29 November 2021

Norfolk Holiday Bucket List

If you haven’t yet spent a holiday weekend in Norfolk, you’re in for a festive treat. There’s many ways to get in the spirit of the season, whether watching colorful sparkles bounce on the water in a lighted boat parade, nostalgically gliding across the ice on skates or taking part in some traditional caroling activities. Plus, we’ve got some local sips to help put you in the jolly spirit as well. Here’s your ultimate Norfolk holiday bucket list to get started.

Stroll the cobblestone streets of Freemason District 

Rebuilt shortly after the destruction of the Revolutionary War, Norfolk’s Freemason District features cobblestone streets and beautiful historic homes with colonial architecture. Located along the waterfront, the area’s charm provides a perfect location for a festive stroll after a big family meal.

Wave to Santa in the Grand Illumination prade

Get your Santa sighting in early this year at Norfolk’s Grand Illumination Parade, held the Saturday before Thanksgiving. You’ll have an extra pep in your step with the music from talented marching bands as you watch a creative show of vibrantly colored and brightly lit floats pass by. Stay until the very end to get a glimpse of the big guy in red.

Go Ice Skating at MacArthur Center 

Courtesy of MacArthur Center

While it may get cold in Norfolk, ice and snow is a rarity—except at MacArthur On Ice. Here, you can enjoy a night of ice skating and snow right in the center of Downtown. Afterward, stop in next door for a bit of shopping and meet Santa at MacArthur Center.

Sip a Grand Illumination Cocktail from Gershwin’s

Located amid the hustle and bustle of Granby Street, also historically known as Norfolk’s “restaurant row,” you’ll find Gershwin’s, a classy piano lounge, lit up by vintage marquee lights. At night, a large Christmas tree glitters from the front windows as performers sing and play jazz music to a captivated audience. Settle in under chandeliers reminiscent of the 1930s and warm up with their signature cocktail, Grand Illumination. Given the same name as Norfolk’s famous holiday parade, the Grand Illumination cocktail is crafted from Maker’s Mark and orange peel smoked tableside with cherry wood.

View the Lighted Boat Parade 

@erocrunfaster, Instagram

Norfolk’s love of the water and holiday lights combine each Saturday at 6 p.m. for a lighted boat parade at Nauticus. In the tides at dusk next to the Battleship Wisconsin, beautifully lit boats will sail by as Santa waves from the water to those watching from the shore.

Snuggle up at an outdoor fire pit

Baby, it’s cold outside in Norfolk during the winter! Snuggle up at one of our many outdoor fire pits and grab a snack, cocktail or glass of wine. 

See the lights at Norfolk Botanical Garden

Echard Holiday Images

The Garden of Lights at the Norfolk Botanical Garden was named one of the “best botanical garden holiday light shows in the country” by USA TODAY. Walking through this dazzling display is a magical experience for the whole family.

Try the Holiday Helper IPA at Smartmouth Brewing Co.

@smartmouthbeer, Instagram

Smartmouth Brewing Co.’s Holiday Helper IPA-Red is a local wintertime favorite here in Norfolk. Find it on tap at the brewery’s headquarters, located on the banks of the Elizabeth River. Bring the pup to have some whole-family fun.

Go caroling in the Ghent neighborhood

@virginiacolonial, Instagram

While you really could carol everywhere in Norfolk, our historic Ghent neighborhood boasts beautiful tree-lined residential streets, parks and water views of the Hague. Take your pick of hundreds of eclectic eateries, unique shops and antique stores along your path.

Get your shopping started

Norfolk is a one-stop shop for all your holiday gift-buying needs this season. From the locally-focused Selden Market to Norfolk Premium Outlets and all the small businesses in between, Norfolk has plenty of options. We’ve rounded up some of the most unique Norfolk gifts shops for this holiday season!

Enjoy Festive Treats at The Birch

Holiday desserts are delicious, but they’re even better when you don’t have to make them for yourself. Norfolk’s Chelsea neighborhood stays abuzz year-round, but the vibe is electric during the holiday season. Delight in The Birch’s cider or mead while you devour a delectable Apple & Peach Cobbler, Virginia peaches and apples soaked in spiced cider, topped with a brown sugar cinnamon walnut crumble and served with house-made gelato. 

Admire the giant tree at Townebank Fountain Park

@shailaja_ra0, Instagram

The massive Christmas tree located on the waterfront in Townebank Fountain Park provides a great location to snap cute holiday photos. Afterward, stop by Waterside District next door for yummy food, or walk through the park to Nauticus where you can explore Winterfest.

View Holiday Decor at The Main

Courtesy of Norfolk Hilton The Main

Marvel at the Hilton Norfolk the Main’s holiday decor as all corners of the hotel will be decked out in Christmas trees, poinsettias and their larger-than-life gingerbread house. This scrumptious holiday gingerbread house is constructed of 10 gallons of syrup, 500 pieces of gumdrops and 100 pounds of butter! Wander the levels of the hotel, grab a brew at the outdoor rooftop restaurant, Grain and you’ll be living the life like Kevin from “Home Alone 2” at the Plaza!

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