Norfolk Harborfest Returns for Another Massive Maritime Celebration

Norfolk Harborfest | Credit: Kyle J Little/

The Hampton Roads region is where the Jamestown colonists first arrived, and Norfolk and the surrounding areas have served as port cities, shipbuilding hubs, and boaters’ paradises throughout the subsequent centuries. This legendary legacy of Hampton Roads’s nautical history is continued with the annual Norfolk Harborfest. This year, the massive celebration of all things boating will return for its 47th year with a massive schedule of summer excitement on the water.

Norfolk Harborfest is the largest and longest-running free maritime festival in the U.S. It celebrates both land and sea and features dazzling displays, musical performances, and family-friendly excitement. This year, the festivities will be held from June 9th–11th on downtown Norfolk’s waterfront at Town Point Park and will serve as a perfect celebration to ring in the start of summer.

Harborfest is a lively, spirited event and is also a core part of the Hampton Roads tradition. To set the atmosphere, there will be dozens of musical performances across multiple stages from local and national acts. But the incredible showcase of amazing boats is the real highlight of the event.

The Parade of Sail is the best-known tradition and the first of several nautical events held at Harborfest. It is a massive parade of spectacular watercraft that moves along the Elizabeth River toward Town Point Park. You can expect to see tall ships, antique boats, military vessels, and more at the Parade of Sail. Spectators will line up along vantage points across the river to take in this impressive procession.

There will be even more to experience throughout the weekend. The U.S. Coast Guard will showcase their incredible skill and technology during their live Search and Rescue Demo. Tugboats will put on an impressive demonstration of their power in the massive Tug Muster competition, where they will compete to see whose boat is the strongest. And competitors will build a boat from scratch at Saturday’s Build-a-Boat Challenge and then race them in a competition of engineering and speed at the Ultimate Build-a-Boat Race on Sunday.

Offshore, Norfolk Harborfest has two massive spectacles to witness, one of which is new this year. The Harborfest Drone Show is a new aspect of this event featuring cutting-edge technology. Thousands of drones will fill the night sky over the Elizabeth River, creating incredible shapes synchronized to a nautical music playlist. And the spectacular Harborfest Fireworks Display is a massive night show and one of the biggest fireworks displays on the East Coast.

While these are the primary events at Norfolk Harborfest, there is much more to do and see at this one-of-a-kind occasion. There will be many family-friendly, interactive activities and performances to enjoy, exhibits from the U.S. Navy, and much more. And come hungry because there will be plenty of food and beverages sold at the event from local foodie favorites.

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