Loving history as I do, Williamsburg is a great place for us to visit. In the years that we’ve lived in DC, we’ve probably been to Williamsburg and the surrounding areas about six or seven times.
We were trying to figure out what to do for spring break this year. Sterling is a part-time professor, and didn’t have the same spring break as us, so we needed a trip that would only take about three days. Natalie’s vote was Williamsburg, and since she’s the only child at home now, her vote won.
So off to Williamsburg it was! And of course when I say Williamsburg, I mean the whole Williamsburg area—Jamestown and Yorktown included.
Our first day there we bought tickets and did Colonial Williamsburg. We don’t buy tickets for Colonial Williamsburg every time we go (mainly because we have been there so much and like to do other things). You can just wander the streets of Colonial Williamsburg and get a feel for the area that way.
But to visit the historical buildings, you need a ticket. I’ve read many debates over buying a ticket versus not buying a ticket, and I think a lot of that depends on how much time you have. To make the ticket worthwhile, I think you really need a full day there. And if you have a day, buy a ticket and enjoy your day there—it’s a great day of living history. One note on tickets is that if you are a AAA member, they have a decent discount on tickets, and it didn’t hurt that Sterling got a 50% educational discount (with proof of identity) off his ticket.
One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Colonial Williamsburg again was because I wanted to check out a fairly new game that they have started for kids—RevQuest.
You do, however, need to purchase tickets to Colonial Williamsburg to participate. RevQuest is a spy mission that you are sent on through Williamsburg. You meet up with contacts, decipher codes, convey messages through texting, and get clues texted back in return. It starts out with a program on-line, which you are encouraged to do ahead of time.
Natalie and I started the quest on-line the day before we left. It took us about an hour, and we both enjoyed it a lot. It got us excited about the possibility of the next day, and got us in the mood for being spies.
We picked up the RevQuest booklet when we bought our tickets, and then we were off. The Quest took us about three hours—and it was a fun three hours. Natalie really liked it a lot—and she was at a perfect age (12) to really get into it and do the work herself. But I could just as easily have seen Kara (18) get into it too. We did see lots of smaller kids doing it as well, with their parents being more involved. It was a great activity for us. Rev Quest isn’t offered all year long, just spring through fall.
We also saw a lot of smaller kids with a Kids’ Spring Adventure sheet. It was a town map, listing the sites of Williamsburg. As you visited a site, someone would punch the marker for that site on your paper. I love how museums and living history sites are trying to make their sites more fun and interesting for kids.
We spent the rest of the day exploring all of the buildings and wandering the town. There are a lot of buildings to choose from.
In the evening, Colonial Williamsburg and outside companies offer ghost tours of Williamsburg. We’ve taken the tour done by Colonial Williamsburg and also one from an outside tour company. The tour offered through Colonial Williamsburg takes you through some of the historical houses where actors tell stories of actual scary events that happened in the area. The tour we took from an outside tour company walked the group around the area and would tell stories as we stood outside the buildings. We liked both of them, and it has always been a fun way to end the day in Williamsburg.
Every trip to the Williamsburg area has to include a trip to Jamestown. If I only had time to really visit one site in Williamsburg, Jamestown would be my choice. In Jamestown there are two places of interest: Jamestown Settlement and Historic Jamestowne. If you can visit both, that’s great. But if you just have time and money for one, I think that depends on the ages of your kids.
Jamestown Settlement is a re-created village, with a Powhatan Indian village, three 1607 ships and a colonial fort. Each time we’ve been, (maybe five times) we’ve found it to be very hands on and a great way to learn. Our kids have always enjoyed it. So, this would be my suggestion for visiting with younger kids. On our last trip, Natalie (remember she’s 12) was disappointed that we weren’t visiting it again. I’ve always enjoyed going myself—and I won’t tell you how old I am.
Historic Jamestowne is the actual site of the Jamestown Settlement. It’s quite fascinating to see the frame house and palisades re-built in the original locations. Take the guided tour and learn more about the beginning of Jamestown. Historic Jamestown is probably more interesting for older kids, but there is a lot of space outside to run around for younger kids too. If you bring your bikes, you can bike the Island that Historic Jamestown is on. Park in the parking lot, and just follow the road past the visitor’s center. You can do either a three-mile loop or a five-mile loop. It’s a beautiful, flat, kid-friendly path. Cars do come by, but not often. We brought our bikes on our last trip and almost wish we hadn’t as the temperature was in the 40s in the morning. As the day progressed we warmed up, but starting out in the morning was definitely an adventure with the chilly temperatures.
My guess is that Yorktown is the least visited of the three attractions in the Williamsburg area. It is the site where the British surrendered and was the last major battle of the American Revolution. I have to admit, that we have never visited the Visitor Center or Victory Center there. But we have visited the charming historic town of Yorktown on the York River. It is a fun little town to walk around and, if warm enough, to sunbath on the beach there. Besides visiting the cute town, we have also biked the battlefields in Yorktown. You could drive the battlefields—but it is a great bike ride. If you follow the encampment route it is about a nine-mile trip that is mostly flat, but it does have a few hills.