Forget social media, visitors websites and travel guides if you intend to get intimately acquainted with a place like Norfolk. Travelers who want to immerse themselves in the history, culture and natural resources of this inspiring city in Virginia should put on their favorite sturdy shoes and start walking.
A leisurely no-cost stroll through the following 2 things to do in Norfolk will introduce you to the spirit and the vitality of the area surrounding the city.
Paradise Creek Nature Park
This 40 acre oasis—located a few miles south of Norfolk in nearby Portsmouth--is an ever-expanding vision of the Elizabeth River Project. The park is a collaborative effort of businesses, government and citizens who seek to restore the natural flora and fauna to this once-blighted waterfront area. Focused cleanup and nature-building projects have brought this river back to life in amazing ways.
There are several miles of walking trails, a butterfly garden and a discovery zone where kids and adults can learn more about the area's natural features. Observation areas, reclaimed wetland areas and small ponds are some of the other attractions of this young and growing park. A recently-completed fitness trail is also available. Dogs are welcome as long as they're on a leash so the whole family can have fun.
You can't fish in the park, but you can download seasonal field guides from the park's website to help you identify trees, wildflowers and wildlife.
William and Mary College
This is the second oldest college in the U.S. and can boast of having George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as distinguished alumni. As they say at William and Mary, not many schools can claim they cancelled classes because the British invaded.
The campus hosts many cultural events including plays, art shows and musical performances, but one of the most delightful things about the university is the serene and historic atmosphere on its campus. Visitors are always welcome to come explore the grounds, and there are short tours available with student guides to point out local features and back stories of the college.
Many of the oldest buildings including the Wren Building--considered the oldest academic building still in use in the U.S.--are open for more extensive historical visits during scheduled hours. A self-guided woody species walk is open to the public, and there's also an audio tour you can take using your own cellphone. Check with the school website to learn the details about special events held on campus during the days you'll be in town.
While Norfolk has an abundance of free and fee-based areas that are perfect for walking, from historic neighborhoods to botanical gardens, a serene walk around William and Mary College will give you a glimpse of past history, and a peaceful wander through Paradise Creek Nature Park shows you Virginia's history in the making as a new park takes shape.