See This, Skip That: Norfolk

My first lesson when I visited Norfolk? How to pronounce it.

ByABC News
September 27, 2014, 10:20 AM
The old pier in Willoughby Bay, Norfolk, Va. is seen in this undated file photo.
The old pier in Willoughby Bay, Norfolk, Va. is seen in this undated file photo.
Getty Images

— -- My first lesson when I visited Norfolk? How to pronounce it. Call it Nor-fok, or better yet, Naw-fok. But don’t call it Nor-folk. No matter how you say it, though, this truly is one of the great historic cities in America. Travelers will find nearly 150 miles of sweeping coastline here, a thriving arts scene and world-class cuisine. Here are a few attractions not to miss.

Skip the Bar, Hit the Festival

If you’re thirsty for some of the most buzzed-about wine in the country, head to a festival; Norfolk hosts an average of two per month. One of the most anticipated is the annual Town Point Virginia Wine Festival, which takes place in mid-October (this year, it’s slated for Oct. 18-19). Dozens of Virginia wineries pour, and guests get to expand their palate with several Sip-&-Learn seminars. The wine industry here is on the rise; Wine Enthusiast Magazine named Virginia one of the 10 best wine travel destinations in the world.

After the Festival, Visit the Winery

Located in the charming neighborhood of Ghent, Mermaid Winery is Norfolk’s very first urban winery. Small-production wines are made using premium Virginia grapes, and guests can choose from a dozen wine flights. Visit during one of their free monthly wine tastings.

Skip the Wine, Sip the Beer

If you prefer suds in your glass, check out the brand new O’Connor Brewing Co. tasting room, on W. 24th Street. Step up to the 24-tap bar and play a little shuffleboard before you join one of the free brewery tours offered Saturday and Sunday afternoons, every hour, on the hour. The optional guided beer sampling that follows, for about $10, gets high marks.

Skip the Café, Walk

Walking food tours are becoming a hot item nationwide, including Norfolk; ambitious restaurateurs and creative chefs have flocked here in recent years, creating a vibrant food scene. Coastal Food Tours Virginia offers the Granby Street Tour through the heart of downtown Norfolk. It lasts about 3-1/2 hours and tastes you through award-winning smoked meats, tapas dishes, crab soups, ethnic specialties and some of the city’s best desserts; there’s coffee sampling and beer tasting, too.

Skip Lunch, Do Dessert

For a behind-the-scenes culinary tour, visit Rowena’s Kitchen on W. 22nd Street, a Norfolk institution whose delectable, original-recipe desserts have been featured on the Food Network and the pages of Gourmet Magazine, Bon Appetit and Southern Living. Free cake factory tours are offered most days and include a generous sampling of their bakes goodies, curds and jams.

Come for the Art, Stay for the Glass

When you visit the Chrysler Museum of Art -- considered one of the best in the country for a collection that features masters like Ansel Adams and Pablo Picasso – check out the glass studio. Opened three years ago, glass is presented here as a performing art. Free demos are presented most days, at noon. And there are several classes, like the two-hour teaser lesson that shows you how to blow through a pipe and use specialty tools to shape molten glass; you’ll leave class with a champagne paperweight souvenir. Single-session classes on stained glass and kiln-working are also available.

After the Museum, Visit a Historic Home