Williamsburg, VA  - Vacation Travel Guide

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Williamsburg Area Features

Step Inside for a Cool Activity

Whether the hot sun is beating down or the sky has opened up and it’s pouring rain, the Historic Triangle offers a variety of activities that can be done indoors. From intellectually stimulating to quirky fun, or from relaxing and soothing to energetic and interactive, you’re bound to find something you enjoy.

Historic Houses

With so much of America’s past preserved in this region, it’s no wonder that there are a number of restored, centuries-old homes that are wonderful to explore. Many are outfitted with antique furnishings that reflect their true age so visitors can envision the home’s past and the people who lived there.

Two beautiful examples of early architecture are on display in Surry County—just a short ferry ride across the James River from Jamestown. At Smith’s Fort, the land is not only part of the dowry that secured Pocahontas’ marriage to John Rolfe, but it is also where Captain John Smith initiated—but never finished—construction on a second “retreat” fort. Over a century later, the Faulcon family home was built using colonial-style architecture near the location Smith had selected. Within the home’s walls, furnishings from its early days in the mid-1700s can be viewed.

Bacon’s Castle is the oldest surviving brick dwelling and example of Jacobean architecture in the United States. Built in 1665, it was actually owned by Arthur Allen, a prosperous planter. But because “Bacon’s Rebellion”—an uprising led by Nathaniel Bacon—congregated on Allen’s property, history has tied that movement to the house. Upon touring the house, guests will learn of the families who lived there, see their portraits, and discover how the house would have been furnished and decorated.

In Yorktown, the Nelson House and the Moore House bore witness to history in the making. Built in 1730, the Nelson House was the residence of Governor Thomas Nelson Jr.—a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Nelson commanded the Virginia militia when Yorktown was under siege in 1781. His home still has traces of artillery damage from the nearby battles. Meanwhile, the Moore House saw the end of the American Revolution. It was in this building that the terms of surrender were negotiated in 1781. Both homes played a part in America’s fight for independence, and visitors can see them furnished in the colonial style of the late 1700s.

When John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his wife, Abby, were living in Williamsburg in the 1930s, they made Bassett Hall their home. The two-story house was built in the 1750s and features outbuildings typical of that time period including a smokehouse, dairy and kitchen, but it also contained a teahouse. On select days, visitors can tour the grounds, gardens and the house. Antiques, folk art and furniture that would have been on display when the Rockefellers lived there can be seen throughout the manor.

Museums

On the edge of the Historic Area resides a large brick structure that was once the Public Hospital of 1773. Now it is home to the collective Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg—housing one of the largest collections of folk art and decorative arts in the nation. The galleries contained within the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum are brimming with antiques, portraits, whimsical items, and much, much, more, predominately from the 1700s and 1800s. Throughout the year, various exhibits are displayed and new artifacts can be seen with every visit.

No longer an Army installation, Hampton’s Fort Monroe once housed military leaders and even a famous author. The Casemate Museum, located on the property, tells stories of both war and peace in the last few centuries in addition to the tales of people who served there. While touring the museum, see a replica of the space occupied by Confederate President Jefferson Davis following the American Civil War or learn about Edgar Allen Poe’s feeble attempt at an army career.

The Watermen’s Museum in Yorktown commemorates the people who have worked on the Chesapeake Bay since colonial times. At this quaint waterfront location, artifacts on display include the tools, equipment and images of watermen. Their stories are told throughout the gallery, and the methods by which they have practiced their trades are shown. Programs are available at various times during the year allowing young visitors to explore topics such as boat building, nature and even pirates!

To get a glimpse of local wildlife, visit the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News. Kids and adults alike will delight in seeing foxes, turtles, otters and so many other native creatures up close. The museum is a sanctuary for these animals and takes in orphaned or injured animals that cannot be released back into the wild. Using native plants and water tanks, varying Virginian landscapes were re-created to provide natural habitats for the animals. These galleries include coastal, mountainous, piedmont and even underground habitariums with clear views so that both the flora and fauna can be observed.

The Muscarelle Museum of Art is located at William & Mary and contains over 5,000 artworks from around the world. This acclaimed museum has won the attention of the art world by procuring hard-to-get, loaned artifacts and presenting them through creative and intelligently arranged exhibits. Past exhibits of note include Botticelli and the Search for the Divine and Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane. In February of 2018, In the Light of Caravaggio was put on display and features a collection of Dutch and Flemish paintings. Be sure to see it while you have the chance!

It may not be your typical museum, but the collections that fill Ripley’s Believe It or Not!® are truly bizarre. You’ll see items like a two-headed cow that will mystify, characters such as Iron Man or a Transformer, and objects that may creep you out such as shrunken heads. With a combo ticket, the family can play in the LaseRace, try a new style of arcade with Atomic Rush, or even see an entertaining 4D movie after exploring the exhibits in the Odditorium.

Fun and Entertainment

In addition to the games available at Ripley’s, the Williamsburg area offers a variety of other indoor recreational opportunities that require active participation. When was the last time the parents challenged the kids to a game of laser tag or knocked down some pins at a bowling alley? Sometimes it takes a vacation to remember how much fun these things can be. Take the kids to visit the Bounce House for a bouncing good time on inflatables! They will have a lot of fun burning off energy while jumping around and getting some beneficial exercise. Another great family-bonding activity is to try an escape room. Work as a team to uncover clues. These pieces of information lead to hints about how to escape the themed room in under an hour. It can be pretty tricky. Can your group escape?

Don’t forget to take time and pamper yourself! Spa services are always a good idea. Whether it’s a relaxing massage or a pedicure with a fun new color on the toes, you’re on vacation and it’s time to relax. The Historic Triangle has many places where you can go and be pampered. Both Kingsmill Resort and Colonial Williamsburg offer spa services that can also be combined with their resort packages. Many other spas can be found throughout the area—particularly in Yorktown and James City County. One of the most unique places to go and unwind is in a cave at the Williamsburg Salt Spa. Many cultures believe that salt is a healing element due to the trace minerals contained within it. Visitors to the cave often report better respiratory function and a relaxed body and mind after breathing in the Himalayan salt.

Enjoying family activities together instills cherished memories that last a lifetime. So when you need a break from the heat or shelter from the elements and would like to do something indoors, remember that Williamsburg has many options for you to choose from. Have fun together as a family in indoor comfort.

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