23 June 2022

Best Ice Cream and Gelato Shops in Norfolk

There’s no better way to cool down in the hot summer months (or indulge any time of year) than by visiting some ice cream shops. You may already know that the original waffle cone was created right here in Norfolk, but did you also know you can delight in outrageous milkshakes, Thai rolled ice cream and ethereal selections of gelato all within our city? Here are some of the hottest places for the coolest treats in Norfolk.

Doumar’s

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Every day is ice cream day at Doumar’s where they crank out creamy shakes and ice cream sundaes in their nostalgic diner that’s been operating for more than a century. They’re most known for their handmade waffle cones, rolled right in front of your eyes on the original machine built in 1904, but you also can’t go wrong with their shortcakes, splits, sundaes and shakes, most of which come with whipped cream and a classic cherry on top.

On Ice

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If you thought all ice cream was created equally, think again. At On Ice, located near Naval Station Norfolk, the made-from-scratch batches are created in a unique, nitrogen-based method, transforming a simple ice cream shop visit into a fascinating show and learning experience. Choose from sundae flavors like Chocolate Explosion or Strawberry Cream Pie, or make your own by combining ice cream flavors with fun toppings. Enjoy them traditionally, or opt for the N₂.I.C.E.D. version in which ingredients are whipped into a sphere and flash frozen for an airy, crunchy texture.

Shake It Up Shakes

@seldenmarket, Instagram

Want to shake up your dessert game–who doesn’t? Shake It Up Shakes is famous for their over-the-top gourmet milkshakes that break all the rules and surpass all the expectations of what a traditional milkshake should be. Top it with ice cream sandwiches and lollipops? No problem. Caffeinate with a cold brew coffee shake? Absolutely. Make it vegan? You got it. This beloved business started as a regional food truck and now has a home in Downtown’s Selden Market, so find out what’s shakin’ as you pass through for a sweet treat. 

S’Mores Amore

S’mores have been a Downtown staple ever since Owner Duane Dinio first invited customers to “get fired up” at his Selden Market shop. Picture a perfect square of graham cracker crust, layered with a brownie or blondie and topped with a marshmallow toasted to perfection right before your eyes. If that wasn’t heavenly enough, S’mores Amore added an ice cream menu that melds handmade ice cream with chunks of S’mores Amore brownie or blondie pieces for a cool way to enjoy the ultimate s’mores experience.

Strawberry Fields

@sfnorfolk, Instagram

If strawberry fields are forever, that’s how long we’ll be obsessed with this gem of a gelato shop in Norfolk’s Ghent neighborhood. Each day, their gelato is made from scratch with new flavors consistently posted on their social media. From ooey gooey cake to brown butter pecan, there’s surely a flavor to suit your fancy. Check out this City with Bite episode on Strawberry Fields to learn more

Urban Ice

You’ve had ice cream in a bowl, cone, blender, cake and sandwich, but have you had it rolled? Thai rolled ice cream is created by pouring liquid ice cream ingredients onto a below-freezing surface, spreading it out, cutting into strips, rolling them up and topping with all sorts of sweet creations. At Urban Ice, you can create your own combination or go with a favorite like Cookie Monster or Mango Tango.

YNot Italian

This family-focused Italian eatery is known and loved for their pizzas, pastas, chop salads and other Italian treats. Family secret: always save room for dessert. It’s impossible to walk past YNot’s colorful case of homemade Italian cream gelatos and not leave with a 4-ounce container (or a pint … or a quart). Look for classics like vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and mint chocolate chip, plus rotating flavors and even non-dairy fruit gelato options. 

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17 June 2022

Eco-Friendly Attractions in Norfolk

Whether you’re aiming to reduce your carbon footprint as you travel or interested in supporting eco-friendly businesses, there are many reasons to keep sustainability at the forefront these days. The City of Norfolk’s Environmental Sustainability and Climate Action Team is focused on several key initiatives to combat climate change and its impacts. These include advancing climate justice, facilitating green living and greening city operations. Wondering how you can join in the eco-friendly efforts during your time in Norfolk? As it turns out, it is easy being green—and quite fun too! Here are some recommended eco-friendly attractions in Norfolk that you can enjoy guilt-free and green-minded.

