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Getting nautical at Nauticus in Norfolk, Virginia

Nauticus National Maritime Center in Norfolk, VirginiaThe Nauticus National Maritime Center in downtown Norfolk, Virginia is a family-friendly travel destination for anyone who is interested in seafaring.

An interactive history, science and technology center, it features hundred of exhibits, including deep ocean exploration, US Navy history and NOAA’s “Science on a Sphere” weather display.

There is also a shark petting lagoon and a 2000-gallon touch tank (with a new horseshoe crab family!) that is quite a hit with young kids.

A zippy AEGIS Command Center lets visitors see a narrated, simulated engagement using much of the display equipment that is currently installed aboard Navy AEGIS destroyers and cruisers.

The 887-foot-long battleship Wisconsin is permanently docked adjacent to the main Nauticus museum building, and you can climb around on a lot of it, both topside and below decks.

There are often special events and exhibits, and on January 21, 2009 there’s a day of educational programming just for homeschoolers.

The city of Norfolk (adjacent to Virginia Beach – the whole region is called Hampton Roads) has a promotional right now called “Half-Off.”  Family travelers can get 50% off of admission to many popular city attractions (including Nauticus) and some restaurant discounts by booking one night at participating hotels, until January 31, 2009.

I’ll bet you anything that given the current economic client, they’ll either extend that offer or come up with a similar one, so contact the Norfolk CVB at (757) 664-6620 or click here for info on tourist special offers and packages.

Remember that this is a heavily military area, with lots of bases and Department of Defense facilities, so military families may have options available in temporary lodging. For more details, I like the military recreation facility books by retirees Ann and Roy Crawford: Military Living.

Update: I forgot to include a link to this excellent article by Budget Travel on other things to do and see in Norfolk VA.