The Hampton Roads region is blessed with waterways surrounding us. One of my favorite places to spend an afternoon is along the harbor overlooking the Elizabeth River in both downtown Portsmouth and downtown Norfolk. Both have wonderful seawalls to enjoy a casual stroll or a run to capture the beauty of the day, sailboats coming in and out of the marina, cruise ships coming into port, etc. There are park benches to sit and relax. It is the perfect place to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the day with the family.
The Elizabeth River Ferry is the perfect way to get to enjoy both cities with a $1.75 one way fare/$3.50 round trip. HRT also offers one day passes to be able to take advantage of the ferry, rail & bus service. Both downtown Norfolk and downtown Portsmouth offer so much history, art & culture to be enjoyed all within walking/biking distance.
Norfolk offers Nauticus and The Hampton Roads Naval Museum, and you can take a tour aboard the Battleship Wisconsin. The MacArthur Memorial just a few blocks away pays tribute to General of the Army, Douglas MacArthur. The Memorial also pays tribute to the millions of Americans who served during the Civil War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War. The Chrysler Museum of Art, the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, the Historic Fort Norfolk are a few of the many museums and areas of historical relevance in Norfolk. There are many outdoor festivals spring, summer & fall including my favorite, the Stockley Gardens Arts Festivals over in Ghent and Norfolk Harborfest , Bayou Boogaloo Music & Cajun Seafood Festival, the spring and fall Norfolk Town Point Wine Festivals are just a few of the many festivals offered.
You can take one of the many cruises from the Norfolk Naval Base cruise on the Victory Rover, to sailing on the American Rover, to the Spirit of Norfolk for a dinner cruise. The newly expanded Elizabeth River Trail is a great way to get in your run or walk and enjoy the scenery. Be sure to make a family day and enjoy a baseball game at Harbor Park or take in one of the many outdoor concerts or festivals at Town Point Park.
Downtown Portsmouth is steep in history. From their website: “In a single square mile, the Olde Towne Historic District chronicles 300 years of history in one of the largest collections of antique homes south of Alexandria. Legend has it that Benedict Arnold was held captive in one of the homes. Another was used by Union Forces to issue passes during the Civil War, while yet another concealed medicine for Confederate soldiers.”
There has been a revitalization of Olde Town Portsmouth with many new shops and restaurants. The Bier Garden, with authentic German Cuisine is a “must visit” with indoor and courtyard seating. The Children’s Museum of Virginia can offer a fun filled afternoon for the children. The Portsmouth Arts & Cultural Center located in a Greek-Revival building built in 1846, offers ever changing art exhibitions and workshops. On Saturdays during season there is a wonderful Farmers Market along High Street. There are many museums including the Lightship Portsmouth Museum, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum, the Hill House Museum, the Portsmouth Colored Community Library Museum, the Railroad Museum of Virginia and others.
The architecture of many of the older buildings, historic homes and churches such as St Paul’s Catholic Church is breathtaking and worth taking a stroll through many of the cobblestone streets. The Commodore Theatre is a beautifully restored 1945 Art Deco-style motion picture theater that shows first-run movies while serving light dinners. There is no better way to enjoy a summer evening then at the Portsmouth Pavilion for an outdoor concert at its 6500 seat amphitheater overlooking the water.
For me, it is the ability to stop and enjoy “the view” and the beauty to have the waterfront in both cities accessible via ferry to be able to visit both cities and their downtown shops, dining, galleries, festivals, etc. without having to have a car to get to both cities. Take some time to get outside and enjoy “the view” in downtown Norfolk and downtown Portsmouth.
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