I have an extremely long history of visiting the Historic Triangle of Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown, dating back to a “field trip” from Ohio in 1992. (I remember I was reading Silence of the Lambs at the time, as every “normal” sixth grader was at the time.) My second trip was as a high school sophomore for my history class. My third was in 2006, when I introduce my visiting Australian friend, Laura, to early American history. Since then I’ve visited multiple times with my family, and most recently last week with “another Jen” from Ohio.
Jamestown Settlement is a museum and living history experience. The indoor museum itself holds many artifacts, and exhibits tell the story of the the original inhabitants, the Powhatan Indians, of the first enslaved Africans in what would become North America, and of the English who came seeking the wealth that could come from collecting resources from the lands. We couldn’t take photos inside the museum; however families should plan to spend at least an hour there before going to the outdoor exhibits.
The interpreters at the museum dress traditionally but not in “character.” They are incredibly knowledgable and engaging (with the exception of one that I met in 2006 who refused to break character and answer my question because I wasn’t using 17th century English terms). The fortified settlement includes traditional dwellings, the Governor’s House, Anglican church, and all of the other structures and tools required. On our last visit, I learned that they primarily interperting “the starving time” after the winter of 1610, when tensions with the Powhatan were at their greatest and food was scarce.
Just outside the fort are replicas of the three ships on which the English arrived. They are usually open to tour, unless the Susan Constant has sailed to an event; we’ve even boarded her at Norfolk’s Annual Harborfest.
The historians at Jamestown Settlement take great care to interpret the Powhatan culture, including with the current exhibtion FOCUSED: A Century of Virginia Indian Resilience, located inside the museum. Signage as you enter village asks that visitors are respectful of the history and culture, including the fact that many of the interpreters are descendants of the first people that lived in Virginia.
Inside the village visitors will see interpreters actively farming, cooking, and making goods. Inside the replicas of the yehakin and wickiup dwellings, visitors are free to touch the furs, pottery, nets, and other items made by the Paspahegh Indians.
More Jamestown Fun
For first time visitors, Jamestown Settlement provides the best introduction to the history of Jamestown. For a more in depth examination, visit Historic Jamestowne, the original site of the English colony. Archeologists are actively still working at the site, and they were happy to share what they found during our 2016 visit. The onsite museum has an extensive collection of items, and grounds show the original footprint of many of the structures.
For a quick dip in the James River or a great sunset, stop by James River Beach Park. Also nearby is Billsbug Brewery and The Hungry Pug.
Let me help plan your trip to The Historic Triangle of Virginia.
While most people think of Colonial Williamsburg as the main destination, the city has so much to offer that you can fill an entire week! Play outdoors at York River State Park, Freedom Park, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Water Country USA and Go Ape. Drive the Colonial Parkway and stop on the many James River beaches along the way. Visit William & Mary’s campus and the Muscarelle Museum of Art.
A day trip Jamestown will allow you to explore the history of the Powhatan Indians and the English Fort at Jamestown Settlement, and to learn about archeology at Historic Jamestowne. Enjoy a scenic view from Billsburg Brewery, and swim in the James River at the Event Park.
A visit to Yorktown allows you to take in Revolutionary War history and relax along the water of the York River. Visit the National Park’s Yorktown Battlefields and Museum and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. Shop and dine along the Riverwalk Landing, relax at the beach and visit The Watermen’s Museum all within a short walk along the York River.
In Williamsburg, you can find many hotels within a short walk or drive from Colonial Williamsburg. For more space, you can rent a condo at one of the many local timeshare hotels. For a more upscale stay, consider Wedmore Place at Williamsburg Winery or Kings Mills Resort and Golf Course.