This post is sponsored by Visit Williamsburg
If you’ve never traveled to Williamsburg, Virginia, or visited when you were a child, the area is a fabulous destination for adventurous families who like to learn through travel. Williamsburg, and nearby Jamestowne and Yorktown, form Virginia’s Historic Triangle where you can go back in time to the 18th century to learn about the birthplace of our nation. The region provides rich opportunities for history lessons that come alive for tweens and teens studying American history and also features a wealth of outdoor activities that will make them want to unplug as they work up an appetite for the tasty culinary options the area has to offer.
Located about 2.5-3 hours south of Washington, D.C., the Historic Triangle makes for a perfect long weekend trip for those living in the area or a wonderful addition to your visit to the Nation’s Capital. I recently partnered with Visit Williamsburg to take my tween and teen to the Historic Triangle for the first time. Here’s a peek at how we filled a long weekend, adding to their knowledge of American history beyond the textbook and experiencing physics in action at Go Ape and Busch Gardens.
Itinerary: 3 Days in Williamsburg with Tweens and Teens
Day 1: Yorktown
Known as the location where the British were surrounded by French and American forces, Yorktown is where General Charles Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington to end the American Revolutionary War on October 19, 1781. Today this charming town features a sandy beach, fishing pier, public docks, shops along the Riverwalk Landing, historic buildings, and Yorktown Battlefield, a National Park. Spend a leisurely first day in Yorktown by exploring it on bike and visiting the American Revolution Museum.
Explore Yorktown on Bike
While Yorktown can be explored on foot, Segway, or on bike, we loved exploring the area on bike. We picked up bikes and helmets from Patriot Tours and Provisions and with a map of must-see spots in town circled, we set off to explore. We rode past 18th century buildings, the most notable being Nelson House. Owned by Thomas Nelson, Jr., one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, this structure features cannon balls embedded in the brick from the American Revolutionary War.
Tip: Want a longer bike ride? Pick up a map of the Battlefield Tour Roads available in the Yorktown Battlefield Visitor Center. Battlefield Driving Tour Roads are 16 or for an even longer ride, choose to bike The Colonial Parkway, a 23 mile stretch that connects Yorktown and Jamestowne.
Visit the American Revolution Museum
If you elect to do a shorter ride around town and bike part of Yorktown Battlefields, you’ll have time to visit the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. Just opened last year, the American Revolution Museum is a beautiful museum where you can view hundreds of original artifacts and get a sense of what the end of the war was like by watching, The Siege of Yorktown, a must-see short film that will captivate tweens and teens with wind, smoke, and booming sounds of cannon fire.
Living-history interpretations outside the museum allow you to step inside tents at a recreated Continental Army encampment to get a sense of how Revolutionary War soldiers lived. A nearby historical interpreter can explain which ranks lived in which tents, answer your questions about the items inside, or others you might have about the war.
Just beyond the encampment, the Revolution-era farm gives you a sense of how wealthy land-owning families lived in the 18th century. Learn about cooking, farming, the relationship between land owners and slaves, and also be on the lookout for Muskovy ducks who wander the farm!
Tip: If you plan to visit the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown and Jamestown Settlement during your trip, combination tickets for both admissions can be purchased to be used on different days. There’s also the option to purchase an America’s Historical Triangle Ticket good for 7 consecutive days of unlimited admission to Jamestown Settlement, Historic Jamestowne, Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown Battlefield and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. Admission rates and information can be found on HistoryisFun.org.
Day 2: Ziplining & Colonial Williamsburg
Go on an outdoor adventure at Go Ape
Follow your full day of history with a morning trip to Go Ape that will get you outside and in the tree tops for a 2-3 hour zip lining and climbing adventure. The Go Ape Tree Top Adventure course is a fun challenge for teens, tweens, and active parents that features 5 different stations, each of which ends in a zip line that serves as a great example of physics.
- Go Ape Tree Top Adventure is designed for ages 10+. Younger siblings and nervous parents who have never done a zip line or ropes course might prefer starting with the Treetop Junior course.
- Go Ape offers different times to climb. We booked the 10 am time slot and completed the course by Noon, giving us plenty of time to enjoy lunch and an afternoon at Colonial Williamsburg.
- Each of the Tree Top Adventure stations is accessible by a separate ladder, making it easy to take a break when needed or let other groups who have been on your heels pass you.
- Nervous? The knowledgeable staff at Go Ape will get you fitted in a climbing harness, provide instructions, and supervise a trial course that will take you up a ladder, traversing a wire, and down a zip line to prepare you for the full experience.
Grab lunch at Merchants Square
When Facebook friends and Instagram followers learned we were in Williamsburg, multiple people messaged telling me that we needed to go to The Cheese Shop for lunch. Located right in Merchants Square by Colonial Williamsburg, this legendary sandwich shop didn’t disappoint with their delicious sandwiches made with freshly baked bread and their Original House Dressing. Outdoor patio seating on a gorgeous spring day didn’t hurt either!
- If you can’t find seating on the patio or indoors, take your food to go and walk across the street to Colonial Williamsburg where you can find benches along Duke of Gloucester Street or the shade of the trees on the Palace Green would make for a perfect place to enjoy a picnic lunch.
