Wanderlust is defined as a strong desire to travel, but in Virginia, we call that feeling WanderLove. To fill this desire, set out on an epic road trip to Norfolk and our neighboring city Virginia Beach! With its 182 miles of beaches, 270 miles of biking trails, over 20 breweries and numerous independently-owned eateries, the two cities have become a magnet for beachgoers, adventure seekers and foodie connoisseurs. The combination of all our attractions and museums brings you the widest range of entertainment and appreciation of world-class art. You won’t be able to see it all and will end up making some tough choices along the way. The good news is that you can’t go wrong in what you choose to do and can always return for another visit!
With these 36 hours, you’ll explore the trails of Norfolk and tour the Oceanfront wonders of Virginia Beach, all packed with foodie hot spots, eclectic art and historic sites.
3 P.M. Arrive in Norfolk and Tour the ERT
To give you a sense of our coastal city that is deeply rooted in history with southern charm, hop on the Elizabeth River Trail (ERT), a 10.5-mile pedestrian and bikeable pathway that takes you through multiple neighborhoods and intertwines with Norfolk’s Cannonball Trail (a self-guided walking tour with over 400 years of historic features). If you opt to walk, you will notice the finer details along the way, whereas biking will help you achieve more scenic mileage.
Stop by the Historic Freemason District where you’ll find the Virginia Cheese Co., an ideal spot to create your own cheese board and enjoy wine on tap. Or, if you meander just around the corner, you’ll find Four Eleven York Restaurant where you can enjoy an afternoon cocktail. We suggest their Bartender’s Experience where a specialty beverage will be concocted just for you after learning more about your favorite sips and flavor preferences. If you continue down the ERT, you will find yourself in the Chelsea neighborhood with Benchtop and Smartmouth Brewery and a delicious beer and cider bar called The Birch. The craft brews in this neighborhood are best combined with brick oven pizza from The Bakehouse at Chelsea or the fresh authentic Greek cuisine at Orapax, a third-generation family-owned restaurant.
7 P.M. Sunset Cruise on the American Rover
For a unique perspective of our city, set sail on-board the American Rover, a three-masted topsail schooner that resides in downtown Norfolk, making it an icon of our waterfront. Its distinct red sails catch the breeze and will glide you down the Elizabeth River so effortlessly. With mood-setting live music and the Norfolk skyline as your backdrop, the two hours spent out on the water will have you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
10 P.M. Late Night Dinner at Luce
Marquee dotted archways illuminate Granby Street, setting the scene perfectly for dinner at Luce. Their food profiles are exquisite, taking inspiration from both the Northern and Southern regions of Italy. Some of our locals’ favorite dishes include Mushroom Toast (Portobello, white and cremini mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, truffle oil, porcini dust and Madera), Wild Boar Ragu (ground Cinghiale ragu over house-made tagliatelle pasta topped with roasted pulled Cinghiale and rosemary-infused oil) and, of course, all the divine desserts. Their dessert menu is ever-changing but to put it simply, it’s molto buono!
9 A.M. – Bonjour to Breakfast
Rise and shine, then head to La Brioche, a beloved French-owned café where the pastries leave the display case just as quickly as they’re filled. The aroma of freshly baked goods lingers in the air, making you crave every sugar-glistened pastry and warm baguette that they offer. Try their classic puff pastry croissant or indulge in an Abricontine—a puff pastry filled with apricots and custard.
10 A.M. Head to Virginia Beach to Go Under the Sea
Hop in the car and travel 30 minutes east to Virginia Beach to visit the popular Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. This aquarium is home to about 300 species of sea animals. Watch turtles mosey around, penguins dive bomb into the water and even pet a stingray! Explore the deep depths of the Atlantic Ocean and experience the intricacies of coastal habitats from around the world during your underwater aquatic journey.
Noon Eat Up these Inlet Views
A classic surf-chic waterfront shanty that is loved by locals and tourists alike is Big Sam’s Raw Bar, a seafood favorite nestled among the docks of Rudee’s Inlet with a small-scale tropical-themed dining room. Find fresh seafood caught right off the coast with mouthwatering dishes including their Hot Blue Crab Dip and Blackened Tuna Tacos, all accompanied by views of jet skiers, dolphin sightseeing tours and yachts sailing the waters.
