So you’re thinking about moving to Norfolk, and you want to know more about the city, but you’re just not sure where to start. Never fear, A Friendly and Affordable Mover is here!
We have the skinny on everything Norfolk from how to pronounce it, history, economy, education, beaches and restaurants.
As of 2016, the city of Norfolk (pronounced Nah-fuk) had a population of 242,803 according to Suburbanstats.org. Located in the core of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area, Norfolk has a total area of 96 miles.
The city is located at the southeastern corner of Virginia at the junction of the Elizabeth River and Chesapeake Bay. The Hampton Roads Metropolitan Statistical Area (officially known as the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA) is the 37th largest in the United States, with a total population of 1,699,925 in 2012. The area includes the Virginia cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Williamsburg, and the counties of Gloucester, Isle of Wight, James City, Mathews, and York, as well as the North Carolina counties of Currituck and Gates. The city of Norfolk is recognized as the central business district, while the Virginia Beach oceanside resort district and Williamsburg are primarily centers of tourism. Virginia Beach is the most populated city within the MSA though it functions more as a suburb. In addition to extensive riverfront property, Norfolk has miles of bayfront resort property and beaches in the Willoughby Spit and Ocean View communities
Being low-lying and largely surrounded by water, Norfolk is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels. In addition, the land on which it is built is slowly subsiding. Some areas already flood regularly at high tide, and the city commissioned a study in 2012 to investigate how to address the issue in the future: it reported the cost of dealing with a sea-level rise of one foot would be around $1,000,000,000. Since then, scientists at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in 2013 have estimated that if current trends hold, the sea in Norfolk will rise by 5 and 1/2 feet or more by the end of this century.
When Norfolk was first settled, homes were made of wood and frame construction, similar to most medieval English-style homes. These homes had wide chimneys and thatch roofs. Some decades after the town was first laid out in 1682, the Georgian architectural style, which was popular in the South at the time, was used. Brick was considered more substantial construction; patterns were made by brick laid and Flemish bond. This style evolved to include projecting center pavilions, Palladian windows, balustraded roof decks, and two-story porticoes. By 1740, homes, warehouses, stores, workshops, and taverns began to dot Norfolk’s streets.
Norfolk was burned down during the Revolutionary War. After the Revolution, Norfolk was rebuilt in Federal style, based on Roman ideals. Federal-style homes kept Georgian symmetry, though they had more refined decorations to look like New World homes. Federal homes had features such as narrow sidelights with an embracing fanlight around the doorway, giant porticoes, gable or flat roofs, and projecting bays on exterior walls. Rooms were oval, elliptical or octagonal. Few of these federal rowhouses remain standing today. A majority of buildings were made of wood and had simple construction.
Norfolk has a variety of historic neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods, such as Berkley, were formerly cities and towns. Others, such as Willoughby Spit and Ocean View, have a long history tied to the Chesapeake Bay. Today neighborhoods such as Downtown and Ghent and Fairmount Park Neighborhood have transformed with the revitalization that the city has undergone.
Since Norfolk serves as the commercial and cultural center for the unusual geographical region of Hampton Roads (and in its political structure of independent cities), it can be difficult to separate the economic characteristics of Norfolk from that of the region as a whole. The waterways which almost completely surround the Hampton Roads region play an important part in the local economy. As a strategic location at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, its protected deep-water channels serve as a major trade artery for the import and export of goods from across the Mid-Atlantic, Mid-West, and internationally.
In addition to commercial activities, Hampton Roads is a major military center, particularly for the United States Navy, and Norfolk serves as the home for the most important of these regional installations, Naval Station Norfolk, the world’s largest naval station. Located on Sewell’s Point Peninsula, in the northwest corner of the city, the installation is the current headquarters of the United States Fleet Forces Command (formerly known as the Atlantic Fleet), as well as being home port for the Second Fleet, which compromises approximately 62,000 active duty personnel, 75 ships, and 132 aircraft. The base also serves as the headquarters to the Allied Command Transformation (NATO) and the United States Joint Forces Command.
The region also plays an important role in defense contracting, with particular emphasis in the shipbuilding and ship repair businesses for the city of Norfolk. Major private shipyards located in Norfolk or the Hampton Roads area include: Huntington Ingalls Industries (formerly Northrop Grumman Newport News) in Newport News, BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair, General Dynamics NASSCO Norfolk, and Colonna’s Shipyard Inc., while the US Navy’s Norfolk Naval Shipyard is just across the Downtown Tunnel in Portsmouth. Most contracts fulfilled by these shipyards are issued by the Navy, though some private commercial repair also takes place. Over 35% of Gross Regional Product (which includes the entire Norfolk-Newport News-Virginia Beach MSA), is attributable to defense spending, and that 75% of all regional growth since 2001 is attributable to increases in defense spending
Information Provided By: wikipedia.org
One thing is for sure, Norfolk has many restaurants to explore! Whether you like fine cuisine or a plain old grilled cheese sandwich, you have several choices in Norfolk. Let’s break our to ten favorites.
- Byrd and Baldwin Brothers Steakhouse – Opening in 2006, Byrd & Baldwin Bros. serves only grain fed Midwestern all natural beef aged on site to ensure only the finest product quality.
- Ten Top – Located on Shirley Ave., The Ten Top is one of Norfolk best kept secrets! Your taste buds will think they’ve died and gone to heaven, and with menu items like the Grilled Cheese and Veggie Flatbread, Shallots and Fig Chicken, and Rick’s Big Meatloaf, you will too.
