Visiting Colonial Virginia

This summer we returned to the East Coast to visit family, and some history. James and I are history buffs so when we planned this trip we added a weekend in Colonial Virginia, specifically Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown.

We spent our first day at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I had never been to a Busch Gardens before and was impressed. It was clean and the rides were fun! I’m a recent convert to big roller coasters so it was a big day to go on hanging rides and multiple loops. Also – if you are military you can get free tickets (which is a HUGE savings!). But the main attraction for me was the historical sites. What can I say? I was a history major in college after all!

Colonial Williamsburg street. Photo by Jessica Hall

Colonial Williamsburg street. Photo by Jessica Hall

First up: Williamsburg. I could have spent way more time here. We only had a day and to be honest if you’re a history lover you will want more. We toured the Governor’s Palace and the Capitol/Government Building. We also visited the George Wythe House, Wythe was Thomas Jefferson’s teacher and considered a founding father. Other visits included the Courthouse, Magazine, Millinery, Bindery, Shoemaker, and Blacksmith. Yeah, the day was PACKED. My feet hurt at the end. My favorite was probably the Palace – it was gorgeous. The Capitol was also interesting as it went from being Colonial, acting as the British government, to one of the first states. The trades stores were hit-and-miss to be honest and they all have different schedules so not all are always open. I think the most interesting was the Bindery – they still make books by hand which was awesome.

The place is full of reenactors, which I’ll tell you that I love! These guys and gals were great. They had a good sense of reality, like reminding visitors to turn off cell phones, to being experts on colonial life. It was awesome! They were by-far the best reenactors I’ve ever seen. I hoped to see Thomas Jefferson but we were on other tours, and the General in the reviewing of the troops was the French General, not George Washington, cool but not the same.

Reviewing of the troops. Photo by Jessica Hall.

Reviewing of the troops. Photo by Jessica Hall.

The next day we went to Yorktown. This is where things get a bit confusing: there are 2 sites. One is run by the National Park Service and the other by a local foundation that is a part of the state of Virginia. We first went to the state-run location only to head to the National Park site. Why? The state-run was a museum + recreation of the original town and well that wasn’t what we wanted. Since my husband is a military history buff we had to go to the NPS site because it is the actual battlefield with key parts of the American’s win in tact. Those key parts are the redoubts which turned the tide for the Americans in the entire war. Additionally, we had THE best park ranger EVER. I’m not exaggerating, she was enthusiastic and knew her stuff. She made the battle really exciting and was engaged the whole time.

Hard to see but Best. Park. Ranger. Ever! Photo by Jessica Hall

Hard to see her but Best. Park. Ranger. Ever! Photo by Jessica Hall

The inside of redoubt 10. Photo by Jessica Hall.

The inside of redoubt 10. Photo by Jessica Hall.

Then we headed to Jamestown. This time we opted for the state-run facility because they had recreations of the boats the settlers came to America on. That being said, I was underwhelmed by the site. The reenactors were not so great. I didn’t feel like they knew their history and they had white people dressed as the Native Americans. One of them was just plain creepy asking my sister-in-law if she wanted a photo with him out of the blue. It just felt pretty fake. They had full recreations of the Native American village, the fort, and the boats. All were nicely done but it just felt…well, like a tourist trap. There was a big museum on the history of the area that was pretty good, but very long. I wish we had gone to the National Park Site because they are excavating the area which would have been cool to see. But, next time.

Boats! Photo by Jessica Hall.

Boats! Photo by Jessica Hall.

If I had to do it again I would have given us more time. We crammed a lot of history into two days. I could have used at least one more day just for the historical sites. Busch Gardens: a day was good for us, the rest? More time please! Also you can get a military discount on multiple day passes to Williamsburg and for the others you need to go to MWR.

Have you been to Colonial Virginia? What did you think? What were your favorite parts of the trip?

2 responses to “Visiting Colonial Virginia

  1. The Jamestown NPS site is definitely worth a visit. I worked there an entire summer and have went back three times since then. They have the NPS museum, which is pretty good but even better is the APVA Museum at the far end of the site with artifacts and recreations. you can even see some of the skeletons they have uncovered. The Jamestown church is also on the NPS site. The state site has really started to look run down the last few years.

  2. This looks like so much fun! I should drag my hubster around there since we are within a days drive.

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