The State of Virginia, or more correctly the Commonwealth of Virginia has had a major…
In planning our family travel experiences I have always tried to balance fun and education, and this is all the better if I can achieve both. The state of Virginia provides such opportunities.
We had already visited Colonial Williamsburg, a sprawling living museum dedicated to the time when America was a colony of Great Britain. Not far from Williamsburg is the site of the first permanent English colony, Jamestown. This seemed a great place to continue our exploration of the early history of America (not forgetting the first nations had been here for many, many generations before)
Near the site of the original colony, Jamestown Settlement tells the story of 17th-century Virginia, from the arrival of English colonists in Jamestown in 1607 to the cultural encounters and events that planted the seeds of a new nation. I could not resist telling almost everyone we spoke to (which luckily for the sanity of our children was not too many people) that one of the houses we had owned back in England was built in 1604 – three years before this settlement was established.
1. EXHIBITION GALLERIES
As with Williamsburg, there is a lot to see and I would leave around 4 to 5 hours to explore fully. A good place to start your journey is the exhibition galleries. In the museum theatre, there is a short documentary called 1607: A Nation Takes Root, which is a great introduction to the history of the settlement from the first colonists, their interactions with the Powhatan tribes and the arrival of the first slaves from Africa. Beyond the theatre, there are several galleries that provide a deeper dive into the history of the settlement. Through 2019 the galleries are being updated to include new historical research, more interactive displays and “immersive” exhibits.
Beyond the main museum building are three outdoor areas that bring to life what you learn from the documentary film and visiting the exhibition galleries: The Powhatan Indian Village, James Fort and a small harbour with three ships.
2. POWHATAN VILLAGE
After leaving the museum building this is the first thing you come across. The re-creation of a Powhatan village explores their way of life and features reed-covered houses, crops and a ceremonial circle of carved wooden posts. Something we did not know was that Pocahontas was from the Jamestown settlement and was the daughter of Powhatan, the powerful leader of 30-some Algonquian-speaking tribes in coastal Virginia.
When we visited there a number of docents dressed in traditional tribal costumes gave us explanations of how the Powhatan culture grew and prepared food, processed animal hides, made tools and pottery, and wove natural fibres into cordage.
3. HISTORIC SHIPS
From the Powhatan village, we wandered down to the waterfront where there were three ships moored to the dock. These are reconstructions of the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery that sailed from England to Virginia in 1607, a journey which took a staggering four and half months. We were able to climb aboard the ships to explore the decks and go below to see the conditions in which these first travellers to the Jamestown Settlement endured.
4. JAMES FORT
Close to the pier is James Fort which is a reconstruction of the Virginia Company of London’s 1610-14 military outpost. Inside the triangular wooden palisade are wattle-and-daub structures topped with thatch roofs depicting dwellings, as well as an Anglican church, a court of guard, a storehouse, a cape merchant’s office and a governor’s house.
As we moved around the inside of the fort we got talking to a number of the historical interpreters, dressed in period clothing who demonstrated the use of the forge in repairing metal objects and showed us how matchlock muskets are fired.
Overall we spent a half-day exploring the Jamestown Settle. It was a great blend of set-piece museum galleries and interactive living exhibits which worked well for us as a family.
Planning your visit to Historic Settlement
|Address:||2110 Jamestown Rd, Williamsburg, VA 23185|
Open year-round 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except Christmas and New Year’s days.
Jamestown Settlement: Adults $18.00, Youth $9.00
American Revolution Museum at Yorktown: Adults $16.00, Youth $8.00
Combination Ticket: Adults $28.90, Youth $14.45
Best time to visit Jamestown Settlement
Williamsburg enjoys a moderate climate that experiences a gentle version of all four seasons. It’s not unusual to see golfers out on Christmas Day. Summers do get hot and humid, but the first use of air conditioning in a hotel in the United States was at the Williamsburg Inn, so there’s a long history here of making visitors comfortable. Autumn and spring are great times to visit, not only because the days are cooler, but between the gorgeous fall foliage and lush gardens in March and April, visitors have the best of all worlds
Other places to visit around Jamestown Settlement
1. COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG
Williamsburg was founded as the capital of the Virginia Colony in 1699. The original capital, Jamestown was the first permanent English-speaking settlement in the New World founded in 1607. Colonial leaders petitioned the Virginia Assembly to relocate the capital from Jamestown to Middle Plantation, five miles inland between the James and the York Rivers. The new city was renamed Williamsburg in honour of England’s reigning monarch, King William III. Williamsburg celebrated its 300th Anniversary in 1999.
Today, Williamsburg is known internationally as the premier centre for the preservation and interpretation of American colonial history.
2. YORKTOWN BATTLEFIELD
Discover what it took for the United States to be independent as you explore the site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. At Yorktown, in the fall of 1781, General George Washington, with allied American and French forces, besieged General Charles Lord Cornwallis’s British army. On October 19, Cornwallis surrendered, effectively ending the war and ensuring independence.
3. NAUTICUS & BATTLESHIP WISCONSIN
Nauticus is a maritime discovery centre located along the waterfront in downtown, Norfolk offering a unique form of experiential learning for all ages. Through interactive exhibits and STEM to STERN programming, Nauticus uses the museum, Battleship Wisconsin, sailing centre, and Schooner Virginia to tell the story of the maritime environment, industry, and the military.
Where to stay near Jamestown Settlement
1. WILLIAMSBURG INN (5-STAR)
Located in Williamsburg, an 18-minute walk from Fourth of July at Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg Inn – A Colonial Williamsburg Hotel provides accommodations with a restaurant, free private parking, a seasonal outdoor swimming pool and a fitness centre. Among the various facilities are a bar, a garden, as well as a tennis court. The property has a 24-hour front desk, a shuttle service, room service and free WiFi.
The hotel will provide guests with air-conditioned rooms with a desk, a coffee machine, a minibar, a safety deposit box, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with a shower. At Williamsburg Inn, all rooms come with bed linen and towels.
The accommodation has a terrace.
Williamsburg Inn – A Colonial Williamsburg Hotel features amenities such as an on-site business centre, indoor pool and hot tub.
2. NEWPORT HOUSE BED & BREAKFAST
3. CEDARS OF WILLIAMSBURG B&B
Housed in a historic Georgian brick building, this Williamsburg B&B is located across the street from the College of William & Mary and is just a 10-minute walk from Colonial Williamsburg. A daily gourmet breakfast is provided, often served by candlelight on the tavern porch.
Each room at the Cedars of Williamsburg Bed and Breakfast is decked with unique furnishings and décor, including antiques and colonial flourishes. Private bathrooms are provided as well.
Guests at the Cedars of Williamsburg can relax in the on-site gardens, which include fountains and a charming gazebo. A library with a fireplace and a game room are provided as well.
Merchant Square, just over half a mile away, provides plenty of dining options for hungry travellers. The Fat Canary serves New American cuisine in an elegant setting, and Blue Talon Bistro provides a French Brasserie atmosphere.