Family Vacations to Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown, Virginia

Jamestown Settlement, Virginia
Jamestown Settlement (courtesy, GWCTA)

Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown Family Travel Tips

  • Time-travel back to the 18th century at Colonial Williamsburg.
  • Experience the life of the first colonists at Jamestown.
  • Celebrate the 225th anniversary of the battle of Yorktown.
  • Get tossed, twirled, and whirled at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
  • Cool off from hot Old Dominion summer days at Water Country USA.

Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown, known collectively as Virginia's historic triangle, are connected by the 23-mile Colonial Parkway, making it easy to hit all three of these major Virginia landmarks. In this area, discover the progression of American history from the first settlement at Jamestown to the flowering of colonial culture and the beginnings of a revolution at Williamsburg to the final triumph over the British at Yorktown. The statewide Jamestown 2007 celebrations, marking the 400th anniversary of the settlement, begin May 2006 and extend into fall 2007 (visit for more information).

Colonial Williamsburg, one of America's best-known living history museums, recreates the Virginia colonial capital of the 1770s, when it bred independent politics and drew revolutionaries such as Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry. By visiting the powder magazine, the courthouse, the apothecary, and the Governor's Palace, kids get a sense of the realities of 18th-century life. Chat with a printer, participate in a courthouse trial, and be sure to walk into Revolutionary City, a new streetscape opened that's designed to pull visitors into colonial politics. From 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. every afternoon you might encounter a runaway slave, hear George Washington addressing his troops headed to battle in Yorktown, or meet a mother worried about how war will affect her family. Sign-up for the Colonial Apprentice Program, available summers only, and your family can serve as hands-on helpers to a silversmith, blacksmith, or other tradesman.

Take the ten-mile drive on the Colonial Parkway from Williamsburg to Jamestown, and time-travel back to 1607. At Historic Jamestowne, part of the Colonial National Historical Park, only modern bricks mark the footprints of the original dwellings, but you do get a sense of the wilderness first encountered by these colonists. Jamestown Settlement, adjacent to the actual site where the settlers lived, is a living history museum. As part of the 400th anniversary, new exhibition galleries, a new orientation film, and a new café will be completed by 2007. In the Powhatan Indian Village (Pocahontas' father was Chief Powhatan), explore a typical house, help tan hides or fashion tools from bones. At the James River, explore a replica of the ship that sailed the settlers to the New World and at James Fort find out how the pioneers defended themselves.

Yorktown, at the other end of the Colonial Parkway, was the site of the last significant battle of the American Revolution in 1781. The Yorktown Victory Center combines timelines, exhibits, and outdoor living history presentations to depict the lives of ordinary men and women during the Revolution. Thousands of re-enactors will demonstrate period military maneuvers and camp life October 19 to 22, 2006, as part of the battle's 225th anniversary.

There's more to the Williamsburg area than history, hard facts, Redcoats, and revolution. Busch Gardens Williamsburg combines rides with shows in themed villages. At Land of the Dragons, little kids climb and play; 'tweens and teens happily scream on Apollo's Chariot, a "hypercoaster" hurling riders at up to 73 mph, as well as on Curse of DarKastle, a darkened, high-speed sleigh ride through a cursed Bavarian castle. Cool off from the hot Old Dominion summer days at nearby Water Country USA, a 40-acre water park with rides, slides, and pools.

Tip: A short drive from Williamsburg along the James River, several of Virginia's first plantations, including Shirley and Berkeley, still thrive and welcome visitors.

Recommended Side Trips: Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Richmond's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 9 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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