Travel to Virginia: Rolling Along Norfolk’s Cannonball Trail History Tour

Armed Forces Memorial Along the Cannonball Trail History Tour in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019.

Norfolk has a Cannonball Trail? They sure do! During a Thanksgiving trip to visit friends in Virginia, I found myself rolling along Norfolk’s Cannonball Trail History Tour.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church - Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019
St. Paul’s Episcopla Church Graveyard in Norfolk, Va.

The Lodged Cannonball at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Many of the headstones in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church graveyard are weathered. Some have broken away from the base and carefully rest along a red brick wall. Unable to read the dates yet looking at their weathered condition told me these headstones are pieces of American history, dating at least a couple of centuries.

Lodged Cannon Ball at St. Paul's Episcopal Church - Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019
Cannonball Lodged in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

St. Paul’s Church was built in 1739 and replaced Chapel of Ease which was completed in 1641. It is located a stone’s throw, or in this case, a cannon’s shot, of the Elizabeth River in Norfolk, Va. Up in the corner of one of the church’s walls sits a perfectly round cannonball compliments of John Murray, the Fourth Earl of Dunmore. Referred throughout history as Lord Dunmore, he was Virginia’s British Royal Governor during the American Revolution and antagonist of the colonists. He attacked Norfolk as he fled Virginia on Jan. 1, 1776, and St. Paul’s Church, with a cannonball lodged in the wall, was the only building to survive without considerable damage.

Lodged Cannonball - St. Paul's Episcopal Church - Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019

Today, the church is Norfolk’s only colonial-era building and because of the cannonball, it is the beginning of the city’s Cannonball Trail History Tour. In about two hours, walk through 400 years of Norfolk and American history by visiting more than 20 sites in this self-guided tour.

One of the Cast-Bronze Letters at the Armed Forces Memorial Along the Cannonball Trail History Tour in Norfolk, Va.
One of the Cast-Bronze Letters at the Armed Forces Memorial Along the Cannonball Trail History Tour in Norfolk, Va.

Armed Forces Memorial

The trail meanders through downtown and along the Elizabeth River. The Armed Forces Memorial in Town Point Park is a 160-foot monument dedicated to veterans who served in wars and conflicts from the American Revolutionary War through today’s Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. It consists of 20 cast-bronze letters. Pages scatter across the memorial and beneath a flagpole. They look as if the wind blew them. Each page is an inscription written about the respective war to a loved one at home by a U.S. Armed Forces servicemember who perished. Completed in 1998, the original memorial included 20 letters from servicemembers in the Revolution through the Persian Gulf War.

"The Homecoming," Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019
“The Homecoming” Sculpture in Town Point Park, Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019.

“The Homecoming”

While in Town Point Park, admire the bronze “The Homecoming” sculpture. It is of a sailor hugging his wife and son upon his return after deployment. The moving sculpture was dedicated in 2000 to honor all active and retired servicemembers and their families.

Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019
Nauticus, the National Maritime Center in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019.

Nauticus: National Maritime Center

Next to the Armed Forces Memorial and although not on the Cannonball Trail but worthy of a visit, is Nauticus. Known as the National Maritime Center, this is a museum and maritime-themed science center and includes the USS Wisconsin. The Hampton Roads Naval Museum is on the second floor of Nauticus and separate. The United States Navy owns the museum. Artifacts include uniforms, weaponry, and ship models.

Battleship Wisconsin in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019
Battleship Wisconsin in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019.

Battleship Wisconsin

Battleship Wisconsin was commissioned 75 years ago. It saw action during the Luzon Attacks in World War II and earned five battle stars. It served as a training ship and engaged in active assignments several times up until Feb. 27, 1991, during Operation Desert Storm. It reached its final assignment Dec. 7, 2000, when it docked in Norfolk to become a floating museum. The battleship is one of the last built by the U.S. Navy and available for self-guided tours with paid admission into Nauticus.

"The Lone Sailor" in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019
‘The Lone Sailor” in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019.

“The Lone Sailor”

Across from the battleship in Wisconsin Square is a statue dedicated in 2002 and called “The Lone Sailor©”. Plaques memorialize eight Norfolk-based ships and submarines that met adversity. Included are the USS Cole, USS Liberty and USS Newport News, plus the Pentagon for the 9/11 attack.

Taiwan Friendship Pavilion in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019
Taiwan Friendship Pavilion in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019.

Taiwan Friendship Pavilion

Hopping back on the Cannonball Trail History Tour is the Taiwan Friendship Pavilion. A gift to Virginia and Norfolk from the Taiwan Provincial Government, Republic of China, it was the result of a sister-state relationship initiated in 1981. The Taiwan Observation Tower is known as The Pagoda. Located on an acre, the garden reflects harmony and tranquility.

Taiwan Friendship Pavilion in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019
Outside the Taiwan Friendship Pavilion in Norfolk, Va., is Dog-Friendly!

MacArthur Memorial

Another stop along the trail is the MacArthur Memorial which serves as the resting place of Gen. Douglas MacArthur who passed away in 1964. Tour the museum and admire the architecture. It was built in 1850 by Thomas U. Walter who designed the U.S. Capitol dome and House and Senate wings.
As you walk the Cannonball Trail History Tour, something else will stand out. Mermaid sculptures.

Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019
One of the Dozens of Mermaids in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019.

Norfolk’s Mermaids

Pete Decker Jr., affectionately called Uncle Pete, introduced the idea to community leaders during a breakfast in 1999. Bess, his wife, visited Chicago and saw the city-wide “Cows on Parade” exhibit. She thought Norfolk could implement something similar. Mermaids were chosen to honor Norfolk’s maritime heritage, 130 castings were made for artists to decorate, and in November 2000, the life size nautical sculptures were auctioned off and at least 80 have been placed throughout the community. Over the years, more mermaids have been added but there is not an active count of how many are on public display. But keep your eyes open and you will see mermaids with no two looking alike.

