Image above: illustration by Julia Rothman
Today’s city guide comes to us from Ashley Grove, a graphic designer currently based in Chiang Rai, Thailand, where she’s working for a fair-trade organization. Formerly residing in Norfolk, Virginia, Ashley spent her time cooking, sewing and searching for the most delicious, obscure and fascinating places to blog about. Today she shares with us her many finds in the great city of Norfolk. Thanks, Ashley, for this spectacular guide! — Stephanie
CLICK HERE for the full guide after the jump!
Known mostly for its large navy population, Norfolk was said to have been the first New York City if the yellow fever epidemic of 1855 hadn’t killed more than 2,000 people. You could probably consider it one of those small big cities. It’s got your lively downtown/Freemason area, your hipster Ghent area, your laid-back beach Oceanview area and your family friendly areas all mixed together. It’s part of a larger area called Hampton Roads, which consists of seven cities (Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Newport News, Portsmouth and Hampton) with a population of more than 1.8 million people. With so many outlets right at your fingertips, Norfolk makes for a great area to live.
The Norva — A great venue where you’ll find music from punk rock to rap, dance parties and the locals’ favorites. The Norva looks old-school with its wooden floors and brick walls, but the sound system is state-of-the-art.
The Attucks Theater — The theater, named after Crispus Attucks, an African American who was the first American patriot to lose his life in the Boston Massacre, is a beautiful venue to catch a glimpse of the Virginia Arts Festival or the Attucks Jazz Club.
5 Points Community Farm Market — Home to Norfolk’s only fresh farm market, 5 Points carries lots of locally grown produce and has a fresh-fish stand, organic cupcake shop, an earth-friendly general store, a café and more.
Stockley Gardens Art Festival — Twice a year, Stockley Gardens, which is in the Ghent district of Norfolk, turns into a crafter’s mecca. With more than 150 artists, the festival brings 25,000 people to the area to see awesome paintings, sculptures, jewelry, photography and so much more.
Little Theater of Norfolk — LTN has been Norfolk’s community theater since 1926. Catch a show in the recently renovated theater —new floors and comfy seats — featuring five new shows per year.
Generic Theater — In the basement of a bigger, more well-known Chrysler Hall, the Generic Theater presents off-beat productions that you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the area — with cheap tickets to boot!
Chrysler Museum — Founded in 1939 as the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences, the Chrysler has transformed into a beautiful example of America’s great fine arts. And best of all, it’s free!
Town Point Park — Here you’ll find an eight-acre, newly-renovated park alongside the Elizabeth River. During the summer, you can enjoy tons of festivals — from the famous HarborFest in June to the bi-annual Wine Festival and the Bayou Boogaloo Cajun Festival.
The Naro — A charming movie theater nestled smack-dab in the middle of Ghent. Known mostly for playing independent films and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, whenever possible.
Wells Theater — A staple in Norfolk’s theater life since 1913, the Wells Theater has served as a vaudeville venue and a soft-porn theater. Now it’s home to the Virginia Stage Company and a must-see stop for an evening show.
Provisions — This trendy boutique offers a distinct mix of men and women’s clothes. The clothes you find here, you definitely won’t find anywhere else.
Army Surplus Store — I know it sounds (and looks) a little sketchy, but you’ll find the best and cheapest selection of Converse shoes here! Stay long enough, and you’ll also find just about anything else known to man.
Decorum — A furniture store with great contemporary designs (and prices). It’s been locally owned and operated for more than 30 years, and once you’re in the store, you know why.
Bibliophile — It’s hard to miss the ever-changing (maybe daily) selection of books in the window. You’ll find everything from Tarzan to Nazi war-criminal books here at very reasonable prices!
Texture — Found under Fairgrounds (see coffee shops below), this accessory store features tons of local artists and has a great selection of gifts for anyone. Plus, you get to smell the delicious coffee brewing from above!
Serendip — This is one of those home stores you could stand in front of for hours admiring its gorgeous storefronts. They have a great selection of just about everything for the home. Serendip also offers personal interior-design consultations. The store is so picture perfect, you won’t want to take anything home.
Thrift Store USA — This isn’t your average thrift store. It has a huge collection of clothing, including a good vintage section. It also carries tons of furniture at great prices, and I can always find awesome fabric here.