Elizabeth River Trail 

The Elizabeth River Trail (also known as ERT) is Norfolk’s 10.5-mile-long walk and bikeable pathway that takes you through multiple neighborhoods with different waterfront views. It’s a great way to experience many different attractions and enjoy the outdoors in Norfolk. Efforts led by the Elizabeth River Trail Foundation aim to expand, enhance and transform the ERT as a recreational, social and educational destination that improves environmental awareness, neighborhood connectivity and innovative economic development. Initiatives such as kayak launches, solar lighting, playgrounds and improved wayfinding are just a few of the developments on the horizon for ERT. 

Hilton Norfolk The Main

If you’re committed to traveling green, then certainly you’ll want to book green accommodations too. Hilton Norfolk The Main, conveniently located Downtown, is a LEED-certified hotel, scoring points in categories including sustainable sites, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, regional priority credits and innovation–which received a top score.

Less Than

@golessthan, Instagram

This zero waste + refill shop in Ghent features sustainable alternatives to everyday items that are healthier for you and our planet. Look for eco-friendly products made from natural ingredients that are free from harsh, synthetic chemicals and stem from makers who are environmentally aware. Household items like soap, lotion and deodorant are sold in recycled, recyclable, compostable or biodegradable packaging—or without packaging at all. Customers are encouraged to bring their own containers and fill or refill to their heart’s desire. Products can be purchased in store or online. 

Nauticus Museum

In 2018, Nauticus installed the East Coast’s first Seabin, a floating trash bin with a pump that filters trash out of the Elizabeth River. The Elizabeth River is home to one of the busiest commercial ports in the world, but it’s also home to otters, oysters and other marine life that depend on clean water to survive and thrive. In its first year of operation, the Seabin cleaned 1,000 pounds of garbage out of the river. Nauticus now owns three Seabins, and the Museum’s Junior Scientists maintain and measure progress to better understand how we can move forward in reducing waste to protect our waterways. As a River Star Model Level Business and certified Virginia Green attraction, Nauticus is committed to minimizing its environmental impacts by preventing pollution in its operations and educating the public on the importance of green practices through programs, exhibits and events. Learn more about their conservation programs and conservation efforts.

Norfolk Botanical Garden

It may seem obvious that a botanical garden would be eco-focused, but Norfolk Botanical Garden takes it a step further: they’re powered by 100 percent renewable energy! Through the Dominion Energy Green Power program, the Garden can match 100 percent of their monthly electricity usage with Renewable Energy Certificates. Other initiatives include 120 on-site solar panels that power a propagation greenhouse, plus environmental stewardship programs like composting areas, beehives and sustainability workshops for visitors.

O’Connor Brewing Co.

O’Connor Brewing Co. partnered with Surfrider Foundation (which works to protect and preserve the world’s oceans, waves and beaches) in the creation of their beer garden. With conservation, permeability and water retention at the forefront of consideration, O’Connor designed their beer garden to conserve water, energy and wildlife; ensure permeability of soil to let water sink in; and retain rainwater to prevent pollution runoff. 

Virginia Zoo

Not only is the Virginia Zoo a great place to experience and learn about a variety of mammals, reptiles and amphibians from around the world; it’s also ideal for engaging in multiple conservation efforts, including a butterfly habitat and wetland and oyster restoration. The Zoo utilizes Green Living initiatives on-site including power conservation through sensor lights in guest areas, filtering run-off stormwater through three rain gardens throughout the Zoo, recycling and installing an Eco-Garden featuring environmentally-friendly garden techniques including composting. Plus, their Aldabra tortoise house features “living” walls and roof to educate visitors about opportunities to be green at home.

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07 June 2022

Norfolk Juneteenth Events

When Juneteenth became officially recognized as a federal holiday in 2021, it marked a pivotal moment in African American and American history. Although Juneteenth (June 19) is the longest-running African American holiday, its national observance sparked a new opportunity for education, celebration and dialogue. 

