Norfolk, Virginia, “The Mermaid City”, has such an array of activities and attractions that any family would be lucky to visit. From The Virginia Zoo to the Chrysler Museum of Art, there is certainly something for everyone.
For Richmond families, this trip is less than two hours, making it a flexible option. Additionally, Norfolk has several free activities that our family absolutely loved. As you plan your family’s next trip, consider Norfolk and follow these tips to ensure affordability AND fun!
WHERE TO STAY
For families, the best options are in the Waterside District. We enjoyed our stay at the Waterside Marriott, but there’s also a Hilton and a Sheraton within walking distance. We liked how close our hotel was to the water (where we walked nightly), and Town Point Park.
Further, this area is also within walking distance of several eateries and the popular MacArthur Center Mall, which boasts a large, indoor children’s play area.
WHERE TO EAT
Norfolk has no shortage of unique food options. Highlights for our family were Doumar’s, home of the original waffle cone, where servers deliver your items to your car in true 1950s style.
Our server, Jahnaya was bubbly, kind and delivered our ice cream-carrying all 4 cones at once!-with ease. Not only is this an economical treat, at $2.50 for a sherbet, it’s also delicious!
A second must-do is Urban Ice, a rolled ice cream shop. The “mix-ins”, like Froot Loops and Kit Kats are unlimited. Plus, you can actually watch the entire process.
WHERE TO GO
My daughter (8 years old), especially loved completing the scavenger hunt within the Children’s Garden. While here, don’t miss the NATO Tower, where our kids were completely enamored while watching aircraft fly to and from the Norfolk Airport. Picnics are permitted at the garden, so save some money and extend your time here with a picnic in the Children’s Garden.
Another amazing attraction in Norfolk is Nauticus & The Battleship Wisconsin. Just the experience of walking through the ship is surreal. For children, be sure to visit the Third Floor, where the “Shark Experience” and “Horseshoe Crab Cove” are.
The third floor is also home to the Children’s Play Area, which includes boats for climbing in and playing pretend, a fishing game and a huge Battleship Game. The staff is so welcoming at Nauticus, thanks to Ricky for helping us have a wonderful experience.
The Virginia Zoo is another outing that is sure to be a hit with the entire family. This zoo is so well maintained and the animals are absolutely gorgeous. We particularly enjoyed walking through the Asia Trail of the Tiger, and seeing the baby rhino in the Africa-Okavango Delta was a hit, too. There are two play areas within the zoo, as well as a train to ride if your children need a break.
The Chrysler Museum of Art has a few scavenger hunts, including Women in Art. We appreciated the large Impressionist gallery, including a Degas.
For kids who aren’t interested in walking around the museum, there’s a beautiful garden with a fountain adjacent to the main entrance. Admission to the museum is free.
Ocean View Beach is another free and fun activity for families. We visited the beach twice during our visit. The first time we parked on 21st Street, close to Bay Oaks Park. The next time, we parked at Community Beach Park. We loved the serenity of the beach and the nearby playgrounds.
HOW TO SAVE
- Use reciprocal memberships when possible. For example, our family has a membership to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, so we could visit Norfolk Botanical Garden for free.
- Incorporate free activities when possible. My kids loved playing at Bay Oaks and Community Beach Parks just as much as any paid activity. Adding in a free activity where you can eat a picnic lunch/dinner, can save a lot of money.
- Consider memberships. Richmond is less than 2 hours from Norfolk, so if there’s a possibility you’ll visit the zoo more than twice in a year, the membership may be your best option.
- Check for discounts. Most attractions in Norfolk offer discounts for military, seniors, first responders and teachers.
As you prepare for your family’s next family adventure, try Norfolk for a weekend full of fun.
Richmond on the Cheap publisher Lindsay Garrison is a Richmond, Virginia based mom to two young children. A graduate from Chesterfield Schools and Randolph-Macon College, Lindsay is proud to call Richmond home. In the years prior to planning activities and outings with her own children, she was a French teacher. During her tenure she earned accolades for her creative teaching style and ability to connect with her students. Lindsay now applies the skills she learned when she was planning student trips to France, to her own family adventures. She can’t wait to take her own children to France one day! Follow the Garrison’s family adventures on Instagram: @rva.familyfun
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