Williamsburg for Families

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Williamsburg for Families
Williamsburg is a perfect destination for families to combine fun with a little bit of learning. The area is filled with outdoor activities to keep your kids engaged and entertained.
By Kerry McGee, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
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    The Living History of Colonial Williamsburg
    Watch history come alive in the Historic Triangle’s biggest draw, Colonial Williamsburg. Walk through the colonial village, interact with townspeople in authentic dress, and watch daily colonial life unfold in front of you. It's a short drive to see more living history at the Jamestown Settlement, where you can explore the original colony complete with reproductions of the ships and the colonists' fort. At the Yorktown Victory Center, relive the final days of the Revolutionary War through a soldier’s eyes at a recreation of a Continental Army camp site.
    Photo courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
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    Fascinating Historical Sites
    If you prefer your history a little less "alive," check out the renovated Bassett Hall and accompanying gardens in Williamsburg, once home to John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his wife Abby. Moore House and Nelson House in Yorktown offer additional insights into our colonial roots. Historic Jamestowne, where the first Europeans settled in the New World, is a great place to watch history in action as archaeologists unearth more of the original settlement every day. These sites are perfect for older kids, who may be a little skeptical about the living history parks, to learn about the area.
    Photo by Ron Buskirk/age fotostock
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    Amusement Parks
    If you need a special treat for kids who are desperate for some more modern entertainment, Williamsburg has plenty of solutions. Stretch the educational experience a little bit further at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, an amusement park with an Old World European theme to go with its roller coasters. To cool off in summer, Water Country USA refreshes families with slides, rides, and pools. Great Wolf Lodge is open all year with a water park, arcade, bowling, mini-golf, and fantasy-themed kid adventures. The Lodge also offers on-site accommodations, including cabin-themed suites for the family.
    Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens Williamsburg
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    Biking and Hiking
    Take some time out to explore nature on the array of scenic walks and bike trails around the Historic Triangle. Take the Island Loop Drive surrounding the Jamestown Rediscovery Project for beautiful views of marshlands, the James River, and the original settlement. Head over to Freedom Park for a multitude of hiking and biking trails, in addition to beautiful scenery and places of historical interest. Don’t forget to wander down to the campus of William & Mary College, which hosts ten miles of trails on campus and in the accompanying College Woods.
    Photo by Kerry McGee
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    Kayaking, Sailing, and Pirates
    Thanks to its proximity to both the James and York rivers, there are plenty of water-related adventures to enjoy on your vacation. Rent a kayak or canoe at James City County Marina to explore the riverfront around the Jamestown settlement. In Yorktown, head over to the Riverwalk Landing Marina to experience the historic flair of the waterfront on one of the tall-ship cruises on the Alliance and Serenity schooners. Try your hand at manning the sail, or simply relax as you breathe in the sea air. Delight the kids with a pirate cruise by Yorktown Sailing Charters, where they learn all about local pirate lore while helping to sail the ship.
    Photo by Richard T. Nowitz/age fotostock
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    Play Dress-Up and Hunt for Historic Toys
    Immerse the family further into the world of the 1700s with kids' costume rentals at the Colonial Williamsburg Regional Visitor Center. Authentic reproduction dresses and hats (as well as complete adult ensembles) are available at many shops inside Colonial Williamsburg. While you’re there, stop into the William Pitt Shop for historical games and toys, or visit the Market House, which sells toys, hats, costumes, and more. Finish up at Merchants Square's Wythe Candy & Gourmet Shop for homemade fudge, candied apples, and every other sugary delight that you could ever want.
    Photo by Jeff Greenberg/age fotostock
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    Scenic Drives
    If you want to soak up the picturesque scenery without tramping through the great outdoors with your family, try one of the area’s many scenic drives. Take Colonial Parkway, which connects Yorktown, Jamestown, and Williamsburg and winds through places of historical significance and natural beauty. Jamestown’s stunning Island Loop Drive has plenty of areas to pull off the road and snap pictures. Or take one of the two self-guided driving tours of the Yorktown Battlefield; informational brochures and maps are available at the Yorktown Visitor Center.
    Photo by Roberto Westbrook/age fotostock
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    Fun in the Trees and on the Tracks
    Take a break from all the history with a little outdoor adventure. Swing from the treetops with Go Ape Treetop Adventures, a rope-swing and zip-line course in Freedom Park. They have an advanced course for adults and a junior course for the kids, so the whole family can get a thrill high above the ground. If you're feeling the need for speed, race around the tracks at Go-Karts Plus. For more low-key fun, try a mini-golf course. Choose your favorite theme, and either enjoy a 30-foot-high waterwheel at Gold Rush Miniature Golf (in the Go-Karts Plus park), or walk the plank at Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf.
    Photo courtesy of Go Ape
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    Educational History Museums
    For a rainy day—or for more in-depth explanations of history—Williamsburg has a few historical museums that are worth checking out. The Nathalie P. & Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium displays findings from the ongoing historical dig. Find out what the experts have unearthed about the real Pocahontas, the earliest settlers, and colonial cannibalism! The Historic Jamestowne Visitor Center Museum is a great place to learn about the original settlement, and the Watermen’s Museum in Yorktown is dedicated to the Chesapeake Bay sailors that defended the nation and worked the waters.
    Photo by Joseph Sohm/age fotostock