The city of Portsmouth is located in southeastern Virginia. It is separated from Norfolk by the Elizabeth River.
Portsmouth is in the Hampton Roads tidewater region of the Commonwealth of Virginia, just 20 miles from Virginia Beach, 30 miles from Newport News, and 7 miles from Chesapeake.
The city has a number of great museums for the whole family to explore, including a children’s museum, a Jewish museum, historic homes, and museums devoted to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, which is the largest shipyard in the world.
As an added bonus, many of the museums are free of charge!
Below are my top recommendations for the best museums in Portsmouth, VA.
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Table of Contents
- Children’s Museum of Virginia
- Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum
- Jewish Museum & Cultural Center
- Portsmouth Colored Community Library Museum
- Hermitage Museum and Garden
- Hill House Museum
- Hunter House Victorian Museum
- Chrysler Museum of Art
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Children’s Museum of Virginia
221 High St, Portsmouth, VA 23704
- Monday and Tuesday: Closed
- Wednesday and Thursday: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
- Friday and Saturday: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
- Sunday: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
- Members: Free
- Adults (Ages 18 & up): $11
- Children (Ages 2-17): $10
- Children Under 2: Free
- AAA, Military, and Seniors: $10
Tickets are one-hour entry windows. You can purchase tickets online.
The Children’s Museum of Virginia has the distinction of being the largest children’s museum in the Commonwealth.
The museum is specifically designed for children and focuses on fun hands-on activities. Make It Take It gives kids a chance to learn new arts and crafts. The Stem Studio is a science center that celebrates Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics with interactive activities.
Some of the other interactive exhibits include Bubbles, where kids can make bubbles of different sizes; the Lancaster Antique Train and Toy Collection; and Bodyworks, where kids can learn about health, fitness, and safety.
Sensory Sundays take place on the second Sunday of each month and feature reduced lights, sounds, and guests.
The museum also has the Beazley Planetarium with daily educational programs about astronomy, stars, and planets. You can check out the schedule online.
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum
2 High St, Portsmouth, VA 23704
- Wednesday to Saturday: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
- Sunday: 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Admission is by donation
The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum is a great destination for any enthusiast of the Navy and shipbuilding. It is conveniently located in downtown Portsmouth.
The museum began in 1949 as a collection of artifacts from the armed forces and the Norfolk Navy Yard. They have various exhibits including Navy artifacts, historic ships, ship models, and firearms. Parts of the USS Hartford, which sank at the shipyard in 1956, are also on display.
There are also items from the Battle of the Ironclads. Some of the other unique items m display include World War II torpedoes and 19th-century cannons.
Jewish Museum & Cultural Center
607 Effingham St, Portsmouth, VA 23704
- Tuesday to Thursday: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
- Friday – Monday: Closed
Admission is by donation
The Jewish Museum & Cultural Center is located at the site of the former Chevra T’helim Synagogue. The museum is a celebration of Jewish history, culture, faith, and tradition. Some of the exhibits include a model of the SS Quanza, a Portuguese ship that helped transport Jewish people from Europe to safety during World War II.
The museum also participates in The Daffodil Project, which plants 1.5 million daffodils worldwide to remember the children lost during the holocaust.
The museum also hosts a cinema series and lecture series highlighting Jewish artists and topics. You can find a full calendar of upcoming events online.
Portsmouth Colored Community Library Museum
904 Elm Ave, Portsmouth, VA 23704
Friday and Saturday: 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm (January 15 through mid-October)
Admission is by donation
The Portsmouth Colored Community Library Museum officially opened in 2013. It is a monument to the African American library created in Portsmouth during the 1920s.
The museum tells the story of the initial library, which provided books and other resources to the African American community of the region.
One of the special exhibits at the museum is Rooting for the Home Team: Portsmouth’s Black Baseball Players, Promoters, and Parks.
Hermitage Museum and Garden
7637 N Shore Rd, Norfolk, VA 23505
Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
The Hermitage Museum and Gardens is another wonderful museum located in nearby Norfolk, VA. The museum is located in the historic corner home of the Sloan Family. The home dates back to the early 20th century and is a work of art itself.
Within the historic site, visitors can see one of the great art museums of Portsmouth. The Sloan Collection comprises over 5,000 artworks spanning 5,000 years. The diverse works on display include Asian art, paintings, decorative arts, sculpture, and textiles,
You can also explore the surrounding 12 acres of lush botanical gardens. The lovely grounds include a rose garden, wetlands, grotto, and sunken gardens.
Hill House Museum
221 North St, Portsmouth, VA 23704
Wednesdays and Saturdays: 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm (May to December)
Contact the museum to schedule a tour.
Hill House Museum is a historic home in Portsmouth that is furnished with antiques from the 19th and 20th centuries. When you visit the home you are immediately transported back to the past.
You can come during regular hours for a guided tour or arrange for a private tour. You can also hold special events at the home, including weddings, tea parties, and birthday parties.
Hunter House Victorian Museum
240 W Freemason St, Norfolk, VA 23510
- Sunday – Tuesday: Closed
- Wednesday to Saturday: 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm (Guided Tours), 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, 3:00 pm (Self-Guided Tours)
The Hunter House Victorian Museum is located in nearby Norfolk, VA. The home dates back to the mid-1800s and contains Victorian architecture, art, and decor, including furniture, books, and artwork.
The museum also hosts a number of regular events, including tea parties, which are a special treat in the unique Victorian setting. The tea parties include scones with jam or curds, and assorted sweets.
There are also special holiday events such as the Victorian Christmas Tea plus a Night Before Christmas event featuring a reading of the story and interactive experiences. You can learn about more upcoming events online.
Chrysler Museum of Art
1 Memorial Pl, Norfolk, VA 23510
- Monday: Closed
- Tuesday to Saturday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
- Sunday: 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
The Chrysler Museum of Art is also located in nearby Norfolk, VA. The collection includes over 30,000 works spanning 5,000 years.
One of the major collections at the museum is the glassworks collection, which is one of the largest in the world.
The museum also has a wide range of other artwork, including contemporary pieces by Warhol and Lichtenstein, photographs dating back to the Civil War, as well as American, European, and Ancient art.
The museum also has the Glass Studio, which features demonstrations of how glass art is created and classes where you can learn how to make glass art.
They also have an excellent gift shop where you can purchase art-inspired objects like scarves, jewelry, glassware, and much more.
Learn about even more great things to do in Eastern Virginia!