With its rich history and still-flourishing marine heritage, Norfolk, Virginia, provides groups and planners with an array of settings and sensations tied to the open waters. Its positioning at the confluence of the Elizabeth River, Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean helps cement its stature as a one-of-a-kind locale for meetings travel.
“We’re a waterfront destination along three major bodies of water,” said Donna Allen, vice president of sales and marketing for Visit Norfolk. “Groups really have a chance to get out and take advantage of it.”
There are numerous ways for groups to leave dry land behind and see the city from a whole new perspective.
Among Allen’s top recommendations are the Spirit of Norfolk cruises along the Elizabeth River, where groups can dine, dance and enjoy drinks at a rooftop lounge aboard a large yacht. Allen also suggested a Naval Base Cruise aboard the Victory Rover, a passenger ship where groups of up to 150 can enjoy the exhilarating breezes from an open-air upper deck or take shelter during rougher weather in the enclosed lower deck. The cruise features views of the naval base, with vessels that include destroyers, submarines and more. Another choice nearby is the American Rover, a spacious schooner where guests can help with the sailing tasks if they feel so inclined.
A related option is clambering aboard the humongous Battleship Wisconsin, docked at the marine-focused Nauticus attraction. Here groups can view special exhibits, take behind-the-scenes tours and even rough it for a camping overnighter.
Of course, because Norfolk is Virginia’s second-largest city, there are plenty of other lures there, even for avowed landlubbers.
“I always find visitors are surprised by how many things there are to do here, and how easy it is to do them,” Allen said, mentioning Norfolk’s robust arts scene and rising restaurant array among the myriad lures.
One of the city’s most substantial events hubs is also one of its most popular lodgings: the Norfolk Waterside Marriott Hotel and Convention Center. The venue offers 60,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, with 26 full-size event rooms. Its largest meeting room, the Norfolk Ballroom, can host seated functions for up to 2,400 guests. The 397-room property is centrally located and home to a Shula’s Steakhouse and a heated indoor pool. Allen said the property, which changed ownership last year, is now moving forward on some major upgrades.
Norfolk’s arsenal of event-hosting options got a huge boost in 2017 with the debut of the Waterside District, an attractive compound of restaurants, lounges and event-friendly spaces. Home to great hangout spots like a Blue Moon TapHouse and a Guy Fieri Smokehouse, plus the snazzy, nautical-themed Harbor Club, the vibrant venue can host everything from cozy private dinners to festive affairs for 6,000 guests.
Allen spotlighted the Half Moone Center, based by the water at Nauticus, as one of the hottest places in town to host an event. Its spectacular Grand Rotunda, with towering glass windows and a spacious patio that overlooks the Elizabeth River, makes it an excellent choice when you’re seeking to impress a group.