Tuesday, June 13, 2017

5 Casual Ways To Spend Time In Norfolk, Virginia

Last week Time Magazine declared my home-town & environs the number one location in America for places where millennials are moving and settling! I mean, for the record, I loved Norfolk & Virginia Beach before it was cool. The region has come such a long way since I was a kid - growing up, nobody went to Norfolk unless you were headed to the Norfolk Zoo or maybe the Chrysler Museum on a Tuesday when admission was free. It was not considered safe, for one thing. For another, there was really nothing to do. Not so today. The great people of Hampton Roads have worked long and hard to bring a sort of revival to the region and guess what? It's working. During the last five or six years, Norfolk has become one of my favorite places to hang out with its constantly shifting and growing crowd of eateries and restaurants, shopping, and culture. You can see an opera the Harrison Opera House, check out the impressive (and constantly free) Chrysler Museum of Art, head to any number of bustling coffee shops, stroll past restored historic homes, shop at MacArthur Mall, grab dinner and drinks at Grain, the Main's rooftop beer garden, shop at an independent bookstore, try a delicious pastry at The Rustic Tart or an authentic French crepe at Lamia's, take a dinner cruise on the Elizabeth River, hang out with friends at Waterside, and go see a minor league baseball game at the Tide's Stadium all in the same two-mile square. No wonder people like Norfolk. We've worked hard to become one of the top fifty places to visit in 2017. Obviously I'm a little biased, but if anybody wants to visit Norfolk, VA this year, please don't forget to shoot me an email - lipstickandgelato(at)gmail(dot)com - and let me know you're arriving so we can grab coffee and maybe do this tour in person. I'll walk you through Freemason and Ghent and we can gawk at my favorite painting in the museum and maybe catch a concert at the Norva. If it's winter we'll ice skate at MacArthur Center. If it's summer maybe we'll overcome our fear of seasickness and learn to sail at Nauticus. And if your type is men or women in the Armed Forces...we've got a hecka lotta military bases to amp up your chances of meeting one you like. Kidding...kidding...but we are the East Coast epicenter of military activity. And to help you decide on the best possible way to spend your time while here, I've compiled my five favorite things to do during a free day in Norfolk, Virginia.

experience The Chrysler Museum of Art 
A friend of mine actually reprimanded me on his second visit to my native heath when I finally did take him here. "Why didn't you tell me you had an amazing art museum? We should have gone here last time." And it's kind of true. Not only is the Chrysler a free way to experience some serious art and culture for free, the collection includes one of the largest and most comprehensive glass collections in the world (as well as a glass studio with glass-blowing exhibitions on the grounds), a massive collection of American paintings and sculpture, modern, and contemporary art. There truly is something for every taste in art.

grab coffee at Cure Coffeehouse & Brasserie
This gem in the center of Norfolk's Freemason district swiftly became my favorite place when I first began hanging out in Norfolk. Not much has changed - I still willingly drive an hour for their lattes and am sitting inside the shop as I write this article. The staff is friendly, the neighborhood charming, and the rest of the downtown Norfolk just a pleasant stroll away. Go here. Fall in love. There is a reason it was voted Small Business of The Year in Norfolk. 

walk along Waterside
My favorite route for a wander 'round Norfolk is the park at the Chrysler Museum and head along the Hague River till you reach the "key bridge." Cross over Brambleton to Botetourt, then wander around to the Oriental Pagoda Gardens till you reach the Harbor. From here, follow the river around its curve to the recently renovated Waterside, or hop across the street to visit the glamorous new Main.

browse in Prince Books
I get predictably sentimental about independent bookstores because they basically make me feel like Kathleen Kelly in You've Got Mail. Prince Books is no exception to the "save it, it's adorable and we can't let it die" rule. Truly, though, this bookshop is staffed with knowledgeable, friendly people and holds a surprisingly comprehensive collection of children's books, cookbooks, novels, poetry, magazines, and classic literature for such a small shop. I'm always impressed and try to make book purchases here rather than the Barnes & Noble found just up the street.

eat at Commune NFK
We all know how much I love the food at Commune. It's fresh. It's locally sourced. It's creative - I mean, where else does one get cilantro ice cream and a constantly changing menu of impeccable food? The Norfolk location is even better than the Oceanfront original (in my opinion) because of its location in the NEON district: a restored brick "warehouse-style" building with a beautiful patina that speaks of Norfolk's history. If you have time for only one restaurant in Norfolk (ha) and want the full Virginia cuisine experience, eat here.

Ahhhhhhh, Norfolk. I feel like a proud parent watching her kid graduate. You've done well, babe. Keep growing big and strong and classy.


  1. Growing up, Norfolk = military bases with inexpensive lodging for trips to the beach (that army brat life). You make me want to come back and visit sometime and actually experience the town for real. ;)

    1. Yes, come back, Kate! The military bases are so vital...but definitely not the best cosmetic face of Norfolk. ;)



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