History of Juneteenth

Known as African American Independence Day, Freedom Day or Jubilee Day, Juneteenth commemorates the effective end of slavery in the United States. Although the Emancipation Proclamation proclaimed the freedom of more than 3.5 million enslaved African Americans on Jan. 1, 1863, it took over two years for word to spread to all enslaved people. In fact, some enslavers deliberately withheld news about freedom to maintain labor on the plantation, waiting until harvest season was over. This was the case for many slave owners in Texas–a state that hadn’t experienced a significant presence of Union troops and was considered a safe haven for slavery. 

On June 19, 1865, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to spread the news, take control and ensure that the remaining 250,000 enslaved people in Texas were freed. The following year, Texas freedmen started the first “Jubilee Day” celebration on June 19. The tradition has continued, influencing commemorations that include music, food and religious services and, more recently, festivals, rallies, memorials and parades.

“Black Lives More Than Matter,” a mural in Norfolk’s NEON District painted by local artists Nicole Harp and Clayton Singleton

How to Celebrate

There are many ways to celebrate Juneteenth in Norfolk this year, from walking tours and library programs to festivals and performances–plus virtual events! Here are some ways to commemorate this history and  holiday.

Juneteenth Trivia Contest

Norfolk Public Libraries in-person or via social media, June 13–17
All who answer correctly will be entered into a prize drawing for an Ancestry DNA Kit, “Flavors of Africa: Discover Authentic Family Recipes from All Over the Continent” cookbook, “The 1619 Project” book collection and a Ghanaian Wing U-Shopper Bolga Basket.

Black History on the ERT: A Juneteenth Walking Tour

Elizabeth River Trail, June 17
Join Norfolk Tour Company on the Elizabeth River Trail to explore 400 years of African American history along the trail. This free, one-hour walking tour will in part cover Norfolk’s role in the slave trade, along with some of the historic moments, heroes and sites of the pivotal history of the African American experience in South Hampton Roads. Meet at Waterside Marina. No registration required. 7–8 p.m.

Festevents

Juneteenth in the Park

Town Point Park, June 18
Presented by Norfolk Festevents, this second annual event features on-site job interviews, complimentary lunch, health and financial wellness, career education, live music, presentations and thousands of dollars in prizes. The event is free and held from noon to 5 p.m.

Celebrate Juneteenth with Storyteller Eunice Shands

Norfolk Public Libraries Facebook (virtual program) June 18
Eunice Shands will conduct a book talk on the picture book, “The 1619 Project: Born on the Water.” 2 p.m.

Smartmouth Juneteenth Solstice Fest

Celebrate Juneteenth National Independence Day at Smartmouth’s Second Annual Juneteenth Solstice Festival at the Norfolk HQ! This all-day celebration features food trucks, local vendors, live painters and an array of musicians from across the region. This event is free. Noon–9 p.m.

Frederick Douglass: “On Slavery and Emancipation” 

Norfolk Public Libraries virtual program, June 18
In this performance, Frederick Douglass, portrayed by Nathan Richardson, shares true stories of his life of being enslaved, his escape to freedom and his rise as a great writer, orator and abolitionist. He will recite an excerpt from his most famous speech, “What to the Slave is the 4th of July.” Registration is required. Email nplprograms@norfolk.gov for access. 8 a.m.

Community Day at Richard A. Tucker Memorial Library

Richard A. Tucker Memorial Library, June 18
The event will encompass a celebration of Juneteenth, Black Music Month and the Summer Reading Program Kickoff. Activities will include a youth band, gospel choir, arts and crafts, inflatables, StoryWalk with “The 1619 Project: Born on the Water,” children’s village and more. Noon to 4 p.m.

Juneteenth Freedom Festival at Slover Library

Slover Library, June 18
Presented by Slover Library and TRS Productions, the 2022 Juneteenth Freedom Festival is a free family event featuring a vendor fair, drum circles, African dance classes, music, trivia, art, living history museum, an “At the Table” soul food exhibit and an African American Heritage in Stitching Freedom Quilt presentation. Festivities conclude with a theatrical performance, “Juneteenth the Production,” where visitors journey back in time with two grandparents to learn the historical significance of Freedom Day (Juneteenth). 1–5 p.m. 

