Norfolk Things to Do

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Most Recent Things to Do in Norfolk

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    The Cannonball Trail

    by blueskyjohn Updated Mar 17, 2015

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    If there is only one thing you do when visiting Norfolk, it should be taking the day to walk the Cannonball Trail. This is a self guided tour around historic downtown Norfolk. There is signage at the start of the trail across the street from the Freemason Street Baptist Church. Showing a map and numbered sites along the route. I would suggest taking a picture with your smart phone so you can refer to the map throughout the day. I say this because This is one of the few places to see this map. If you spend time at each museum along the trail it would take an entire day if not more.

    Here are links to the locations I visited along the trail:

    Freemason Street Baptist Church
    The Old Norfolk Academy Building
    The Willoughby-Baylor House
    Saint Paul's Church
    Lord Dunmore's Cannonball
    Douglas MacArthur Museum
    Confederate Monument
    The Wells Theater
    The Martin Building
    Epworth United Methodist Church
    The Owen B. Pickett U.S. Custom House
    The TownBank Building
    Armed Forces Memorial
    Wisconsin Square
    Taiwan Friendship Pavilion
    The Old Norfolk Library
    Hunter House Victorian Museum
    Taylor - Whittle House

    There is a lot to see! One major part I left off was the USS Wisconsin Museum. The ship is moored at the Norfolk Naval Museum, both on the trail But I did not have the time I wanted to spend to explore these two. Definitely have to return for this.

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Arts and Culture
    • Historical Travel

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    West Freemason Street Historic District

    by blueskyjohn Updated Mar 17, 2015

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    The street was the first to be developed outside the original 50 acres of the Norfolk colony. Located along the Elizabeth River and inland, the cobble stone street has excellent examples of period architecture. It is a very peaceful place along the Cannonball Trail.

    Address: West Freemason Street

    Directions: Between Boush Street and Botetourt Street.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture
    • Photography

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    Taylor - Whittle House

    by blueskyjohn Updated Mar 17, 2015

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    The property where this house was built was first owned by Thomas McKnight, a loyalist during the Revolutionary War. The property was confiscated by the Commonwealth in 1788 and auctioned off. Eventually purchased by George Purdie, he built the existing house in 1791.

    In 1802, the house was sold to Richard Taylor. The house remain in the family, being passed down to the daughter of each family. The house became known as the Whittle house when it was passed down to a descendant daughter, Elizabeth, before the Civil War. Shortly after the Civil War, Elizabeth married Captain William Conway Whittle.

    Their descendants remained in the house until 1972 when it was bequeathed to the Norfolk Historic Foundation.

    Address: 227 West Freemason Street, Norfolk, VA

    Website: http://www.twhouse.org/TWHouse/Home.html

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    • Architecture
    • Arts and Culture
    • Historical Travel

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    Hunter House Victorian Museum

    by blueskyjohn Updated Mar 17, 2015

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    This house was the home of James W. Hunter. Hunter was a prominent banker and civic leader in Norfolk. He commissioned an architect from Boston to design and construct the house in 1894. Hunter had three children, none of which ever married and all lived in the house until their passing.

    Eloise was the sole surviving sibling and upon her death in left the house and it's contents to be used as a museum. The museum is administered by a foundation that she set up. Tours are available daily with the last tour of the day beginning at 3:30pm. However, tours are only available April through December.

    Hours:
    Wednesday-Saturday: 10:00 AM- 3:30 PM
    Sunday: 12:30 PM- 3:30 PM

    Admission:
    $5 for adults
    $4 for senior citizens
    $1 for children

    Address: 240 W Freemason St, Norfolk, VA

    Phone: (757) 623-9814

    Website: http://www.hunterhousemuseum.org/

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    • Museum Visits
    • Architecture

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    The Old Norfolk Library

    by blueskyjohn Updated Mar 17, 2015

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    While some version of a library existed in Norfolk since 1827, the Norfolk Library Association was organized in 1870 and by 1872 they were chartered by the circuit court. I was surprised to learn that the public library was not free at this time. One would have to buy a membership of $3.00 per year for access to a reading room and one book at a time to read. There was a range of $50 for lifetime membership for the privileges mentioned, $75 for the same but two books to read and so on up to $500 for a perpetual and transferable membership, with reading room privileges, 3 books at a time, and admission to all lectures and entertainments sponsored by the Norfolk Public Library.

