The author received complimentary admission to the attractions featured in this post
Who says you can’t travel back in time?! A road trip to Virginia’s historic triangle is like taking a time machine back in history to the era of colonial America. In what can be both an educational and entertaining trip, visitors can explore Jamestown (the first permanent American colony by the British established in 1607), Williamsburg (the colonial capital of Virginia from 1699 – 1780 during the peak and decline of English rule) and Yorktown (where a decisive battle in the Revolutionary War helped secure the independence of what would become the United States). History is fun when exploring the living history museums now situated at these historic spots.
Situated a short distance from the original colony’s site is a living history museum that has reproductions of the boats the first Jamestown settlers sailed over to Virginia in from England. You’ll also find the fort they built and a village where the local Native Americans would have lived. Informative docents dressed in period garb share tips about how to survive in the wilderness of 17th century Virginia. These tour guides on your trip back in time, combined with your surroundings, provide great context to what life would have been like when the first British colonists arrived in 1607.
Climb Aboard the Replica Sailing Ships
How would you have liked spending months aboard one of these ships, traveling across the sea? Take a look at the James River from the deck. The river was deep enough for big masted ships to dock at the colony but the location was far enough away from the ocean to avoid the settlers catching the attention of the Spanish Navy, or pirates that may be making their way along the Virginia coast. These boats were the settlers lifeline to civilization as they established the Jamestown colony.
Explore Native American History
Find out about the Native American way of life that Jamestown disrupted, through a recreation of Powhatan tribe reed-covered houses. Learn how they got around in canoes, cooked their meals, and made clothing. This provides a nice perspective of what life was like in Virginia for the people who were already living there before the Europeans arrived. Letting people step into the world like it was in the past makes living history museums great attractions to add on a family vacation to-do list.
Immerse yourself in what life was like in the 18th century with a visit to the Colonial Williamsburg living history museum. When it was decided to move Virginia’s capital away from the malaria-filled swampland of Jamestown to a more pastural landscape a few miles away, Williamsburg became the first planned town in America to be mapped out before being built up. A mile-long main street ran east to west connecting the colony’s hub of learning, the College of William and Mary, to its seat of law, the Capitol, on the opposite side of town. The two were connected along this street by Market Square, the town’s center of commerce and the Church of England’s Bruton Parish Church. Branching off to the north was a grand promenade leading to the Governor’s Palace which was at one time considered the grandest residence in North America. The rest of Williamsburg was filled in with homes and farms around this master plan creating a place that was described during the heyday of British rule as “a very handsome city.”
Now you can take a stroll through the streets and buildings of Williamsburg preserved to appear as the colonial capital did in the mid-1700s when Virginia was considered the grandest of Great Britain’s colonies. Walk in the shadows of the likes of Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry, James Madison, James Monroe, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and George Wythe who were in this town for personal, professional and political purposes during their lives as you make your way around the grounds of Colonial Williamsburg. Non-conforming structures were removed from the 300 acre living history museum when the Colonial Williamsburg historic district was created in the 1920s. Original buildings such as George Wythe’s home where Thomas Jefferson was tutored as a boy and George Washington stayed as he planned the Battle of Yorktown have bee refurbished and replicas of buildings that had been destroyed such as the Capitol and Governor’s Palace have been replicated on the sites of their original archeologically discovered foundations.
A nice touch to these preservation efforts is that the foundation that operates Colonial Williamsburg purchased line of sight conservation easements along the roadways leading to the historic district so as you approach the place it is like taking a ride through the woods of 18th century Virginia. It is a very scenic ride to the visitor center where you can then take a short walk or brief bus ride from there to the living history museum. It really is like taking a time tunnel to go back in history.
Once you arrive in Colonial Williamsburg not only are you surrounded by historic buildings but reenactors dressed in period garb and staying in character put you in the spirit of the times. See a fife and drum band march through the streets to the parade grounds, witness cannon and musket firing demonstrations, and observe demonstrations on how people lived out their lives in British colonial America. There aren’t cars rolling down these streets since you’ve gone back in time to before the automobile was invented; but you can take a horse-drawn carriage or ox-pulled wagon ride around town. Stop by one of the four taverns to eat a meal like they would have had in 1750. Unplug yourself from modern times and enjoy experiencing what life was like before the invention of many of the conveniences we now take for granted in the 21st century. It can be adventurous, romantic and even a bit scary thinking about living in a world without the medical, technological and transportation advancements we often take for granted.
Complete your trek through Virginia’s historic triangle with a visit to the American Revolutionary War Museum at Yorktown. This museum is filled with artifacts and antiques from the Revolutionary War period of American history. It is also full of artwork and informative displays that highlight various aspects of the Revolutionary War. This 22,000 square foot exhibit space also utilizes high tech touches like holograms and a 180-degree surround screen movie that utilized dramatic special effects to bring to life details of the Battle of Yorktown. Also don’t miss out on the living history museum aspect of this place which is outside the exhibit gallery space. There is a recreation of a Continental Army encampment and the type of farm that would have been prevalent around Yorktown during the American Revolution.
Get a close up look at the tents soldiers would have slept in, the earthen kitchen their meals would have been cooked on, the laundry for their uniforms, and an armory where you can see artillery and flintlock rifle firing demonstrations. Discuss military drills, medical procedures and supplying the troops with historical interpreters. Could you have hacked it as a soldier in General Washington’s army?
Finish your visit with a walk through a 1780s era farmstead. It isn’t just a house and barn like you might imagine. This farm is made up of a number of different buildings including a kitchen, living quarters, workshops, storage spaces, and places to hold livestock. It really opens ones eyes to the rugged lifestyle of farming in 18th century Virginia.
People fear the Bermuda Triangle mysteriously making people disappear to unknown places, but the Virginia Triangle really can transport you away from modern civilization to another time. Go back in time to visit Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg in another era. Disconnect from TV, telephones and the Internet to spend some quality family time delving into the history that shaped the future of this country.
My kids initially griped when they discovered we were going to take a trip to Virginia’s historic triangle, but they had a great experience and really enjoyed themselves. They actually have asked since returning home if we can go back again. History really can be fun if you make an adventure out of learning. Plus, as a bonus there is a Busch Gardens amusement park nearby these three historic sites to add some extra excitement to a family vacation. Adding that to your itinerary is surefire way to have kids not mind being taken to a bunch of museums!
For more information on planning your own trip to Virginia’s historic triangle, head over to visitwilliamsburg.com