Family Day: Juneteenth at the Chrysler Museum

Chrysler Museum of Art, June 18
Honor African Americans past and present who fought for freedom during the Chrysler Museum’s Juneteenth celebration. Examine works by Black artists spanning centuries and create your own works of art to celebrate the fight for freedom. 10 a.m.–3 p.m.

Juneteenth Your Way: Self-Guided Explorations and Activities

With any holiday, individuals, families and communities commemorate in ways that feel special to them. Here are some additional ideas to begin your own Juneteenth traditions. 

Take a Self-Guided Tour of Waterways to Freedom

With its complex and interwoven waterways, Virginia provided a starting point for thousands of individuals to escape slavery. Fugitive slaves would depart on wharves, steamships and schooners and be assisted by safe houses (especially churches and neighborhoods) on their journey to northern states and Canada. Take a self-guided tour of Underground Railroad Sites in Norfolk and Portsmouth and learn the history of the people and places that made it possible to escape–and the many dangerous obstacles that stood in the way. 

Visit West Point Monument at West Point Cemetery

West Point Monument was dedicated as a special place of burial for African American Union Civil War and Spanish American War veterans. It is one of only a few African American Civil War Memorials located in the South. The Civil War soldier depicted on the monument is Norfolk native Sergeant William H. Carney of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment. Carney was the first black soldier to receive the Medal of Honor for his bravery. Nearly 100 African American veterans are laid to rest in the West Point Cemetery. West Point Cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 and is now commemorated with a historical highway marker along Princess Anne Road.

Support a local Black-owned business

The city of Norfolk would not be the creative, diverse and vibrant community that it is without the endless contributions made by African American residents and business owners. From scrumptious soul food to self-care sanctuaries, we celebrate these businesses within our city and encourage you to visit their establishments as you celebrate Juneteenth–but especially all year long.

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02 June 2022

A History Lover's Guide to Norfolk

Norfolk’s history dates back to 1682 when it was first founded. It was settled by an Englishman named Adam Thoroughgood, who ultimately named Norfolk after his birthplace, Norfolk, England. From the time it was settled to the present day, countless battles, wars, and fires influenced and shaped Norfolk to be the diverse, eclectic and deeply-rooted historic city it is today. 

Below you will find a two-day itinerary full of our historic sites, tours, how to explore our naval history and all the best historic places to dine. 

Day One 

Check into your historic accommodations: the Glass Light Hotel, a 1912 boutique hotel and art gallery or Four Eleven York, an 1890s Victorian home-turned-boutique-inn in the heart of the Freemason District. Now, drop your bags and start exploring!

Take a self-guided tour

@erikdeseanbarrett, Instagram

Cannonball Trail

The best way to jump into our history is through the Cannonball Trail, a walk-it-yourself tour meandering through 400 years of Norfolk and American history. The trail winds through the ancient cobblestone streets of West Freemason, the earliest residential streetscape in Norfolk. Then, it leads Downtown where turn-of-the-century buildings stand in the shadows of modern structures. Along the trail, you will notice narrative plaques which mark places and events of historic interest. Allot a full two hours to complete the entire tour. 

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Along this tour, you will come across St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, built in 1739. In addition to being the oldest building in Norfolk that has survived all the wars and fires, the church is a point of interest because of the cannonball lodged in the side of the building. This cannonball dates back to the Revolutionary War (more specifically New Year’s day of 1776) when Lord Dunmore was fleeing Norfolk (due to defeat) and fled to his ship just offshore. From his ship, he fired this cannonball, which can still be seen today.

MacArthur Memorial

Visit the MacArthur Memorial, dedicated to the life and legacy of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. The Memorial also pays tribute to the millions of Americans who served during the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Located Downtown, the Memorial consists of a museum, archive and research center, education center, theater, welcome center and gift shop. A visit to the Memorial will allow you to explore the life of one of America’s greatest and most complex leaders. Admission is free.

