by Kristen Bagwell
When I was little, we lived in Maryland and I remember frequent visits to Washington DC and various spots in Virginia. One of my mom's favorite places to go was Williamsburg, VA. The area has grown a ton since we used to go, and it's a great spot for the whole family to enjoy. You could attempt a day trip if you're feeling ambitious, but a weekend visit is a more relaxed way to go.
Getting there is a snap - basically you head north to Richmond, VA and take a right. (I am serious - pick up hwy 95 either from US 1 north or from hwy 64 east, and then go around the city on 295N. You'll hop on to hwy 64 again for a bit, and then onto VA 143 until you arrive.) In just over 3 hours, you'll arrive in a place that combines modern and historic times, and is unlike any other spot in the USA.
For thrill-seekers, the most obvious attraction is Busch Gardens, and it definitely takes an entire day to make your way through the park. This is a great way for the tweens and teens to "visit Europe" without going far from home, and the rides aren't too shabby either. Check out the new Verbolten roller coaster, and don't miss the old favorites while you're there. (Loch Ness Monster, anyone?) The Busch Gardens website has an up-to-date calendar of events and also offers tickets, discounts, and meal packages online - one less thing to do when you arrive. There truly is entertainment for all ages inside this park!
In addition to Colonial Williamsburg, history buffs can visit historic Yorktown and historic Jamestowne. The Yorktown battlefield is the place where America won her independence in the Revolutionary War, and it is fun for the kids to see the actual forts and cannons on the field. (If you'd like the full story, Park Rangers are available for guided walking tours of both the battlefield and 18th-century Yorktown.) Included in the battlefield visit are the Moore House (scene of surrender negotiations) and Surrender Field, among other sites.
You can walk through Yorktown and see other historic sites including the Nelson House (home to Governor Thomas Nelson, Jr., a signer of the Declaration of Independence) and the Yorktown Victory Monument. Admission is $10 for adults and free for kids under 16, and the site is open from 9am to 5pm daily. Historic Jamestowne is the original site where John Smith and company established the first permanent English colony in the New World, and there are still some of the original buildings and foundations there to see. Visit separately for $10 (adults; kids are free) or get your tickets at Yorktown and then see Jamestowne for free!
Close to historic Yorktown is Riverwalk Landing, a wonderful location full of shops and restauraunts built in the colonial style, located near the mile-long riverwalk along the York River. What a fun way to mix in some modern-day shopping and dining after your history lesson! If shopping is really your thing, there are also shopportunities in Colonial Williamsburg's Merchant's Square and the Williamsburg Antique Mall. Power-shoppers will enjoy the Williamsburg Pottery Factory - a huge collection of shops that was revitalized and re-opened this past April - and the two outlet centers nearby: Premium Outlets and the (indoor) Outlet Mall.
There are too many things to do in Williamsburg to fit in one blog post, but I hope one of these ideas has inspired you to head north! If you want to wait a bit, be sure to check the Williamsburg website to see what fun holiday and fall events are in store. Enjoy!