How to Spend a Weekend in Norfolk, VA (a Local’s Itinerary!)

This site uses affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

There are plenty of cities in Virginia that make for great weekend trips, but I honestly think spending a weekend in Norfolk, VA is up there with the best.

This Norfolk itinerary will show you the best of the Tidewater City, including where to eat and where to stay. Keep reading!

Are you planning your trip to Norfolk, VA last minute?

If youʻre booking your trip to Norfolk last minute, you may want to book your tours and hotels ASAP to ensure availability!

🇺🇸  Top tours in Norfolk (and nearby):

  1. Norfolk buffet dinner cruise (most booked Norfolk experience!)
  2. Norfolk buffet lunch buffet (great daytime option!)
  3. Electric bike rental in downtown Norfolk (great for active travelers)

🛌  Best hotels in Norfolk:

  1. Hilton Norfolk The Main (wonderful indoor pool in a great location)

🚗  Looking for the best way to get around VA? Click here to check rental car rates for Virginia!

While I think you can find plenty to do if you have more than 2 days in Norfolk, VA… I think you can still get a pretty good impression of the city, even with minimal time!

Fortunately, Norfolk is easy to get around and never all that congested, even if the bridges coming in say otherwise.

Norfolk, Virginia is such a contrast from Virginia Beach and other places in Hampton Roads. You will find cute historic districts, world-famous museums, and enough good food to fill you up for five dinners each night!

Weekend in Norfolk itinerary - how to spend 2 days in Norfolk, VA
Weekend in Norfolk itinerary – how to spend 2 days in Norfolk, VA

This Norfolk, VA itinerary will help you plan your weekend trip with help from a local. It also includes some additional activities and places to visit if you have 3 days in Norfolk (or more).

Did I miss anything on this Norfolk weekend trip itinerary? Let me know in the comments.

Practical Information for a Weekend in Norfolk, VA

Best Time to Visit Norfolk, VA

No matter the season, a visit to Virginia’s southeastern waterfront city, Norfolk, is a must.

If a spring or fall trip is in your plans, then the weather is pleasant, and it is enjoyable to venture out and explore the area’s natural beauty. There are plenty of weekend festivals to experience during these seasons, and since it is the off-season, crowds are smaller.

Walking through one of the many parks in Norfolk, VA
Walking through one of the many parks in Norfolk, VA

If your schedule calls for a summer trip, prepare for days of high humidity and hot temperatures, often in the high 80s and into the 90s.

These days make great days to head to the Chesapeake Bay to take a dip in the water or explore the air-conditioned museums, but it may not be best to explore the Norfolk Botanical Gardens or other similar places.

During the winter months, temperatures are often relatively mild and only occasionally drop below 30 degrees, making Norfolk a great place to explore.

Winterfest at Nauticus
Winterfest at Nauticus

December is the perfect time to see the USS Wisconsin, downtown Norfolk, and the Norfolk Botanical Gardens festively lit up with millions of lights.

How to Get to Norfolk, VA

Driving to Norfolk

To drive to Norfolk from Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., it will take around 3.5 hours to drive south on I-95 and east on I-64.

Beware; you will have to head through the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, which is always backed up and slows your journey down. If you are coming from the south, travel on Route 460 off I-95 at Emporium. Then, take Route 460 to I-64 to Norfolk.

Those traveling in from places west like Roanoke, Charlottesville, and beyond need to head east on 64 and follow the signs to Norfolk.

Once you are across the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and past the Naval Station Norfolk, you will want to head south on Tidewater Drive to get to the downtown area of Norfolk.

If you want to take a dip in the Chesapeake Bay, then hop off I-64 at 4th View and enjoy the sand.

Flying to Norfolk

If you want to fly, Norfolk International Airport offers daily flights to many airports up and down the East Coast. United, Southwest, American, Delta, Allegiant Air, Breeze Airways, and Frontier fly in and out of Norfolk (ORF).

