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Spotlight: Historic Triangle

Relive the formative years of America at three amazing destinations

A trip down scenic Colonial Parkway leads travelers to the Historic Triangle of Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown. These picturesque towns are pivotal sites in the history of the nation as it rose from British colony to independent republic, and the story of their impact is brought to life through museums, reenactments and living history displays.

Colonial Williamsburg might easily be one of the most visited tourist spots on the mid-Atlantic Coast, but there’s more to see and do than you might think. Colonial Williamsburg puts guests in the middle of Revolutionary action to experience the struggles of colonists in their fight for independence. Night tours introduce travelers to stories of witch trials, pirates and ghosts. When the sun comes up the next day, spend the morning hitting a few balls at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club.

Swing over to Freedom Park and fly among the treetops at Go Ape Treetop Adventure. Zip lines, net bridges and rope ladders dot the challenge course that is sure to be a hit with older kids and adventurous grown-ups. Younger visitors are treated to their own Treetop Junior experience.

colonial life in Williamsburg, Va

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Find more thrills at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. This popular amusement park has something for everyone, from high-flying roller coasters to shows and kid-centric attractions. See high-stepping Celtic dancing, alpine hijinks and live-animal presentations, then get an up-close tour of the park’s feathered and furry animal ambassadors.

Tour the sight of the first official Thanksgiving at Berkeley Plantation on the James River. President William Henry Harrison was born here, and the Civil War arrangement “Taps” was composed on-site when Berkeley served as a general’s headquarters. The Georgian-style mansion was built in 1726 and a self-guided tour of the grounds reveals boxwood and flowering gardens and a monument to the first Thanksgiving. Guides dressed in period costumes lead visitors through the mansion to view 18th-century artifacts and antique furnishings.

March to Yorktown

Step onto the site of Yorktown Battlefield and see the earthworks that protected colonial militiamen from British fire during the pivotal battle of the Revolutionary War. Traipse through the battlefield and view the site of Washington’s Headquarters, the Yorktown Victory Monument and Moore House, where terms of surrender were negotiated.

The Yorktown Victory Center tells the story of the Revolution through galleries and exhibits that detail the military and civilian life during wartime. The grounds feature a re-created military encampment and a simulated farm site that teaches visitors about agriculture and cloth-making in Colonial times.

Walk down Main Street and enjoy the variety of antique shops, galleries and dining options, or join a guided tour through Yorktown’s historic streets. Riverwalk Landing on the York River offers views of the waterfront and access to the beach. Yorktown’s Watermen’s Museum reveals the lives and livelihoods of men and women who fished the rivers and tributaries of Chesapeake Bay.

Maritime victories were critical to the colonists’ eventual success, and the ships they used have been re-created for guests to enjoy as living history lessons. Board the Schooner Serenity or Schooner Alliance. These tall ships sail down the river past the battlefield, occasionally joined in the water by schools of dolphins.

Enjoy the natural beauty of the Yorktown region at New Quarter Park, where diverse habitats make for great bird-watching. Tidal wetland, mature hardwoods and swampland, and meadows invite dozens of unique species to nest and find shelter here. Stay for a while and see if you can spot a yellow-crowned night heron, scarlet tanagers or wild turkeys. Bald eagles have been known to frequent the area year-round, perching on trees overlooking the river.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

A Colonial First

Historic Jamestowne is legendary as the site of England’s first permanent North American colony. Tales of John Smith and Pocahontas are highlights, but much more remains to be discovered on a trip to Virginia’s 17th-century capital. Archeologists actively work to uncover and preserve artifacts from the 1607 site of James Fort. These artifacts are on display at the Archaearium, where stories about the settlement are shared alongside these treasures.

Rangers and archeologists lead walking tours of the island, where remains of the settlement’s brick church still stand. Visitors are invited to view active dig sites and participate in behind-the-scenes tours of dig sites and artifact collections. Kids can get their hands dirty at the Ed Shed, an interactive space that lets visitors uncover genuine artifacts and search for clues on a Jamestown Adventure treasure hunt.

Jamestown Settlement, adjacent to Historic Jamestowne, is a living history presentation of life in the early colony. Replicas of the ships that sailed from England allow visitors to board, and a re-created Powhatan Indian village invites you to try your hand at grinding corn or making cordage as Pocahontas would have done. Historical interpreters help visitors take part in 17th-century games and try on period armor. Seasonal exhibits feature methods of cloth-making and the evolution and craft behind the log canoe.

Across the James River at Cobham Bay is Chippokes Plantation State Park. This unique state park, one of the oldest continually farmed plantations in America, has been a working farm since 1619 and is open to visitors for tours of the mansion and outbuildings. Guests can view antique equipment at the Chippokes Farm and Forestry Museum and take a dip in the park’s pool.

For More Information

Virginia Tourism Corporation