The museums, galleries and historic houses of Olde Towne are fun with plenty of education mixed in. It’s like a field trip for the entire family.
Children's Museum of Virginia
Step inside a world where bubbles grow bigger than you are, where the forces of energy electrify and spark the imagination, where you can be a farmer, a banker, a scientist, a star gazer, and more!
The Children’s Museum of Virginia is two floors packed with adventure and exploration.
Give them the run of The City! We’ve made it kid size and theirs to explore from the bank to the market, from the fire engine to the pet area. Get the inside track on Trains. Little kids (and big ones, too) love trains, and oh, have we got a huge collection of trains! Clanging and puffing and zooming like you knew they could.
Adhesion. Cohesion. And bursts of Laughter. It’s the new Bubble Room. Make them. Pop them. Stand inside one! Once your child has experienced standing in a bubble, science will never be the same!
Inspire tomorrow’s Stars. Nothing quite amazes or inspires a child like that first trip to a Planetarium. Take that trip with them at the Children’s Museum.
221 High Street.
Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center
The Greek-Revival building is an imposing one, surrounded by a wrought-iron fence and nearly hidden behind the massive oak trees that shade its courtyard. Built in 1846, it served as the Norfolk County Courthouse until 1960. Now it is home to the Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center, with two spacious galleries of ever-changing exhibits, the Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center is more than just an art museum. It’s a relaxing gathering place where you can learn the art of growing Bonsai trees one week and see a demonstration of glass blowing the next. Every First Friday, the Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center typically offers free musical entertainment. Art classes, lectures, poetry readings and book signings round out the vast array of offerings.
On the corner of High and Court
Jewish Museum & Cultural Center
Chevra T’helim Synagogue is now the Jewish Museum & Cultural Center. This rare surviving example of Eastern European Jewish Orthodoxy is located at the main entrance to the City of Portsmouth. It is a place where visitors from home and around the world can celebrate and learn about Jewish history, faith, and culture. The Jewish Museum & Cultural Center houses artifacts and exhibits that reflect the history of the Hampton Roads Jewish community. On display is an eighteenth-century Torah Scroll rescued from a synagogue in Trebíc, Czechoslovakia. That synagogue was a victim of the Holocaust.
607 Effingham Street
Lightship Portsmouth Museum
Lightships were built to help mariners avoid dangerous shoals or enter safely into harbors at night. Years ago, lights were fixed to masts of ships that anchored for months in strategic locations off the coastline. One such ship can be visited at the foot of London Street on the Portsmouth waterfront. The Lightship Portsmouth was commissioned in 1915 and has since been restored to its original condition. In 1989, it was designated a National Historic Landmark. Visitors can board the vessel and see how the men of the Lightship Service lived during their many months at sea.
At the foot of London Street on the waterfront in Historic Olde Towne Portsmouth.
Portsmouth Community Colored Library Museum
The Portsmouth (Colored) Community Library served black patrons from 1945 until 1963, when the main library was integrated. The small, one-story brick building was originally located on South Street near Effingham. The land at this site was purchased with donations made by Portsmouth citizens, black and white.
Some of the 10,000 books available for black readers were James Weldon Johnson's Along This Way, Henrietta Buckmaster's Let My People Go, Langston Hughes' The Big Sea, and Carter G. Woodson's Mis-Education of the Negro.
In recognition of the historical importance of the structure, the Portsmouth Community Library is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Hours: By appointment only. Call 757-393-8983, ext. 20
904 Elm Avenue | (757) 393-8983
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum
If you're interested in local or naval history, or memorabilia from a centuries-old Southern port, you’ll find the Naval Shipyard Museum a delight. Established in 1949 within the nation's oldest shipyard, the Norfolk Naval Shipyard Museum was later moved to the Portsmouth waterfront at High Street Landing on the Elizabeth River.
2 High St.
Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and Museum
With two stories of hands-on sports and health exhibits, this attraction celebrates nearly 300 past and present athletes and inspires future ones. Drive a NASCAR simulator, test the speed of your baseball pitch, and take your turn at the microphone as a broadcaster. Kids and adults alike will learn about fitness, nutrition and sports medicine in the Training Room, complete with virtual exercise equipment and a skeleton that rides a bike! A great place for the whole family. Group rates available. The Hall of Fame is also a unique venue for your next reunion, business meeting, or formal reception. Call today to schedule a tour.
206 High St.
The Hill House was built as a private residence in 1820. It was home to three generations of Hills and in the 1960's was left to the PHA by its last occupant, Miss Evelyn Hill. Miss Hill left the contents of the home, which were acquired by all three generations to the PHA as well.
221 North St.
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Having begun service in 1896 as part of the Hog Island Light off the Great Machipongo Inlet on the Eastern Shore, today this first order Fresnel lens is valued between $750,000 and $1 million. It stands about 10 feet high, weighs 2,500 pounds and is among the largest and brightest of its kind, with more than 250 prisms of optical glass. Housed in a 16-foot-wide pavilion, this lens is the only one displayed outside of a museum setting.
Near the Portsmouth Seawall, south of High Street Landing