Most people may associate Norfolk, Va., primarily with its standing as the home of Naval Station Norfolk and Norfolk Naval Shipyard, one of the largest naval installations in the world, but kudos from helping defend the free world aside, the city is also a seaworthy destination for meetings and events.
Make no mistake, maritime history and culture are always at the fore when it comes to Norfolk gatherings. The city’s Nauticus is a maritime-centered science and technology center that is home to the Battleship Wisconsin and which also offers a sailing instruction teambuilding program through Sail Nauticus, along with Hampton Roads Naval Museum.
Numerous reception venues, of course, also boast views of the Shipyard, Chesapeake Bay and the Elizabeth River.
But visiting groups also have a boatload of other activities and attractions to choose from, apart from but in most cases augmented by, the region’s historic association with the sea.
“We were recently named America’s Favorite City for 2018 by a well-known travel publication and there’s so much that makes this city stand out, from the vibrant entertainment, history, art and culture, to the delicious cuisine and 144 miles of beautiful shoreline,” said Donna Allen, VP of sales and marketing for VisitNorfolk.
Downtown is the location for the city’s core convention district, housing the 405-room Norfolk Waterside Marriott Hotel and Waterside Convention Center, with more than 60,000 square feet of meeting space, and nearby neighborhoods such as the NEON (New Energy of Norfolk) Arts District and historic Freeman District are both within walking distance. The historic-yet-trendy Ghent district is home to a growing number of breweries, restaurants, antique shops and coffeehouses.
The 468-room Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel, which advertises itself as the only property in town located directly on the water (in its case, the Elizabeth River), contains 46,000 square of meeting space, including the Riverwalk Ballroom, which overlooks the river with floor-to-ceiling windows. The 23-story, 300-room Hilton Norfolk The Main Hotel and a 41,000-square-foot The Exchange conference center opened last March. Other hotels include the 140-room Courtyard Norfolk Downtown and 130-room Residence Inn Norfolk Downtown.
The latest hotel on the Norfolk hospitality scene will be a 120-room, art-themed Marriott Autograph Collection property located on trendy Granby street and scheduled to open this year.
The 220,000-square-foot Ted Constant Convocation Center stages touring music acts and Old Dominion basketball in its 9,100-seat facility. Other arts and performance venues include the Attucks Theatre, which dates to 1919 and was called the “Apollo Theatre of the South,” as it was completely financed, designed, constructed and operated by African Americans and featured the legends of African-American entertainment culture; the Chrysler Museum of Art and its new Chrysler Glass Studios; the Broadway Norfolk; Granby Theater; Harrison Opera House; The NoVa; d’Art Center; Selden Arcade; and Wells Theatre.
Norfolk, Va., is located in southeastern Virginia, approximately 100 miles southeast of Richmond. Norfolk International Airport is located six miles from downtown and offers hundreds of flights daily from Allegiant, American, Delta, Southwest and United.
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Housed in the 1906 Beaux Arts Italianate building of the same name, Byrd & Baldwin Bros. steakhouse is an exquisite architectural example of repurposing, as the entirety of the long-neglected structure, save for the historic exterior, was replaced with loving detail to maintain its heritage. The venue also counts a healthy private dining business among its mix, catering to groups such as corporate events, pharmaceutical groups and seminars and conferences.
The Chrysler Museum of Art boasts some 30,000 objects collected by automotive heir Walter P. Chrysler, who moved to Norfolk in 1971. One popular group venue within the museum is Huber Court (max. cap. 220, seated dinner with dance floor; 720, standing), which is available for five-hour rentals that include the use of its Ancient Worlds/Porcelain Galleries or Mary’s Garden for one hour, which comes with china and silverware, tables, serving staff, a small sound system and free Wi-Fi.
Kaufman Theater (max. cap. 375, seated), a performance hall suitable for presentations, lectures, recitals and performances, includes slide projectors, a data projector, a DVD player and a concert grand piano, among its available amenities for groups. Accompanying the museum is the new Chrysler Glass Studio, which is also available for group rental, including a glass-bowling demonstration.
The city’s iconic waterfront venue, the Peter G. Decker Jr. Half Moone Center encapsulates the past and present of Norfolk, offering sweeping views of downtown and celebrating the town’s maritime history.
Reception venues include the Grand Rotunda and Promenade Deck, measuring 4,200 and 3,400 square feet, respectively; the 13,500-square-foot Vista, ideal for large events and boasting views of the Elizabeth River; the Lido Deck, which offers 9,600 square feet of outdoor space with views of the skyline; and Virginia Room & Bermuda Room, two conference spaces that include the latest audiovisual technology.
The center is located in the Nauticus complex, which also houses the battleship Wisconsin.
Located in the new Hilton Norfolk the Main luxury hotel, The Grain is the city’s only craft brewery overlooking the Elizabeth River. Guests enjoy handcrafted cocktails and craft beer on a terraced patio surrounded by landscaped trees and atmospheric lighting. The venue, which offers more than 80 draft beers, also stages live music performances and features games to keep delegates entertained during events.
Hosting up to 500 guests and located inside the Waterside District entertainment complex, the stylish second-floor Harbor Club sports a nautical ambience with floor-to-ceiling views of the Elizabeth River and an outdoor private terrace with soft seating and fire pits. The venue offers customized dining and cocktail packages.
The Waterside District also offers a number of venues for off-site receptions, including:
- Guy Fieri’s Smokehouse (max. cap. 200).
- Blue Moon Taphouse (max. cap. 600).
- PBR Norfolk, a Coors Banquet Bar (max. cap. 500).
- The Market (max. cap. 1,000).