Norfolk International Airport
Norfolk International Airport

Flights from NYC, Washington, D.C., and Charlotte, NC, take about an hour, while those from Miami and Chicago will take about a two-hour flight.

Taking the Bus to Norfolk 

If you are looking for a more economical way to come to Norfolk, then Greyhound offers rides into the city throughout the day from across the country.

Be sure to check the schedule when booking your ride. Some buses may have a transfer in Richmond.

Taking the Train to Norfolk

Norfolk is the end of the line for the Amtrak Northeast Regional line, and the train depot is conveniently located in downtown Norfolk within walking distance from many of the restaurants, hotels, and the Elizabeth River waterfront.

This train runs from Washington, D.C., to Norfolk daily.  However, if you are coming from other areas, you may need to transfer trains in Richmond.

Where to Stay in Norfolk, VA

Luxury: The Hilton Norfolk THE MAIN is a four-star property that offers sophisticated décor, an indoor pool, a hot tub, a rooftop garden, a game room, and a 24-hour fitness area.

Enjoy beautiful views of the downtown skyline, the Elizabeth River, and the USS Wisconsin from the hotel. The rooms are modern and spacious, with sitting areas, while the suites feature living rooms.

Inside the hotel, you will find the Italian restaurant and wine studio, Varia, and the rooftop beer garden, Grain, which features happy hours during the week from 3:00 – 5:00 PM and 100+ beers on tap.

Mid-Range Hotel: The Residence Inn Norfolk Downtown makes a great location to rest your weary feet after a day of exploring Norfolk.

The roomy suites feature a full kitchen and extra room for guests with families to spread out.

Residence Inn Downtown is also within a short walking distance of Nauticus, the Waterside District, Town Point Park, and other downtown attractions.

Downtown Norfolk on a quiet morning
Downtown Norfolk on a quiet morning

The hotel does not have a restaurant, but they serve a hot breakfast and have a convenience store, fitness room, hot tub, and indoor swimming pool.

Budget Hotel: For those who want to stay in Norfolk but along the Chesapeake Bay instead of downtown, the Best Western Plus Holiday Sands Inn & Suites is the perfect resting spot.

This beachfront hotel overlooks Chesapeake Bay and features suites with kitchens, an exercise room, an outdoor pool, and a complimentary Grab and Go breakfast.

Norfolk Itinerary Day 1: Overview

  • Breakfast at the Pancake House and Grill
  • Explore the Norfolk Botanical Gardens
  • Lunch at The Grilled Cheese Bistro
  • Waterside District and the Elizabeth River Trail
  • Dinner and ice cream at Doumar’s
  • Spend the evening rooting for the home team at a Norfolk Tides baseball game

Pancake House and Grill

If you are looking for a local place to visit for breakfast, head to Nick and Karen’s family-owned, family-friendly Pancake House and Grill, which has been serving locals and visitors alike for nearly 60 years in the Wards Corner area of Norfolk.

Each morning at 7:00 AM, they begin serving homemade, cooked-to-order American breakfast classics like their signature pancakes with warmed syrup, omelets, and fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Hungry? Try the American omelet, which features three eggs, four types of meat, peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and cheese.

Try the lump crab egg benedict, the chicken and waffles, or the biscuits and sausage gravy if you want something a little southern.

Even though the restaurant doesn’t look like much from the outside in its strip mall location, you will find a cozy atmosphere and large portions of a tasty, filling breakfast inside.

Norfolk Botanical Garden

Spend a few hours to the entire day exploring the 175 acres of more than 60 themed gardens at the beautiful outdoor nature retreat, the Norfolk Botanical Garden.

Just minutes from downtown and next to the airport, this remarkable Virginia botanical garden is full of pathways to walk through the colorful gardens, forests, and even a children’s garden with a splash pad that is perfect for cooling off on a hot summer day.