Prince Books — A local favorite for almost 30 years, Prince Books has a huge selection of books and a love of the local book clubs.
Commonwealth — This is more than a street fashion and counter-culture boutique. They also hold art exhibits and other in-store events to showcase local artists’ work and talents.
Local Heroes Comics — Ghent’s only comic book and graphic novel store. They have a great lounge area, so anyone can stop in and enjoy the huge selection.
d’Art Center — d’Art center is an interactive artists’ community. You can go and watch artists at work, browse and shop and even participate in activities and classes that the center has to offer.
Firefly Antiques — This store definitely has a great selection of unusual items, but the best part about this particular antique store is its great collection of vintage clothes in the back of the store. It’s a must-stop if you’re in to the retro look.
Pasha Mezze — This family-owned Turkish restaurant offers all sorts of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free foods, along with your normal fare. The atmosphere is comfy and romantic with deep, dark colors, huge curtains and lots of pillows.
Coffee shops — Fairground’s is Ghent’s infamous cozy, locals-only sort of coffee shop. Bean There Café is downtown’s big-city style café with dark teal walls, exposed brick and ceilings. Borjo Coffeehouse is Old Dominion University’s coffee shop that has it all: a juice bar, freshly baked pastries, lunch and dinner, plus wine and beer! An ODU student favorite. No matter what your taste and style, there’s a local coffee shop that has you covered.
Tortilla West — This Tex-Mex café in West Ghent is sure to please every appetite with its huge menu, great beer list and 75-cent taco nights on Monday and Tuesday.
Yorgo’s Bageldashery — So much more than your average bagel shop, Yorgo’s offers a variety of vegan and vegetarian-friendly sandwiches, snacks and desserts, with specialty drinks to boot.
Cogan’s — Some are surprised to find out that this once used to be a happening venue for punk bands (you can still see band stickers on the walls). Now you come here to drink delicious beer and eat even-more delicious pizza.
Green Onion — With its pea-green walls and dark furniture, this restaurant has an intimate yet fun atmosphere. You can enjoy a friendly Sunday brunch or a date with someone new. Whatever you do, definitely try the Pommes Frites.
No Frill — A staple in most Norfolkians’ lives is No Frill. The always-lively restaurant has your traditional American fare but kicked up a notch. Be prepared for a bit of a wait on the weekends, but it’s totally worth it.
The Boot — Considered a “Virginia” restaurant, The Boot prides itself on embracing the local and regional character and showcasing that through its menu, music and artwork.
Taphouse Grill — One of those hole-in-the-wall places with terrific food (a great vegan and vegetarian place) and an even better beer selection. It has live music every weekend and a great patio for enjoying those amazing East Coast summer nights.
Press 626 — This restaurant opened in the middle of the recession with the idea of offering local foods at a money-conscious price. The pub and wine house-style restaurant offers a wide variety of lunch and dinner options, plus a delicious brunch menu on Sundays — the Poinsettia is a must-have! Stop by for their Meatless Mondays, Ladies Night or one of their many weekly specials.
Razzo — A quaint and romantic restaurant in the Oceanview area of Norfolk. Razzo has taken all your favorite Italian classics and added their own flair to each. It has a very reasonably priced menu with built-to-share sized portions.
*Doumar’s Cones & Barbecue: Hi guys, this is Grace. I had to add Doumar’s because it is one of my favorite places to eat when I’m home in the summer visiting family. Though it’s no Pierce’s in terms of BBQ, the Limeades are second to none and getting to sit in your car and listen to music while you eat some darn good food is heaven.*
Freemason Inn Bed and Breakfast — Right in the middle of the historic Freemason district of downtown Norfolk, this bed and breakfast was built in 1897 and has been restored with Jacuzzis and fireplaces in every room.
The Page House Inn — You’ll feel like you’ve taken a step back in time at this bed and breakfast mansion in the heart of Norfolk’s Ghent district. It’s just minutes from the Chrysler Museum (see above) and Ghent’s other favorites.
Tazewell Hotel and Suites — This hotel is definitely for the swanky crowd, as it’s located in downtown Norfolk on Granby Street, which is the nightlife mecca of the city. The hotel was originally built in 1906 but went through a massive renovation in 2000. A great place to stay if you want to be in the middle of all the action.