See what living during the colonial times was like with a visit to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, a family-friendly destination.
Experiencing the colonial times of American history doesn't require a time machine-it only takes a seven-hour drive down to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. This historic town, featuring original architecture from as early as 1699, proclaims the motto, "The future may learn from the past." Lying on a 301-acre patch of land adjacent to the College of William and Mary, Colonial Williamsburg depicts an authentic colonial town and atmosphere that illustrates the ideals of the 18th century and the American Revolution. Families will love stepping back in time and watching the restored colonial community come back to life before their eyes.
Hundreds of houses, shops, and public outbuildings line the streets of Colonial Williamsburg; most have been reconstructed on their original ?foundations. Kid favorites include the multitude of recreated trade houses ?that bring the craftsmanship of the 18th century to life. Take time to explore the Apothecary to learn about druggists and medicine; the Historic Farming area shows how farmers grew corn, tobacco, and cotton during the colonial times; and the Shoemaker displays the craft that has been a top trade in America since 1610.
Other top sites include: the Printer & Binder, the Wigmaker, Brickmaker, and the Silversmith. If you would like a guided walking tour of the colonial town to make sure you hit all the spots that your family will enjoy, there are plenty offered daily. Check out the Colonial Williamsburg events calendar to learn which tours will be available during your trip (find it by clicking on "Calendar" under the "Visit" heading at the bottom left of the site: www.colonialwilliamsburg.com.
A highlight program for all families making the trip is the street theater presentation of "Revolutionary City," a live program unlike any other living history reenactment. Covering the period of 1774 to 1781, the show-which takes place in the streets-creates a delightfully spontaneous feel of Williamsburg during the years of the American Revolution. The action happens every day from 10:45am-12:15pm, weather-permitting, at the east end of the Historic Area. There are different performances every day of the week that highlight themes such as Building a Nation, The King's Government Collapses, and The Challenge of Independence. Check www.history.org for the ?official schedule.
Just for Kids
Every day there are a plethora of activities designed just for the young set. Children can join the colonial militia and prepare to defend the rights of free citizens, act in an 18th-century play, and march with the Fifes and Drums. They can even take the opportunity to talk with one of our nation's Founding Fathers or plant in a colonial garden. If your children are inspired, they may want to get into the action as well: Available daily for $24.95 (with a $75 refundable deposit) in the Visitor Center's Costume Rental Center and at the booths on Market Square, kids can rent their own colonial costumes!
Even More History
While Williamsburg can keep a family busy for days on end, if you want to explore even more of the history of colonial times and the American Revolution there are two other locations nearby that justify a stop. First, head to the Jamestown Settlement where you can experience the first American settlement from 1607. The historic site tells the story of the people who founded the town. In addition to a gallery of exhibits, there are interactive elements to the settlement that kids will really love: Visit replicas of the ships that brought the settlers from England, explore a recreation of the colonists' fort, and even experience the Powhatan village of the native Americans who dwelled in the area before Jamestown was born. There are guided tours available several times a day. Visit www.historyisfun.org for further information.
Another must-see is just a 15-minute drive from Williamsburg, the scene of one of the most pivotal battles in the Revolutionary War, Yorktown. Now a national park, this waterfront area offers tours that include the battlefield, George Washington's tent and headquarters, and the spot of surrender. There is also a monument and Victory Center with galleries and exhibits which recount the story of the war. Also onsite is a recreated military encampment which portrays daily existence in the military, including the use of medicine in Colonial times. Additionally, at a 1780s farm site, kids learn how to grow crops, preserve and prepare food, and see how to turn flax and wool into cloth.
This area of Virginia is known best for its history, but there are plenty of other things to do that have nothing to do with the American Revolution! So if your kids (or you!) become too overwhelmed with the educational aspects of your vacation, here are some recommendations:
No matter what time of year, Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum features more than 350 exhibits, including a 10-foot section of the Berlin Wall, a two-headed cow, and a shrunken head. Also on site is a 4-D theater and an "impossible laser race." In the warmer months, families should make sure to visit Busch Gardens, a theme park with European appeal and thrilling rides, as well as Water Country USA.
For more information on planning your trip and other exciting attractions in the area, go to? www.visitwilliamsburg.com.
Jillian Ryan is a freelance travel writer who lives in Astoria, Queens. As a bit of a history nerd, she loves exploring Williamsburg and the other historic sites in the area-but admittedly, riding the local coasters satisfies the thrill-seeker in her, too.