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    Norfolk, Virginia


    Getty Images/Comstock Images/Jupiterimages
    Established in 1682, the town of Norfolk was incorporated just 23 years later in 1705. Surrounded by many bodies of water, it grew as a mecca for West Indies trade, and a major shipping port for the export of plantation products from Virginia and the Carolinas.

    Suffering devastation during the American Revolution, the city was rebuilt to take advantage of its shipbuilding and maritime industries. Two decades after the Civil War, it literally rose from the ashes, reemerging as a thriving metropolis with a bustling port and railroads.

    Following World War I, Norfolk experienced enormous military growth with the introduction of a major U.S. Navy base and training station. As a result, population continued to increase with the influx of workers seeking employment at local manufacturing plants. Following the war, the city underwent extensive building renovations and neighborhood construction, and welcomed new additions such as the renowned National Maritime Center.

    Today, Norfolk continues its pattern of growth while remaining true to its nautical roots. Its well-known mermaid logo symbolizes the city's heritage, reminding residents and visitors that its legacy evolves from the sea.

    Arts and culture

    The Chrysler Museum of Art (CMA) is home to one of the United States' greatest art collections. The museum gained popularity following the donation of nearly 10,000 objects from Walter Chrysler, Jr., heir of the automotive company founder.

    Currently, the CMA boasts 62 galleries and approximately 30,000 works from around the world. Moreover, the CMA features one of the largest and most extensive glass collections in the world.

    Featuring more than 10,000 objects spanning 3,000 years, the exhibit also features daily glass blowing demonstrations at its Glass Studio. Other exhibits include American neoclassical marble sculptures, European and American paintings and sculptures, and contemporary art pieces.

    Overlooking the Lafayette River, the Hermitage Foundation Museum is located on a 12-acre estate and features a 20th century, Tudor-style house and formal gardens. Constructed in 1908, the five-room Hermitage summer home was built by New York architects William and Florence Sloane. It soon became the principal residence for the couple and had expanded to 42 rooms by 1936.

    Following William Sloan's death, the home and its contents, outbuildings, and grounds were turned into a museum site in 1942. Throughout the museum's contemporary exhibition galleries, visitors will find an eclectic compilation of Western and Asian art, ivory carvings, Chinese ceramics and bronzes, and numerous Persian rugs.

    Located on the downtown waterfront, Nauticus — which includes the National Maritime Center — opened its doors in 1994. A technology and science center, the attraction focuses on the economic, naval, and nautical qualities of the area. Current home to the USS Wisconsin, the last battleship to be built in the United States, the maritime center offers visitors hands-on and traveling exhibits. A wide range of educational programs are presented via the center's interactive theaters and high-definition films.

    Norfolk is also home to a variety of major performing groups with regular seasons. Founded in 1974, the Virginia Opera performs principally at the Harrison Opera House. Named the "Official Opera Company of the Commonwealth of Virginia" in 1994, it has earned a reputation for discovering bright young artists. The opera's upcoming season is scheduled to include "Aida," "Hansel and Gretel," "Orphée," and "The Mikado."

    Established in 1920, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra (VSO) performs at Chrysler Hall, located in the Scope Complex, and four other venues. A mainstay of the region's fine arts scene, it offers over 140 pops, classical, family, outreach, and educational concerts each season, which runs through June 2012.

    Performing at the Wells Theatre, the Virginia Stage Company is known as one of the nation's prominent regional theaters. Founded in 1968, the company produces a full season of American classics, long-running musicals, and Tony Award winning plays. Included on the 2012 playbill are "God of Carnage," "Red," "Black Pearl Sings," and "The Fantasticks."