Norfolk VA: Fun on the Water in A Nautical City
Elvis Alive and Well in Norfolk
When my plane landed in Norfolk, I made my way
As Elvis drove me into the city, I started to think of my other first impression. While looking for zooming jets, I was amazed by the sight of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. The bridge was built in 1964 and was selected as one of the ‘Seven Engineering Wonders of The World’.
Mermaids and Wine Tasting; Perfect Together
Along the route to my hotel, I noticed statues of mermaids displayed throughout the city. The fanciful mermaids are designed by local artists and located at various businesses and public parks in downtown Norfolk. Then they are auctioned off to raise money for the Hampton Roads Arts Organization.
The roadside mermaids add a sense of style to Norfolk as some are decked out in glitter, some are designed in mosaic glass, and even one is tie-dyed. Some are funny, such as the one that’s decorated in chocolate with a bite taken out of her tail! Unlike the legend of sirens of years past who where rumored to cause shipwrecks, Norfolk’s mermaids welcome ships and people of all shapes and sizes to their port.
I was lucky enough to be in Norfolk for the 24th Annual Town Point Virginia Wine Festival. The Town Point Park, home to several of the city’s mermaids, is located on the waterfront in downtown Norfolk and is host to the state’s largest outdoor wine festival. It features more than 30 Virginia wineries offering wines by the glass or the bottle. In between the tasting, you can cleanse your palette with all sorts of gourmet treats.
Segway: More Fun than Riding a Bike
While in Norfolk, I took a Segway tour through the historic downtown area and the Cannonball Trail. Once I got the balancing part down and got past my hidden fear of careening out of control, I was good to go. I ‘Segwayed’ past Saint Paul's Episcopal Church to see the famous Revolutionary War cannon ball that was fired in 1776. It’s still lodged in the top corner stone of the historic building.
Glass Blowing and the ‘Glory Hole’
I took a sneak peak preview of the brand new glass studio at the Chrysler Museum of the Arts. It officially opened to the public on November 2, 2011 and the glass studio is sure to be a winner with locals as well as tourists. After a worldwide search for a curator for the glass blowing studio, the directors hired the very beautiful and talented conceptual artist, Charlotte Potter.
The ‘Glory Hole’ is the hottest furnace at the studio, with a temperature that reaches 2,050 degrees Fahrenheit and is as hot as molten lava. The air is warm from the high temperature and the hiss of the fire fills the space with white noise.
Norfolk is centered on the Port of Hampton Roads, one of the largest, naturally deep, ice free harbors in the world. You can see tugs, barges, sailboats, navy ships, commercial vessels and even a few kayaks moving in and out of the port through the Elizabeth River. I checked out the kayaking and got to see the landscape up close. Among the businesses located here is the headquarters of PETA where several happy dogs were running and playing at their very own public ‘doggy park’.
I passed by the I USS Battleship Wisconsin on my kayak. Nothing prepared me for the massive size of the ship, nicknamed the ‘Whisky.’ I was dwarfed and chilled by the mighty gray shadow that she
cast. The 887.2 foot battleship was known as one of the fastest battleships in the US fleet. She could reach speeds of 28 knots (32 mph) and earned six battle stars. She fired the first four missiles in Operation Desert Storm back in 1993. Now, the mighty ship is retired as a museum ship at Nauticus, the Naval Museum in Norfolk’s safe harbor.
I was so impressed by the big grey girl that later that day I toured the ship from above. I highly recommend checking out the Wisconsin as nothing will prepare you for the massive size of this battleship and seeing it up close is a moving experience.
Ride The Tide
Norfolk’s newest light rail system, The Tide, is an efficient and affordable way to get around the city. You can get from downtown Norfolk to the artsy and historic Ghent area in less than 15 minutes. (As wonderful as it is, it would be even greater if the rail continued all the way to the beach). A day pass is only $3.50 and the train is super clean and convenient. The Tide operates every 10 minutes during peak hours and every 15 minutes during off peak hours, so you’ll never have to
Norfolk by Water
Check out the American Rover if you’re in the mood for a relaxing harbor cruise. She’s a 135’ sailing schooner that holds 150 passengers. The design was inspired by a 19th century cargo schooner, yet she offers all the modern amenities to assure you a comfortable cruise. I went out on a brunch cruise, sipping mimosas, and enjoying a leisurely sail aboard the tri-masted ship.
For live music and a fun night out, seek out The Jewish Mother on Granby Street. The food is fabulous and the eclectic atmosphere will leave you wanting more. If you’re a beer lover, I recommend trying a bottle of Flat Tire (amber) Ale from the New Belgium Brewing Company of Fort Collins, Colorado. The label on the 22 ounce bottle encourages you to share the large bottle it with a lover. On the other hand, if you’re all by yourself, as I was, order one and drink up!
To Hookah or Not to Hookah?
If you’re looking for a really unique way to spend the evening, locate a ‘Hookah Bar.’ If you’re new to ‘Hookah’, it’s a fun, legal, social, and relaxing way to smoke a water pipe (bong) in public. Paired with fabulous Greek and Mediterranean style food and exciting belly dancers, you can’t go wrong. If you’re up for the adventure, I recommend ‘Nazef’ on Colley Avenue in the Ghent area. I’m told that the Mediterranean culture is very fond of the social benefits of ‘Hookah’ in the same way that the British enjoy their ‘tea-time’.
Many times, in looking for a weekend activity, we find one dimensional events where enthusiasm dies a quiet death. Not so in Norfolk! I had a long and enjoyable weekend full of exciting activities with enthusiastic and creative people who love where they live. It was a blast!
And, for those in the East, Norfolk’s an easy hop, skip, and jump to living well for the weekend.
Details on Visiting Norfolk
Fun on the water
Nauticus and The Naval Base
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