I Love Where I Live: Norfolk, VA

When I’m traveling, I think it’s so fun to hear locals describe what they love about where they live–their description offers better and more personal insight than the best travel book ever could.  Today is the second post in the series I Love Where I Live: an inside, behind-the-scenes look at the places we call home. I’m so happy to introduce my friend Erica to you all!

A decade ago, I met Erica in Jackson, MS, where we attended the same college. Our friendship grew over dorm room chats and middle-of-the night sodas in the admin building. Our last couple of years of college, we met every other Sunday morning before church at our local Starbucks and chatted about school and life and boys and dreams. I so miss that tradition!


Since graduation, we’ve gone on many adventures together, including a graduation road trip, a backpacking trip, and a trip to Chicago to run our first half marathon. Today, Erica is a professional photographer who lives in the Norfolk, VA, area with her husband and adorable toddler.

Here’s Erica

When my husband and I were engaged and he mentioned the idea of moving to Norfolk, VA my first reaction was “No way, buddy!” But, as usual, he was right. Nestled between the Chesapeake Bay and the Virginia Beach oceanfront, Norfolk is a small city boasting all the usual comforts of urban life…museums and theaters, a wide range of ethnic foods and a beautiful historic district, all while being just a short drive from the beach and the countryside. There’s something for everyone around here.

Museums and sightseeing

Norfolk has a lot of options for sightseeing and museums. My personal favorite is the Chrysler Museum, a free and lovely art museum boasting a large collection of colonial and ancient art, as well as a groundbreaking glass blowing center. For those who love history, the MacArthur Museum is right downtown, and it’s also free! Learn about John MacArthur and the Pacific theater of WWII like never before. The Nauticus Museum is also right on the waterfront and includes a tour of the battleship Wisconsin.

If the weather isn’t too hot, I highly recommend the Norfolk Botanical Gardens. Brimming with local azaleas, crepe myrtles, and roses, there is even a huge play area for the kids, complete with fountains and a sand pit! For a quieter time, my family and I enjoy the Hermitage, a small but beautiful mansion and art museum on the riverfront surrounded by lush gardens. (Oops, is my art history major showing?)


Who doesn’t love to eat? For starters, Jason and I made a weekly ritual out of $.75 taco night at Tortilla West. Located in the West Ghent district, you can put your name on the list and then enjoy a walk on the riverfront until dinnertime. Enjoy a variety of local beers on tap with your tacos, and don’t forget to finish with the flan. No Frill Grill and the Pubhouse are famous among locals, one for it’s variety of fresh dishes, and the other for it’s selection of local brews. For pizza you MUST visit Granby Street Pizza downtown, and for breakfast I suggest the Handsome Biscuit (they specialize in sweet potato biscuits!) or the Grilled Cheese Bistro (‘nuf said). You certainly won’t go hungry in Norfolk!

For a cozy coffee shop date, I recommend Stella’s Cafe. The college students can always be found at Elliot’s Fairgrounds, but it isn’t my favorite. The best place for something cold, in my opinion, is Strawberry Fields, a locally owned gelato shop. You never know what flavor they will come up with next!

In the mood for beer tasting? Both Smartmouth Brewery and O’Connors are located in Norfolk and offer their own flavors and fun for a night out.

Date Night?

In the age of Netflix and Amazon, the Naro Theater in the Ghent district is still alive and well. Take in a movie in the historic theater, or, if you’re like us, enjoy an after dinner walk to the Naro movie rental store, where you can find virtually any movie ever released. Need a suggestion? The staff has seen them all!

For something a little different, try a harbor cruise on the American Rover. A 2 hour cruise planned right around sunset, the American Rover will show you the points of interest in the harbor and then fill the air with music so you can enjoy a relaxing and classy evening. Highly recommend.


This time of year, the beach is the obvious draw. VA Beach has a clean, beautiful boardwalk and public beach access and is hopping with street performers, musicians, and a festival nearly every weekend. For more private beaches keep driving down Atlantic Avenue to First Landing State Park, or go farther south to Sandbridge. If you’re tired of laying in the sand, you can take a dolphin tour either by pontoon boat or by kayak!

The Historic Triangle

Especially if you have kids, you don’t want to miss the Historic Triangle of Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown. All are within an hour’s drive of Norfolk. Colonial Williamsburg will be an entire day outside. Both Yorktown and Jamestown have beautiful museums indoors as well as outdoor reenactment sights so you can escape the heat or the rain! Jamestown would be my personal favorite. The archaeological museum and the ruins of the very first Jamestown settlement are not to be missed.

Whether you’re a total nerd (like me), a foodie (like my husband), or a beach bum (like my toddler), you are sure to enjoy your time in Norfolk, VA! Don’t forget to stop by our place. I make a mean snickerdoodle.

Thanks, Erica! If you haven’t yet, check out Erica’s gorgeous photos on her website–www.ericakentphotography.com. All photos in this post are her original work and are provided for use on Balance and Blueberries.

Do you want to share what you love about where you live? Email me at rachel@balanceandblueberries.com with your insider tips, tricks, and recommendations, and you could be featured, too!

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