    In 1901 Norfolk Library Association received $50,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie for a new library and by November 1904 this structure was completed. With the opening of this new library, membership became free.

    Address: 345 West Freemason Street, Norfolk, VA

    Website: http://www.norfolkpubliclibrary.org/local-history-genealogy/pages-from-norfolk-s-past/history-of-the-norfolk-public-library

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    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture
    • Architecture

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    Taiwan Friendship Pavilion

    by blueskyjohn Updated Mar 17, 2015

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    Along the Elizabeth River near Wisconsin Square is the Taiwan Friendship Pavilion and Oriental Garden. Through the gate of the pavilion is a beautiful garden that has a few paths that wind around the pavilion and to a water feature with a small water fall on the right and a pond with fountain to the left.

    The pavilion also has a small tea house but it was closed when I was there. I would have loved some tea. It is a nice and quiet place to relax.

    Directions: Between Brooke Ave and Tazewell Street.

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture

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    Wisconsin Square

    by blueskyjohn Updated Mar 17, 2015

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    This small park next to the USS Wisconsin Museum was dedicated in 2002. The park is a dedication to 9 naval ships where sailors lost their lives in service. These 9 ships were based in Norfolk. The memorial consists of stone pillars with bronze plaques describing the events in which the sailors died. In addition to these 9 pillars are two more. One honoring the Special Warfare Group (SEALS) and the Pentagon due to the attack on September 11, 2001.

    The ships honored here are:
    USS Belknap (7 sailors lost their life after a night collision with Aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy)
    USS Cole (17 sailors killed by a terrorist attack in a Yemen port)
    USS Nimitz (14 crew members died when a jet crashed into the flight deck)
    USS Scorpion (All 99 crew member died when this nuclear submarine sank of the coast of the Azores)
    USS Liberty (34 members died in 1967 during an unprovoked attack by Israeli aircraft. The Liberty was an intelligence ship with little to no armament.
    USS Forrestal (134 men died during a fire in 1967 of the coast of North Vietnam)
    USS Newport News (20 crew died after an implosion and fire of a 8 inch gun turret off the coast of Vietnam)
    USS Iowa (47 sailors died after a 16 inch gun exploded in 1989)
    USS Kearsarge (30 sailors and marines drowned in sight of the ship anchored off the Norfolk coast during heavy seas in 1948)

    The square also has a bronze statue of "The Lone Sailor" and is home of the Naval Bell from the USS Norfolk.

    Directions: Adjacent to the USS Wisconsin Museum.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture
    • Museum Visits

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    The Lone Sailor

    by blueskyjohn Updated Mar 17, 2015

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    Located in Wisconsin Park is a life size bronze statue of a sailor and separate duffel bag. The statue was commemorated in 2001. The artist, Stanley Bleifeld, is a World War II veteran who recently past away. The sailor is facing the USS Wisconsin but it is dedicated to the members of naval service who's home port is Norfolk.

    Directions: Wisconsin Park next to the USS Wisconsin Museum.

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    • Historical Travel

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    Armed Forces Memorial

    by blueskyjohn Updated Mar 17, 2015

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    The Armed Forces Memorial in located in Town Point Park overlooking the Elizabeth River. The memorial is here because this river has been part of sending men off to war for over 200 years. The memorial is a large open brick courtyard with a flagpole in the center. On the ground are 20 bronze plaques molded to look like letters and displayed as if the wind is blowing them across the court. On these plaques are inscribed letters written by servicemen and sent to their families. The letters span from the Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and the Gulf War.

    The letters are very moving and shows the state of mind these men had over the course of so many wars. There is a warning to mind children as these bronze pages have pointed corners.

