Destination: Norfolk, Virginia

Norfolk, Virginia, has a bevy of events for cruisers visting in the fall.

Boats in Norfolk, Virginia
Norfolk, Virginia, is a fun-filled stop with a fall wine festival.Courtesy Visit Norfolk

Brook Smith can talk to boaters all day about why they should tie up in Norfolk, Virginia. As the manager of Waterside Marina, he spends countless hours next to scenic Town Point Park—­within steps of shops and eateries, the Nauticus museum and the battleship Wisconsin, and the ballfield Harbor Park, where the Triple-A Norfolk Tides round the bases, hoping to get called up to Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles.

But it’s during the fall, Smith says, that transient traffic really picks up—and during one fall weekend in particular. This year, it will be October 19-20. That’s when the Town Point Virginia Fall Wine Festival is scheduled to take place.

“It’s just become the thing to do,” he says. “People come over with their boats and walk because you don’t want to be on the roads when they let out at 5 o’clock.”

Norfolk’s Slover Library
Norfolk’s Slover Library opened in 2015 with technological features that draw locals and tourists alike. There’s a bistro with outdoor ­seating, a Playscape and KidZone, a video gaming room, and more.iStock/Bryan Pollard

Dodging drunk drivers aside, visiting boaters consider the marina a haven because transients are the only kind of boaters welcome. No annual slip contracts are given, which means that reservations are first-come, first-served for anybody who wants to cruise on over.

“We can handle anything from a 270-foot mega-yacht down to a mom and pop trawler,” he says. “Our enclosed basin has 35 slips, and we also have 500 feet of protected bulkhead inside the basin. It has new power and was recently updated, so we bring in 80-footers, 90-footers.”

Depending on the weather, he says, boaters stay for three to five nights, finding plenty to do. And this winter, the floating docks are scheduled to be replaced. Between that and the wine festival, he says, “We’ve got a lot of nice things coming.”

Things To Do

Within walking distance of Waterside Marina, boaters can find: Nauticus, a museum and science-and-technology center that explores the naval, economic and nautical power of the sea. It’s also home to the Battleship Wisconsin, which offers guided and self-guided tours. ­Harbor Park is where the Triple-A Norfolk Tides baseball team plays through early September. The Chrysler Museum of Art is known for its glass collection, and there’s a studio where visitors can see how the pieces were created. Harrison Opera House has an intimate—as opera houses go—1,632-seat theater, while Push Comedy Theater seats 90 people and hosts live stand-up, sketch and improv shows. The Virginia Zoo has more than 500 animals, including tigers and giraffes.