Weekend Getaway with the Kids in Portsmouth, VA

The bags are packed, the car is loaded, and you’re ready to get away from home for a couple of days. Oh wait, you’re parents. Things aren’t quite as simple as they used to be. Car seats? Check. Videos and games? Check. Snacks and juice boxes? Got that too. You’re ready to go. Why not take a trip that’s only a few hours away where you can take in beautiful waterfront vistas, enjoy delicious meals, and relax while the kids play with bubbles, learn about physics, and ride a train. Portsmouth is the perfect small town to explore, without the worry of big crowds. We’ve rounded up a whole weekend’s worth of activities to enjoy during a visit to stretch your legs, refresh your mind and rediscover what it means to take a vacation…with your kids.


4:00 pm

Check into Your Accommodations

Spend the weekend overlooking the Elizabeth River at the Renaissance Portsmouth – Norfolk Waterfront Hotel or, if you need a kitchenette, book a suite at the Quality Inn and Suites Olde Towne. Both properties are within walking distance of bars, restaurants, shops, historic sites, playgrounds, and the Children’s Museum of Virginia. Rest easy knowing these properties are being maintained with the best safety standards as set forth by Marriott and Choice Hotels.

5:00 pm

Kids Happy Hour

After a few hours in the car, the kids need to blow off some steam. From your hotel, take a walk through historic Olde Towne Portsmouth to the corner of Glasgow Street and Middle Street where you’ll find a small pocket park with a variety of playground equipment and a dragon ready for fun. While the kids are playing, you can take in a bit of history. Look across the street at the Nash-Gill House, an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture. Just imagine, in 1894, that house sold for $6,700. Or look across the street and to the left. See the large three story building with the columns? This was built in 1838 as a two story Odd Fellows School and Lodge. In 1910, it was sold, the second story was raised to become the third story and a new floor was wedged in between. There’s three hundred years of history in every direction. All you have to do is look.

6:30 pm

Feed the Rascals

From the playground, or just about anywhere in the Olde Towne neighborhood, it’s just a few short blocks over to High Street, the “Main Street” of Portsmouth. Here you will find a variety of bars and restaurants (even some night spots if you remember what that was like before kids). Chips and queso, what kid doesn’t like that? There are two Mexican restaurants nearby, Guads and Cancun Fiesta, where the kids can have a Mexican soda and you can have a margarita! Not feeling south of the border, how about some German food on the patio at the Bier Garden. They’ve got a menu just for the kids and nearly 300 imported beers for you to sample.

8:00 pm

A Nightcap for the Nestlings

A little more time to burn off energy with the short walk back to your hotel. Pick up the car and take a five minute drive to Midtown for some authentic, New Orleans’ style polar snoballs at Pelican’s. There’s a hundred different flavors. Oh, and FYI, there’s a Seven-Eleven just across the street if you want to pick up a nightcap for yourself and take it back to the room (unless of course you thought ahead and grabbed a couple of margaritas to go before leaving the restaurant!).


9:00 am

BagelNutz for Everyone

While you can have breakfast at the hotel or a local diner, you could also take a walk over to the Coffee Shoppe on High Street for some local brew and BagelNutz. These flavored creamed cheese stuffed bagel holes were invented here in Portsmouth and you can get them sweet for the kids and savory for you. There’s an incentive for the kids to chill and behave too…the Coffee Shoppe is directly across the street from your next stop, the Children’s Museum of Virginia.

10:00 am

The Children’s Museum of Virginia

Portsmouth started a small Children’s Museum in the basement of the library way back in 1980. Since that time, it has grown to become the largest hands-on interactive museum for kids in Virginia. Two floors of exhibits include a bubble playroom, a bank, a grocery store, a place to experience physics up close and personal, and much, much more. It has a planetarium and an amazing antique toy and train exhibit. Your 10 and under kids are not going to want to leave! Oh, and it’s ok if you want to stand inside a bubble or catch fish with a magnet, or hoist yourself in the air with a rope…it’s all about fun at the Children’s Museum of Virginia.

