My original plan for the Williamsburg area was to spend one day in Colonial Williamsburg, one day split between Jamestown and Yorktown, one day at Busch Gardens, and one day at Virginia Beach. While we had five nights in this area, however, since we arrived late and left early, we really only had four full days for activities. I thought the kids might need a break from our historical spots, and thus added in Busch Gardens, and a day spent on the Atlantic Ocean. But you know what they say about the best laid plans...
The day before we left, Carl and I decided to drop Busch Gardens, and save the roughly $300 in admission tickets. Busch Gardens is an amusement park, but it looks very beautiful -its divided into six European countries, sort of like an Epcot, but with way more rides. We decided to fill this fourth date with whatever we were most excited about doing more. This was a great idea, because one day in Colonial Williamsburg would not have been enough (especially when one of those days is the 4th of July - I think others could do it in that time frame, if they rush, and don't do a lot of specialized activities).
So we started out on our second day with a visit to Jamestown, and I had thought, Yorktown. Turns out we liked Jamestown so much that we decided to spend more time there, and save Yorktown for the next day. See how flexible I can be? See, Carl?
I blogged a bit about Jamestown while we were on the trip. We started our visit at the Jamestown Settlement, and bought combined tickets for this and the Yorktown Victory Center (the tickets are good for a week, so going on the same day wasn't required).
We skipped the introductory movie due to time, and walked through the museum. It was a great museum, very child-friendly and hands-on, and very modern - my kids are much more excited about these types of museum. However, I think it would be better to see this at the end of the visit (or maybe after you've watched the movie). But a lot of the museum was lost on my youngest. We then dashed down to the docks as we were trying to make an artillery demonstration, and skipped the Powhatan village for now. Down at the docks, they have replicas of the three ships that the Virginia Company sailed over from England back in 1607- the Mary Constant, the Discovery, and the Godspeed.
The boys loved these ships - you can go on board and really explore them.
These aren't the real ships, but are excellent replicas. The boys couldn't tell the difference. As for the real ships, well, there whereabouts are summed up well here.
What really surprised up about these ships was their size - they were small! You'd never believe hundreds of people crossed the Atlantic Ocean back in 1607 on them, along with all the supplies and food they would need for months in the new land.
Since the artillery demonstration was in the full sun on a hot July day, Ryan and I learned a lot about the voyage from this nice young man in the ceiling-fan covered deck next to the ships.
We next visited the recreated Jamestown Settlement, definitely the highlight of our visit. What a great place!
Its comprised of five or so buildings to show what life was like, and most of the buildings have a living history component to them.
Ryan just loved the typical family home, and the kitchen.
He got to help back some bread, which my little cooker LOVED.
With all-natural, circa-1607 type ingredients.
We finally lured them outside to see.. the blacksmith!
He was our first of many blacksmiths this trip, but the boys were thrilled.
We watched him make about two dozen nails.
His nails are then used by the history museum to build more replica buildings, and he pointed out the one building that used some 12,000 of his nails.
The woodsmith was also very intriguing.
They brought some tools over from England, but many had to be made in Jamestown once the men settled.
The English immigrants had to build a fort to protect themselves from the Americans, and this settlement was located inside a fort.
Forts are always cool to little boys.
Added bonus: costumes to try on. :)
One of the things that most impressed me about the Jamestown Settlement, however, was that they emphasized the fact that this area of Virginia was the Powhatans' home, and that the English were the immigrants who came to take over the Powhatans' land. They never use the word "Indian," and they rarely use the term "Native American," either. They were Powhatan, and this was their village.
As I mentioned in my earlier blog, the Jamestown Settlement is run by the state of Virginia. The National Park Service, on the other hand, runs the National Colonial Historical Park, which includes Historic Jamestowne. They are about a mile apart, and I was very confused trying to decide what to do, and in what order. I had heard that the NPS Jamestown wasn't as good for kids as the state Jamestown, though, which is why I went with the state-run settlement first. After lunch, we headed to the NPS site. It had a decent vistor'c center, with a good movie to watch. The movie was probably the highlight of the visit. You then walk across a long bridge to get to the actual site where the ships landed.
Except... the ships aren't there. No buildings are there. There's an old church, but its only 100 years old or so. They do a lot of archaeological work here, so there is some excavating, but that isn't so interesting for kids.
There's a statute of Pochahantas.
And John Smith.
And some stick wood outlining parts of the old town, but ... that's it.
The most interesting thing we did here was listen to this ranger give a talk, in character, about what life was like in 6107-1620 Jamestown. She did a great job, but from what I can from the website, these living history talks are only on special weekends (the July 4 weekend being one of them).
The other interesting thing is that they have a glassblower studio.
Glassblowing was one of the first 'industries' of Jamestown.
The park also sells the products they make, but the oil and vinegar piece we saw them make was selling for $75, so we passed.
The boys were pretty tired and hot by this point, so we decided to save Yorktown for the next day. Carl had read somewhere that not-so-far-away (ie, an HOUR) the USS Enterprise was docked and being decomissioned. Or something like that.
To be honest, I don't have a clue what it was or what was happening. Just that there were some big boats he wanted to see.
That you can't really see, though, because of security.
And it wasn't just a twenty minute drive away. And we didn't really know where we were going, but that if we looked for a victory arch in Newport News. And how excited I was to finally find the Victory Arch, only to be told by Carl that it was somewhere nearby this arch. Still, he was happy, and I suppose that's all that matters sometimes.
Along our drives, we had passed a nice little beach area. We decided that the boys could use some time in the sand and ocean, and I had brought our suits along with us (because you never know).
As I mentioned, my original itinerary involved an entire day spent at Virginia Beach. It had become clear to us that we needed another day for Williamsburg still, and now a day for Yorktown, which meant we were losing our beach day. Happily, Virginia had this other nice little beach for us as a substitute.
It wasn't the nicest beach we've been to - I'd call it the Galveston of Virginia beaches - a bit dirty, and too close to cities, so it doesn't have that get-away-from-it-all feeling.
And it was REALLY crowded. I did my best to cut out the crowds with the pictures, but this was a holiday weekend late afternoon. CROWDED.
Kids, however, don't mind much.
They do , however, mind not having beach shovels and pails, but a quick raid of the trash in our car produced a few serviceable beach supplies.
After a few hours enjoying the sand and water, we packed up, and headed back towards Williamsburg and dinner, well relaxed.
Up Next: Victory at Yorktown