If your visit is timed with the roses, be sure to sniff your way through the rose garden before visiting the butterflies in the butterfly house and climbing the NATO Tower to see the park from above.

Summertime at the Norfolk Botanical Garden
Summertime at the Norfolk Botanical Garden

When you tire of walking, jump on the tram or boat for a narrated tour. These tours run during the spring and summer and are an excellent alternative for a leisurely exploration of the grounds.

Across the parking lot, the airport overlook is a great place to watch the planes take off and land.

Throughout the year, the gardens host a variety of events.

The seasonal Dominion Garden of Lights, which begins in late November and goes through New Year’s Day, is a fantastic experience as you walk through millions of twinkling lights.

The Grilled Cheese Bistro

The Grilled Cheese Bistro, which began as a food truck, features superb gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and delicious chimichurri fries dusted with parmesan cheese.

The bistro is just a tiny place with limited seating, but the food is plentiful.

Grilled Cheese Bistro
Grilled Cheese Bistro

One of the best seats in the house is at the front window, looking out onto Granby Street. Here, you can enjoy your cheese sandwich and people-watch.

For an appetizer, begin with the fried pickle spears that you can dip in a spicy chipotle aioli dressing. Now comes the hard part: choosing which of the 20 grilled cheese sandwiches you want most.

Grilled Cheese Bistro
Grilled Cheese Bistro

Some of the favorites are the Hangover, which features black truffle mac & cheese and cheddar, the Sunday Morning with bacon, fried apples, a runny egg, and brie, or the Don Quixote, which won ‘Best Grilled Cheese in Virginia’.

Four of these sandwiches are vegetarian, and gluten-free bread and vegan cheese are available.

Explore the Waterside District and Monuments

The Waterside District offers delectable dining, unique shops, exciting nightlife, and a busy festival and event schedule at Town Point Park.

Town Point Park is an eight-acre park along the riverbanks of the Elizabeth River.

From March through December, you will find a variety of award-winning festivals, tall ships to visit, military tributes, and concerts to enjoy.

There are three beautiful pieces of art throughout the park that you should also stop and see.

  • Facing the USS Wisconsin, you will find the Lone Sailor Statue. This full-scale sailor sanding with his duffle bags is in honor of the Norfolk-based vessels that have faced tragedies.
  • The Armed Forces Memorial along the western side of the park features 20 bronze letters from fallen heroes to their loved ones back home.
  • The Homecoming portrays a Navy sailor returning home to his family following sea duty.
Elizabeth River Trail in Norfolk
Elizabeth River Trail in Norfolk

The Towne Bank Fountain Park is a fun interactive fountain along the Waterside Marina.

The 28 water-jetted fountains that shoot up to 12 feet are a great spot to cool off on a hot summer day.  At night, the fountains are illuminated. Around the fountains, there are lawn games, shade, and comfortable seating.

Bike, run, or walk along the 10.5-mile Elizabeth River Trail that snakes along the Norfolk waterfront.

You will see interpretive markers, public art, and a challenging obstacle course along the trail. You will also find the Marine Observation Tower in Freemason Harbor, locally known as the Pagoda.

The famous Pagoda is an essential on a Norfolk itinerary
The famous Pagoda is an essential on a Norfolk itinerary

This peaceful spot features a tranquil garden, swaying bamboo, and the perfect place to watch the sun setting over the Elizabeth River.

Doumar’s Cones and Barbecue

Doumar’s Cones and Barbecue has been a Norfolk favorite since 1934. In 1904, Abe Doumar curled his waffle and added a scoop of ice cream to the top at the World Fair.

He then created a four-iron waffle machine that the restaurant still uses today to make their waffle cones.

If your timing is right, you can watch employees outside using the machine and hand-rolling the cones for waiting customers.

Choose between dining inside at the soda fountain counter or at a booth where you can enjoy seeing pictures of how Doumar’s has changed over the years, or stay in your car as the bellhop will come to your vehicle for the old-fashioned curb service. 

