Holly Rosen Fink of The Culture Mom, recently visited Greater Williamsburg with her two kids and came back excited by what her kids learned and saw. She tells us all here.
Disclosure: My visit was mostly complimentary (the hotel was discounted) to facilitate this post.
Imagine a family trip that is just as educational as it is fun- possible? Yes, Greater Williamsburg and a visit to its Historic Triangle, consisting of Jamestown, Yorktown and Colonial Williamsburg offers glimpses of how Americans lived first together and became the seeds of a nation. And, our kids had a blast going there.
Start your visit by spending at least a few hours in Colonial Williamsburg. Should you have the time to dedicate a full day to the town, you will wander in and out of buildings that will take you back to how Americans lived over 400 years ago. Greater Williamsburg has more than 500 18th-century buildings with actors portraying the characters from the era (they utilize 3,500 every season).
Once you set foot through the gate, you’re taken back in a time machine to when horse-drawn carriages were used and various trades were integral to the community.
Kids particularly love the reenactments by blacksmiths, jewelers, soldiers, slaves, wig makers, seamstresses and patriots. And, what kid wouldn’t want to sit in the cot of the local jail cell and play “bad guy”?!
On a sunny day, kids can grind corn, saw wood, get water from a well, help with farm chores and begin to understand what it was like to live in those times long ago. When it rains, the actors take the reenactments inside. Each actor never steps out of character and will make you feel like you have entered another era. They are actually historians and educators who love to tell a good story, each one of them and they are very informative.
It’s definitely worth a visit to Jamestown (part of the Historic Triangle), the first permanent English settlement in America. Here we learned more about Native Americans and how they lived (including Pocahontas), the famine of 1609 and how the colonists rebelled against the VA Governor in 1676 and burned the town down. They offer an introductory film, “1607: A Nation Takes Roots” which traces Jamestown’s beginnings in England and the first century of the VA colony. There are recreations of the colonists’ fort, three ships from 1607 and a Powhattan Indian village where historical interpreters bring the era to life.
At Yorktown Victory Center, you can teach your kids about some of the city’s later history. The siege of Yorktown was the final major battle of the American Revolution. You’ll learn about life in a re-created Continental encampment and witness an actual cannon going off (hold your ears). This is an excellent way to end your trip as it focuses on the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
An interesting way to tie in what you learned in Williamsburg is to head to Busch Gardens. This theme park is built around the cultures of Europe, where America’s first settlers came from. Savor European food, hear traditional music and see their crafts. There are also shows throughout the day.
Of course, there are amusement rides too if your kids are ready for some high thrills after filling their head with lots of information. The rides are mainly for big kids, but your smaller ones will enjoy traipsing through the different European countries, the fabulous Sesame Street Safari and a playground just for them.
Greater Williamsburg is a really good example of a vacation spot that teaches and inspires children, as well as adults. With careful planning, good maps, guidebooks and advice from other parents, you’ll be in good shape during your visit. Just be sure to have enough time to see everything once you get there. Three full days for the Historic Triangle would be optimal, and then you can fit in a side trip to Busch Gardens also.
Ticket prices to all the attractions vary, depending on what you want to do and see. A Historic Triangle ticket will cost you $81 but lasts for 7 days. Kids are $35.50/free under 6. Or you can go for a single day ticket, a multi-day ticket, a bounce ticket or a flex ticket. You can also include the amusement park, Busch Gardens, if you want.
We stayed at the Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel & Suites which was conveniently located close to the entrance of Colonial Williamsburg. It was clean and it offers activities for kids like table tennis, shuffleboard, a pool open until 10pm and miniature golf. All units have Colonial-style pine furniture and photos of the Historic Area on their walls. The rooms range from $79-$159 for a double; $119-$209 for a suite. All rooms include continental breakfast. One of the best attributes is free shuttles to all three parts of the Triangle, which come every half-hour and are very reliable.
Greater Williamsburg is seven hours from Brooklyn by car, 380 miles each way on the 95 South, so you need to give yourselves time for the journey as well as the experience.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Holly Rosen Fink has spent the last 15 years in NYC working in all facets of media, from MTV to the world of traditional and online publishing. Now working as a consultant in Westchester, she blogs about travel, theater, film, art, books, advocacy and more at The Culture Mom. She has two children, ages 5 and 7, who share her culture addiction.