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Norfolk

Norfolk, VA is a charming independent waterfront city located in the Hampton Roads or “Tidewater” region of coastal Virginia. With a population of 238,005 people, it is the third largest city in Virginia.

History

Norfolk was incorporated as a city in 1705, and houses the largest Naval base in the world, Naval Station Norfolk. It is also an important component of The Port of Virginia, with miles of coastline on both the Elizabeth River and the Chesapeake Bay for trade. 

The Nauticus Museum is a maritime science center and museum located on the downtown waterfront in Norfolk, Virginia. It features interactive exhibits, an aquarium, and educational programs that explore the economic, naval, and natural history of the coastal area. The Hampton Roads Naval Museum is dedicated to preserving the naval history of the region, and includes a self-guided or audio tour of the Battleship Wisconsin, one of the largest and last battleships ever built by the US Navy and now permanently on display at the museum.

Demographics

Norfolk is a healthily diverse city, due in part to it’s military affiliations and port city status. Of the 238k people living within the independent city, 44.8% are white, 40.7% are black or African American, 8.7% Hispanic or Latino, 3.8% Asian, 6.7% Two or More Races, and 0.6% Other. The median age of a resident of Norfolk is 30.4 years, and the gender distribution is pretty even, at 49.1% female to 50.9% male.

The median household income in Norfolk is $54,869 and 32% of the city has a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education. 89% have graduated high school. 7.4% of Norfolk residents are foreign-born, and 10.7% speak a language other than English at home. Nearly 10% of the population of the City of Norfolk are American veterans.

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Climate

Norfolk’s climate is humid subtropical, with relatively cold winters and hot, muggy summers. The average temperature ranges from 34°F in January to 88°F in July. The city receives about 47 inches of rain and 5 inches of snow per year, with most of the precipitation occurring in the form of rain showers. Norfolk also experiences frequent thunderstorms in the summer and occasional hurricanes or their remnants in late summer and early autumn. Norfolk has 215 sunny days per year on average, which is slightly higher than the US average of 205. Norfolk’s climate is influenced by its location along the Elizabeth River, the Hampton Roads canal, and the Chesapeake Bay, which moderate the temperature and increase the humidity.

Coastal Communities

Ocean View and Willoughby Spit are two coastal neighborhoods in Norfolk, Virginia, that offer scenic views of the Chesapeake Bay and plenty of recreational opportunities. Ocean View strip is several miles of shoreline on the Chesapeake Bay, with well-kept public beaches, shady parks with groves of Bay Oaks Trees, and the longest fishing pier in America. Ocean View also hosts festivals, concerts, and events at the Ocean View Beach Park, which has a stage, a fountain, and a playground and sits right at the edge of the Bay, with pristine views.

Willoughby Spit is a peninsula at the tip of Norfolk with a delightfully jaunty name. The Peninsula was formed by a hurricane in 1806, and has an excellent small-town beach town vibe. Willoughby Spit has many pedestrian access points to the bay, and is home to the historic Sarah Constant Beach Park, where the first settlers of Jamestown landed in 1607.

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Culture

Norfolk’s Ghent neighborhood houses the Chrysler Museum, an understated powerhouse of public resource with an impressive and ever-evolving collection of contemporary and historical art. Bafflingly free-to-the-public, the collection includes over 30,000 works of art by from ancient to modern with names such as Pollock, Rothko, Lichtenstein and Warhol, and has an impressive collection of historical photography dating back to the Civil War, a dedicated glass gallery, and a substantial collection of ancient art. The glass studio offers free-to-the-public glass blowing demos at noon every day that the museum is open, and their list of classes is extensive.

The Wonder Studio inside the Chrysler is a dedicated children’s gallery offering exhibitions and accompanying lessons for independent and group learning, beckoning families and school-groups alike to learn something new about art. The interactive elements of the gallery rotate and correspond to work being featured elsewhere in the museum, including a recent exhibition with a  motion-activated gallery wall that lets you to shape molten glass by moving your body across the projection wall.

The Hermitage Museum & Gardens is a historic estate and art museum located on the shore of the Lafayette River in Norfolk, Virginia. It was built in 1908 by William and Florence Sloane, who were prominent collectors and patrons of the arts. The estate features a Tudor-style mansion, a Visual Arts Studio, and 12 acres of gardens and grounds. The museum houses a nationally recognized art collection that spans 5,000 years, from ancient Egyptian artifacts to contemporary works. The Hermitage also hosts changing exhibitions, educational programs, and cultural events throughout the year. The Norfolk Botanical Garden showcases the flora and fauna of Virginia and beyond. With 175 acres of  more than 60 themed gardens such as the Rose Garden, the Japanese Garden, and the Tropical House, as well as the World of Wonders Children’s Garden, a popular summer destination with a splashpad. The garden offers tram and boat tours and many gardening educational programs.

Notable Events

The Norfolk St. Patrick’s Day Parade  is an annual event that celebrates the Irish heritage and culture of the city and its residents. The parade, founded  in 1967, is one of the oldest and largest in Virginia, attracting thousands of spectators and participants every year. The parade features marching bands, floats, clowns, vintage decorated cars, and candy and prizes and merch thrown into the crowd like Irish Mardis Gras. Each year there is a Grand Marshal and a Miss Saint Patrick appointed. The parade is known for it’s raucous after-party with live music, food, and drinks in the street.

The Stockley Gardens Arts Festival is a charming outdoor arts festival each spring offering free admission, live music and food vendors to accompany an international selection of artists in a variety of mediums selling their wares.

Schools

Norfolk is home to Old Dominion University, a public research university which was founded in 1930 as a division of the College of William & Mary, and became an independent institution in 1962. It has more than 24,000 students enrolled in over 175 academic programs, ranging from bachelor's to doctoral degrees. It is classified as an R1 research university by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, and has a strong focus on engineering, health sciences, education, and business. ODU is known for its diverse and vibrant campus community, its innovative and forward-focused approach to education, and its contributions to the economic and social development of Norfolk.

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Dining and Entertainment

Ocean View Fishing Pier Restaurant is a local favorite in Norfolk, if you’re after fresh seafood and panoramic views of the Chesapeake Bay. Located on the Ocean View Fishing Pier, the restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating, with rooftop swing tables where you can feel the bay breeze while you sip a cold drink in the sun.

Located inside of The Main Hotel, Saltine is a posh seafood restaurant with a raw bar and a whiskey lounge, with views of the Elizabeth River.

The Handsome Biscuit is local haunt that specializes in gigantic biscuit sandwiches with various fillings, such as fried chicken, bacon, cheese, and gravy.

There are so many reasons to love Norfolk, Va, a medium-sized coastal city with a big heart. Whether you’re visiting for the first time, or returning home, Norfolk is a wonderful place to be.

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