Experience the best of the best with this Top 8 list of things to do and see in Portsmouth.
Walk through history and see Olde Towne’s origins and it’s continued evolution.
Plan for your visit and explore Portsmouth with the Visitor Directory.
Portsmouth’s Naval Shipyard Museum opened its doors in 1949 on the grounds of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. During the Cold War, when the need to keep the shipyard secure increased, it moved to its current location at 2 High Street in Olde Towne Portsmouth in early 1963.
The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum offers a unique perspective on U.S. history, from Colonial to Civil War times and beyond. You’ll find beautiful ship models, uniforms, military artifacts and exhibits portraying life in 18th, 19th and 20th century Portsmouth, Virginia.
Exploring the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum in Virginia is a panoramic experience, covering over 250 years of Portsmouth’s history.
Wednesday-Saturday 10 A.M – 4 P.M.
Sunday 12 P.M. – 4 P.M.
Monday and Tuesday Closed
Admission to the Naval Shipyard Museum is free. We encourage a $2 per person donation help with programming.
More information about the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum and Virtual Learning opportunities are available on the website.
The Delaware was the first ship ever drydocked at the Naval Shipyard.
The Naval Shipyard Museum houses a collection of artifacts, images, and models dedicated to chronically the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and its impact on Portsmouth since its founding in 1767. During the Revolutionary War, the shipyard was described by the British as “the most considerable one in America.” It’s been burned three times by retreating armies because of its strategic importance. Many historic ships have been built here, including the CSS VIRGINIA (EX-MERRIMAC), the first ironclad to engage in battle; the nation’s first battleship, the TEXAS; and the world’s first aircraft carrier, the LANGLEY. The shipyard is also home to the country’s first drydock, which is still in use. At its peak during WWII, the yard employed nearly 43,000 workers.
German Village built inside the Shipyard around 1916
Visitors to the Naval Shipyard Museum enjoy seeing ship models such as the USS Delaware. Models vary in size but the attention to detail in each one is extraordinary. The exhibits change frequently but may include Army infantry uniforms, tales of the Undreground Railroad that ran through Portsmouth, or even scenes from a German Village built in Portsmouth in 1916. The history of Portmouth is so intertwined with the shipyard that one story cannot be told without the other.
For the summer of 2021 only, the Naval Shipyard Museum shows an exhibit called Victorian Views of Norfolk Navy Yard’s Trophy Park. It features a number of postcards and stereocards from the private collection of Marcus W. Robbins. The collection of postcards showcases Trophy Park and the surrounding facilities from 1874 until about 1906. Just inside the brick wall of the “North End” of today’s Norfolk Naval Shipyard is the two-acre Trophy Park, home to mounted naval guns and other monuments. It’s the site of change of command ceremonies, band concerts, and VIP tours.
A stereoscope with stereocard of Main Gate
The exhibit includes stereocards, a card consisting of two nearly identical photographs or photomechanical prints, paired to produce the illusion of a single three-dimensional image when viewed through a stereoscope. See Quarters A, B, and C, part of the original sixteen acres, from Gosport Park, located just outside the shipyard on Lincoln Street. Quarters A is on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to the Commander of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
Stereocard of Quarters A
A new refresh of the Lightship Portsmouth exhibit area at the Naval Shipyard Museum will examine the history of LV-101’s forty-eight years of service on the East Coast. It will include images of the ship’s construction and service as well as historic artifacts that have not been exhibited before. A rare World War II Working Grey Coast Guard jacket, along with original vintage shore radio equipment that helped spell the end of the era of lightships, will be among the exhibit’s special features.
The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum researches, preserves, and promotes the history of the City of Portsmouth, Norfolk Naval Shipyard, and the armed forces in Hampton Roads. The museum accomplishes its mission by offering exhibitions, publications, lectures, and educational programs