12:30 pm

You Fed the Mind Now Feed the Body

Since you’re right on High Street already, pick any of the restaurants that you think your kids will like. Roger Browns Restaurant and Sports Bar has lots of big screens and a nice selection on the kids menu. If your kids like seafood, Lobscouser is just up the street. You have more than seven blocks of restaurants from Legend Brewing Depot on the water (kids might like watching the boats) to Gosport Tavern at the other end of Olde Towne (don’t miss their pimento cheese). It’s your choice!

1:30 pm

Hunt for Toads

On the Middle Street Mall near the entrance to the Children’s Museum, you’ll see a large toad sculpture called “I’ve been Kissed.” A local writer developed a children’s book about a toad named Bufo and his search for his special friend. Cross the street from the Children’s Museum and pick up a Toads on High brochure from the Welcome Center. There are clues to follow to find all the toads on High Street. While the kids look for toads you can browse the shops. The toads are in the windows along the way. If you’d prefer to look at public art that will take you all over Olde Towne, you can pick up the Walk Your Art Out clue sheet at the Welcome Center and discover murals, sculptures, and more along the way.

3:00 pm

Play in the Water

When you hang out by the river you naturally want to get in. Well, it’s a busy harbor so we don’t really recommend it. But you can spend a little time swimming in your hotel pool. Or, jump in the car and drive over to the Portsmouth Splash Park – the kids will love it. If you’re feeling adventurous, head over to Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve and rent a kayak. They’ve got a couple tandems so you can take the kids out no problem – you might even spot a bald eagle or two. If you’re not in the mood for water, they have a special hiking trail, just for kids.

5:00 pm

Enjoy a Little Quiet Time

You’ve had a busy day, the kids are probably a little tired. Return to the hotel to get cleaned up and maybe take nap before dinner. If the weather is nice, visit Gosport History Park, sit in the gazebo and unwind while the kids run around the park. There’s Navy guns, ship propellers, and even a submarine sail to learn about (and climb on).

7:00 pm

Noodle Adventure

Kids love noodles. You might want to stop off at Amici’s Pizzeria or East Side Pizza in Midtown for some spaghetti and meatballs. Or visit one of Portsmouth’s three Thai Restaurants – Thai Basil, Bangkok Garden, or Bangkok Garden Noodle House for some Drunken Noodles or Pad Thai. No spice for the kids but for you, we recommend a no higher than a level two (unless you’re really brave).

8:30 pm

Sprinkles or Jimmies

What do you call those little multi-colored candied ice cream toppings? Really depends on where you’re from. We mostly call them sprinkles in Portsmouth. There’s only one place to get real frozen custard and that’s Ricks on the outskirts of Midtown. People come from all over Coastal Virginia to enjoy it. There are sundaes, concretes, floats, cones, and more. A huge selection of toppings too. While you’re there, be sure to get a family photo in the big, outdoor swing. You can all fit for sure!


10:00 am

Sunday Morning Pancakes

Sleep in a little later today and relax. When it’s time to get moving, check out of the hotel and go for some pancakes (or waffles or french toast, or…). You’ll be able to dine outside at Yoolks on Us (Mimosa’s for two), Olde Towne Public House, or Corner Cafe. Or you can dine inside at the Twisted Pig in Historic Port Norfolk (known for the best bloody marys) or at the more traditional Hometown Diner. The kids will love all the great breakfast options.

11:30 am

A Day in the Park

Discover Portsmouth’s City Park, a 92 acre open space park along the banks of the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River. The kids will enjoy the playground equipment and they can even take a ride on the Pokey Smokey, a miniature railroad running through the park. Engage the whole family with a round of foot golf. Stop by the pro shop and purchase 9 holes of skill and fun. After a day in the park, the kids will be good and tired for the ride home.

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