Explore a Historic Home

Hunter House Victorian Museum

Book an advanced reservation to tour the Hunter House Victorian Museum during its open season (typically April–December). Constructed in 1894 for local merchant and banker James Wilson Hunter and his family, Hunter House was designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style and serves as a rich example of Victorian decorative arts and architecture both inside and out. The Hunters were avid travelers, and you can explore the family’s collection of furniture, books, decorative objects and more from the Victorian era inside. 

@alexsummy1984, Instagram

Moses Myers House

Moses Myers, one of America’s first millionaires, a leading citizen and Norfolk’s first prominent Jewish-American family that composed the region’s entire Jewish population for over a decade, built the Moses Myers House in 1792 for his family. The home was passed down through several generations of the family, and today, about 70 percent of the current collection of furnishings is original to the first generation of Myers. The furnishings reflect the French influences, which were prevalent during this time period. Visitors must call ahead to schedule a tour. 

@dkkealey, Instagram

Hermitage Museum and Gardens

The Hermitage Museum and Gardens is an early 20th century 42-room historic mansion on 12 acres of semi-formal gardens, forest and wetlands along the Lafayette River. Hermitage founders and residents William and Florence Sloan were wealthy New Yorkers who moved to the South and constructed this beautiful mansion in 1908. The Sloans had a great interest in the arts and were cultured collectors. With over 5,000 objects, the Sloane Collection spans 5,000 years of art history and represents over 30 countries. Today, you can tour this historic museum home for free Tuesdays through Sundays.

See a show

Attucks Theatre

The Attucks Theatre is a historical icon in Norfolk and was the heartbeat of Church Street in the 1920s. It played a crucial role for African Americans in Norfolk as one of the first theaters in the United States to be designed, financed, built and operated by only African Americans.The hustle and bustle this theater brought to Norfolk was paramount in the city gaining its “Harlem of the South” status. Today, you can attend a show at this theater and relish in its beauty. 

Dine in a historic carriage house or old church

Freemason Abbey

Freemason Abbey encompasses the three pillars of our city: astounding art, rich history and a thriving culinary scene. The building that Freemason Abbey is housed in was once a church and dates back to 1873, making it one of the oldest establishments in the city. You will see that the restaurant’s stained glass windows are stunning works of art and original to the building. As for their menu offerings, you can’t go wrong with their seafood dishes, and we highly recommend their award-winning She Crab soup! 

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Omar’s Carriage House

Omar’s Carriage house is originally an 1840s–you guessed it–carriage house. The mansion that this carriage house once belonged to was destroyed back in the 1930s, but the carriage house stood untouched. Once inside, look up and spot the large opening where hay used to be loaded into carriages. Delight in a fabulous menu of American-Mediterranean fusion plates while soaking up a bit of history. 

DAY 2

Caffeinate In A Victorian House

Mea Culpa

Start your day caffeinated with a latte from Mea Culpa, a café housed in a historic 1904 Victorian residence. Most locals will suggest this café for their waffle sandwiches since the owner once ran a favorite foodie pop-up called Waffletina. However, in looking for a more permanent space, Mea Culpa was born and now has much more than decadent waffle sandwiches. Customers will find local Three Ships coffee and espresso with house-made seasonal syrups that make their lattes extra special. 

Admire the Norfolk mace

Chrysler Museum of Art

In 1754, Norfolk was gifted a mace by the lieutenant governor of colonial Virginia Robert Dinwiddie. A mace is a highly ornamented staff that was once used as a weapon of war during medieval times but eventually transformed into a prestigious symbol of rank and authority held within government. Norfolk’s mace survived destructions; it was purposely buried to survive fires, hidden under hearths to avoid being seen by Union troops and even disappeared for some time before being found in a pile of trash. Now, this beautiful 41-inch long silver mace can be viewed at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Gallery 209.