1:30 P.M. Catch a Breeze on the Boardwalk
Walk along the iconic three-mile Virginia Beach boardwalk with waving palm trees and salty sea breezes. The high-rise hotels and eclectic beachside restaurants paint the perfect seaside postcard. You can admire the crashing waves or venture onto the sand to dip your toes into the Atlantic Ocean. Ogle at the ocean long enough and you may spot a pod of dolphins playing in the surf.
4 P.M. See What’s Brewing at the Farmhouse
Operating out of a restored 1912 inland farmhouse, Back Bay’s Farmhouse Brewing Co., is where hoppy beverages may lure you, but the stunning medley of old Southern charm property will keep you there. Sip a seasonal cider on their white picnic tables that dress their front lawn, and snap a photo with their old-timey classic pick-up truck, making it the perfect spot for an afternoon of sips and laughs.
7:30 P.M. Dine in a Historic Carriage House
Sticking with the theme of historic homes that have been converted into taste bud paradises is Omar’s Carriage House—originally an 1840s, you guessed it, carriage house. Here you’ll find a folksy dining room serving up delectable American-Mediterranean fusion plates.
8 A.M. Breakfast at Handsome Biscuit
You know that story about the modest biscuit place that opened in Norfolk’s Park Place neighborhood and then became so famous they were featured in national publications and television shows? Well, it all started with a biscuit—but not just any biscuit. Handsome Biscuit’s story begins with the most cushiony, warm sweet potato biscuits you can imagine. Then, they stuff them with ingredients that are so phenomenal, they’re guaranteed to eliminate any possible trace of food boredom. A famous option is the Hella Fitzgerald, fried chicken, with bacon, cheddar and red eye pork sausage gravy smushed between biscuit halves. Their Hot Betty features an over hard egg with seared greens, garlic and their famous Lupo hot sauce. Feelin’ sweet? The PB & JB has peanut butter, mixed berry jam and salted butter. What more could you even want?
10:00 AM – Free Art in the NEON Arts District
Stroll the sunlit streets of NEON (new energy of Norfolk) which is home to over 70 works of public art. Building-sized murals and art installations trickle the streets and pay homage to local and touring artists who have creatively decorated every inch of this neighborhood. The creativity of the murals ranges from oversized bees on bicycles that can be spotted along Magazine Lane, to men and women in uniform elegantly painted to pay tribute to our military service members.
Once you’ve explored the painted streets of Norfolk, head over to the Chrysler Museum of Art, a museum compiled of 30,000 objects spanning over 5,000 years! The glass art exhibit that kick-started Norfolk’s glass culture lies just inside the museum’s doors. This exhibit consists of 10,000 pieces that is undoubtedly extraordinary; an art medium that captures the dance of light and color seamlessly. A glass blowing studio sits steps away from the museum, and a boutique glass-inspired hotel resides downtown with over 50 pieces of glass art inside. The appreciation for this art form is amplified once you witness glass being blown at a free demonstration at the Perry Glass Studio—a mesmerizing, unique experience.
Noon Rooftop Brunch at Grain
Before heading home, get a taste of delectable regional flavor combined with fantastic rooftop views. Located on the fifth floor of Norfolk Hilton The Main, you’ll find an all-you-can-eat brunch buffet at Grain. Enjoy specialties like fresh oysters and made-to-order omelets and tacos. The incredible views of the Elizabeth River will make for a picture-perfect Sunday brunch.
2 P.M. Roam with the Animals at the Virginia Zoo
Take one last adventure before hitting the road at the Virginia Zoo. Stroll the 53 acres of lush gardens and visit its 700 furry, feathered and scaly animal friends. Witness the animals in their natural habitat: giraffes outstretching for leaves, monkeys swinging from branch to branch and Magpies singing songs.
Follow the itinerary or wander off the list and you’ll be sure to have a memorable experience in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Not only are we neighboring cities, but we also have teamed up to create the At Last Pass, a pass that brings you the best savings and deals of the year. So bring your family, your friends, or a date—your vacation is here, at last.