America’s Historic Triangle in Virginia
by Amy S. Maclsaac, Esq.
It was the dog days of August with only a few weeks left before school started so my family and I headed to America’s Historic Triangle in Virginia – Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. The trip is a 6-7 hour drive down I-95, depending on how many pit stops you make. It was hot and humid during our trip so make sure to bring lots of water and sunblock if you go in the summer months. While there was a good amount of visitors, none of the sites felt overcrowded and we were able to eat at various restaurants with little to no wait time.
The three historic sites are within 15-20 minutes of each other so there is not much driving once you arrive. You can purchase individual tickets for each site, however, the best deal is the Triangle Ticket which I highly recommend. The Triangle Ticket includes admission to Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Jamestown, Jamestown Settlement, the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown and the Yorktown Battlefield. The cost is $119 per adult and $53 per child (ages 6-15). There are several chain hotels within Williamsburg that are close to the sites as well as several accommodations within the historic area. For larger groups, there are local Airbnb and VRBO rentals. This trip will not break the bank!
Our first stop was Colonial Williamsburg which is a mile long and a half mile wide. It is truly a living history museum that is open 365 days a year! There are various tours and events throughout the day that are included in the admission ticket. We toured the Governor’s Palace and learned about colonial muskets at the Armory. Tip: there is a lot of walking so make sure to bring good sneakers! We also attended (and participated in!) a court proceeding at the Courthouse which included several actual cases from the 1700’s – we have come a long way! Some events require additional tickets and cost – for instance, we signed up for the night-time ghost tour which had the right mix of history and spooky – our tour guide was great, and the cost was $19 per person. I highly recommend it! We ate lunch at the Kings Arms
Tavern, located in one of the historic buildings at the site. The menu was inspired by traditional colonial meals, and we were entertained by a harpist playing colonial-era music. This was another great experience that I highly recommend! Due to time constraints, we did not get to the Colonial Williamsburg Art Museum. There is so much to see that you could spend two days in Colonial Williamsburg alone!
We spent our second day in Jamestown. There are two sites – Historic Jamestown, a National Park Service and Preservation Site, and the Jamestown Settlement. They are about half a mile apart and we were able to see both in one day. Historic Jamestown is the actual site of the first settlement in the New World dating back to 1607. Over 3 million artifacts have been discovered to date, including part of the original James Fort from 1607-1624.
It is an active archaeological site where you can see archaeologists doing their work mere feet away! Don’t miss the Archaearium which houses some of the most spectacular artifacts found at the site, including the skeletons of some of the settlors, the actual personal items of the settlors as well as American Indian artifacts. Discoveries continue to be made that shape our understanding of America’s birthplace!
Jamestown Settlement is the museum of 17th century Virginia history and culture. There are gallery exhibitions, immersive films and outdoor re-creations that make you feel like you are back in time! Outside, there is a life-sized re-creation of the 1610- 1614 fort along with a re-created Powhatan Indian village that brings history to life. My kids especially liked the re-creations of the three ships that sailed to Jamestown – the Susan Constant, the Godspeed and Discovery. We were able to board the Susan Constant and we learned about the first settlors’ long sea journey – it was not for the faint of heart! Along the way, there are living historians answering questions and offering information to enhance the experience.
Inside the museum, there are several exhibits showcasing artifacts from the first settlement, including a section devoted to Pocahontas that my family found very interesting. (Fun fact: Pocahontas did not marry John Smith – she actually married another settlor, John Rolfe) The museum also features not one, but two can’t-miss short films. “1607: A Nation Takes Root” runs every 30 minutes and traces the beginnings of the Virginia Company that sponsored the first colony, examines the relationship between the first colonists and the Powhatan Indians, and chronicles the arrival of the first recorded Africans in 1619. “Bacon’s Rebellion” is a 4-D multi-sensory film that runs every 20 minutes and chronicles the 1676 rebellion at Jamestown led by Nathanial Bacon. Both films are high quality and very informative! Finally, the museum includes a nice cafeteria that serves lunch so you can stay at the museum for as long as you like!
Our final day was spent in Yorktown. Just a 20 minute drive from Williamsburg, the Yorktown Battlefield is another must-see! Yorktown is the site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War – George Washington’s defeat of General Lord Charles Cornwallis in 1781. We started at the battlefield museum which is small but includes interesting artifacts, such as portions of the actual tents used by George Washington during the siege, and a short film about the battle. There are two selfguided driving tours of the battlefield which total 16 miles. A map, CD and Tour App are available. In addition to the battlefield sites, there are several buildings to visit, including the Moore House where the terms of surrender were negotiated. Once again, we were taken back in time!
It felt like my family and I took a trip back in time during our visit to the Historic Triangle in Virginia. The living historic sites are great for all ages and can be experienced for moderate to low cost. Huzzah!