Looking to plan a trip that pleases every member of your family? This charming Virginia spot might be that perfect destination. Greater Williamsburg VA has the right combination of history, thrills and relaxation. There’s something here to please every age group.
When traveling, it can be hard to please everyone in the family with a destination that has something fun for everyone. Mom may be looking for a place to ensure the right balance of relaxation and learning fun. Kids want on-the-go thrills and excitement. And dad is happiest on the golf course. So is it possible to find the ideal location that has something for everyone, from budding historians to thrill seekers?
Actually, it is. Last summer, we discovered the Greater Williamsburg area in Virginia while on our 5-week road trip across America. Though we only had a few days there, there was so much to see and do that we can’t wait to plan a visit back.
5 Reasons Greater Williamsburg Should Be Your Summer Destination
Greater Williamsburg: Historians
The first thing that attracted us to the Greater Williamsburg area was the history. The region includes 3 great historic areas: Jamestown, Williamsburg, & Yorktown.
Jamestown Settlement: Jamestown settlement is filled with living history. There are plenty of opportunities to get your hands dirty and see what life was like in the 1600s. My kids enjoyed carving out a canoe using only the sharp edge of a seashell in the Powhatan Indian village and learning how long it took to sail from England to Jamestown on the replica ships.
Historic Jamestowne: Once you have finished touring here, make sure to visit the actual settlement site, Historic Jamestowne, and see exactly what John Smith saw when he discovered it.
Colonial Williamsburg: You could spend several days walking the streets of the original Revolutionary city. Docents teach guests every aspect of life in the 1700s – from washing clothes, to making wigs, and baking in huge brick ovens. We were fascinated with learning as much as we could about this tumultuous time period. We were excited to march with the colonists to hear General George Washington give his motivational speech to claim Yorktown (happens each afternoon). We played fun games, talked with some very passionate soldiers, and had lunch in a tavern. It was possibly one of the best immersive-historical sites we have ever visited. With only half a day there, we barely scratched the surface.
Yorktown: Rounding out this historic area is a visit to the site where the Revolutionary War ended – the Yorktown Battlefield. The site is run by the National Park Service, which does a fantastic job of keeping the historical aspect to the forts and cannons that litter the battlefields. Also in this area, another great living history museum is at the Yorktown Victory Center. Here, my son learned how to hold and fire a 17th-century musket (it was big!) and we participated in a cannon-firing drill. My boys really enjoyed it.
TravelingMom Tip: History is abundant in Greater Williamsburg and there is a lot of it. We recommend at least 2 full days to see all 3 of these historic sites. Also, see them in this order for the history to better flow like a time line: Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, then Yorktown.
Greater Williamsburg: Thrill Seekers
We have a few theme-park enthusiasts (OK, all of us) in our family, so we always tend to gravitate to areas that have high-speed thrills. Williamsburg is home to Busch Gardens, a European-themed amusement park that is jam-packed with fantastic roller coasters, low-thrill rides, kiddie-water play areas, and great shows. We spent a full day at this highly-shaded park taking in as many thrill rides as we could. All of us were terrified to ride the 205-foot tall Griffon (it has a 75 mph free fall!) but once we did, we wanted to go again & again – it’s that thrilling! My 5-year-old found plenty of fun rides in the Da Vinci Gardens that he enjoyed as well.
Greater Williamsburg also hosts Water Country USA, Virginia’s largest water park and Go Karts Plus.
TravelingMom Tip: If possible, visit Busch Gardens on a Tuesday (least crowded) and head to the thrill rides first while the lines are still relatively short. Most of the coasters had long waits in the afternoon.
Greater Williamsburg: Great Outdoors
We found Virginia to be beautiful. It was lush and filled with trees that provided plenty of shade. We can imagine that in the spring and fall, when it is not quite as hot, it’s the perfect time to get outdoors. That said, we were pleasantly surprised at how much there was to do outdoors in Williamsburg.
We did not have time to fly through the trees at Go Ape Tree Top in Williamsburg, but we have been to one before so we speak on personal experience that it was amazing. Guests can freely zip line, climb, swing and more in the tree tops of this unique park, all attached to harnesses. After following a brief training, you are set free for a few hours to try all the tree top obstacles you can. This is an attraction that all of us really enjoyed – even the 5-year-old. There is a special area for little ones to enjoy the attraction as well.
Greater Williamsburg is also home to several trails, parks and gardens to hike, bike, horseback ride, even kayak. There are lots of ways to be active here.
TravelingMom Tip: Make reservations in advance for Go Ape Tree Top; only a certain number are allowed to swing from the tree tops each day. Also, allow a minimum of 2 hours to enjoy this attraction, more if you can.
Greater Williamsburg: Foodies
When traveling with young children, you don’t get a lot of time to enjoy fine dining. I really liked that the Greater Williamsburg area had many unique dining options. There are great historical taverns, delis, and casual restaurants. We had one of the most memorable meals of our trip at the Cheese Shop in Merchants Square. We created our own cheese & meats sampler, some ice cold lemonade and homemade cookies and had an impromptu picnic in downtown Williamsburg.
Williamsburg also has a few craft breweries and wineries to enjoy an evening of sampling.
TravelingMom Tip: Plan for a crowd if you visit the Cheese Shop at lunchtime. There was a long wait in the sandwich line at noon. Try to make it an early or late lunch to avoid the crowds.
Greater Williamsburg: A Place to Relax
Parents will like knowing there are plenty of ways to relax in the Greater Williamsburg area. After a day full of riding coasters, mom deserves some pampering at a spa. There’s the typical modern experience at the Spa at Kingsmill Resort, or try a historical treatment at the Spa at Colonial Williamsburg. I think I would love to try a 17th-Century spa experience, wouldn’t you?
We didn’t have time to try everything, but on our next visit, we hope to also check out the art museums, theater, and resorts in Greater Williamsburg. And, if my husband joins us on our next visit, chances are he will want to try one of the more than a dozen golf courses designed by some notable golfers. Then we can finish off the day with a winery tour or a dinner & sunset sail aboard the Alliance Tall Ship in Yorktown.
Have you visited Greater Williamsburg VA? What was your favorite thing to do?