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Norfolk's Harborfest a Sight to Behold

Harborfest destroyer
Destroyer warship at Harborfest; credit: U.S. Navy
One of the most popular Virginia festivals continues to be Harborfest, which brings Norfolk alive for three nights in June. Celebrating the nautical history of the coast, it is definitely a sight to behold.

Tall ships from around the world are displayed, a great selection of entertainment takes to the stage, a wide variety of foods are available, maritime events are scheduled throughout the event, and children’s activities are organized all along Norfolk’s downtown waterfront area. With something for guests of all ages, it has easily become one of the leading festivals in the state.

Kicking off on Friday evening, guests can get on board the Spirit of Norfolk or get a seat at Nauticus to enjoy the Parade of Sails. The two-hour parade has tall ships from all around the globe sailing down the Elizabeth River in magnificent fashion. Ships attend from Spain, Ecuador, Italy, Brazil, Netherlands and other regions. More than 200 boats and vessels and seven tall ships are in attendance during the event.

Art and educational programs are available throughout the event. Tall ships are open for tours following the parade, so visitors can explore the magnificent creations that sail the seas.

Visitors also have the opportunity to talk with international sailors about their duties and journeys. Throughout the event, guests can tour Nauticus, the Battleship Wisconsin and Hampton Roads Naval Museum.

Naval Station Norfolk, the world’s largest naval installation, is accessible by a bus tour that is led by an active duty Navy guide. Other areas of interest include the Douglas Macarthur Memorial, Norfolk Botanical Garden, and more than 30 local restaurants. The festival itself brings in more than 50 food vendors, so the food choices are abundant.

Three stages stay busy with concerts and the largest fireworks display on the East Coast takes place on Saturday evening of the festival. With boat rides, activities and limitless educational opportunities, Harborfest is consistently ranked among the leading festivals in the nation. Taking place on the beautiful waterfront, there are opportunities that abound for locals and visitors alike.

For those interested in sailing, ships, the nautical life, history, heritage or just a good time, Harborfest is an annual event that they should not want to pass up. This year marks 38 years for the event, which draws hundreds of thousands to the Norfolk area. The event is free and open to the public. This year’s event is set for June 6 through June 8.

Friday’s activities run from noon to 11 p.m. with festivities kicking off again on Saturday at noon and continuing until 11 p.m. Sunday’s hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Performers scheduled for this year’s event include The Last Bison, Blackberry Smoke, The Spinners, Langhorne Slim, Spirit Family Reunion, Apache Relay and Matrimony. It is a family friendly event, so there is plenty for all ages at the huge dock party.

When it comes to festivals, Virginia is not lacking. It seems as though there are festivals celebrating almost everything spread out across every region of the state. Harborfest is one of the biggest of all.

Hours: Noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
Location: Norfolk
Address: Waterside Drive, 23510
Telephone: (757) 441-2345
Web site:
Cost: Free
Latitude: 36.844041
Longitude: -76.287225
Categories > Hampton Roads > Festivals > June
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