Sunday morning we got up with the sunrise, attempted to enjoy our airbnb, then rallied and decided to start with an easy outing to the local zoo. When we pulled up to the parking lot we were a bit concerned to find a police barricade and sooooo many cars. Turns out it was a special event – Boo at the Zoo! which was the Zoo with many children in costumes and decorated animal habitats.
I of course took no pictures of the children in costumes except for this shark in a cage and the kids across the way at the Turtle exhibit.
To our surprise we got to see a Red Panda (the cutest animal on earth), giraffes and rhinos.
We took advantage of all the zoo amenities including the train ride.
It was a fun 3 hours at the Virginia Zoological Gardens and I left the gift shop with quite a few Red Panda items including a new stuffy, coaster and reusable bag to put them all in. Exiting through the gift shop in pure vacation fashion.
From the zoo we headed to downtown Norfolk for a late lunch / snacks / exploration to get the lay of the land and tool around before our boat ride on the American Rover – a sailing schooner offering its last sunset cruise of the season.
Snacks were at Saltine in The Apothecary Bar – a raw bar, seafood and mixology destination in the downstairs of the Downtown Norfolk Hilton.
Hilton clearly has the made in an investment in being the purveyor of high end dining in the neighborhood as it has multiple levels of curated experience for the tourist and local. And the food at Saltine, at least the afternoon “snacks” of Half neck clams (raw and cooked), calamari, and oysters we enjoyed were on point. I specifically enjoyed the navy beans with the sausage in the cooked half neck clams.
Further down and on the waterfront from the Hilton you can find The Waterside – a Coors sponsored multi-restaurant and level gigantic sports bar betting complex experience for those who don’t care what they are eating as long as there is a giant TV playing sportsball on it. It is good there is something for everyone in downtown Norfolk.
After a long snack break and wander of downtown we boarded our sunset cruise on the American Rover.
The American Rover cruise takes you out into the bay and the Captain in a very soothing NPR radio voice lists a multitude of facts about the shipping and military vessels and other things on the shoreline that surround you. As there are a lot of military vessels in drydock or other forms of being worked on in the vicinity sunset cruisers get a lot of information about military “star destroyers” and other large battleships. His voice is so calm that all of the details of the military industrial complex go down like butter as you smoothly glide through the intercoastal.
After a while the “tour” portion of the cruise ends and the mic is handed over to the onboard entertainment. Ours was a lovely folk singer, whose name I cannot recall, who we found out grew up not far from Duluth, Minnesota – and was very familiar with Hibbing, Chisum, and other parts of Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. We learned all this after requesting that he play Gordon Lightfoot, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald because we thought it would be funny. He said that he a thing about playing shipwreck tunes on a ship but he chose another Gordon Lightfoot tune, and we chatted about Bob Dylan and other Northern Minnesota facts and fun things.
While all this was happening the ship switched from motor to sail powered momentum and the sun began its full descent below the horizon.
It was a funny little there and back again journey.
We ended our night with a late dinner of sushi at an establishment with a much loved waitress (probably owner) named “Becky with the good hair.” Well, actually, just Becky. But she told the story of many people saying “oh Becky with the good hair!” that was hilarious so now she is that to us. But if ever there was an enthusiastic person in the service industry Becky is that – and she knows how to upsell. We purchased all the specials, plus dessert after being too full to eat more.
As our first full day – it was very full and we completed it very full of food and new memories.