Stop by and enjoy a taste of Norfolk’s history.

Cheer on the Home Team at Harbor Park

Harbor Park is home to the Norfolk Tides, an AAA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, between April and September. The stadium is conveniently located in downtown Norfolk.

If staying downtown, you can reach the 12,000-seat stadium by walking from the Waterside District or taking the Tide Light Rail to the stadium.

Harbor Park - Sherry V Smith - Shutterstock
Harbor Park – Sherry V Smith – Shutterstock

Once at the park, enjoy a seat on the third-base side, where you can have a great view of the game and watch the action on the Elizabeth River and the railroad and bridge lift as river traffic passes through the area.

Norfolk Itinerary Day 2: Overview

  • Breakfast at D’egg
  • Explore Nauticus
  • Lunch at Pendulum Fine Meats
  • Afternoon exploring the USS Wisconsin
  • Take a Harbor Cruise 
  • Dinner at El Azteca
  • Take in a show at the Wells Theater


D’egg offers guests a place to have the perfect fresh and homemade breakfast or lunch at their downtown restaurant or the Larchmont neighborhood location.

Begin your meal with a frosted glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice (be sure to check out the juicer!).

Then choose between having some of the best house-made corned beef in an omelet with Swiss cheese and tomato slices, cinnamon roll pancakes, or you can’t go wrong with the banana foster French toast.

A side of biscuits and gravy is also delicious but very filling. If you enjoy omelets, they make some of the best, which are always fresh and fluffy.

Don’t miss checking out this small diner; the food is fantastic.


Along the Elizabeth River, you will find Nauticus, a building filled with exhibits dedicated to everything nautical.

The hands-on exhibits allow you to experience what life was like on naval ships, touch sharks and horseshoe crabs, and explore what is packed in all those cargo boxes piled high on the cargo ships leaving port.

Several theaters within Nauticus are both interactive and large-screen. You will find the Hampton Roads Naval Museum on the museum’s second floor.

Nauticus (during late autumn)
Nauticus (during late autumn)

This small but packed full of information is an exciting stop to make as you explore the local history of the U.S. Navy from the Civil War through the Cold War. The exhibits feature model ships, uniforms, mines, and other historical information.

Usually, retired Navy sailors volunteer throughout the museum and are happy to share their experiences and answer any of your questions.

After passing through the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, head over the gangway to the decommissioned WWII USS Wisconsin.

USS Wisconsin
USS Wisconsin

The Wisconsin is one of the U.S. Navy’s largest and last battleships built and actively sailed the seas during WWII, the Korean War, and Operation Desert Storm.

You can either take a guided or self-guided tour of the USS Wisconsin.

Take time to walk around the ship’s deck before heading inside to see the CPO Lounge, the galley, berths, the dentist’s office, the chapel, the ship’s store, the command center, the brig, etc.

Beware that the stairs are very steep, and when you go down, you must be able to come back up.

Lunch at Pendulum Fine Meats

In the Norfolk neighborhood of Ghent, you will find the family-owned Pendulum Fine Meats butcher shop.

Here, owners Dana and Dylan Wakefield will greet you with their infectious smiles as you order a freshly made sandwich for lunch. All their meat and produce are from local farms they have personally connected with.

After a lunch of the Shepherd with ground lamb and goat cheese, the Big Tex with smoked brisket and caramelized onions, or sliced chicken, bacon, and Swiss cheese on the Gone to the Birds sandwich, check out the meat case for some delicious homemade sausage or an heirloom cut of steak.

They also have roasted skins for your pet and local bottles of wine.

Set Sail on an Elizabeth River Cruise

From the Waterside area, take to the river and enjoy the sites. You have several options to choose from:

For the quickest voyage, board the Elizabeth River Ferry and travel across the river to Portsmouth. Here you can get off and explore the area, or board again and watch the paddlewheel push you back across as you enjoy the Norfolk skyline.

