis on conservation and natural habitats for animals from Australia, Africa, and Asia. (

Insight Guides | Fran Severn