Take a Self-Guided Tour

Fort Norfolk

Fort Norfolk is the last remaining of 19 harbor-front forts authorized in 1794 by President George Washington. In the Civil War, Confederate forces seized the fort and used its magazine to supply the CSS Virginia (Merrimack) during its battle with the USS Monitor. In 1862 the fort was recaptured by the Union Army and used as a prison. Guided tours run from Noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Entry requires a form of ID. 

Quarantine Road

Unrelated to any recent pandemic-associated quarantine, Norfolk’s Quarantine Road (constructed in 1783) holds significant history as one of the oldest roads in Norfolk to still exist. The purpose of the road was to minimize the spread of infectious diseases such as Yellow Fever from foreign passengers and merchants. Take a stroll or bike down the throughway (crushed seashells line the way) to locate the historic maker that resides near Old Dominion University. 

Haunted Tour 

With history comes haunts. Many of our historical sites are tied to ghost stories, folklores or tragedy, but the best way to learn these legends is through a guided tour. Check out Norfolk Tour Company’s Haunted Norfolk Tours. They will take you to places like old cemeteries, the Wells Theatre and more. Prepared to be spooked! 

Explore Our Naval History

Victory Rover 

You will have a wealth of knowledge when taking part in a Victory Rover Naval Base Cruise, so hop on board and learn about the Port of Virginia, shipbuilding, history of Norfolk and the most anticipated sight, the world’s largest Naval Base, Naval Station Norfolk. Not everyone has access to the base itself, so this is the next best way to take in the sights of the mighty destroyers, awe over aircraft carriers, sneak a peek at the submarines and learn about all the other crucial vessels that may be in dock. Pictures are more than encouraged! 

Hampton Roads Naval Museum

Located inside Nauticus, the Hampton Roads Naval Museum is operated by the United States Navy and celebrates over 200 years of U.S. Naval history in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. Free admission.

Battleship Wisconsin

Located in Downtown Norfolk, the Battleship Wisconsin is one of the largest and last battleships ever built by the U.S. Navy. Explore its deck through a self-guided tour or, with an additional charge, a guided Topside Tour that will take you back in time to experience this majestic ship that earned five battle stars during WWII. 

Have a Drink or Meal in a Historic Building

@press626_awinebar, Instagram

Press 626

Press 626 Cafe and Wine Bar is housed in a historic 1906 Victorian home that once served as a bank. Wines are pulled from the former bank vault behind the bar and served to visitors relaxing in cozy nooks and on the front porch. Wines are enjoyed best when paired with an ever-changing menu created from local, in-season produce. 

@reaverbeach, Instagram

Reaver Beach Brewing

Next, grab a brew at Reaver Beach Brewing, located inside a historic post office dating back to 1945. While inside, notice an upstairs portion, also classified as a catwalk, which is original to the layout of the post office. Today, this catwalk is enlisted as an adults-only area with tables and chairs, but back in time, inspectors used these catwalks to prevent crime. Inspectors would also use a secluded back door to sneak into the post office, and today, that hidden stairwell is now a mini-museum to showcase Reaver Beach’s evolution as a brewery. 

Razzo

Razzo is a well-established and very loved Italian restaurant in Norfolk housed in a nationally recognized firehouse building dating back to 1923. The exterior of the firehouse looks identical to that of its past, but the fire engines doors are now made of gorgeous mahogany wood. Enjoy local favorites like stuffed eggplant, lasagna or brick oven pizza under their outdoor lighted patio or inside the firehouse where you can picture the heroic work that once lived under this roof. 

Byrd & Baldwin

Byrd & Baldwin, one of Norfolk’s fine dining staples, comes with a fine amount of history too. Built in 1906 as home to a real estate investment firm of the same name, the property underwent roughly 30 years of vacancy and neglect before being purchased and painstakingly preserved. The building’s architectural integrity was kept intact to precisely reproduce mahogany trim, leaded glass and skylights and sliding paired entry doors. Be sure to note the original safe and building name chiseled on the facade as you’re enjoying an upscale meal at this traditional steak and chophouse.

By now we hope you have learned a lot about Norfolk’s long past, but know that this itinerary doesn’t encompass all that there is to know either. Check out our historic webpage for even more ideas, attractions and historical fun. 

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