Kicking off the festival season is ShamRock 'n' Roll on March 17, celebrating St. Patrick's Day with Irish music, an Irish fair and, of course, green beer. Hot on the heels of that comes the Art of Chocolate, Virginia Chocolate Festival, from March 22-25, which includes local, regional and national chocolates and a chocolate bake off.
From April 15-June 6, the Virginia Arts Festival, one of the mid-Atlantic's premier cultural events, holds a variety of programs, including music, dance, theater and family entertainment. The International Azalea Festival: A salute to NATO -- runs April 27. The festival started in 1953 and honors the Norfolk-based North Atlantic Treaty Organization by selecting one nation each year to honor through the festival's themed activities.
Rounding out the month is the Virginia International Tattoo April 27-29, an exhibition of marching bands, massed pipes and drum teams, gymnasts, Scottish dangers and more, the largest tattoo in the United States (a tattoo is a ceremonial performance of military music by massed bands).
The city celebrates Cinco de Mayo on May 4, and later, wine and beer, with the 6th Annual Spring Town Point Virginia Wine Festival on May 12 and the 11th Annual Virginia Beer Festival on May 19.
Big Bands on the Bay starts May 27 and runs every Sunday until Labor Day, and OpSail 2012 Virginia floats into the Port of Virginia June 1-12, commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812 as it showcases a fleet of tall navy and military war ships representing the world.
Another nautical event is the 36th Annual Harborfest June 8-10, the Hampton Roads area's largest summer event with nearly 700 international tall ships, sail boats, battleships and cruise ships.
Summer heats up July 20-12 with the 30th Annual Norfolk Jazz Festival, the region's longest-running jazz event and the 12th annual AT&T Latino Music Festival Aug. 25 at the largest outdoor dance floor in Hampton Roads.
On Sept. 16, the 7th Annual Mid-Autumn Chinese Moon Festival will be held. On Oct. 6, the city hosts the 24th annual AT&T Virginia Children's Festival, and from Oct. 20-21, the 25th Annual Town Point Virginia Wine Festival
If you get the idea that Norfolk is festival city, you'd be right, and it's only about a 10-hour drive from Boston, if you're so inclined to motor down. For a complete list of festivals, visit www.visitnorfolktoday.com or call 800-368-3097.