Portsmouth's Olde Towne Historic District offers a trip through early American history. The homes are all well-maintained, and many are beautiful. There are guided tours and special events, but you can enjoy the district by just walking around. For specific information on upcoming events, check the website.
Housed in the old Courthouse built in 1846, this museum offers a modest art collection, youth programs, lectures, performances, and educational classes. It also serves as a good source of general information about the town of Portsmouth and its many attractions. Be sure to visit the outdoor sculpture garden. And don't miss the kite collection upstairs.
You can buy a ticket at the office that gets you into this, the Naval Shipyard Museum, the Lightship Museum, and the Children's Museum. That's at least half a day of activities.
This museum covers the entire history of the town and its famed Gosport Naval Shipyard. With an impressive collection of models and memorabilia, it's a great place to learn about Portsmouth's naval heritage. The ticket also includes admission to the Portsmouth Lightship Museum. Similar to the lightship in Baltimore, it served many years guiding mariners toward the port.
We didn't get a chance to do this when we docked in Portsmouth as we were (I was) too beat. Hot weather just enervates me. But there were a number of things that I would have liked to do like take a walking tour, and go and see where the ferry docked.
I suggest that you visit the Visitor Information Center - which can provide admission tickets and special ticket packages to various attractions within easy walking distance.
When we came back in the spring, we took the ferry over to the Portsmouth side, and found where the docks were and walked around town a bit, plus we did visit the Visitor Information Center. Unfortunately, it was too early in the spring for the trolley tours and some of the other attractions.
The Portsmouth Visitor's Center site says:
"Visit our museums
"Shop at boutiques and galleries along High Street
"Take a harbor cruise aboard the Carrie B
"Take a self-guided walking tour or a narrated trolley tour through historic Olde Towne
"Enjoy a leisurely stroll on the Seawall
"Catch a movie at the Commodore Theatre
"Dine at our fine restaurants"
The Naval Shipyard Museum is in Portsmouth. But the shipyard is called the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Which is confusing, at least to me. The name was chosen because at the time, there was already a Portsmouth Navy Yard in New Hampshire.
"During the Revolutionary War, the shipyard was described by the British as “the most considerable one in America.” It’s been burned three times by retreating armies because of its strategic importance. Many historic ships have been built here, including the CSS VIRGINIA (EX-MERRIMAC), the first ironclad to engage in battle; the nation’s first battleship, the TEXAS; and the world’s first aircraft carrier, the LANGLEY. The shipyard is also home to the country’s first drydock, which is still in use. At its peak during WWII, the yard employed nearly 43,000 workers.
"Founded in 1767 as the Gosport Shipyard, its name was changed during the Civil War to the Norfolk Navy Yard, and later the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. ..
"The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum offers a unique perspective on U.S. history, from Colonial to Civil War times and beyond. You’ll find beautiful ship models, uniforms, military artifacts and exhibits portraying life in 18th, 19th and 20th century Portsmouth."
The Lightship PORTSMOUTH and the Naval Shipyard Museum are together in the same admisssion price.. Unfortunately when we were there, the Lightship was still closed because of damage from Isabel.
Winter Hours for both Museums:
Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday; open on Mondays that fall on a holiday.
Summer Hours for both Museums:
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day;
Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The $3 admission fee covers both the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum and the Lightship Museum.
As retirees, we’ve had the time and, therefore, the fun of doing some travel by car around
this lovely country of ours. Most recently, we’ve been in Virginia, and have discovered the
delightful little town of Portsmouth....just across the water from Norfolk. A seafaring
town, its “Olde Towne” retains a bit of that flavor and is decorated with many shops on
High Street we enjoyed browsing through. I remember one named, “Findings” and an art
shop named the “Hester Gallery”, but in particular, the marvelous “Skipjack Nautical
Wares”. My husband was brought up on the waters of Long Island Sound, so has had a
boat almost all of his life. He found its showroom full of things new and old any seafarer
would love! There are also various restaurants we so enjoyed:”Brutti’s” for brunch,
“Court Street Coridlas” for fondue, the Bier Garden for its German flavor, “Starboards”
the essential coffee kiosk at the end of the street, and many others. All of the shops are
within walking distance of the waterfront. One evening, we were entertained at the
“Commodore Theatre”, where we enjoyed dinner as we watched a movie (we didn’t give
the movie a rave, but we did give the theatre a RAVE). A treat all should try.
The theatre has been restored to its 1945 condition; the orchestra seats replaced by tables
( which are illuminated by dim lamps) and comfortable easy chairs.
What a pleasant experience we had, meeting some of your nice townspeople/merchants.
We’ll be back!
The Stan Shancks
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida