""Norfolk by the Sea"" Top 5 Page for this destination Norfolk by starship

Norfolk Travel Guide: 122 reviews and 492 photos

The Memories Come Flooding Back

After an absence of far too many years, recently I was able to return to Norfolk for a visit of several days. Located only a short distance from my hometown, Norfolk is the place where I spent four years in college, and where I worked after college graduation. I was happy to have the opportunity to really visit Norfolk rather than just drive through again!

For nearly three full days I was able to explore the downtown area on foot while my husband was busy with work. The location of our hotel was superb, offering not only wonderful views of the Elizabeth River and surroundings, but also the location put me within walking distance of many historic sites, museums, shopping, and restaurants. I also took the opportunity to revisit my old college campus, and visit Gray's Pharmacy where I ate the same meal at their lunch counter virtually every day for a year or more! The lunch counter is gone, but the indifferent attitude to customers still remains!

I always thought Norfolk was a great place, and my favorite place in Norfolk was the neighborhood of Ghent, made up of century-old homes and early to mid-20th century apartments, interesting streets, parks, etc.,. At one time I was lucky enough to live and work in Ghent.

I still have many personal connections to this area, along with an enthusiasm for its history, its interesting neighborhoods and landscapes, its military presence, the fact that it is mostly surrounded by water, and much more.

Same Character ~ New Face

During this trip I found that Norfolk has taken the symbol of the "mermaid" to identify itself and its connection to the sea, and similarly the moniker, "Norfolk By the Sea." It seems a recent building spree has somewhat dissipated Norfolk's original character, but it is also working hard to preserve those historic points of interest and make them available to the public. This being the case, emphasizing Norfolk's lifetime historical connection to the Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean and Elizabeth River makes a lot of sense and fits.

All around downtown Norfolk you will find "mermaids" brightly decorated by local organizations---much the same as I have seen bee hives, horses, and other symbols in towns across the USA. I appreciated this public art, and liked the choice of symbol that Norfolk now uses.

More on the subject of Norfolk's Mermaids: "Norfolk visitors will notice the mermaid statues scattered throughout the town. The fanciful mermaids were designed by local artists and auctioned off to raise funds for Hampton Roads arts organizations. The mermaids are now located at businesses and public spaces throughout the area. ......The city has established a story trail from mermaid to mermaid downtown, where each mermaid is one page of a new mermaid story...." www.mermaidsonparade.com."

A Brief Early History of Norfolk

"The Chesipean Indians occupied the land where Norfolk is located today on the Elizabeth River near Chesapeake Bay. They ceased to exist by the time the first English settlers arrived in 1585 on Roanoke Island in North Carolina (a settlement which also disappeared in 1591). Norfolk was a planned city, laid out in 1682 (and became an independent city from Norfolk County in 1871). In 1776, the British royal governor of Virginia, in an attempt to quell the rebellion of the American colony, shelled the city and destroyed over 800 buildings. He ultimately failed to regain control of Virginia and went back to England. In 1855, a yellow fever epidemic ravaged Norfolk; one out of every three citizens died. The Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad was completed in 1858 which allowed for major connections to points north, west and south. During the Civil War in 1862, the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac ironclad shipswas fought in the Battle of Hampton Roads off Norfolk. In 1917 the US Naval Base was established in Norfolk because of the area’s strategic location, deep-water bay, and ocean access. In the 1970s, urban renewal brought much-needed visitor and cultural attractions and commercial development, such as Waterside, which transformed a seedy harbor area into a festive marketplace with restaurants and artistic venues."


Pros and Cons
  • Pros:On Chesapeake Bay, History, Museums, Many Local Attractions
  • Cons:Recent building spree has changed the character somewhat
  • In a nutshell:Feels like home to me!
  • Last visit to Norfolk: Feb 2011
  • Intro Updated Mar 6, 2015
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Reviews (15)

Comments (18)

  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo
    Mar 6, 2015 at 6:08 AM

    This is a very helpful page as I am leaving for Norfolk today on business. I hope to check out the Cannonball Trail! Thanks for the info.

    • starship's Profile Photo
      Mar 6, 2015 at 8:29 AM

      Hope you have a good trip! Hope the weather will be better there than it has been here, LOL. Norfolk is a pretty big city but it definitely has some interesting places to visit.

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Jul 8, 2014 at 10:20 PM

    Thanks for another interesting read!

    • starship's Profile Photo
      Jul 9, 2014 at 4:39 AM

      Dee, thanks for your visit to my Norfolk page. The city really does have quite a bit to offer and I only comment on the places in downtown on this page. I very much appreciate your kind words always!

  • hopang's Profile Photo
    Dec 31, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    Sidewalk Museum seems to be an interesting museum to visit and explore! It is a shame Skyrocket rollercoaster is a thing of the past! Thanks for your virtual tour. ~ho & pang

  • Regina1965's Profile Photo
    Nov 18, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    Great tips, filled with history.

    • starship's Profile Photo
      Nov 18, 2013 at 6:19 PM

      Regina, thank you so much for reading and rating my Norfolk page! And all the nice comments. I have a fondness in my heart for this city although in many ways it has seen better days.

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Jun 22, 2012 at 9:08 PM

    Another great addition to your fantastic travels Sylvia! I enjoyed it!

  • DSwede's Profile Photo
    Jun 14, 2012 at 5:47 AM

    Never thought of Norfolk as a destination, but will now stop there on my next east coast road trip... when ever that is. How much time would you have to visit Cairns or the north? Did you look into maybe doing a stop at Kuranda and passing up to Port Douglas?

  • csordila's Profile Photo
    Jan 22, 2012 at 8:00 AM

    . Very good tips! I can get almost immediately the desire to make a trip to this city! L.

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Jan 21, 2012 at 2:51 AM

    Excellent page about Norfolk here. I like the idea of the Cannonball Trail and even more the F.R.E.D. concept.

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Dec 21, 2011 at 2:25 PM

    We are looking into a trip out that was and so thanks for your comments and pictures. They were helpful and Fredricksberg is the local we may choose.

  • Pinat's Profile Photo
    Sep 4, 2011 at 3:16 AM

    I liked your friendly page on Norfolk dear Sylvia. I especially liked the Norfolk Southern Railroad Museum. I like such museums as well. Plus, it is always great to go back to a place where you once lived and collected a whole bunch of great memories :)


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