I must say, what really helped things to “come-alive” for our children was having read the American Girl Felicity series, watched the film, and – most of all – having read the Felicity mysteries. I highly recommend reading Traitor in Williamsburg aloud in the car-trip down, or ahead of time, since it is placed in Williamsburg and contains many of the locations that you will soon visit! We had so much fun spotting the graveyard where Felicity caught the villain; the Wig-Maker’s shop where she gathered some helpful information; and- most of all – the Printer’s, where she tried to figure out who was printing broadsides against her patriot father.

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Though Jamestown and Yorktown often are shadowed by Colonial Williamsburg, I highly recommend that you settle in and explore all three locations. Each has its merits and awakens its guests to the America’s history. They call the three locations the Historic Triangle, and you can purchase one ticket that will give you access to everything.

Colonial Williamsburg is an enclosed historic town in which you can relive the practical and political happenings of Colonial America. Men and women bustle around in colonial outfits, horses and carriages roll through the streets, and fifers play patriotic tunes on the green. As we visited each shop – the weavers, the blacksmith, the milliner, the cooper, etc. – we received personal instruction about the colonial craft and often watched as a crafts person worked on a real project. We also enjoyed visiting each of the historic buildings – the Geddy’s house, the Capitol, the Palace – where we learned so much about the passion, the beauty, and the struggles of forming a country. We took our time and spent several days here.

 

Jamestown was the first settlement by the English. We first visited Historic Jamestown and were amazed to see  archaeologist at work, carefully digging out graves and foundations of the original Jamestown settlement. We spent quite a long time meander through the Archaerium, a museum full of incredible artifacts that scientists and historians have found in the ground. I thought that the girls would be bored out of their minds at something like this, but it is so well designed, that they were able to connect with the history immediately and found it equally fascinating. We heard lots of “Oh! Come look at this!”

At another site, we spent lots of time enjoying Jamestown’s re-created settlement, Indian village, and three ships. This is perfectly designed for children and shouldn’t be missed. “The Jamestown Settlement” provides lots of hands-on play and interaction, from crushing Corn Meal to wearing a child-size suit of armor, children enter right into history.

 

 

 

 

 

Yorktown is the location of the last battlefield and encampment in the War for Independence. I didn’t bring my camera because I thought it would be a quick visit without much interest. I was wrong! We loved exploring the encampment; the girls were particularly interested in the table of surgical instruments and the gadgets in the general’s tent. By the time we visited Yorktown, Lia had had enough of the loud booms, so we learned about the encampment “kitchen” while a large group of school-aged children enjoyed what seemed to be an interested artillery demonstration.

I’m glad I had packed our bathing suits, because after enjoyed historic Yorktown, we drove a minute down the road and set up our own encampment on the modest beach of the York River. The girls played on the sand and in the water for a couple of hours! It’s not often you can snap a photo like this:

Oh, there is ONE MORE MUST-SEE before I close this post! On your way to Jamestown, you’ll see a sign for the “Glass House”. GO THERE. This is a recreation of the original glassblowing house and is fascinating. All day long, professional glassblowers create beautiful works of art right before your eyes! (Also, they sell the darling creations at a fantastic price. This is where I found my souvenir… three little apothecary medicine dispensers!)

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We weren’t able to take advantage of Williamsburg’s annual “homeschool days” this year, which provides fantastic deals for homeschooling families. But, we did find some ways to save money.

First, we found our inexpensive hotel through priceline.com. By now, you probably have your own favorite way of scoring a deal on hotel rooms. We were looking for one thing: an indoor swimming pool. The girls swam every single night; we got our money’s worth!

Second, we settled in for the week and purchased the Historic Triangle tickets through the Colonial Williamsburg website. These tickets allowed us to visit Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown as often as we liked for seven days. (I’m still planning on posting about the lovely Triangle. All three locations were fantastic.) Anyway, the real bonus is that children under 6 are free, so we only had to purchase 2 tickets. Both girls were as immersed as any of the adults, and they were enjoying it all at no cost to us! Completely free! If your 5-year-old is even remotely interested in such vacations, now is the time to go! A solid exposure to early America will tide her over until she has studied it more fully in a few years and you have to fork out the big bucks for her ticket. (Note: there are other ticket deals to be had. If you are not staying for the full week, or have other needs, a little research will reveal all kinds of options – including a AAA discount to Colonial Williamsburg.)

Third, we packed most of our food. This was a new undertaking for me, so ignore this paragraph if you’re a veteran. (On second thought, give me your experienced food-packing tips!) Needless to say, I have been on Cloud 9 because a little bit of extra effort went a long way to spare our wallets. We left town with a large cooler packed with lunch-meat, cheese, fruits and vegetables; a couple of totes with snacks, tortillas (instead of bread that will crush easily), simple dinners, applesauce, peanut butter, and honey. This provided our lunches and dinners for the first half of the week. On our trip down, we found pleasant places to pop the trunk and enjoy our lunches, instead of eating McDonald’s in the car. Mid-week, we stopped by a local grocery store and stocked up for the second half of the week. A $5 carton of fried chicken, strawberries, and a simple Caesar Salad provided two full meals for us; and we became quick experts on microwavable noodles, soups, and meals. (As a dear friend pointed out ahead of time, “Anyone can eat that way for a week”. She was right: with some fruit or veggies on the side, each meal was just fine. To my surprise, we survived!) We brought a mini-cooler so that we could pack each day’s lunch and tote it along on the stroller.

I’m still reveling in the glories of packing our own lunch! We saved a ton of money and could eat anywhere we wanted. For example…

At the Harley-Davidson manufacturing plant (on our drive down to Williamsburg):

 

Or with this stunning statue of Pocahontas:

 

Because we saved money on most of our meals, we could enjoy a treat every now and then: ice cream cones in Colonial Williamsburg, a special lunch with my sister who visited for a day, and a special dinner at a highly recommended pulled-pork pit.

So, there you have it: a week in Williamsburg, VA at minimal cost and maximum enjoyment!

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“Good day!” We just returned from a delightful week-long vacation in Williamsburg, VA with day-trips to Jamestown, Yorktown, and Virginia Beach. I wasn’t sure how enjoyable it would be for the girls, but I was pleasantly surprised that they loved every minute of it. I highly encourage you to gather your little ones and head for Virginia! The entire area is frought with rich history that even little ones can understand. All of the hands-on experiences and vivid re-enactments will surely help them to relate to American history more personally. Spring and Fall are perfect times to go – the flowers are in bloom or the trees are brilliantly colored, the crowds are minimal, and the weather is delightful.

This week, I’ll post some of the things that we enjoyed especially with young children.

 

For starters, I encourage you to read Mary Geddy’s Day, a photographed picture book of an historical girl who lived in Williamsburg in 1776. We snagged a copy from the local library, but I hope to purchase this book for our own library. The girls loved reading this over and over again – especially the page with photos of Mary waking up, washing her face, and donning each layer of Colonial clothing. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw the actual Geddy house on Duke of Gloucester street! During the tour of the house, we recognized various scenes from the book and even enjoyed a song played on the Spinet. Having read the book ahead of time, both girls were able to appreciate the rich history of the Geddy family in Williamsburg.

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