We took the Smart Summer Challenge to a whole new level this past weekend with a family getaway to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.
It was ten years since my husband and I had been there, pre-kids, newlyweds looking forward to a weekend away from our crazy classrooms and students, two 20-somethings who had very few cares in this world.
Fast forward ten years. Now we’re mini-van driving, snack-toting, backpack-wearing parents of three young children, 4, 5, and 7 years old, so this time, we viewed our Williamsburg weekend with entirely different eyes. We needed something that would keep the kids engaged, active, and interested.
We needed something that would be enough for a 7- and almost 6-year-old but not too much for a 4-year-old. We needed something with inside time and outside time, food everyone would eat, and activities that would interest both boys and girls.
Though it was insanely hot, Maddy, Owen, Cora, and my husband and I had an absolutely fabulous time. America’s Historic Traingle–Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown–are indeed made for kids, made for families, made for my husband and me–and made for everyone in between. Turns out, the weekend was incredible, and the kids made us promise we’d bring them back next summer. It was Smart Summer Learning at its finest.
Here’s the skinny on our day (you got it–day!–) at Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Jamestown, and Jamestown Settlement:
- Colonial Williamsburg: We arrived at 9:30–we’re early risers–and we wanted to make the most of our day here. We hit the Visitors Center and grabbed our Rev Quest Packet.
Colonial Williamsburg Slideshow:
- RevQuest is an ‘alternate reality game’ that teaches kids about citizenship, the Revolution, and the slave society of the 18th century. It’s incredible. And though my kids are on the young end (intended for kids 8 and older), we did try it out. We watched the RevQuest intro video online, we picked up our RevQuest materials and scarves at the Welcome Center, but Owen almost started crying when he was asked if he could help with the Revolution. So we nixed it and planned to do it next time.
- Kids Adventure Map: We did pick up a Kids’ Adventure Map, which can be downloaded from the Williamsburg site, and we used that as our focus for the day. The Kids’ Adventure Map is a very basic map of the Williamsburg property, with spots that highlight kid-centered activities. If children get their map punched at each activity, they can pick up a free souvenir. (Please note: we picked up our map halfway through the day, so the kids never earned their souvenir, so I don’t know what it is.)
- Courtroom: We took the shuttle from the Visitor’s Center and witnessed a morning court session. It was interactive–audience members have to participate to make it work–and Maddy, Owen, and Cora sat through the whole thing. Okay, almost the whole thing. . .
Colonial Williamsburg Video
- Colonial Games: Games seemed to be our focus while here in Williamsburg–we learned a ton about colonial games and even left with a bilbow catcher. We stopped to chat with a group of colonial girls, and they told us a little bit about the games they were playing. One of the really cool things about Williamsburg is that it’s a living museum–you can talk to the people, ask them questions, and learn first-hand about what life was like during this time. It’s something to take advantage of while here, for sure!
- Shops in town: The town is full of shops, and the kids were in awe of the way the shopkeepers talked, the way they interacted with customers, and how they all seemed to be in perpetual motion–making or altering shoes, hats, clothes, wigs, you name it.
- Brickyard: F-U-N. We took the scenic walk down to the brickyard, and it was a highlight of the morning. Maddy, Owen, and Cora took their shoes off and ‘helped’ mix the clay. It was literally their dream.
- Lunch: Chowning’s Tavern, the working man’s stop for lunch, was the perfect place to rest and cool off. The kids drank root beer–not our famous icecream floats–but rootbeer nonetheless. So when soda’s added to a noon-time meal, you know it’s going to put a smile on kids’ faces.
- Historic Jamestown: Only a short drive from Williamsburg, our goal was to make a Children’s Garden Walk in Historic Jamestown, but we were a bit behind schedule. Instead, we walked along the property, grabbed a snack at the cafe, and headed towards Jamestown Settlement. It was reeeeeealllly hot at this point, so it was not an easy stop, I’ll admit. But the property is beautiful and so rich with history.
Historic Jamestown Slideshow
- Jamestown Settlement: The kids loved Jamestown Settlement more than I ever thought they would. It is an absolutely insanely awesome place–one that cannot be overlooked on a trip to the Historic Triangle.
Jamestown Settlement Photos
- Powhatan Village: Visitors actually get to walk through the Powhatan Indian Village, into the huts, touching artifacts and interacting with the Pohatans.
- Three Ships: Re-creations of the three ships, Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, that brought English colonists to Virginia in 1607 are here, in the water, and totally fun to walk through. You can only imagine what life was like on these ships, in the tight quarters and small spaces that you can walk through, touch, and see. We went through each ship and then back through each ship again because the kids loved them that much.
- Colonial Fort: Again, this was living history at its finest–we all loved that we could walk through buildings, talk to the alchemist, watch the blacksmith, and try on armor. It was so cool to chat with people, sit at their tables, ‘shop’ in their stores, and really feel like we were experiencing life as they did.
We returned back to the hotel for a quick shower and clothing change before we headed to Shield’s Tavern for dinner. We made reservations only a day in advance (we are such planners!), and we were so relieved that we did. It was great to know that we’d be seated immediately–and we were. Entertainment was great, as was the food.
I cannot express enough how much we enjoyed this day. Though I am well aware that to really get the most out of Colonial Williamsburg–and the Historic Triangle–it takes much more time than we had, I also truly believe that this quick day was just enough for our young children. They loved being here, they loved experiencing history this way, and they are eager to return and learn more.
And seriously, that’s all I can ask for.
Talk about some Smart Summer learning at it’s finest!
fyi: Many thanks to my friends at The Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance, The City of Williamsburg, and DCI for making this trip possible for my family. We received tickets to Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Jamestown, and Jamestown Settlement, hotel accommodations, meals, and some serious southern hospitality, and for that we are extremely grateful. We thoroughly enjoyed our three-night stay at the Holiday Inn–Historic Gateway, and it was an excellent choice for a family with young children and a blogger mom (thanks to the pool and free wifi). We absolutely adored our first meal of the trip at Food for Thought, a new restaurant that came highly recommended–and for good reason; it was fabulous.
We absolutely adored our weekend trip to the Historic Triangle in Virginia, and though I am not able to give away a weekend here, I felt it was worth sharing so others can make the trip; with some planning and research, you can find coupons online to make the weekend more cost-effective. All of the opinions here are solely my own, influenced only by my three little travelers and my numero uno travel partner, my husband.