Even though Suffolk is Virginia’s largest city land-wise and the country’s 14th largest, it has a small-town feel with a wide variety of guided tours and eco-adventure options.
However, Suffolk, Virginia might be best known for peanuts. Yes, peanuts.
Suffolk is one of the seven cities that encompass the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. If you somehow run out of things to do in Suffolk, it lies conveniently close to Newport News, Colonial Williamsburg, the USS Wisconsin, and the Virginia Beach oceanfront.
Table of Contents
- 1 Explore Suffolk Museums and Galleries
- 2 Suffolk VA Tours
- 3 Suffolk VA Parks
- 3.1 Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
- 3.2 Nansemond River / Constant Wharf Park and Marina
- 3.3 Annual Amazing Peanut Chase
- 3.4 Bennett’s Creek Park
- 3.5 Lone Star Lakes Park
- 3.6 Sleepy Hole Park
- 4 Camping in Suffolk, Virginia
- 5 Suffolk Shops
- 6 Festivals in Suffolk, VA
- 7 Pin it and Start Planning!
Explore Suffolk Museums and Galleries
Riddick’s Folly House Museum
The impressive Riddick’s Folly House Museum building with striking architecture sits on Suffolk’s Main Street. Outside notice the frieze band windows, Flemish bond brickwork, the double chimney, and the Greek Revival entrance with the slender columns.
Once inside, you will see the elaborate medallions on the ceiling and intricately carved molding throughout the four-story house.
Explore the 21 rooms that are elaborately furnished and feature 16 fireplaces.
The guided tour will take you through the gentleman’s library, double parlors, bedchambers, restored kitchen, laundry, and dining room.
Suffolk Seaboard Station Railroad Museum
Visit the Queen Anne style restored Main Street train station, where you will see an HO-scale model of 1907 Suffolk. Imagine coming to this new building in 1885 and seeing the spiral staircase, coffered ceiling, and fireplace.
Inside, you will find a collection of items, including railroad lanterns and tools, locomotive bells and lights, signs, and dining car silver.
Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts
The Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts is Suffolk’s premier art venue and features art exhibits, musical, theater, ballet performances, and lectures throughout the year. The auditorium seats 500.
The Greek-Revival structure situated in downtown Suffolk was the former Suffolk Public High School.
During the summer, reserve your seat for the Summer Movie Series with showtimes at 2:00 PM.
Suffolk Art Gallery
Amongst the Victorian and Colonial buildings, the original library building was constructed in the 1960s and then in the 1980s turned into the Suffolk Art Gallery.
With a partnership between the Suffolk Art League and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Suffolk Art Gallery showcases changing exhibits, art classes, artists’ demonstrations, and even open mic nights.
Suffolk VA Tours
Great Dismal Swamp Underground Railroad Pavilion Tour
The Great Dismal Swamp may be eerie and spooky to travel through as you try not to lose your way. However, this swamp has a very long history of people who purposely wanted to lose themselves in the swamp.
Take this tour and learn more about the thousands of African American slaves that wandered this ground searching for their freedom.
Cedar Hill Cemetery Guided Stroll
The 75-minute stroll leads you through the 32-acre Cedar Hill cemetery on North Main Street, which is beautiful and full of history.
Cedar Hill was once John Constant’s farm and the final resting place of many American Civil War soldiers, historical figures, and Suffolk politicians.
Walking tours are held from March through November.
Cedar Hill Cemetery Hometown Heroes Walking Tour
The hour-long walking tour explores the 32-acre cemetery (aka Green Hill Cemetery) while highlighting the memorials and graves of World War I, World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War soldiers from Nansemond County and Suffolk.
Tours of this cemetery, which is on the United States National Historic Register, are offered from March through November.
Legends of Main Street – A Suffolk Ghost Walk
Once a month, join the 1½ hour along Suffolk’s historic Main Street, where you will walk in the shadows with your costumed guide. As you walk by lantern light roughly 1½ miles through Suffolk city, you will hear of unexplained occurrences through legends and stories of hair-raising experiences in Suffolk.
Most of the monthly tours take place on a Saturday night.
Self-Guided Walking Tour of Historic Downtown Suffolk
Delve deeper into Suffolk’s 400-year history as you walk along the paths of the Nansemond Indians, Suffolk Towne’s English settlers, and those that helped build Suffolk into the vibrant and diverse city it is today.
Use the walking tour brochure to visit more than 40 historic sites, which include:
- Mr. Peanut
- Old Post Office
- Nansemond County Courthouse
- The 1891 Suffolk Christian Church.
Suffolk VA Parks
Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
The massive Dismal Swamp Refuge area showcases the 3-mile wide Lake Drummond in the center. The lake is only 18 feet above sea level and five to six feet deep, with cypress trees eerily rising from the water.
Without roads through much of the swamp, access to the interior is limited to foot traffic and small boats. This has helped the area stay a mystery to many over the years.
Those who do paddle or walk in will find beautiful flowers, mysterious cypress trees, various wildlife, and plenty of history are to greet them.
The walking trails are open year-round, and visitors enjoy taking photos of nature, observing wildlife, fishing, hunting, and boating.
The Suffolk Visitor Center conducts swamp tours and guided nature walks. You can find tour information on the Suffolk Visitor Center’s website on the Tours page.
Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge “Swamp Safari”
A biologist specializing in the Great Dismal Swamp’s unique habitat provides narration during the four-hour bus tour.
During this tour, you will hear about the lore and history of the swamp, learn about the wildlife and vegetation that abounds throughout the swamp, and take a nature walk around part of Lake Drummond.
This is the most popular Great Dismal Swamp tour, so if possible, book early to secure your seat on the bus.
Great Dismal Swamp’s Lake Drummond Kayak Excursion
Experience Lake Drummond in the middle of the Great Dismal Swamp like never before. The kayak excursion takes you through the canals to the beautiful lake with the great cypress trees rising from the water.
This is the perfect trip for those who don’t feel comfortable heading into the swamp alone.
Great Dismal Swamp Washington Ditch
Join a group as they journey along the Washington Ditch for roughly ¾-mile on the elevated boardwalk.
During the 1½ hour stroll, you will reconnect with nature as you discover the beautiful flora and fauna that bring the swamp to life. Your guide will share the history of the area as well as point out wildlife along your route.
The Washington Ditch hike takes place several times during January, March, April, May, October, November and December.
Nansemond River / Constant Wharf Park and Marina
Behind the Hilton Garden Inn and Suffolk Conference Center, the Constant Wharf Park sits along the Nansemond River. The park was named after John Constant, the founding father of Constant’s Warehouse, which would later be named Suffolk in 1742.
The park hosts various festivals and concerts throughout the year and is open from sunrise to sunset.
At the east end of the park off East Constance Road, there is a boat launch where you can get out and explore along the waterfront.
Annual Amazing Peanut Chase
The Suffolk Library is sponsors a fun city-wide scavenger hunt. This annual event will have you racing across the city, solving clues while enjoying an afternoon out under the summer sun.
Bennett’s Creek Park
The 57-acre park along the tidal Bennett’s Creek with access to Nansemond River offers visitors water access to crabbing, fishing, and boating from the three boat ramps and a fishing pier.
The multi-use park also has tennis courts, a skate park, a state-of-the-art 18 hole disc-golf course with water hazards, picnic shelters, a 1.5-mile nature trail, and restrooms.
The nature trail weaves through the woods, where you can often see birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
During the summer, kayaking and canoeing along the tidal channels, which is part of the Suffolk Canoe Trail, provides a chance to see various water birds and crabs along the scenic banks.
Parks and Recreation Activities and Events
- Bennett’s Creek Kayak Excursion
- TGIF Summer Concert Series
- Movie In the Park
- Outdoor Yoga
- Family Fridays at the Park
Lone Star Lakes Park
In Northern Suffolk, the Lone Star Lakes Park offers visitors 11 scenic freshwater lakes for fishing and kayaking, an archery range, horseback riding trails, and picnic areas.
Parks and Recreation Activities and Events
- Lone Star Lake Kayak Excursions
- Standup Paddle boarding Yoga
- Family Fridays at the Park
Sleepy Hole Park
Sleepy Hole Park not only offers beautiful, scenic views of the Nansemond River, but a freshwater lake and pier for fishing, canoeing, and kayaking, trails for hiking, horseshoe and volleyball courts, a playground, and eight picnic shelters. Oh, and golf.
Parks and Recreation Activities and Events
- Galaxies Night Hike
Camping in Suffolk, Virginia
Davis Lakes Campgrounds
Davis Lakes offers 137 sites for RVs along with cottage and cabin rentals.
Within the campground, there are three lakes for fishing, boating, and swimming. There are cornhole areas, and on Lake Helen, there is an Aquaglide area with blasts bags, jungle gyms, and water trampolines to enjoy.
More Virginia Campgrounds
Planter’s Peanut Center
Stop in the quaint Planter’s Peanut Center peanut shop for some delicious roasted peanuts, chocolate-covered nuts, or warm, salty cashews.
Pop in on a fall morning after peanut picking season and smell the in-shell peanuts roasting in the 1936 peanut roaster.
Suffolk Farmers Market
From May through mid-November, stop in and shop for fresh produce, eggs, honey, and beef at the Suffolk Farmers Market.
Local artisans, crafters, and farmers will also sell their wares, including jewelry, soaps, jams, plants, and delicious baked goods.
The market is open Saturdays from 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM.
Driver Village Artisan and Farm Market
Visit the charming Historic Driver Village on the 2nd or 4th Saturday between May and August and peruse the unique small businesses showcased at the market between 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM.
Festivals in Suffolk, VA
Suffolk Peanut Festival
The four-day Suffolk Peanut Festival, which has focused on peanuts since 1941, happens annually each October at the Suffolk Executive Airport.
Named the Best Festival in the Mid-Atlantic and featured in The Southern Farmer’s Almanac and Southern Living, the festival often draws 125,000 people who enjoy concerts by local and national musicians, truck and tractor pull, carnival rides, and fireworks.
There is a parade on Saturday morning, peanut butter sculpture contests, and tons of peanut snacks like peanut butter pie, fresh, warm roasted peanuts, peanut brittle, and peanut ice cream.
The Suffolk Roritan Club kicks off the festival on Thursday afternoon with a Shrimp Feast.
Annual Nansemond Indian Pow-Wow
Celebrate with Suffolk’s Native Americans at the 2-day cultural celebration at Pembroke Lane. The free event, which usually takes place in late August, will include native dancing, authentic crafts, music, and delicious food.
Photo credits: Visit Suffolk VA