The Victory Rover Naval Base Cruise offers guests a seat on the 150-passenger boat with an open-air upper level and an air-conditioned lower closed cabin.

The beautiful harbor in Norfolk
The beautiful harbor in Norfolk

From either location, you can enjoy sailing along downtown Norfolk, the Battleship Wisconsin, shipyards, the Portsmouth Coast Guard Station, and the Portsmouth Naval Hospital before reaching the Norfolk Naval Station’s piers.

The narrated cruises run regularly between March and November.

From the Nauticus building, sail along the Elizabeth River and through Hampton Roads Harbor on the three-masted schooner, American Rover.

The 2½-hour narrated cruise on the tall ship is an enjoyable experience. Along the route, you can either join in and get a little hands-on experience with the sails or simply enjoy the sights.

Buffet cruises are a must during a weekend in Norfolk!
Buffet cruises are a must during a weekend in Norfolk!

Those looking for something a bit more special may want to take a dinner cruise aboard the Spirit of Norfolk/Spirit of Mount Vernon.

These cruises go along the Elizabeth River year-round as guests enjoy breathtaking views, dine at the grand buffet, and dance to top 40 hits.

Dinner at El Azteca

Since 1994, the late Alberto Omelas Sr.’s five multi-generational, family-run restaurants have been serving authentic Mexican classic homemade dishes with fresh ingredients.

As you sit in the cozy dining room filled with sombreros and handwoven blankets or, at some locations, the outdoor patio, you will quickly be enjoying freshly cooked chips, homemade salsa, and the famous southeastern Virginia white sauce.

El Azteca
El Azteca

El Azteca is known for some of the best white sauce in the area.

Since their portions are generous, come hungry for cheesy fajita nachos, a shrimp chimichanga packed with good-sized shrimp, or the pollo asado that comes with two large pieces of chicken.

Enchilada, beans, and rice at El Azteca
Enchilada, beans, and rice at El Azteca

Their grilled foods feature a unique flavor that we have not tasted anywhere else.

When dining at the Norfolk location, head to the red umbrellaed outdoor patio, where you can overlook the Ornelas’ pepper garden, which produces the peppers for their salsas.

Watch a Show at the Wells Theater

Enjoy an evening production at the historic Wells Theater. The early 1900s architecture is beautiful and is a great theater to watch a lively comedy or a serious play.

The Wells Theater in Norfolk
The Wells Theater in Norfolk

The theater season runs each year from December through June.

More than 2 days in Norfolk?

There is plenty that you can do with extra days in Norfolk. You can explore the city’s vibrant coffee scene, check out more restaurants, or go for walks in historical areas. 

Here are a few additional things I think you should do if you have more than 2 days in Norfolk, VA:

  • Ocean View Beach (great for a summer’s day!)
  • Freemason Abbey Restaurant (best she-crab soup in the city)
  • Chrysler Museum of Art (one of the best art museums in Virginia)
  • Hermitage Museum and Gardens

Norfolk Weekend Trip (On a Map!)

🗺️  HOW TO USE THIS MAP: You can use your fingers/mouse to zoom in and out. To get more info about a place, simply touch/click the icons. Want to save this map for later use? Click the ‘⭐’ by the map title and it will add it to your Google Maps account (Saved > Maps or ‘Your Places’).

Do you have any questions about spending a weekend in Norfolk, Virginia? Let me know in the comments what you think could be missing from this Norfolk itinerary. Thanks!

Additional Tidewater Travel Guides

Pin this Two Days in Norfolk, VA Itinerary

Are you looking to spend a weekend in Norfolk, Virginia and the perfect way to spend 2 days (or more)? This Norfolk itinerary breaks it all down - and includes a map! | Itinerary Norfolk VA | 2 days in Norfolk VA | 3 days in Norfolk VA | Things to do in Norfolk VA | What to do in Norfolk VA on a weekend | Weekend trip to Norfolk VA | Norfolk VA itinerary

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *