Setting: Beside one of the world's deepest natural harbors, Portsmouth is part of the Chesapeake Bay on the Elizabeth River. It's 17 miles from Virginia Beach, 45 miles from Williamsburg, and 93 miles from Richmond, and is within a day's drive of two-thirds of the nation's population.
Attractions: Portsmouth has close to 80 miles of waterfront property and six commercial marinas. Its location offers mild temperatures averaging 41.5 degrees in winter and 76.8 degrees in summer. This small city is culturally aware, with a number of museums, theaters, and art galleries, all within a walkable downtown. Historical and architectural preservation is noteworthy.
Drawbacks: The public schools are not considered among the best in the state, but city officials are working to build better facilities and strengthen the system. Night owls might be disappointed to learn that most shops close by 6 p.m. and most restaurants by 10. Hurricane season lasts from June to November.
Housing Options: In Olde Towne, choose from Admiral's Landing condominiums, early 19th-century Greek Revival houses, loft apartments, and Swimming Point's grand waterfront homes. The suburbs offer an array of housing options, from new developments of both large and starter homes (Lake Shores and Westbury) to such neighborhoods as Glensheallah, dating to the mid-1970s and developed around the water.
Your Next-door Neighbors: Author Alf J. Mapp Jr., former NFL player Roger Brown (of the Los Angeles Rams), golfer Curtis Strange, former "Tonight Show" band leader (1968-92) Tommy Newsom, Navy doctors and nurses, a shipyard apprentice, artist, nuclear electrician, photographer.
What It Costs: A condominium in Admiral's Landing costs around $160,000. Starter homes in Westbury run from $75,000 to $100,000. Swimming Point homes average $180,000, while houses just outside Olde Towne in Glensheallah start at around $145,000. Historic homes in Olde Towne run as low as $128,000 (fixer-uppers) to around $500,000 for restored homes.
Where You'd Spend Free Time: On High Street browsing the antiques and vintage stores, visiting the various museums, taking the five-minute ferry (75 cents) to Norfolk (pronounced "NAW-fook" here) to shop in MacArthur Center.