08 June 2023

Guide to Harborfest

Norfolk, Virginia plays host to an annual festival favorite, Norfolk Harborfest! Every June, the city celebrates nautical history by displaying tall ships, along with celebrations of seafaring history and culture, delicious food, local, regional and national entertainment and a spectacular firework display all along the downtown waterfront. This four-day itinerary will help you to celebrate the highlights of Harborfest and explore some of Norfolk’s greatest summer excursions. 

Thursday

Stop By and Say Hello!

Come by our VisitNorfolk Visitors Center at 232 E. Main Street, Norfolk to learn more about things to see and do in Norfolk, talk with our friendly team and check out some unique Norfolk gear in the Mermaid Market. Also, look for our VisitNorfolk mobile visitors van at Harborfest!

NEON District Exploration

@cammy_huston, Instagram

After checking in to your hotel, take the opportunity to get to know Norfolk on foot before the weekend crowds come in. Our distinct neighborhoods each come with their own character and vibe, so take the time to explore. The NEON District is known for its vibrant murals showcasing the talents from artists locally and nationally. Wander down Granby Street and through some of the artful alleyways before popping into the Chrysler Museum of Art, featuring more than 30,000 original works and an expansive glass collection.

Dinner in Freemason

@thru_my_soul_eyes, Instagram

Before dinner, peruse Freemason’s cobblestone streets and take photos by the stunning Norfolk Pagoda. Then enjoy a historic meal at Freemason Abbey, located in a renovated church and offering a wide variety of foods. Rather sit outside? Here are some other options with unbeatable outdoor seating, whether you’re looking for calm and quiet or prime people watching.

Friday

Maritime Discovery

@kljwatercolors, Instagram

Start the day by exploring Norfolk’s maritime discovery center, Nauticus, with interactive history plus brand new exhibits. Located next to Nauticus is the Battleship Wisconsin, the largest and last battleship ever built by the U.S. Navy. Walk her teak decks, explore interior rooms and discover the vast history of this great ship.

Noon: Parade of Sail

At noon, find a spot along the Elizabeth River to watch tall ships sail in a spectacular two-hour parade. This is an opportunity to see tall ships, sailboats, antique boats, military vessels and more, as announcers describe the fascinating highlights of each.

Harborfest

@mbarkleyphoto, Instagram

After the Parade of Sail, come and explore Norfolk’s Harborfest at Town Point Park. Enjoy live music and great food accompanied by art and educational programs. Tall ships will be open for tours for visitors to explore the decks and talk to sailors.

Next to Town Point Park is Waterside District, a great place to end the evening for dinner. Waterside District features a lineup of restaurants accompanied by live music.

Saturday

Brunch

Hair of the Dog

Check out one of Norfolk’s many spectacular brunch spots to start the day. From pillowy biscuits to piled-high Benedicts and waffles topped with all the fixings, brunch in Norfolk never disappoints. Order a mimosa or Bloody Mary and get ready to dig in! See the best brunches in Norfolk.

Harborfest, Day 2

@casualtravelist, Instagram

Head back over to Town Point Park for Norfolk Harborfest and enjoy food and craft vendors and live concerts on three stages. Saturday’s lineup features a Tribute to Boathouse with Wonderland (3:15 p.m.), Cracker (6 p.m.), and Morris Day & The Time (8:15 p.m.) on the Main Stage. There are also plenty of amazing performers lined up for the Boathouse Stage from 12:30 to 10 p.m.

Fireworks

Courtesy of Norfolk Festevents, Ltd.

At 9:30 p.m., get ready for a spectacular fireworks show above the Elizabeth River. There’s truly no bad vantage point for witnessing this breathtaking event, but a truly amazing spot is from the American Rover,

Sunday

Harborfest, Day 3 + Norfolk Botanical Garden

There’s truly no need to rush off. Stop by Harborfest one last time to hear a live band and grab a souvenir. Then, head to Norfolk Botanical Garden, home to more than 60 distinctive themed gardens, 95 species of birds and 30 kinds of butterflies. The garden is currently in a process of evolving and transforming, so purchasing tickets in advance online is recommended.

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