The Norfolk Botanical Garden, renowned for its beauty and exceptional educational programs, is considered a premier horticultural wonder. Today, the Botanical Garden Norfolk encompasses 155-acres of colorful landscapes, unusual flowers, mature forests, seasonal plantings and features one of the largest collections of azaleas, camellias, roses and rhododendrons on the East Coast. Open almost 365 days a year, the Botanical Garden Norfolk is a great way to spend a day in Norfolk enjoying the fruits of Virginia's natural world.
The idea for the Norfolk Botanical Gardens first came from a young horticulturalist, Frederic Heutte, and the Norfolk City Manager, Thomas P. Thompson between the years of 1935 and 1938. Heutte was enamored with azaleas and thought the Hampton Roads region of Virginia had a climate uniquely suited for growing the plants. Heutte and Thompson both believed that Norfolk could support an azalea garden to rival that located in Charleston, S.C. The city of Norfolk provided Heutte and Thompson with a seventy-five acre plot of wooded ground and an additional seventy-five acres of the Little Creek Reservoir to establish a city garden. The Works Progress Administration then sponsored 200 African-American women to clear the dense vegetation covering the plot and to plant 4,000 azaleas. To show the city's support for the Garden, the name was later changed in 1955 from The Azalea Garden to The Norfolk Municipal Gardens. Various changes were made throughout the years to the Botanical Garden Norfolk, including improvements for the Azalea Festival and construction of the waterways for the popular boat rides through the Garden. Today the Norfolk Botanical Gardens house many more species of plants other than simply azaleas, and today they encompass 155 acres with over 20 theme gardens viewable by tram, boat or foot.
To experience the Norfolk Botanical Garden Virginia Garden Tour, you have three tour options: by tram, boat, or on foot. The following is a Norfolk Botanical Garden tour breakdown:
*Tram - Available daily April - October 15. The Virginia Garden Tour tram travels through the garden every hour stopping at seven locations. October 17 - April 1: Weekdays 11 a.m., 1 p.m. & 4 p.m., Weekends, hourly, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Special "Yuletide Ride" tour will run from November 25 to January 8. The ride is free with your Norfolk Botanical Gardens admission.
*Boat Tour - This Virginia Garden tour is done by boat and is a 30 minute floating journey on the waterways of the Garden taking you past the lush greenery of the Virginia gardens and out into Lake Whitehurst. These tours are available daily from April to mid-October and on weekends from mid-October to March. This is a weather permitting activity with price ranges from $3-$5 per person.
*Walking Tours - Free with your Norfolk Botanical Garden admission, these are available daily April 1 to October 15. Guided tours through the Virginia Gardens available on a variety of topics. October 15 - April 1: Weekends only. Group reservations recommended.
There are also many amenities available to accompany your Virginia Garden Tour at the Botanical Garden Norfolk:
- Free parking adjacent to the staffed main visitor center
- 12 miles of walking paths
- 8 minute video overview of the Garden
- Wheelchair accessibility (wheelchairs to borrow, paths, tram)
- Drink Machines
- Picnic area
- Water fountains
The Norfolk Botanical Garden is open 9 am - 5 pm from mid-October to March and 9 am - 7 pm from April to mid-October. The Gardens are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission to the Norfolk Botanical Garden ranges between $3 and $6, with discounts for children, seniors and military personnel.