- Bardo Edibles + Elixirs – Bardo’s specialties showcase Chef and Owner Mike Farrel’s ability to jump seamlessly between flavors and traditions while producing something quite out of the ordinary. After a light meal, try one of Bardo’s signature elixirs, or, to put it simply, fabulous cocktails.
- Grilled Cheese Bistro – The menu at this bistro consists of a wide variety of –yep, you guessed it! Grilled sandwiches. All of which include quality cheeses and farm to table fruits and veggies. It doesn’t stop at sandwiches, though! They have salads and desserts as well.
- Handsome Biscuit – Their menu of sweet potato biscuit sandwiches makes Handsome Biscuit stand out from the rest. Queues can be very long at weekends, so make sure you get there early.
- Freemason Abbey Restaurant – is housed within the walls of a 140-year-old church right in the heart of the city. The stained glass windows, high ceilings and a huge, round fresco painting on the wall bring a touch of the divine to this casual tavern. Seafood is a long-standing specialty at Freemason Abbey.
- Cogan’s – Used to be the favorite haunt of Virginia’s punk rockers. The clientele is now more varied, the restaurant still has an authentic spirit of fun and freedom, ranging from rock-n-roll stickers to random memorabilia. Be sure to try their huge specialty pizzas, locals swear they are the best Italian pizzas in Norfolk.
- Press 626 – Located in a beautiful, restored Victorian house, Press 626’s local menu is packed with fresh-from-the-farm ingredients. Looking for a place to sample good wine or attend a wine seminar? Every day they have an event or special about wine.
- Field Guide – There are only four mains on the evening menu; the number works, however, as the combinations offered by Field Guide are simple but satisfying.
- 456 Fish – Nice little upscale restaurant with excellent service. Try their Calamari!
Norfolk City Public Schools, the public school system, comprises five high schools, eight middle schools, 34 elementary schools, and nine special-purpose/preschools. In 2005, Norfolk Public Schools won the $1 million Broad Prize for Urban Education award for having demonstrated, “the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing achievement gaps for poor and minority students”. The city had previously been nominated in 2003 and 2004. There are also a number of private schools located in the city, the oldest of which, Norfolk Academy, was founded in 1728. Religious schools located in the city include St. Pius X Catholic School, Holy Trinity Parish School, Alliance Christian School, Christ the King School, Norfolk Christian Schools and Trinity Lutheran School. The City also hosts the Governor’s School for the Arts which holds performances and classes at the Wells Theatre.
Norfolk is home to three public universities and one private. It also hosts a community college campus in downtown. Old Dominion University, founded as the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary in 1930, became an independent institution in 1962 and now offers degrees in 68 undergraduate and 95 (60 masters/35 doctoral) graduate degree programs. Eastern Virginia Medical School, founded as a community medical school by the surrounding jurisdictions in 1973, is noted for its research into reproductive medicine and is located in the region’s major medical complex in the Ghent district. Norfolk State University is the largest majority black university in Virginia and offers degrees in a wide variety of liberal arts. Virginia Wesleyan College is a small private liberal arts college, and shares its eastern border with the neighboring city of Virginia Beach. Tidewater Community College offers two-year degrees and specialized training programs, and is located in downtown. Additionally, several for-profit schools operate in the city. Norfolk Public Library, Virginia’s first public library, offer twelve locations around the city and a bookmobile. The library also has a local history and genealogy room and contains government documents dating back to the 19th century. The libraries offer services such as computer classes, book reviews, tax forms, and online book clubs.
Arts and Attractions
The city and The Rouse Company developed the Waterside festival marketplace in 1983 to attract people to the waterfront and catalyze further downtown redevelopment. Other facilities opened in the ensuing years, including the Harbor Park baseball stadium, home of the Norfolk Tides Triple-A minor league baseball team. In 1995, the Park was named the finest facility in minor league baseball by Baseball America. Norfolk’s efforts to revitalize its downtown have attracted acclaim from economic development and urban planning circles throughout the country. Downtown’s rising fortunes helped to expand the city’s revenues and allowed the city to direct attention to other neighborhoods. In 2006, Norfolk became the first major city on the east coast to be declared “Tsunami ready”. Information Provided By: wikipedia.org
Norfolk loves its mermaids! Originally introduced by a local attorney, Pete Decker, at business breakfast of 300 business owners, the idea took off. Through a public/private partnership, the Norfolk community pulled off the major event – Mermaids on Parade – in a short period. It was a huge success with local bronze sculptor Kevin Gallup mass-producing 130 mermaid castings for artists to decorate. Business and community leaders from Norfolk and beyond “adopted” mermaids at $2000 apiece that were auctioned off during the event.
Today mermaids can be found throughout downtown and in neighborhoods. Some old, some new. Some in front of businesses, schools, hospitals and some in homeowners’ yards. Some have had to be completely redone due to damage from the elements or unfortunately from vandals. Some have even disappeared. But one thing has remained since their appearance: they are truly loved by young and old, visitors and residents alike. So start looking! See how many you can find. When you spot one, give a shout, “There goes a mermaid!” Information Provided By: Norfolk.gov
When it comes to beaches in Norfolk, there are Sarah Constant Beach Park, Ocean View Beach Park, Community Beach Park, and Whitehurst Beach Park. You’ll find the locals at any one of these and through local neighborhoods where people park on the street.
There are many beautiful and interesting facts about Norfolk, and our locals are proud to share! If you’re thinking about moving to Norfolk, A Friendly and Affordable Mover is here to help. Give us a call today to schedule your FREE in-home estimate. Did we mention we have won “Best of Hampton Roads” 13 years running? Mention it when you schedule your appointment and receive $50 off your next move! (some restrictions apply, not valid with any other offer).