29 July 2022

A Weekend in Downtown Norfolk

Downtown Norfolk is the perfect destination for a fun-filled weekend. It’s got with never-ending historic sites, attractions, a waterfront, tours and endless places to munch and mingle. Make sure you stop by the VisitNorfolk Visitor Center for free maps, guides and recommendations to help you make the most of your stay here. While you’re here, browse our Mermaid Market to find some Norfolk- and Virginia-centric gifts to enjoy back home. Enjoy your weekend!

While strolling through Downtown and visiting these destinations, you can check into the spots through our Discover Downtown Pass and earn your way to some Norfolk freebies. You will earn free swag for every five check-ins, no purchase required. Download the free pass here!

Friday 

3 p.m. Welcome to Norfolk

Downtown Norfolk is filled with many attractions and shops, but one of the best parts is the city’s bikeability. Venture to Pedego bike shop, located within MacArthur Square, for electric bike rentals to explore our 12 tight-knit blocks—water views of the Elizabeth River,  the Cannonball TrailHarbor Park, the Battleship Wisconsin and Freemason District are all among the things you may see while rolling through our streets.

5:30 p.m. Rooftop Italian Cocktail

Once you’re tuckered out from pedaling, make your way to Leone’s on Granby Street for a pre-dinner cocktail. It’s Norfolk’s only Italian rooftop restaurant and offers sweeping views of Norfolk’s famous historic Granby Street. Cocktails are classics with an Italian twist: Mojito Italiano, Limoncello Martini and Margarita Italiano, for example. Wines and beers are available as well.

7 p.m. Dinner

Next, head to Brick Anchor, a brew house with 60 craft beers on draft. This classic Norfolk favorite is set in a 1905 building with original details throughout the restaurant in forms of light fixtures and exposed brick. Vintage-inspired steampunk décor pairs with maritime themes, making for a unique and eclectic vibe. Start your meal off with their Mac-N-Cheese Balls, deep-fried Panko mac and cheese topped with melted cheese and a dusting of paprika. Next, try their Bulgogi Pepper Steak Sandwich (thin-sliced steak marinated in sauce and topped with bell peppers and scallions, served with spicy Sriracha mayo and pickle chips on a toasted Ciabatta) or stick to a classic fish and chips entree. 

For after dinner drinks, head to Cafe Stella. Sip on an espresso martini or an herbal tea for a good night’s sleep.

Saturday

9 A.M. BREAKFAST, SHOPPING AND COFFEE

Today will be busy, but fueling up at Stockpot will give you all the energy you need to make it through a full day of exploration. Stockpot’s menu is all about healthy comfort foods created with fresh ingredients that are full of nutrients. You won’t feel guilty eating options like their Southender, a rosemary biscuit with house-made sausage, pimento cheese, an over-easy egg and a side of strawberries. Their vegan chocolate oats bowl features cocoa-coconut overnight oats, sliced banana, honey and toasted hemp seed. 

Now, onto shopping. One of Stockpot’s exits feeds you directly into Selden Market, an eclectic, historic shopping hall that features local artisans, chefs and new pop-up shops weekly. Because it is ever-changing, you’ll see new vendors each time you visit. Shoppers may find an assortment of offerings like handmade leather goods, unique jewelry, candles, international cuisine and more. 

1:30 p.m. Cheese for Lunch 

Now, head over to the Freemason District to grab one of the best baguette sandwiches in the city. Virginia Cheese Company offers lunchtime bites on fresh, locally made breads. Their Lemon Whipped Feta features turkey, bacon, tomato, arugula and lemon whipped feta served on a warm baguette. While we love their classic sandwiches, they are best known for their cut-to-order cheese counter. Their variety is endless and the best place to create a custom cheese board. They also sell wine, ciders, spreads, crackers and more! 

2:30 p.m. A Coffee Pick-Me-Up

Neighboring The Virginia Cheese Co. is a Norfolk favorite, Cure Coffeehouse. Cure is a petite kitchen in historic Freemason District that turns out amazing coffee concoctions, pastries and more. They exclusively serve Counter Culture Coffee from Durham, N.C. and take pride in the shop’s comfortable, laid back and welcoming environment.

3 p.m. Tour a Historic Home

Now that you’re fully caffeinated, explore the Hunter House Victorian Museum built in 1894 for local merchant and banker James Wilson Hunter and his family. It was designed and built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style and serves as a rich example of Victorian decorative arts and architecture. Be sure to call ahead to schedule a tour. 

4 p.m. Explore the Elizabeth River Trail  

Walk or bike along the Elizabeth River Trail (ERT). This 10.5-mile urban trail takes you from Norfolk State University through Downtown, past the Battleship Wisconsin through the Freemason District all the way to the Lochhaven neighborhood where you will find the Hermitage Museum.

6 p.m. Tuxedo Dining and Rooftop Brews

Time to slow down for the day and enjoy dinner and drinks. After freshening up, head to Gershwin’s, a swanky piano lounge along Granby Street. While there is no fancy dress code required, their wait staff dons tuxedos to coincides with their speakeasy scene. Gershwins serves up elevated dishes and specialty cocktails like their Grand Illumination, Makers Mark smoked directly in front of you with cherry wood. While your taste buds are relishing one of their New York Strip steak entrees, your earbuds will be humming to the tunes of Frank Sinatra or Cole Porter music. 

Once the meal is complete, take a stroll down brightly-lit, historic Granby Street and make your way to Norfolk’s high-end rooftop beer garden, Grain. Grain has sweeping views of the Elizabeth River, a birds-eye view of Granby Street and a unique head-on perspective of the Downtown icon, the Battleship Wisconsin. Grain hosts live music as well, with live performers ranging from country to rock. While Grain has more than 50 beers on tap, know that they save spots for local breweries for you to try. 

Sunday

9 a.m. Morning Moment of Zen

Stroll the picturesque gardens that surround the Pagoda, a vibrant iconic Tawainese building located along the Elizabeth River Trail, where bamboo sways with the wind and water rushes through fountains, making for the perfect zen morning in the heart of Norfolk. 

@fourelevenyork, Instagram

10 a.m. Donut Forget to Brunch  

Once your morning walk is over, head to Four Eleven York for brunch, and bring your appetite! They put together some incredible classic brunch dishes like their French Toast made with housemade brioche topped with maple syrup. Their more unique meals like fried oyster Benedict features Wicked Salt oysters, crispy bok choy, English muffin and hollandaise. Oftentimes, Four Eleven treats guests to something truly special: their house-made doughnuts created in a variety of yummy flavors.

12:30 p.m. Explore a Historic Fort for Free

A final site to see, Fort Norfolk is the last remaining of 19 harborfront 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 are available from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. 

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