Norfolk Master Gardeners’ College Must-Sees

Our 2019 College location in Norfolk means many new attractions are available to Extension Master Gardeners, including options for sightseeing, dining, and learning about Norfolk!

“Exploring the local area has always been an important part of Master Gardener College,” says Dave Close, Master Gardener Coordinator. “In Blacksburg, people have visited the farmers market, local nurseries, and downtown restaurants. In Norfolk there are many new attractions that attendees can see during their visit.”

Local Norfolk Master Gardeners Kate Melhuish and Connie Kellam have some suggestions of must-see attractions for 2019 College attendees.


The Norfolk location presents a particularly exciting opportunity for Water Steward Training with the opportunity to visit some current Water Steward projects nearby.

“There can be no better place on the planet for the Water Steward program,” says Melhuish.

Norfolk is a city of water,” agrees Kellam. “A short drive will take you along, over, or under a river or bay and every road way will eventually dead end at the water.  The good news is the beauty it affords. The bad news is what’s happening due to climate change.”

“Norfolk is recognized as one of the 100 Resilient Cities around the globe, with an extensive Green Infrastructure plan in place and taking shape,” says Melhuish.  “You’ll see amazing feats of green engineering – some are city led/federally funded, some are citizen-driven, most are undertaken through the network of public and private partnerships here locally.”

“The flooding that threatens our Navy Base, downtown, and thoroughfares is bringing in scientists from all over the world,” adds Kellam. “The erosion on our beaches and waterfronts is being addressed with native plants and grasses.  Our bay and rivers are being monitored by groups dedicated to clean waterways to ensure our plants, fish, and wildlife have a healthy place to live now and in the future. Citizens are actively saving small areas and with city officials are tackling big ones.  Our children and grandchildren deserve our attention to our environment.”

“Norfolk is a city of beauty as well as of study,” she says.  “Master Gardeners will find it exciting to tour our city of water and to examine our flooding and erosion issues.”

Local Attractions

In between College’s packed schedule of keynote speakers and concurrent sessions, Master Gardeners can also plan to get out and explore downtown Norfolk from our convenient location at The Main.

Melhuish recommends College attendees check out Prince Books, located right across the street from The Main.

“Town Point Park is also a one block walk to the waterfront; lovely marina to stroll around and admire other people’s expensive toys.  The park itself is a nice green space to walk along the waterfront as part of the Elizabeth River Trail,” she says. “The very impressive Slover Library is practically next door – Chris Epes and a team of our EMGs are working with Slover staff on a Seed Library program to begin  later this spring.”

“If you’re looking to get on the water, take a quick walk to Waterside – a venue a block from The Main in the direction of the water,” says Kellam. “There is a small passenger boat that goes back and forth across the Elizabeth River to the City of Portsmouth.  There are larger boats that take you up and down the river to see the shipyards, cruise ship terminal, and the Navy Base. There is a gigantic seasonal ferris wheel with small air-conditioned cabins that will gently glide you to sky high views of the city.”

Visitors to Master Gardener College can also explore Norfolk’s many green spaces.

“We have beautiful parks and garden,” says Kellam.  “The Norfolk Botanical Garden features a rose garden, a Colonial garden, a perennial garden, butterfly house, children’s learning garden, and gazebos and walkways throughout hundreds of acres.  The Hermitage, on the Lafayette River, houses an early 1900s home with original artwork and furnishings and the gardens feature evening socials and traveling exhibits such as the popular Burning Man.  Our zoo is landscaped seasonally with native and exotic plants that enhance and mimic the animals’ natural habitat.”


“Norfolk specializes in fresh seafood from the waters of Virginia and every restaurant features its own signature dish,” says Kellam. “And all those crab cakes that Maryland brags about? They are actually made with crabs that travel up the Chesapeake Bay from Virginia!  So always ask for the local fresh catch of the day and enjoy what we in Norfolk take for granted.”

If you are looking for an upscale restaurant, Kellam recommends Todd Jurich’s Bistro, which is within walking distance of The Main.  According to Kellam, Todd is a legend for his menus of local cuisine coupled with fine wines.

“Places to eat range from the sublime (any of the three restaurants inside The Main, or nearby Byrd & Baldwin Steakhouse) to Yorgo’s Bageldashery or Schlotzsky’s Deli,” says Melhuish. “There are so many options in every direction!”

Kate Melhuish’s notable restaurants:  

  • Café Stella around the corner offers bistro fare.  
  • Grace O’Malley’s Irish Pub is a block farther, with live music every night.  
  • Hummingbird Macarons is a fabulous bakery within walking distance of the hotel, AND the owner has just opened a restaurant inside the historic Pagoda at the Oriental Garden, closer to the hotel.  (Pagoda? Oriental Garden? Ask a Norfolk Master Gardener to fill you in about that).
  • Saffron is a little farther away, still walkable, and has the best Indian food ever, anywhere.  So many choices, whatever your taste or pocketbook.

According to Kellam, there are many restaurants in downtown Norfolk for all tastes and pocketbooks.  She recommends that you get a list from the concierge and start walking!

The Venue

Master Gardener College 2019 will be held at The Main, a Hilton property in downtown Norfolk.

“The Main, Norfolk’s newest hotel, is an architectural marvel of glass and steel. This high-rise, enhanced with modern artwork and an accommodating staff, was built for guests to enjoy views of Norfolk’s downtown and the busy Elizabeth River,” says Kellam, adding that the Main’s rooftop bar is a great place to kick back with a drink while viewing the water traffic and enjoying the sunset.

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