There’s much to explore on Virginia’s coast, long after the beachgoers have bid adieu to the rushing waves and the setting summer sun. Fall and winter are ideal times to traverse the scenic region, flowing with rivers and situated among the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. Discover the fascinating history of our nation’s beginnings at Colonial Williamsburg and Historic Jamestown. Spend an afternoon on the Colonial Virginia Wine Trail, where you’ll encounter some impeccable sips from various vineyards, including New Kent Winery—offering eight handcrafted wines from their environmentally-sensitive winery set in a beautiful, historic countryside—or The Williamsburg Winery—presenting award-winning wines, excellent cuisine at two on-site restaurants and luxurious accommodations, should you choose to make a weekend of it. Complete the experience with a pairing of wine—or beer—and oysters on the Eastern Shore or the Northern Neck.
Norfolk Offers The Perfect Mix Of Eclectic Culture And Urban Charm
Just around the bend from where explorers first sat foot at Cape Henry and established the New World’s first permanent English settlement in 1607, Norfolk itself is steeped in history going back more than 300 years.
But Mermaid City—a nickname earned from the marine siren—isn’t stuck in the past. It’s a growing, progressive city with an international airport, light rail, professional sports and world-class entertainment venues. It’s also a great place for beer, wine and spirit lovers—a number of craft brewers, the state’s first urban winery and top notch restaurants with mixologists who really know how to shake things up are all here, located along a gorgeous stretch of waterway from the Chesapeake Bay to the Elizabeth River.
The restaurants here are as diverse as the numerous neighborhoods that make up Norfolk. For fine dining, Byrd & Baldwin fits the bill. The center-cut, six-ounce filet mignon—tender and flavorful—always pleases, as does the pan seared ahi tuna served over a ragut of tomato with crab, lobster and grilled squash. ByrdBaldwin.com
Of note: Norfolk hosts two restaurant weeks with great restaurants and great deals; one is in January, the other in July. DowntownNorfolk.org
Stay downtown to take advantage of The Tide lightrail connections to the Ghent gateway and free electric cart rides through the district. We love the Norfolk Waterside Marriott for great rooms with views of the river, and quick walks to festivals and shopping at MacArthur Center.
Enjoy the fine collection of art—including an extensive glass display—at Chrysler Museum of Art or a performance nonpareil at the Virginia Stage Company, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra or Virginia Opera. Grab a glass, and head to the beautiful downtown Norfolk waterfront’s Town Point Park for Town Point Virginia Wine Festival, one of the commonwealth’s largest and longest-running wine festivals. Other fests take place here year-round from the organizers at Festevents. Learn more at VisitNorfolkToday.com.
Mermaid City is home to Virginia’s first urban winery—Mermaid Winery in the Ghent neighborhood. In addition to a restaurant area, there is a beautiful tasting room to sit back and relax with a glass of wine—or two. Mermaid Winery’s 2013 Norfolk Express red blend is a smooth operator: merlot and cabernet sauvignon craft a delicious drink that is complex but approachable.
Since 2008 The Great Dismal Distillery in Norfolk has been producing Silverfox vodka, bourbon and white rum, giving special attention to detail that only a small batch distillery can provide. Their spirits offer a smooth, clean taste with a well-balanced finish, ideal for sipping on the rocks or mixing in cocktails. Silverfox vodka and rum are available at 100 ABC stores throughout Virginia, and Silverfox bourbon is a special order item featured at select ABC stores.
Sip beer in a small city setting at Smartmouth Brewery, located in Norfolk’s up-and-coming Chelsea District. Smartmouth churns out 250 barrels a month; one of their most popular brews is the Alter Ego Saison, brewed in the farmhouse style of a Belgian Saison with fruity notes, a hint of pepper and a dry finish. In fall, we favor the Outta Yer Grourd Pumpkin Ale, and when winter comes, we crave the Cowcatcher Milk Stout.