A Travel Price Comparison for United States of America Columbia vs. Norfolk for Attractions, Food, Nightlife, and Families

Should you visit Columbia or Norfolk?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Columbia or Norfolk? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

Columbia

Columbia is a suburban, friendly, and welcoming city. It's also known for nightlife, shopping, and museums.

Norfolk

Norfolk is a maritime, authentic, and blue collar city. And you can't forget about the nightlife, food, and shopping.

Columbia and Norfolk: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for students
Things to Consider
  • Less popular with couples
  • Less popular with backpackers
  • Less walkable
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Family-friendly
  • Very walkable
Things to Consider
  • Less popular with couples
  • Less popular with backpackers


Is there more to do in Columbia or Norfolk?

Tourists will generally find more to do in Norfolk than Columbia. It is bigger and it has more sights, attractions, and activities for travelers. Norfolk is more touristy than Columbia and is known for its naval base and military presence. It is also well known for the Battleship Wisconsin. Columbia is famous for its southern hospitality and friendly people.

How is Columbia different from Norfolk?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Norfolk and Columbia. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Columbia or Norfolk?

Columbia
Norfolk

Plenty of people visit the nice sights and museums in both Columbia and Norfolk.

Columbia offers a variety of museums and landmarks to choose from. As the state capital, there are some decent museums around town like the Columbia Museum of Art, the South Carolina Military Museum, the South Carolina State Museum, and the U.S. Army Basic Combat Training Museum.

If you're looking for an educational opportunity, there are a decent number of museums and historical sights around Norfolk. There are some interesting museums in town like the Chrysler Museum, the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, and the Norfolk Police and Fire Museum. You should also check out the Nauticus and the Battleship Wisconsin.


Is the Food Better in Columbia or Norfolk? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Columbia
Norfolk

Norfolk is a popular place for its local cuisine and restaurants. However, Columbia is not a good city for its restaurants.

Visitors will find a budding food and restaurant scene in Norfolk. You'll find a decent collection of restaurants in the downtown area. Food options include local seafood, brunch, casual eateries, and fine dining.

Columbia may not make the list for most foodies, but you'll find what you need while you're in town. Barbecue and other southern favorites are among the more local dishes, but the city is also filled with fast food joints and other major chain restaurants.

Is Columbia or Norfolk Better for Nightlife?

Columbia
Norfolk

Both Columbia and Norfolk are nice when it comes to partying.

There's a variety of activities in the evening in Columbia. You'll find live music venues as well as low key bars and more trendy cocktail lounges.

With a handful of venues, visitors can find a fairly lively vibe in Norfolk. Downtown is where you'll find the most busy nightlife venues. The city has great breweries, and the live music scene has taken off. There are also lounges, dance clubs, and wine bars to choose from.

Is the Shopping Better in Columbia or Norfolk?

Columbia
Norfolk

Both Columbia and Norfolk are nice shopping destinations.

Columbia offers some nice shopping areas. You'll find independent and locally owned shops along Devine Street and in the Five Points area. Also interesting are the Vista, which is a warehouse district, and Trenholm Plaza.

Norfolk has a variety of shopping areas worth visiting. There's a mix of shopping malls, local boutiques, farmer's markets, and shopping centers around town.


Is Columbia or Norfolk Better for Families?

Columbia
Norfolk

Kids will enjoy a visit to either Columbia or Norfolk.

Columbia is a family-friendly place to visit. Around town you'll find parks, playgrounds, and kid-friendly restaurants. There's a zoo in the area as well as a nice state park - Sesquicentennial State Park. There's also EdVenture Children's Museum, which is filled with hands-on exhibits.

Norfolk is a family-friendly city. The Norfolk Zoo is always a hit with kids. You should also visit the USS Wisconsin which offers tours, as well as the Douglas MacArthur Memorial Museum.

Is Columbia or Norfolk Better for Couples?

Columbia
Norfolk

Most people don't think of either Columbia or Norfolk as a couple's destination.

Most people don't think of Columbia as a couple's destination. You'll find parks to explore and some nice restaurants that make for a good date night.

Norfolk is not always the best place to visit for a couple. There are some nice hotels and several great parks and outdoor activities.

Is Columbia or Norfolk Better for Students?

Columbia
Norfolk

Columbia is a popular place for students. However, Norfolk is not popular with students.

Columbia is popular with students. The University of South Carolina, and other nearby colleges all bring in a decent student population.

Norfolk is not popular with students.


Is Columbia or Norfolk Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Columbia
Norfolk

Both Columbia and Norfolk offer reasonable public transit options.

Public transit is generally limited in Columbia. The COMET is the bus system through town, but you really must have your own car to enjoy the city.

Public transit is mostly limited in Norfolk. While there are buses, ferries, and even lightrail in the area, you really want to have a car to get around.

Is Columbia or Norfolk a more walkable city?

Columbia
Norfolk

Norfolk is a popular place for its high level of walkability. However, Columbia is not a good city for its ease of walking around.

Norfolk is a somewhat walkable place. Downtown is the most walkable part of the city.

Columbia is not a very walkable city. It's filled with suburban-style development and is generally very car dependent.

For even more information, also check out Is Columbia Worth Visiting? and Is Norfolk Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Norfolk or Columbia?

How long in Columbia or Norfolk?

You'll be able to find lots of things to do in Columbia or Norfolk to fill your time. In our opinion, Norfolk has more to see and do, so we recommend spending more time in Norfolk than Columbia. However, 1-2 days is a good amount of time to spend in either destination.

Families should spend more time in Norfolk than Columbia. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Norfolk, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Norfolk than Columbia. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Norfolk that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Norfolk than Columbia if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Norfolk.


  • How many days in Columbia or Norfolk? Ideal Length of Stay
    Columbia 1-2 
    Norfolk 1-2

One day in Columbia or Norfolk?

In Columbia, you'll find museums and nightlife. This city offers something for everyone. This would be the perfect place to spend one day, as it has just the right amount of activities.

The city of Norfolk offers food and shopping. With all of its activities, you can easily fill one day here. It will give you the chance to have new experiences.


A weekend in Columbia or Norfolk?

In Columbia, you'll find nightlife and shopping. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel. A weekend here is typical. A weekend is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that Columbia has to offer.

Norfolk is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. If you have a weekend, this city makes for a great vacation. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Norfolk, a weekend is sufficent for most. Take your pick from the many activities offered here.

Five days in Columbia or Norfolk?

Columbia is a great place to explore. Five days is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. Anyone can find something fun to do here.

Norfolk is a popular choice for travelers. Five days is usually plenty of time to spend here with extra days to spare. With this much time, visitors often visit nearby destinations or take day trips. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

A week in Columbia or Norfolk?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Columbia. Many people enjoy the museums and nightlife when visiting Columbia. One week may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing.

Norfolk is a great place to explore. One week is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. This city offers something for everyone.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best 2-Week Tours in United States of America, The Best 3-Week Tours in United States of America, The Best Bicycle Tours in United States of America, and Tours for Outdoor and Nature Lovers in United States of America.


Which place is cheaper, Norfolk or Columbia?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Columbia is $0.00, while the average daily cost in Norfolk is $166. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Columbia and Norfolk in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Columbia -
    Norfolk $84
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Columbia $0.00
    Norfolk $168
Compare Hotels in Columbia and Norfolk

Looking for a hotel in Columbia or Norfolk? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Columbia


Hotels in Norfolk


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Columbia Hotel Prices and Norfolk Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Columbia -
    Norfolk $54

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Norfolk

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Norfolk:

  • Bamville Transportation (Private & Airport Transfers): $275

Is it cheaper to fly into Columbia or Norfolk?

Prices for flights to both Norfolk and Columbia change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Columbia $5.03
    Norfolk $49

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Norfolk

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Norfolk.

  • Norfolk Buffet Dinner Cruise : $89
  • Buffet Dinner Cruise: $89
  • Norfolk Father's Day Buffet Dinner Cruise: $126
  • Norfolk 4th of July Buffet Dinner Cruise: $182

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Columbia -
    Norfolk $14

Tours and Activities in Columbia

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Columbia are as follows:

  • Soda City: A Self-Guided Audio Tour in Columbia: $12

Tours and Activities in Norfolk

Here are a few actual costs in Norfolk for available activities, ticket prices, and tours:

  • Experience the season with a scavenger hunt in Norfolk with Holly Jolly Hunt: $20
  • Skip the Line: Virginia Living Museum Admission Ticket: $22
  • Neon District Contemporary Art Walking Tour: $32
  • Norfolk's Passport to Fun Admission Tickets and Savings: $37
  • Virginia Zoo & Battleship Wisconsin Combo Ticket: $38
  • Electric Bike Rental Downtown Norfolk (self guided tour) : $60
  • Elizabeth River Sunday Buffet Brunch Cruise: $74
  • Norfolk Buffet Brunch Cruise : $74
  • Elizabeth River Candlelit Buffet Lunch Cruise: $76
  • Norfolk Father's Day Buffet Brunch Cruise: $104

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Columbia $88
    Norfolk $10


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Columbia and Norfolk, we can see that Norfolk is more expensive. And not only is Columbia much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Columbia would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Columbia and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Norfolk would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Norfolk than you might in Columbia.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Columbia Expensive? and Is Norfolk Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Columbia or Norfolk?

Norfolk has a larger population, and is about 2 times larger than the population of Columbia. When comparing the sizes of Columbia and Norfolk, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.


When is the best time to visit Columbia or Norfolk?

Both destinations experience a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. And since both cities are in the northern hemisphere, summer is in July and winter is in January.

Should I visit Columbia or Norfolk in the Summer?

The summer attracts plenty of travelers to both Columbia and Norfolk. The summer months attract visitors to Columbia because of the family-friendly experiences. Furthermore, the family-friendly experiences are the main draw to Norfolk this time of year.

In July, Columbia is generally around the same temperature as Norfolk. Daily temperatures in Columbia average around 82°F (28°C), and Norfolk fluctuates around 79°F (26°C).

People are often attracted to the plentiful sunshine in Norfolk this time of the year. In Columbia, it's very sunny this time of the year. Columbia usually receives around the same amount of sunshine as Norfolk during summer. Columbia gets 293 hours of sunny skies, while Norfolk receives 279 hours of full sun in the summer.

Norfolk receives a lot of rain in the summer. Columbia gets a good bit of rain this time of year. In July, Columbia usually receives less rain than Norfolk. Columbia gets 4.6 inches (116 mm) of rain, while Norfolk receives 5.7 inches (145 mm) of rain each month for the summer.


  • Summer Average Temperatures July
    Columbia 82°F (28°C) 
    Norfolk 79°F (26°C)

Should I visit Columbia or Norfolk in the Autumn?

The autumn brings many poeple to Columbia as well as Norfolk. The shopping scene are the main draw to Columbia this time of year. Additionally, many travelers come to Norfolk for the shopping scene.

Columbia is around the same temperature as Norfolk in the autumn. The daily temperature in Columbia averages around 64°F (18°C) in October, and Norfolk fluctuates around 62°F (16°C).

The sun comes out a lot this time of the year in Norfolk. People are often attracted to the plentiful sunshine in Columbia this time of the year. In the autumn, Columbia often gets more sunshine than Norfolk. Columbia gets 230 hours of sunny skies this time of year, while Norfolk receives 211 hours of full sun.

Columbia usually gets around the same amount of rain in October as Norfolk. Columbia gets 3 inches (75 mm) of rain, while Norfolk receives 3.1 inches (78 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures October
    Columbia 64°F (18°C) 
    Norfolk 62°F (16°C)

Should I visit Columbia or Norfolk in the Winter?

Both Norfolk and Columbia are popular destinations to visit in the winter with plenty of activities. Many travelers come to Columbia for the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine. Also, many visitors come to Norfolk in the winter for the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine.

Norfolk can get quite cold in the winter. In the winter, Columbia is much warmer than Norfolk. Typically, the winter temperatures in Columbia in January average around 45°F (7°C), and Norfolk averages at about 39°F (4°C).

Columbia usually receives around the same amount of sunshine as Norfolk during winter. Columbia gets 171 hours of sunny skies, while Norfolk receives 168 hours of full sun in the winter.

In January, Columbia usually receives more rain than Norfolk. Columbia gets 3.7 inches (93 mm) of rain, while Norfolk receives 3.3 inches (85 mm) of rain each month for the winter.


  • Winter Average Temperatures January
    Columbia 45°F (7°C) 
    Norfolk 39°F (4°C)

Should I visit Columbia or Norfolk in the Spring?

Both Norfolk and Columbia during the spring are popular places to visit.

In April, Columbia is generally a little warmer than Norfolk. Daily temperatures in Columbia average around 64°F (18°C), and Norfolk fluctuates around 58°F (14°C).

In Norfolk, it's very sunny this time of the year. It's quite sunny in Columbia. In the spring, Columbia often gets more sunshine than Norfolk. Columbia gets 273 hours of sunny skies this time of year, while Norfolk receives 253 hours of full sun.

Columbia usually gets around the same amount of rain in April as Norfolk. Columbia gets 2.8 inches (72 mm) of rain, while Norfolk receives 2.7 inches (69 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Spring Average Temperatures April
    Columbia 64°F (18°C) 
    Norfolk 58°F (14°C)

Typical Weather for Norfolk and Columbia

Columbia Norfolk
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 45°F (7°C) 3.7 inches (93 mm) 39°F (4°C) 3.3 inches (85 mm)
Feb 48°F (9°C) 3.5 inches (88 mm) 41°F (5°C) 3.3 inches (84 mm)
Mar 56°F (13°C) 3.7 inches (95 mm) 49°F (10°C) 3.4 inches (87 mm)
Apr 64°F (18°C) 2.8 inches (72 mm) 58°F (14°C) 2.7 inches (69 mm)
May 72°F (22°C) 3 inches (77 mm) 67°F (19°C) 3.3 inches (85 mm)
Jun 78°F (26°C) 3.5 inches (89 mm) 74°F (24°C) 3.6 inches (92 mm)
Jul 82°F (28°C) 4.6 inches (116 mm) 79°F (26°C) 5.7 inches (145 mm)
Aug 81°F (27°C) 5.8 inches (147 mm) 78°F (25°C) 5.9 inches (150 mm)
Sep 75°F (24°C) 3.3 inches (84 mm) 72°F (22°C) 4.2 inches (107 mm)
Oct 64°F (18°C) 3 inches (75 mm) 62°F (16°C) 3.1 inches (78 mm)
Nov 56°F (13°C) 2.1 inches (54 mm) 53°F (12°C) 3 inches (75 mm)
Dec 48°F (9°C) 2.6 inches (67 mm) 44°F (7°C) 3.1 inches (79 mm)