Your parents may have brought you to Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown years ago to learn about the nation’s history, but now as an adult get even more from your getaway by sampling craft beers, tasting wines, gliding on ziplines and kayaking in creeks.
Use this flexible itinerary to mix and match sites and experiences based on your preferences as well as the seasons.
Morning: Colonial Williamsburg’s Highlights
At Colonial Williamsburg, America’s most well-known living history museum, first-timers should tour the Governor’s Palace, built to remind the townspeople of the Crown’s power, as well as the Capitol, where legislators unanimously voted for a resolution seeking independence from Britain. The Peyton Randolph House and the George Wythe House show how the prominent lived.
Interacting with “personages of the past,” interpreters dressed in period attire, acting as if it’s the 1770’s, adds charm. The apothecary, shoemaker, milliner and other tradespeople work in their shops along Duke of Gloucester Street, the heartbeat of the historic area.
Repeat visitors may want to do less of the above so they have more time to visit Colonial Williamsburg’s museums. The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum showcases fine furnishings and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum presents a noted collection of folk art.
At the Colonial taverns, women in bonnets serve updated takes on 18th century fare. Live Irish harp music accompanied our meal of tasty peanut soup and Mrs. Vobe’s Southern fried chicken during our recent visit to the King’s Arms (Reserve ahead).
For less expensive food, lunch outside the historic campus. It’s an easy walk from the Historic Area to Merchants Square where The Cheese Shop prepares made-to-order sandwiches. A short drive away, Carrot Tree Kitchens serves Brunswick stew, a colonial staple, as well as sandwiches and soups.
Afternoon: Follow Your Passions
Ramp up the fun with special activities and tours. Try ax throwing, fire a flintlock musket, visit the modern stables on a Bits and Bridles tour, get the gossip on a Renegade tour, learn little known facts on a Behind-the-Scenes tour, and, in season, delight in guided visits to the gardens. During the December holidays, dance at a candlelit ball, the perfect place to show off your hoop skirt. Separate tickets required for each activity. At Order in the Court, included with admission, serve as a plaintiff or witness in trials based upon actual records.
Tip: Download the Colonial Williamsburg Explorer app to purchase tickets, find out the activities and tours schedules and to track historic characters.
Dinner and the Evening
For dinner, consider Fat Canary, Trellis, Blue Talon Bistro, or Chef’s Kitchen for American cuisine or try Le Yaca French Restaurant. Less expensive options include Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que and Red Hot & Blue for ribs.
Return to the Historic Area in the evening. Observe a witch trial, learn to spin wool, attend a chamber music concert, listen to African American fables and at “Papa Said, Mama Said” or go on a lantern-led ghost walk.
Tip: Consider buying sandwiches for a quick picnic lunch later, especially if you prefer not to eat at museum cafes.
Early risers may want to drive, walk, or bike Historic Jamestowne’s Island Loop Trail. The 3 or 5 mile road cuts through acres of woodland and marsh, affording a sense of what the first settlers saw upon landing in 1607. At the Visitor Center, view horse bones, brass candlesticks and other excavated items and sign up for ranger walks to learn about the “starving time” as well as the palisade, whose original footprint was unearthed by archeologists.
Jamestown Settlement, a living history museum, fills in details of the original settlement. Explore a recreated Native American Village and replicas of the three ships that brought the English to the New World.
Pace yourself so that you’re in Yorktown before lunch to see the orientation film at the Yorktown Battlefield’s Visitor Center and to drive the 7-mile Battlefield Auto Tour Road.
If you crave an afternoon of outdoor adventures, consider skipping the above to head directly to the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, the area’s newest gem.
Lunch and the afternoon
Allow 2 to 3 hours to experience the Revolution museum. Through an array of interactive exhibits, explore the Revolution from many perspectives. Locate battlefields nearest your home, discover what it was like for the people who lived through the war and plan a military encounter. Don’t miss the Siege of Yorktown 4-D video, whose 180-degree screen, rumbling seats, booming gunfire and other special effects drop you into the middle of the action. At the outdoor Continental Army Encampment, assist with firing a canon and at the Revolution-era Farm chat with interpreters about the soldiers’ lives.
For lunch, eat your sandwiches or get a snack from the museum’s cafe.
After the museum, opt to continue your magical history tour or catapult yourself into the 21st century. For more time travel, visit Shirley Plantation or Berkeley Plantation, properties whose style provide glimpses into the pomp and pleasures of lives grown prosperous in the New World. For spirited contemporary fun, sample wine at the Williamsburg Winery, and depending on the season, try thrill rides at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, paddling with Bay Country Kayaking, ziplining at Go Ape Freedom Park or sailing on the York River aboard schooners operated by Yorktown Sailing Charters.
Down flights of craft brews at The Virginia Beer Company, Brass Cannon Brewing, or Aleworks Brewing Company or go to the Silver Hand Meadery for a modern interpretation of this historical drink.
Enjoy dinner at the one of the region’s restaurants.