Jamestown's 400th Anniversary
Your kids may know Jamestown for its association with that sassy Disney princess Pocahontas, but the hamlet, established in 1607, also happens to be the site of the first permanent English settlement in North America. Despite Jamestown's standing as Britain's first purchase in the New World, the Virginia locale lacks the notoriety of Plymouth, Massachusettswhere the Pilgrims disembarked 13 years later.
But Jamestown may soon shed its relative anonymity. The town has been pulling out all the stops for its 18-month celebration (launched in May 2006) of America's 400th anniversary. Queen Elizabeth II is scheduled to visit Virginia on May 3 and 4, 2007, in recognition of Jamestown's historical significance.
As an ongoing feature of the anniversary celebration, visitors can enjoy newly unveiled exhibits at the historic site as well as at nearby Jamestown Settlement, a living history museum. These exhibits present a fresh take on the lives of the intrepid settlers, the Africans enslaved by the colonists, and the Native Americans of Virginia whose land the colonists seized.
America's Anniversary Weekend (May 11 to 13, 2007), the biggest 400th-birthday-bash event, will be held adjacent to Jamestown Settlement. The event will feature basket weavers, flute carvers, glass blowers, and other artisans creating period crafts as well as children's plays and concerts by Chaka Khan, Ricky Skaggs, and Kentucky Thunder. Special tickets required. Book in advance at www.americas400thanniversary.com.
Beyond its traditional elegance, Jamestown has plenty to offer vacationing families, not to mention amateur historians. Opened January 2, 2007, the multi-media screen presentation at the Visitor Center uses computers to show 3,000 images that introduce visitors to the community's personalities and its perilsplagues, near-starvation and Indian attacks just to name a few.
History mavens and CSI junkies should not miss the Archaearium, scheduled to open May 13, which displays excavated artifacts. "Meet" one of the early settlers, believed to be a captain, by viewing his skeleton and learn how real-life forensic techniques lead to assumptions about the identity of the bones. The 3-D representation of a 1620s well details how archeologists unearthed suits of armor, wine bottles, and other 17th-century artifacts. Interesting finds include a sheathed dagger, a surgically marked skull, and a silver ear pickersomething "well-bred" gentlemen employed to scoop out wax from their ears.
Outside, stroll by the on-going excavations. Archaeologists are following the footprint of unearthed postholes to construct the frame of what may be a 1608 barracks. As interesting as the new exhibits are, be sure to get beyond them to the undeveloped park. On the self-guided driving tour you'll get a sense of the rugged wilderness the pioneers faced.
For some take-out history, check out the gift shop; worthwhile souvenirs include the Jamestown Survivor Game, a board game requiring players to cooperate and to create survival strategies like the early settlers did.
Tip: As part of the Colonial National Historical Park, Jamestown and Yorktown offer the Junior Ranger program for ages five through twelve. By completing on-site activities, kids earn a patch and a certificate.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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