The state of Virginia contains much in the way of history, especially when it comes to the early beginnings of this country. They refer to three of the historic sites as the Historic Triangle. This triangle includes Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, and Yorktown. Both Jamestowne and Yorktown have two sites, one being the national park site, the other being a historical recreation. Of the two we only visited the national park sites for both. There is always so much to see and we only have so much time and money to go around. We really wanted to see Colonial Williamsburg though so we decided to buy the tickets and see the sites (you can walk around the town, shops, and eat in the restaurants without buying tickets). They were not cheap to buy, but we had a great time and felt it was definitely worth it at the end of the day.
Our first stop in the Historic Triangle was at Jamestowne which was fitting because we had just been in Roanoke. Jamestowne was the first continuous English settlement, Roanoke was the first, but it didn’t really work out. We did have to pay for the adults to get in, but the kids were free. After buying our tickets we hurried out to catch the tour. It’s a bit of a walk to get to the site across a bridge and around the monument, and it doesn’t look like much at first. We got in just a few minutes late to the tour though we didn’t miss very much. The tours are given by the archaeologists who work at the site. For us this was great because not only did the guy give an awesome tour, but we thought it was good for our kids to hear from the guy that is actually responsible for some of the recent finds at the site. He was able to tell us about finding some of the artifacts and their significance in history. It is amazing that they are still uncovering new facts at this site and discovering new pieces from our early history. The site itself was really interesting too. They had laid out where the original church stood as well as the second church, there was also a form of where the barracks had been, plus the sites where the archaeologists are currently excavating one of which was the basement of a building. There was a really great museum containing many of the artifacts that have been found on the site too. The visitors center had a great video describing life in the settlement and some very informative displays as well. The Junior Ranger books cost a dollar, but we got them anyway so the kids could earn their Jamestowne badges (all proceeds from entry fees and gift shop sales go towards the archaeology excavations which do not receive federal funding). When you first drive into the park you can turn right to get to the glasshouse. This is definitely a must see if you visit Jamestowne. They give glassblowing demonstrations throughout the day (until 5pm) where they make something new every hour. It was so amazing to see how they work the glass and turn it from a hot ball into something beautiful. We stayed and watched for 45 minutes and had to drag ourselves away so that we could check out the gift shop before they closed. It was a very educational experience for the whole family we all learned something new. We liked it so much that we actually went back to visit the glasshouse a second time!
Colonial Williamsburg is a very unique place and as far as I know the only place you can see people in colonial dress doing things from colonial times just about any day of the year. They have several ticketing options depending on how long you will be there and how much you want to see. We bought full day tickets that let us into all the trade shops and historical sites for the day and I was fortunate to receive a discount for having my educators certificate. It was well worth it, we had a great time and saw some interesting things. This place does an amazing job of making you feel as though you have stepped back in time. With all the people walking around in colonial dress, the trade shops, all the buildings being old, but preserved, you just feel as though you were in the past. We really enjoyed visiting the trade shops, these are the places you go to see the jobs people would have been doing back then and you can’t get into them without tickets. There are so many of these that we were not able to visit them all in one day. Each of us had our own favorite, but the shoemaker was really enjoyed by us parents because it was neat to hear about the process of making shoes and the lady in the shop was very informative. The kids each had their favorites too, but they all seemed to enjoy the foundry where we got to see a spoon made and then melted down all within a few minutes! We were able to tour the first capitol building in Williamsburg, which is only a replica, but still very cool to see. In the courthouse we got to see an actual court case that had taken place, they choose people from the audience to play some of the parts. If you are able to visit I highly recommend a tour of the Governor’s house. It was decorated as it would have been when he lived there and guides are stationed throughout to give some history to each room. We spent the entire day exploring the city so we were pretty hungry by the end of the day and although we had planned to go home and eat we opted to eat at one of the local taverns. The food was excellent even if a little expensive and we enjoyed the atmosphere with candles on the tables and someone playing live music. It was a fun and educational day in a place like nowhere else!
Most people have heard of the battle of Yorktown. We paid a visit to this historical site, unfortunately it was pouring down rain most of the day so we did not get to explore the site as much as we would have liked. The visitors center was very informative and had some great displays fortunately. We took the tour of the old town which was short, but we stopped in a few of the buildings that were open to look around. One was the first custom house in the country. We also went into the Nelson house where the kids got to try out some of the toys kids would have been playing with in colonial times. They got their Junior Ranger books, but they were tricky to complete since we couldn’t get out and explore much, they did get them done though and the hard work paid off because they got a badge and a patch! It finally cleared up and just in time because we got to see them fire the replica Civil War cannon. They fired it twice and in between demonstrated the firing procedure. Afterward the kids got to ask the volunteers some questions and they even let Journey try on a hat. So despite the rain we still had fun and got to see some cool stuff from our countries past.
The Historic Triangle is an important part of our countries past. It was amazing to get to see it first hand, and to learn about it right where it happened. I enjoy learning history so much more when I can be in the places that it actually happened. We are hopeful that learning this way will help our children love to continue learning about history and see how it is important to the future. Seeing the first continuous English settlement, a preserved colonial town, and a historic battle site all within a short drive of one another was incredible. When we visit these places I always think that it might be my favorite, but then we visit the next state. I can’t wait to see what we end up finding around the next bend.
Other Posts about our stay near the Historic Triangle:
Here are links to the places we visited and some more pictures:
Historic Jamestowne National Park
Here are my two favorite pictures