After the frustration and headache of trying to get to Virginia and getting our luggage, we didn’t do much on Monday. We decided to stick at the hotel and swim at the pool and basically just get into a vacation mindset. By Monday afternoon we were bored so we decided to go to Jamestown. I think the kids enjoyed Jamestown pretty well. We got to see the archaeologists digging in the dirt and then got to watch them filter the dirt through a screen to get the little bits of artifacts out of the mud. We spent a little time in the museum and also went to a glass-making demonstration which is one of the first industries the Jamestown colonists tried to start up. For some reason we don’t have any pictures of Jamestown but it was good enough for an hour or two on Monday afternoon.
A word of wisdom to those who travel in historic Virginia. There are two separate visitors centers at Jamestown – one run by the state of Virginia and one run by the U.S. government. The historic Jamestown settlement site is the one run by the U.S. government and the state has a Jamestown site that has a boat in the harbor. If you buy an entrance to one site it is NOT transferable to the other site so make sure you get the right historic Jamestown. We knew from our various trips in U.S. national parks and national monuments that our pass to the Fed’s site would be good for a week and would get us into any other Fed sites in the area, plus we wanted to see the settlement so we bought an entrance to the fed site (something like $20 for the whole family – not too bad). I’m not saying don’t go to the Virginia state Jamestown site – it may be fantastic for all I know – I’m just warning that there is a distinction between the two even though they are right next to each other.
On Tuesday we decided to stay in Virginia and go to Colonial Williamsburg. I remember Williamsburg from when I was a kid. I remember it being interesting for about the first 10 minutes and then boring after that. Well, not much has changed in 28 years. The prices at Williamsburg are relatively outrageous for what you get. It cost something like $125 for our whole family for the opportunity to walk around Williamsburg. There are lots of little “add-on packages” that you can buy – extra money to tour the capitol building, extra money to see the movie, extra money for a historic lunch, etc. It was interesting for the first hour for me (probably 10 minutes for the kids) but after that I was ready to go.
The biggest issue with Williamsburg is that you can hear someone talk about making paper, furniture, bricks, blacksmith stuff, etc. but you don’t ever actually see them making the stuff. At least not on a sweltering Tuesday in late April 2009.
The obligatory stockade photo
One of the new things at Colonial Williamsburg are “reenactments” of historic moments in colonial history such as the Virginia House of Delegates deciding declaring independence. Throughout the afternoon there were actors in period costumes that acted bits of the drama out through various parts of the town. In addition to the House of Delegates drama there was a fake romance between the daughter of a Tory and the daughter of a revolutionist – kind of a 1776 version of Romeo and Juliet. These historical reenactments were interesting for about the first 30 seconds but quickly became tedious because you couldn’t hear anything and, frankly, dialog about whether or not the House of Delegates should vote for independence just wasn’t very gripping. Aside from the specific character actors in these play bits, none of the Williamsburg staff was “in character” which was a bit of a disappointment.
The best part of Williamsburg was lunch in the shade. We found a picnic area near the parking lot and enjoyed a leisurely lunch.
My recommendation on Colonial Williamsburg: If you’ve never been before, it’s worth going once in your life but don’t bother to spend more than a day there. There are plenty of other interesting historical things in the Virginia and Washington D.C. area that are also much less expensive.