18 June 2024

Best Outdoor Things to Do in Norfolk, VA

With an abundance of outdoor activities, Norfolk is the perfect destination to enjoy some sunshine. From exploring our gardens to setting sail along the Chesapeake Bay, there is a variety for you to explore. You won’t want to miss these top outdoors things to do in Norfolk, VA.

Gardens

Norfolk is home to plenty of lush green spaces, including the largest botanical garden in Virginia. No matter what time of year you’re visiting, there’s a beautiful assortment of greenery to peruse at these locally loved gardens.

HERMITAGE MUSEUM AND GARDENS

The Hermitage Museum and Gardens offers visitors a dose of history, art and horticulture all in one spot. With the Hermitage sitting right on the Lafayette River, it’s a perfect backdrop for a day spent outdoors! During the warmer months, be sure to check out the museum’s Sunsets on the River concert series for an evening of outdoor entertainment including local music, food trucks, art, local craft beer and wine. Best of all, your well-behaved dog can join in on the fun!

NORFOLK BOTANICAL GARDEN

The beautiful Norfolk Botanical Garden has over 60 themed gardens on the property, and there is always something to explore. Most blooms can be spotted during the spring and summer months, but make sure to check out their year-round gardens too. The WOW Children’s Garden features world-themed splash fountains, plus a nature walk through Plant Safari habitat gardens.

Trails

Taking the road less traveled is certainly an option. But when there’s well-established trails featuring historic points of interest, restaurants, breweries and wildlife nearby, we say it’s okay to stick to the path. Explore these trails as you get to know more about Norfolk’s past and present!

CANNONBALL TRAIL

This self-guided tour marks 400 years of Norfolk and American history. The Cannonball Trail winds along the shoreline of the Elizabeth River and through the districts of Downtown Norfolk. Pay attention to the historic sites noted on this tour for bonus history lessons on this walking trail adventure!

Elizabeth River Trail

The Elizabeth River Trail (ERT) is a 10.5-mile biking and pedestrian urban trail that will satisfy the highly active. No bike? No problem. Pedego Electric Bikes are available to rent Downtown, so get ready to cruise along as you enjoy some fantastic scenery.

On the Water

Some of the best outdoor things to do in Norfolk aren’t on dry land. Did you know that Norfolk has 144 miles of shoreline? We’re home to the Chesapeake Bay, plus the Elizabeth and Lafayette Rivers, which equals no shortage of water activities, whether you feel like being active, exploring via boat or simply relaxing on the sand.

Beaching

Did you know that Norfolk has its very own sandy beach? The areas of Ocean View and East Beach are your gateway to beach days, sandcastles, water activities, seafood and gorgeous sunsets. These beaches are perfectly situated on the Chesapeake Bay where warm waters and gentler waves make it ideal for families. Here are ideas for things to do in Ocean View, Norfolk.

Kayaking

There’s arguably no better way to reconnect with nature than by paddling out on a kayak tour to explore the gentle rivers and quiet coves which some of Norfolk’s most beautiful wildlife calls home. Rent a vessel through Norfolk Kayak Tours, embark on a guided journey at the Norfolk Botanical Garden, or BYOK (bring your own kayak) to paddle off from a public launch.

Fishing

Bordered almost entirely by water and home to the longest fishing pier in North America, Norfolk is geographically positioned for the ultimate fishing trip. No matter what your choice of fresh catch may be, you’re sure to find it in the nearby Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean or Elizabeth River. Norfolk’s mild climate and wide variety of aquatic life have made the region’s waterways one of the top fishing destinations in the world. Thousands of visitors flock to the area’s shores each year in search of the perfect fishing trip.

Sailing

With the Elizabeth River and the Chesapeake Bay running along its west and north borders, Norfolk is the ideal home for sailing. Still learning? Check out Sail Nauticus and its informative boating excursions. Sign up for a weekend course emphasizing on-the-water instruction and earn a U.S. Sailing Basic Keelboat certification.

Tours on Water

Sometimes it’s nice just to sit back, relax and let someone else be your guide for the day. Here are some tours you can sign up for if you’re looking to learn more about Norfolk’s history, see the city line from a new point of view or perhaps indulge in a scrumptious buffet, cocktails and dancing.

American Rover

Norfolk’s own tall sailing ship, the American Rover is a three-masted topsail schooner with “tanbark” sails. They offer two-hour narrated harbor tours and sunset cruises April through October embarking from Waterside Marina on the Downtown Norfolk waterfront. Once on board, guests can choose to hoist a sail with the crew, take a turn at the helm or just sit back and enjoy the scenic view. The sunset cruise also features live, acoustical entertainment.

City Cruises Norfolk

See incredible views of the Norfolk harbor and the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet aboard City Cruises Norfolk. Enjoy delicious new menus and specialty drinks. Then, dance to DJ entertainment or relax on the new rooftop lounge. It all adds up to the perfect Norfolk experience. Cruising year-round from downtown Norfolk, Spirit offers lunch, brunch, dinner, cocktail, moonlit cruises and more.

Victory Rover

Experience the most popular way to see the world’s largest naval base and the Port of Virginia. Two-hour cruises depart daily from Nauticus, home of the Battleship Wisconsin, in Downtown Norfolk. Cruise past the vessels that ensure our freedom—destroyers, cruisers, submarines, aircraft carriers and more. A fascinating fact and fun-filled narration is provided. 

Tours on Land

There’s plenty to see, do and learn off the water as well! Take a self-guided tour of Norfolk’s incredible public art murals, or join a guided tour to learn more about Norfolk’s history, art, architecture and more!

Norfolk Tour Company

Experience Norfolk in a whole new light with guided tours from Norfolk Tour Company. Explore Norfolk’s most haunted houses and theatres or enjoy the colors of the murals in the NEON District. Walk the city and learn more about its unique history with a tour through Historic Freemason or the “Underground River: Black History Tour on the ERT.”

Public Art Murals

With self-guided tours aplenty and even guided tours focused on Norfolk’s NEON District, our city’s burgeoning arts scene provides a platform for a multitude of artists to create public murals on local businesses showcasing Norfolk. Any space, whether on a building wall, a house, a shed or even the sidewalk, can be transformed into a stunning display by local artists whose love for the city is obvious in every scene.

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