03 April 2024

Top Things to Do On Your Norfolk, VA Cruise Layover

You’ve just made a port stop in Norfolk—welcome! We know you’ll want to make the most out of your visit to Norfolk with just a short amount of time in port. We’ve created some suggestions of things to do on your Norfolk cruise layover. Below are some of our most iconic places within the city. When you step off the cruise, you’ll be confident in knowing what you want to see and do. 

Looking for maps or just want to talk to a local about the best things to do? Head to our newly renovated Visitor Center on 232 E. Main Street, Norfolk about a five-minute walk from the cruise terminal. Inside you will also find our shop, the Mermaid Market, for Norfolk- and Virginia-themed gifts and for everyone back home.

Main image courtesy of @the_amerivan_couple, Instagram

Spend an Hour Exploring the Elizabeth River Trail

Give your sea legs a break and start your day in Norfolk by exploring our 10.5-mile-long riverfront trail, the Elizabeth River Trail, also known as the ERT. You can experience the ERT by bike, scooter or on your own two feet. With Lime scooters scattered throughout the city, you can easily hop on and off the trail from just about any location. Renting bicycles at Pedego, located in Downtown Norfolk is also an option to explore. 

The ERT takes you through multiple neighborhoods with different waterfront views. Starting out at Norfolk State University, the trail winds you through a few historic neighborhoods and campuses and ends in the prestigious neighborhood of Lochhaven. The ERT is sprinkled with breweries and delicious restaurants along the way, and if you are not familiar with our city, it’s a great lookbook to a day in the life of a Norfolkian. 

Shop Locally at Selden Market

Image courtesy of DNC

Selden Market is an eclectic, historic shopping hall that features local artisans, chefs and new pop-up shops. Because it is ever-changing, you’ll see different vendors with each visit to Norfolk. Visitors may find an assortment of offerings like handmade leather goods, unique jewelry, candles, international cuisine and more. For a full list of their current shops click here.

Stroll the Cobblestone Streets of Freemason

Just a short walk from the cruise terminal is Norfolk’s most charming and oldest standing neighborhood, Freemason. Located along the Elizabeth River, Freemason features beautiful, tree-lined cobblestone streets, manicured gardens and historic homes. While here, explore the Hunter House Victorian Museum and stop in for lunch at Freemason Abbey, a local favorite that is known for its she crab soup and is housed in a historic church. Are you a coffee connoisseur or just someone who needs a caffeine pick-me-up? Then head to Cure Coffeehouse, one of the best coffeehouses in town! 

Explore Our Downtown Museums and Attractions

Glass Light Hotel & Gallery

The beauty of seeing our museums and attractions is that you can spend as little or as long as you want at each of them. Here’s a quick rundown of our Downtown attractions: Nauticus, a maritime discovery center, which is next to the Battleship Wisconsin (one of the largest and last battleships ever built by the U.S. Navy). Explore its deck through a self-guided or guided tour! Next, check out Downtown’s newest addition, the free Glass Light Art Gallery. This two-story gallery is made up of 65 small and life-sized pieces of glass art that come from a local family’s private collection. For a more outdoorsy experience, check out our rich history through the self-guided Cannonball Trail—a walk-it-yourself tour, through 400 years of Norfolk and American history. The trail winds along the shoreline of the Elizabeth River and through the districts of Downtown Norfolk. Another free attraction, MacArthur Memorial, is a museum dedicated to preserving and presenting the life story of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur and to the millions of men and women who served with General MacArthur in World War I, World War II and the Korean War.

Dine Along Granby Street 

@codex_va, Instagram

Granby Street is an iconic street in Norfolk, and you can find just about any type of cuisine along its mile-long, marquee-lighted street. Enjoy an espresso with freshly-made crêpes for breakfast at Lamia’s Parisian-style cafe. Slurp down some local oysters or try our local’s favorite seafood soup, she crab, at Saltine. Spend an evening dining by candlelight at Luce, a finer-dining Italian restaurant, or try something out of the ordinary and completely irresistible at Codex.

Sip Drinks with a View at Waterside District

Grab a refreshing drink by the water. At Waterside District you can enjoy drinks at their massive outdoor dining area that overlooks the Elizabeth River, Waterside Marina and more! This makes for a great spot to catch the sunset or simply watch the ships go by. You may even spot some Navy ships boating around. 

Experience Norfolk’s Largest Collection of Street Art in the NEON District

NEON (New Energy Of Norfolk) District, our most vibrant district, is about a 20-minute walk from where your cruise ship pulls into port or a five-minute Uber ride. Wander around the district, and you’ll notice an abundance of vibrant murals, public art pieces and some of our favorite bakeries and restaurants, like Zeke’s Beans and Bowls and La Brioche, Norfolk’s most authentic French bakery. Looking for a more personalized tour of the district? Then head to Norfolk Tour Company’s website to book a guided tour. While you’re in the NEON District, be sure to take advantage of indoor art like the esteemed Chrysler Museum of Art or nearby d’Art Center, both free to browse!

Spend the Day on the Beach in Ocean View 

@webcarrie585, Instagram

If the weather allows, head to Norfolk’s 7.5-mile-long beach! The beach is a quick 25-minute Uber or taxi ride from the cruise terminal and will meet all your needs for a perfect beach day. Once you arrive to Ocean View, spend the day swimming with dolphins in the Chesapeake Bay, crabbing or sunbathing. Once you have worked up an appetite, head to one of Ocean View’s many beloved restaurants like Bar-Q, which is one of Norfolk’s best barbecue joints, COVA, a coffeehouse by day and brewery by night, or Ocean View Pier Restaurant for a spectacular water view. See more things to do in Ocean View!

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