21 June 2021

The Norfolk Botanical Garden: A Hampton Roads Must-See

There's plenty to do in the summertime in Hampton Roads, but few places are quite as unique as the Norfolk Botanical Garden. So if you're a local or just visiting the Virginia Beach and Norfolk area and are looking for something to do, look no further than the Botanical Garden. Any outdoors lover or family will enjoy their special outdoor exhibits, seasonal events, unique flower blooms, and much more.

How Big Is the Norfolk Botanical Garden?

Norfolk Botanical Garden is actually Virginia's largest botanical garden, stretching to over 175 acres filled with award-winning blooms such as roses, hydrangeas, and camellias! But there aren't just flowers to see. You can also follow their winding paths to various themed gardens and structures such as the Japanese GardenAzalea Garden, the Butterfly House, and the Children's Garden.

How Can I Know What Is in Bloom?

The Botanical Garden is open year-round with different seasonal blooms. Their website is a great resource to see what is in bloom each month. So if you have a favorite flower or you know you will be visiting a certain month of the year, you can see what sort of flowers are sprouting and the best exhibits to explore.

Some popular times of the year to see unique blooms are in spring and summer. You can see the Azalea (rhododendron) garden bloom mainly in April. From May to October, the rose garden blooms are a sight to see, with over 250,000 blooms and a terrace overlooking the stunning garden surroundings. The Japanese Garden is a fan favorite and lights up during Fall time with fiery shades of red and orange among the surrounding trees.

Who Owns the Norfolk Botanical Garden?

According to The Norfolk Botanical Garden website, Thomas P. Thompson, Norfolk City Manager 1935-1938, and Frederic Heutte, a young horticulturist, came up with the idea for what would become the Norfolk Botanical Garden. Throughout many years of garden additions and different ownership, the City of Norfolk, VA, now owns the garden. Norfolk Botanical Garden Inc., a non-profit operated by a volunteer board of directors, manages it.

Some popular gardens to explore by foot or tram are the Sarah Lee Baker Perennial Garden and the Virginia Native Plant Garden. Two other lovely gardens are the Bristow Butterfly Garden and the Bicentennial Rose Garden. Each of these gardens provides variety and has added unique qualities to the Botanical Garden over the years.

Current Exhibit - Washed Ashore

The botanical gardens offer a wide range of exhibitions and installations for children, adults, and grandparents alike to enjoy. Whether it is themed around a culture, animals, art, or winter holidays, there is always something unique to see any time of year!

Summer 2021's Washed Ashore is  an educational nonprofit exhibit displaying "Art to Save the Sea." All art exhibited is made from plastic ocean debris and often depicts ocean animals such as a polar bear, jellyfish, penguins, and a shark. The sculptures are made by artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi, who specializes in art made from ocean debris representing deeper meaning.

These Washed Ashore art displays aim to raise awareness of the overwhelming amount of plastic that has polluted our earth. To help people reduce, reuse, and recycle, they created a pledge for people to take action for a cleaner environment. Some elements of the pledge include avoiding bottled water, using reusable food containers, and using reusable shopping bags. Through the organization's efforts, they have collected 26 tons of debris off beaches!

This exhibit is a must-see this summer, as it is unique and only here for the summer months. It is wonderful to see these organizations partnering on such an educational and important exhibition!

All photos from the @norfolkbotanicalgarden instagram

Holiday and Past Exhibits

Some past exhibits that are sure to come back around are Lantern Asia displayed in both 2016 and 2018 at Norfolk Botanical Gardens. The Lantern Asia exhibit featured larger-than-life cultural lanterns and light displays with Asian themes. The lanterns displayed included the Chinese calendar, dragons, Asain temples, pandas, and more. Earlier in 2021, they had planned to exhibit but canceled due to COVID-19. Despite this, we are sure they will showcase this amazing installation again soon.

Another fun past exhibit was their barkitecture exhibit, which had displayed in 2019. The exhibit featured designer doghouses built by local companies. A fun dog-related fact about the garden is every Sunday year-round, dogs are allowed on the grounds, as long as they are leashed and have their own water bowl.

Lastly, the Norfolk Botanical Gardens always shows off its best during the Holidays with its Garden of Lights! This is an event that happens yearly from the beginning of November until the end of December. The Garden of Lights features a drive-through experience where the garden transforms into a lit-up winter wonderland. It features classic Christmas scenes, stories, song visuals, and more dispersed throughout the garden. You can also experience the Million Bulb Walk with light displays, including dolphins, navy ships, and Santa Claus. This is a huge favorite with locals during the holiday season!

Activities and Classes

Whatever your age or hobbies are, you're sure to find something you enjoy at the gardens. Whether you want to visit the garden in the future or find an activity day-of, there is always something to do for the whole family.

Children's activities and classes

There are tons of children's activities and classes that are perfect for kids at the botanical garden. Not only is there the amazing Children's Garden, complete with splash fountains, a plant safari, and scavenger hunts, but also there are tons of other things to do. The garden can also hold different events or programs for birthday parties, scouts events, and different school camps.

Their website lists upcoming children and family activities that are great for kids, such as Veggie Gardening 101, Building small cactus gardens, Family Twilight Trek, and more. These classes invite kids to explore nature and start creating. If you miss one, there are sure to be other fun classes to come. Many kids will love these sorts of classes and will be sure to remember the activities fondly.

Adult Classes

Norfolk Botanical Garden's adult classes and activities tend to sell out quickly, so book one swiftly if you are interested! Some classes they have listed on their site for this summer include Sunset KayakingWatercolors: Monarch and Sunflowers, a Portrait photography class, and Garden Under the Stars, where you can view the stars with astronomers' powerful telescopes. So be sure to check their website for more fun activities updated routinely!

Above photo and cover photo by @ciarajacksonphoto of a family exploring the gardens.

Garden Events and Information

If you're looking to hold an event, The Norfolk Botanical Garden is a beautiful place to do so. Whether it is a wedding, a family meet-up, or a corporate rental, the Gardens are sure to amaze. Conveniently, the airport is nearby, right on Azalea Garden Road, if people are coming out of town for an event. The garden also has a gift shop filled with fun garden-themed souvenirs. If you're looking to book an event, you can visit their events page on their website or call the gardens at (757) 441-5830.

Admission ranges for special events, but the usual pricing is $15 for adults and $13 for seniors or military members. Tickets for children are $13, and toddlers aged 2 and under are free with a guardian. The garden hours are 9 AM - 7 PM, except for major holidays when the park is closed. If you would like a guided experience, there are two different tour options, including guided walking tours and narrated tram tours.

The Norfolk Botanical Garden Is Calling!

With everything there is to experience, the Norfolk Botanical Garden is the perfect destination to experience any time of year. The Hampton Roads area has lots to see, but you won't want to miss out on the Norfolk Botanical Gardens. Discover more helpful Virginia Beach-themed guides and family-related articles at FamilyApp.



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