Mermaid at the Taiwan Friendship Pavilion in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019
A Mermaid at the Taiwan Friendship Pavilion in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019.

The Freemason Abbey Restaurant

Walking builds up an appetite and Norfolk serves up some eateries with interesting history, too. The Freemason Abbey Restaurant is housed in a renovated church built more than 145 years ago. A local favorite for lunch and dinner, Friday is wild game specials day.

Doumar's, Home of the World's First Ice Cream Waffle Cone in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019
Doumar’s, Home of the World’s First Ice Cream Waffle Cone in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019.


For more than 100 years, everyday is ice cream day at Doumar’s, a diner and curb service eatery. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with delicious North Carolina-style barbecue. Where they hang their hat is with their ice cream. Specifically, this is home of the first waffle cone.

Doumar's, Home of the World's First Ice Cream Waffle Cone in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019
The World’s First Ice Cream Waffle Cone Machine, See it at Doumar’s in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019.

Doumar’s, Home of the World’s First Ice Cream Waffle Cone

Founder Abe Doumar was selling paperweights at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. When he noticed an ice cream vendor closed because they ran out of paper bowls, he grabbed a waffle from another vendor, rolled it up, topped it with ice cream, and the waffle cone was born. Doumar built a four-iron waffle machine in 1905 and opened a chain of ice cream stands from Coney Island to Jacksonville. Today, there is one diner and it still uses the original waffle cone machine.

The restaurant makes their ice cream and shakes like those enjoyed by the Greatest Generation. The landmark eatery attracts visitors from around the world especially following appearances on the Rachel Ray Show and Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives with host Guy Fieri.

Norfolk Coffee and Tea Co. in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019
Norfolk Coffee and Tea Co. in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019.

Norfolk Coffee and Tea Co.

Not far from Doumar’s is Norfolk Coffee and Tea Co., and for more than 100 years, three generations of the same family have roasted gourmet coffee for thousands of residents and visitors. Look at their walls and see photos of high-profile customers including entertainment celebrities, athletes, and politicians. Norfolk Coffee and Tea Co.’s fire-roasted coffees are available in restaurants, grocery stores, and other businesses and organizations. Stop in to pick out your beans and they will recommend the best way to have them ground. A variety of teas, blended spices for cooking, mugs, and other items are available for purchase. Chances are, owner Chris G. Stephanitsis will be ready to welcome you.

O'Connor Brewing Company in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019
O’Connor Brewing Company in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019.

O’Connor Brewing Company

Norfolk has an active craft beer scene with one of the several breweries being O’Connor Brewing Company. Outdoors is a beer garden with fire pits to take the chill off and games. Inside, take a tour of the facility and just sip a flight of one of dozens of brews. Food is usually available for purchase from a food truck. Bonus: O’Connor Brewing Company is dog-friendly!

Battleship Wisconsin in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019
Battleship Wisconsin and Nautica in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 2019

Roll Along Norfolk’s Cannonball Trail

Like a good cup of joe, Norfolk’s history is deep, rich, and evolving. The Cannonball Trail is perfect for unraveling the city’s past for understanding where it is today and the direction it is moving tomorrow.

Nuts & Bolts About Norfolk’s Cannonball Trail

Norfolk is about 900 miles from North Port, Fla., and I drove to it over the Thanksgiving holiday. If it was not for my dog, I would have hopped on one of the new Allegiant flights from Punta Gorda Airport into Norfolk International Airport. Other airlines that fly into Norfolk are American, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, and United.

Norfolk Convention & Visitors Bureau
Tel: 757-664-6620 800-368-3097

Northfolk Cannonball Trail History Tour

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
201 Saint Pauls Blvd.
Norfolk, Va. 23510
Tel: 757-627-4353

MacArthur Memorial
198 Bank St.
Norfolk, Va. 23510
Tel: 757-441-2965
Free admission.
Open Tuesday – Sunday

Armed Forces Memorial
Town Point Park
Waterside Drive
Norfolk, Va. 23510
Free admission.

Mermaids on Parade
The City of Norfolk

One Waterside Dr.
Norfolk, Va. 23510
Tel: 757-664-1000
Adult Basic Ticket: $15.95
Memorial Day – Labor Day – Open daily.
After Labor Day and Before Memorial Day – Open Tuesday – Sunday.
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Hampton Roads Naval Museum
One Waterside Dr., Ste. 248
Norfolk, Va. 23510-1607
Free admission.
Open Tuesday – Sunday

Taiwan Friendship Pavilion – Pagoda & Oriental Garden
265 West Tazewell St.
Norfolk, Va. 23510

Freemason Abbey Restaurant
209 W Freemason St.
Norfolk, Va. 23510
Tel: 757-622-3966
Reservations recommended, open daily for lunch and dinner. Sunday open at 9:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.

1919 Monticello Ave.
Norfolk, Va. 23517
Tel: 757-627-4163
Open Monday – Saturday for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Waffle Cone Making
Monday – Saturday: 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Norfolk Coffee and Tea
212 E. 18th St.
Norfolk, Va. 23517
Tel: 757-622-3950
Open Monday – Saturday

O’Connor Brewing Company
211 W 24th St.
Norfolk, Va. 23517
Open daily.
Bonus: O’Connor Brewing Company is dog-friendly!

Additional Photos on Flickr

Norfolk, Va.

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Solo Travel Girl

Jennifer A. Huber is the voice behind Solo Travel Girl. She's an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

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