09 November 2023

Norfolk's Best Holiday Attractions

The holiday season is here, and with it brings a whole host of fun activities! Norfolk is known for its unique holiday events, from dazzling light displays to parades on both the streets and water. Here are some unique activities and events to spice up your holiday season.

WinterFest on the Wisconsin 

Celebrate the holidays at Nauticus! This season will shine even brighter as WinterFest on the Wisconsin returns with more than 1 million lights! Explore nine dazzling light trails throughout the Battleship Wisconsin, and experience Mistletoe Marina, an immersive, waterfront wonderland. Explore all-new interior spaces aboard the battleship, enjoy two new shows nightly by the mischievous Grinch, come aboard a polar train journey, and enjoy sweets and treats.

Downtown Norfolk 

Courtesy of Downtown Norfolk Council

Downtown Norfolk is illuminated for the holiday season! Buildings are decked with holiday lights, big, red bows adorn streetlamps, windows glow with cheery displays (check out VisitNorfolk’s Visitor Center window!), giant Christmas trees tower over passersby in city squares, and festive art lines historic Granby Street.

Garden of Lights at Norfolk Botanical Garden

If you thought the Norfolk Botanical Garden was magical during the daytime, just wait until you see it at night during the holidays. Twinkling lights transform the garden into a holiday wonderful complete with various themes, configurations and even some familiar characters along the way. The magically designed route is sure to please with new lighting features including a spectacular lighting display highlighting our NATO Tower. The path will take you through portions of the Garden for an immersive experience that will lead back to the main parking lot.

Grand Illumination Parade

Norfolk’s Grand Illumination Parade that takes place every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, bringing thousands of spectators out to the streets of Downtown Norfolk to take in the beauty, magic, and electric holiday spirit to kick off the season. This year, the 36th Annual Grand Illumination Parade takes place in Downtown Norfolk on Saturday, November 18 at 7 p.m. The theme of this year’s parade is “Gingerbread Dreams,” so get ready to see the streets filled with all things holiday!

Holiday Yule Log Bonfire & Christmas Marketplace

Shop local, visit Santa, and welcome in the holiday season at the 9th Annual Holiday Yule Log Bonfire & Christmas Marketplace on Saturday, December 2, 2023, from noon to 8 p.m. at Town Point Park along the Downtown Waterfront Norfolk. The free event features an expansive shopping experience showcasing local small businesses and artisans, a cozy bonfire, a live ice carving demonstration, seasonal cocktails and warm beverages, plus free Santa Claus visits, all in a beautiful, snowy winter wonderland along the Elizabeth River.

This year, the event also presents even more specialty, family-friendly entertainment. Look for the Santa Express train rides, fun and games with DJ Melody, holiday-themed arts and crafts, meet and greets with Disney princesses and much more. Also new this year is the Sensory Inclusive Zone, a dedicated area for those wanting a break from the noise, action and crowds. The area will be staffed and be designated for families with special needs.

Hunter House Victorian Museum

Nestled along the historic cobblestone streets of Norfolk’s Freemason District sits the immaculately decorated Hunter House Victorian Museum. The Hunter sisters, Harriet and Eloise, who pushed the Victorian boundaries of feminine social life in the South, chose to have their home live on as a museum of decorative arts and furnishings. The museum plays elegantly to their wishes, draping the extravagant home in handmade garlands, Victorian tea sets and a lavishly decorated towering Christmas tree. The best part about the museum during the holidays is the themed events like the Merry Little Christmas Tea and reenactments of the classic, “The Night Before Christmas.”

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