    Directions: Town Point Park.

    Phone: (757) 664-6620

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    • Arts and Culture
    • Museum Visits

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    Town Point Park

    by blueskyjohn Updated Mar 17, 2015

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    Town Point Park is located on the Elizabeth River and is 7 acres. It is a nice open space that has information signage along the waterfront describing events in history. The park also has over 100 days a year of free public events like outdoor concerts and food festivals.

    The park is also home to the outdoor Armed Forces Memorial.

    Directions: Between the USS Wisconsin Museum and Waterside.

    Phone: (757) 441-2400

    Website: http://www.norfolk.gov/?nid=1366

    Related to:
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    • Festivals
    • Arts and Culture

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    The TownBank Building

    by blueskyjohn Updated Mar 17, 2015

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    The building was constructed in 1899. At that time it was the tallest building in Norfolk at 8 stories tall. The exterior is very ornate as is the interior with marble panels and woodwork. In the early day, ships moored in the harbor would set their clocks by a roof top ball that would drop everyday at Noon.

    The building has also served as City Hall and an Appellate Courthouse. It was purchase by the City of Norfolk in 2007.

    Address: 109 East Main Street, Norfolk, VA

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture

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    The Owen B. Pickett U.S. Custom House

    by blueskyjohn Updated Mar 17, 2015

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    The Custom House was completed in 1858 at a cost of nearly double the initial estimate (some things never change in government). This is the oldest building continually owned by the U.S. Government. The U.S. Customs Service has operated out of this building for nearly 150 years.

    The building was under Confederate occupation from April 1861 until May 1862 when Union forces had re-taken Norfolk. During it's long history, the Custom House was also the location of the District Federal Court and the Post Office. Currently only U.S. Customs offices are here.

    In 1970 the U.S. Custom House was listed in National Register of Historic Places and in 2001, the building was renamed after U.S. Representative Owen B. Pickett.

    Address: 101 East Main Street, Norfolk, VA

    Website: http://www.customhousehistory.com/norfolk--va---portsmouth--nh.html

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    Epworth United Methodist Church

    by blueskyjohn Updated Mar 17, 2015

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    This is a beautifully designed church in the Victorian Romanesque style. Some call it the Richardsonian Romanesque style because this church is very similar in style to Trinity Church in Boston which was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson. The church was named after the home of John Wesley, founder of Methodism. Epworth United Methodist Church was built between 1894 and 1896 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1997.

    Address: 124 W Freemason St, Norfolk, VA

    Phone: (757) 622-2970

    Website: http://epworthva.org/

    Related to:
    • Religious Travel
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture

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    The Martin Building

    by blueskyjohn Updated Mar 17, 2015

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    This building is a stop on the Cannonball Trail and was built in 1913. It was originally constructed as a department store. It is noted because of it's Terracotta decorations on the exterior. Currently, the building is owned by Tidewater Community College and is part of their Norfolk Campus.

    Address: 300 Granby Street, Norfolk, VA

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    • Historical Travel
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    The Wells Theater

    by blueskyjohn Updated Mar 17, 2015

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    Jake and Otto Wells were famous Vaudeville promoters and in 1901, they opened a theater in Norfolk. However, the Wells theater that exist today was built around the corner and opened on August 26, 1913. Many famous people appeared on the stage at the Wells over the years including Fred and Adele Astaire and John Phillip Sousa.

    The Wells Theater has a very colorful past. By World War II, burlesque shows were common here, maybe for the men at the nearby Naval Base. Surprisingly, the Wells Theater became an X-rated movie house in the 1960's and the back room of the theater was called the Jamaican Room, a notorious bar and brothel.

    In 1980, the Virginia Stage Company moved in and changed everything with a 3.5 million dollar renovation.

    Address: 108 E Tazewell St, Norfolk, VA

    Phone: (757) 627-6988

    Website: http://vastage.com/

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Theater Travel
    • Arts and Culture

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Norfolk Things to Do

Reviews and photos of Norfolk things to do posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for Norfolk sightseeing.

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