Williamsburg, VA, is one of my family’s top vacation destinations. We’ve been there several times, and each time the trip brings on new and exciting adventures for us. There’s something special about the quaint, historic town that puts a spell on you and keeps you coming back. Its backdrop is a picturesque and enchanting scene that includes the James River, cobblestone streets, specialty shops and eateries, historic buildings, and splendid views of nature.
In this town, we learned stories about America and its founders’ past. When we were traveling throughout the Historic Triangle–Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown–what we were taught in our American history classes was brought to life. This town is not just all history and education, but it’s also full of excitement, adventure, and thrills. It has amusement parks, water parks, family-friendly museums, and a beach that will entertain your family during your entire stay in Williamsburg, VA. Since I am in the process of planning our next trip to this fun destination, I thought I would share with you some of the fun places my family’s experienced already. We’re looking forward to returning to some of these same places as well as check out some new ones.
Jamestown Settlement is a living-history museum that explores Virginia in the 17th-century through a film, gallery exhibits, and outdoor experiences. The story takes place in 1607, at the Powhatan Indian village — the site of the first permanent English settlers. My family was able to board life-size replicas of the three ships — Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery — to gain a sense of what the voyagers endured on their four-and-a-half-month journey from England to America. We also explored re-created forts to learn what the colonists had to deal with being in a new environment and their way of life in the New World.
We were introduced to the cultures of the Powhatan Indians and the west-central Africans. My family learned about the complications of the relationship between the English settlers and the Indians as they dealt with trade, conflict, economics, and cultural roles. The encounters of Africans and Europeans and the evolvement of the slave trade was also depicted. My family was able to witness interpreters demonstrate life during the 1610-1614 time period, such as farming, meal prepping, carpentry, and blacksmithing. My kids learned through hands-on activities while examining real artifacts, grinding corn, and trying on armor.
Here, my family was able to follow the footsteps of Captain John Smith, Pocahontas, and the first permanent English settlers. We were able to observe the actual place where the first Africans arrived in Virginia. As we walked through the original site of the 1607 James Fort, we witnessed archaeologists digging up artifacts from the first settlement. At one end of Historic Jamestowne, there is the Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium, a museum that displays over 2,000 artifacts from James Fort.
After visiting this island, my family went on a relaxing, self-guided tour of five miles, on the Island Loop Drive. As we drove along, we were able to see the natural environment and learned how the early settlers survived. At the end of the drive, there was a 1608 Glasshouse where we observed artisans in the glassmaking process, an early industry that began on the island. My family had an early start, so we were able to come here after Jamestown Settlement.
American Revolution Museum at Yorktown
At this living-history museum, my family learned about the events that led to America’s fight for independence, known as the American Revolution. Our learning started indoors where we watched films about the military campaign and America’s idea for freedom and explored galleries that showed the journey of the 13 British colonies starting from the 1750s into the 1790s expansion of the United States.
Once we were outdoors, we walked through re-creations of a Continental Army encampment and farm to experience what it was like during the Revolutionary time period. History experts explained medical and surgical procedures; soldiers recruited and trained museum visitors for the artillery crew and how to fire a musket; and we were able to assist with farming and chores.
After visiting the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, we went to the National Park Service Center (Colonial National Historic Park) to look at multimedia exhibits of the battle on land and sea. The kids had fun as they walked through a life-sized replica of the British warship’s quarterdeck and viewed the artifacts from the War, such as the tents used by General George Washington, where the siege was discussed. We ended our journey by taking a self-guided driving tour of the battlefield and encampment areas. Along the way, we made a few stops to get out of our vehicle and explore further. During one of those stops, we checked out the 18th-century homes of Augustine Thomas, where the surrender of the British army was negotiated and Thomas Nelson, Jr., one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Since our visit to Yorktown only lasted a few hours, we took advantage of our extra time and spent our late afternoon at Riverwalk Landing as a way to wind down and relax. The Riverwalk Landing connects the American Revolution Museum of Yorktown and Yorktown Battlefield in a one-mile pedestrian walkway along the York River. It consists of specialty shops, unique eateries, and a little beach. As I sat on the beach, I enjoyed an ice cream cone while I watched the kids play and a pirate adventure cruise boat sail by. The natural beauty of the sun setting over the York River was the perfect way to calm our busy day of learning about Yorktown.
