The city of Portsmouth is located near Norfolk on the Elizabeth River. It is in the Hampton Roads area of Tidewater Virginia. Portsmouth is just 35 miles west of Virginia Beach, 27 miles from Newport News, and 50 miles from Williamsburg.
Portsmouth is a perfect destination for history lovers. Portsmouth’s rich history spans over 200 years, encompassing the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Civil Rights movement, and many more important events.
The city is home to a number of excellent museums, such as the Children’s Museum of Virginia, the Jewish Museum & Cultural Center, and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum. Check out my post on the Best Museums in Portsmouth to learn about these great museums and more!
Portsmouth has plenty of attractions for everyone. It is home to historic sites, movie theaters, parks, kid’s activities, art museums, and much more.
Below are my top recommendations for the best things to do 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
- Paradise Creek Nature Park
- Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve
- Portsmouth City Park
- The Commodore Theatre
- Elizabeth River Ferry
- Umoja Festival
- Olde Towne Waterfront Walk
- Portsmouth Olde Towne Farmers’ Market
- Hermitage Museum and Garden
- Hill House Museum
- The Coffee Shoppe
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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 to 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.
Paradise Creek Nature Park
1141 Victory Blvd, Portsmouth, VA 23702
- March to October: 6:30 am – 7:30 pm
- November – February: 7:00 am – 5:30 pm
Paradise Creek Nature Park is a lovely oasis in the middle of an industrial park. It features 40 acres of wetlands where you can walk, kayak, bird-watch, and soak in the natural flora and fauna.
There are 2 miles of walking trails in the park, plus a kayak launch conveniently located near the parking lot. There is also a river-themed playground, wildflower meadow, and picnic tables.
Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve
4510 Twin Pines Rd, Portsmouth, VA 23703
- Monday: Closed
- Tuesday – Sunday: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve is another great place for nature lovers. The preserve is managed by the Hoffler Creek Wildlife Foundation.
It is 142 acres in size, with over 3 miles of hiking trails. You can also go kayaking on your own or on a guided tour. Kayak tours are offered from mid-April through October.
Within the preserve, you can explore such diverse habitats as pine forests, wildflower meadows, creeks, and a lake.
There is plenty of wildlife to spot at the preserve, including deer, foxes, turtles, lizards, and over 200 species of birds!
Portsmouth City Park
Cpl J M Williams Ave, Portsmouth, VA 23701
Open Daily: 7:00 am – 10:00 pm
For more outdoor fun, you can visit Portsmouth City Park. The park has 12 picnic shelters, grills, a 3-Pier Boat Ramp, a boat launch area, a Fishing Pier, a Garden Wedding Area, Lighted Tennis Courts, a Skateboard Park, a Playground, and even a 9-hole golf learning center and a driving range.
The Commodore Theatre
421 High St, Portsmouth, VA 23704
The Box Office is open Monday to Friday at 5:30 pm, and Saturday and Sunday at 12:00 pm.
You can purchase same-day tickets in person at the box office. There are no internet or phone tickets.
If you’re interested in entertainment, you’ll definitely want to check out the Commodore Theatre. The movie theater is located in historic Olde Towne Portsmouth. It harkens back to the golden age of Hollywood with a 1945 art deco design.
The theater also offers a special dining experience. They serve appetizers, sandwiches, fish, chicken, and of course popcorn! As part of the unique experience, you order your meal by picking up a phone on your table and placing the order to the kitchen by phone!
The Commodore is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.
Elizabeth River Ferry
6 Crawford Pkwy, Portsmouth, VA 23704
Summer Schedule (Memorial Day to Labor Day):
- Monday – Friday: 5:30 am – 11:45 pm
- Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 am – 11:45 pm
Winter Schedule (Labor Day to Memorial Day):
- Monday to Thursday: 5:30 am – 9:45 pm
- Friday: 5:30 am – 11:45 pm
- Saturday: 10:00 am – 11:45 pm
- Sunday: 10:00 am – 9:45 pm
You can find a full ferry schedule online.
You can buy tickets at the ferry terminal or find a location nearby to buy tickets.
For lovely views of the city and Elizabeth River, you can take a ride on the Elizabeth River Ferry. The 150-passenger ferries take passengers between North Landing and High Street in Portsmouth and the Waterside District in downtown Norfolk.
The ferry runs every 30 minutes. During weekends in the summer months, there are additional ferry services running every 15 minutes.
901 Crawford St, Portsmouth, VA 23704
The festival takes place annually. Check the website for exact festival dates.
The Umoja Festival is an annual event celebrating African American Culture and Heritage. The word Umoja means “unity” in Kiswahili.
The event takes place in Festival Park and includes live music performances ranging from jazz, to reggae, gospel, and rhythm and blues.
The festival also features international food, kids’ activities, vendors selling handmade arts and crafts, and much more.
Examples of some of the special presentations at the festival include a re-enactment of the speeches of Frederick Douglass and another presentation dedicated to the life of Coretta Scott King.
Olde Towne Waterfront Walk
The Olde Towne Waterfront Walk is the perfect place to take a walking tour of Portsmouth. The Elizabeth River Boardwalk features lovely views of both Portsmouth and Norfolk along the Elizabeth River.
Some of the highlights along the way include the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth (the oldest Navy hospital in the country) as well as placards marking historic Civil War sites along the Civil War Trails.
Portsmouth Olde Towne Farmers’ Market
400 High St, Portsmouth, VA 23704
Hours vary based on the time of year. You can find out their current schedule online.
The Portsmouth Olde Towne Farmers’ Market takes place at the Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center (PACC). It takes place year-round.
The Winter Market takes place on Saturdays from 10 am to 2 pm. The market features everything from jams to jellies, baked goods, produce, coffee, flowers, soaps, and much more.
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, a 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.
The Coffee Shoppe
300 High St, Portsmouth, VA 23704
- Monday to Friday: 7:00 am – 5:00 pm
- Saturday: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
- Sunday: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
If you’re in the mood for a great cup of coffee and a pastry after strolling along the waterfront, you can head over to The Coffee Shoppe in Olde Towne Portsmouth. The shop is locally owned and home to espressos, lattes, sandwiches, pastries, and more.
They serve breakfast and lunch daily. Some of their dishes include Bagels, Breakfast Wraps, Breakfast Burritos, Grilled Cheese, Pastrami Sandwich, Smoked Turkey Melt, Salads, Wraps, Muffins, Coffee Cake, and Scones.
In addition to coffee, they also serve Smoothies, Chai Teas, Hot Chocolate, and much more.
You can find a full menu online.
Learn about even more great activities in Eastern Virginia!