I enjoyed visiting Colonial Williamsburg because it transported my family back to the 18th-century where we were immersed in the era of the American Revolution. Admission includes more than 20 guided and self-guided tours, which allow you to take a close look at the town. We were like residents of the Revolutionary City on the brink of war or in the middle of it as we explored government buildings, homes, gardens, plantations, specialty shops, taverns, trade shops, and battlefields. We learned what it was like to be townspeople, shopkeepers, political figures, tradesmen, women, children, slaves and free black people trying to make it in times of fear and uncertainty.
The town came to life as we watched re-enactments of angry mobs storming the Governor’s Palace, news of the arrival of the Declaration of Independence, political discussions and arguments, rumors of war, and worried African Americans both free and enslaved. What I love about Colonial Williamsburg is how they engaged my family and how my children were provided with hands-on experiences that helped them understand American history. My kids were able to dig for artifacts at a real archaeological site, march with the Fifes and Drums, help with household chores, play games as the colonial kids had done, create arts and crafts, and practice holding weapons as new militia members.
Our trip to Williamsburg, VA, is never complete without a trip to Busch Gardens! It’s always the first place on our itinerary. I think it’s one of the most beautiful amusement parks in the world, with its European flair! We love all the thrill and family rides that the park has to offer, including its roller coasters. Throughout the park, there are plenty of kiddie rides for my little one. They also have two designated areas just for younger children called Sesame Street Forest of Fun and Land of Dragons, where my son had a blast.
Every day, there are performances and entertainment that the whole family can enjoy. My family also enjoys good eating, and the park exhibits its fair share of dining options to please all taste buds. Busch Gardens can be enjoyed all year, and for Halloween and Christmas, the holidays are celebrated throughout the park. One year my family went for their Christmas Town festivities, and it was a great experience, one to remember!
Water Country USA
My kids are like little fish — they love the water and enjoy swimming. I prefer to relax in the lazy river, but I also take turns with Larry playing with Ayden in the kiddie water areas. The older kids are always nearby making their way down water slides or jumping in the wave pool. A day here is a great way to stay cool on a hot, summer day.
Kings Dominion & Soak City
This fun-filled park is located an hour outside of Williamsburg, VA, and if you’re seeking more excitement and thrills, it’s the place for it. What my family loves about this park is being able to have the best of both worlds — an amusement park and a water park. Kings Dominion has tons of rides that are suitable for all ages and thrill levels, including roller coasters to get your heart pumping. Planet Snoopy is a PEANUTS-themed children’s area for little kids to enjoy 20 rides, activities, and shows.
And just like other amusement parks, they have shows for all of us. They also have a cool attraction called Dinosaurs Alive! with which we come face-to-face with life-sized, animatronic dinosaurs and learn what it’s like to dig for dinosaur fossils. Whenever we were ready to cool down, we walked over to Soak City, a 20-acre water park that was included in our park admission.
Virginia Living Museum
The Virginia Living Museum was just a short drive outside of Williamsburg. It’s not your typical museum because it’s alive and interactive. It’s a combination of a zoo, aquarium, garden, nature park, planetarium, and science center all in one place. My family was connected to nature as we experienced Virginia’s rich natural environments of both land and sea.
My family was able to see many animals and plants native to Virginia. We learned about the animals’ natural habitats of caves, mountains, swamps, and the Chesapeake Bay. And we were amazed at all the colorful and beautiful coastal birds as we walked through the aviary. The Virginia Living Museum was a nice addition to our fun-filled vacation.
This is just a list of some of the adventures my family has enjoyed at Williamsburg, VA. There’s more, but I will share those at another time! This beautiful town has many more attractions that families can visit. I’m looking forward to our next trip there! If you have any suggestions for places we should check out, please share!