From Market Square, wander across the street and into 18th century Colonial Williamsburg that takes you back in time to the time when America began. While you can wander the grounds without a ticket, admission buys you entry into any building with a flag out front where the real learning will take place.
We loved wandering in and out of historic houses, walking among gorgeous gardens, and witnessing tradespeople at work.
At Anderson Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury, it was mesmerizing to watch the blacksmith pull the chain for the bellows as he heated the iron in the fire before pounding it into a nail and starting the process again. Two expert cabinetmakers were hard at work while one talked about the tools and processes for making the tables, chairs, desks, and even musical instruments, like the harpsichord, for the wealthy at Williamsburg and beyond.
After the grand display of power on display at the Governor’s Palace, we walked outside past the smokehouse and into the kitchen where 18th century recipes were being prepared using techniques and ingredients from the era.
- You can certainly spend an entire day at Colonial Williamsburg wandering in and out of the many buildings, exploring as you go but it’s also helpful to stop in at the Colonial Williamsburg Regional Visitor Center, Lumber House Ticket Office, or Merchant Square Ticket Office to tailor your visit to your family’s interests and find out about daily events.
- If you have piano players in your family, stop in at the Cabinetmaker to play a favorite song on the harpsichord. The harpsichord was made in the shop and has a little sign on it to ask to play it. Don’t be afraid to ask because the cabinetmakers will say yes and a favorite song sounds much different when played on the harpsichord!
Day 3: Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Roller coaster enthusiasts will love spending the final day of their time in the Historic Triangle at Busch Gardens Williamsburg to experience physics like G-force, kinetic, and potential energy at work. My tween and teen are thrill seekers who love roller coasters and loved Griffon that featured a 205 foot drop and Alpengeist that exerts 3Gs of force on you at one point in the ride.
How were we able to measure G-force while riding? We happened to sit in the third to last row where G-force meters were screwed to the back of the seats in front of us!
Warning: Watching them as you accelerate and decelerate will mess with your head more than if you just take in your surroundings as you enjoy the ride. There are many other properties of physics at play and to learn more about forces, inertia, and more, read How Roller Coasters Work.
- Leave backpacks in the car or plan to rent a locker. Some theme parks will let you leave your bags while you ride but Busch Gardens does not allow bags, water, etc. in line. Locker rentals are available throughout the park and started at $12 for an all day rental when we visited.
- Roller coaster lovers who are visiting during the busy summer months or weekends might want to consider purchasing a Quick Queue pass with your tickets to help you skip to the front of the line to board the major roller coasters faster. Various passes are available different price points. A regular Quick Queue will let you skip to the front of the line of each included roller coaster once or Quick Queue Unlimited costs a bit more but provides unlimited priority rides on the included coasters. While prices for these passes might be cheaper when purchased in advance with your admission, if you want to try to save some money, gauge attendance when you get there and purchase them at the park if wait times are incredibly long.
Where to Stay in Williamsburg
We stayed at Kingsmill Resort during our trip to Williamsburg that is conveniently located 20 minutes away from Yorktown, Williamsburg, and Jamestowne and not only boasts beautiful views of the James River but is the ONLY AAA 4 Diamond Condominium Resort featuring 1-3 bedroom condos!
Our one bedroom suite featured a king size bed, queen size pull out sofa, full kitchen with a table that seats six, fireplace, and bathroom that is easily accessible from the bedroom and main area and was quite spacious for family of four. There’s also a washer and dryer in each condo! Unlike other resorts, Kingsmill Resort doesn’t add on a daily resort fee so the price you see when you make the reservation is the price you’ll pay for your stay. Amenities like wifi, newspapers in the lobby, and towels at the pool, are included in the price of your stay!
Each morning we started our day with a breakfast buffet at Elements 1010 that provided a panoramic view of the James River. Omelettes made to order, crispy bacon, a large selection of fresh fruit, delicious pastries, and more provided plenty of fuel to start our busy days.
There’s also plenty to do on the Kingsmill Resort property if you’re planning to be in Williamsburg for more time. Stay to golf on one or both of the 18 hole championship golf courses, enjoy the spa, float along in the lazy river that’s adjacent to the outdoor pool or enjoy the indoor pool during the colder months, and dine in any one of the 4 on-property restaurants.
Where to Eat in Williamsburg
Some of the favorite bites we tried were from the following restaurants:
- Big Island Aquaculture for oysters on the half shell
- Extraordinary Cupcakes and Allure Bakery for cupcakes. Allure Bakery sold me on their cupcake featuring fresh strawberries topped with strawberry icing and I loved Extraordinary Cupcakes’ Luscious Lemon Raspberry, a standout spring flavor
- Fat Tuna has delicious shrimp ‘n grits featuring Tasso ham
- La Tienda for Spanish tapas and delicious seafood paella
- Revolution Golf & Grille has perfectly fried fried pickles
- The Cheese Shop for sandwiches for an al fresco or picnic lunch
- Food trucks worth stopping for: Prost for German food like Bratwurst, schnitzel, etc. and VA Blue Crab Co features fresh, local seafood and outstanding crab dip.
There are no shortage of breweries, wineries, and distilleries in the area! Look for beverages from these local businesses while you’re in town or plan to return for a couples getaway to experience the Williamsburg Tasting Trail: Alewerks, Billsburg, Brass Cannon Brewing, Precarious Beer Project, Virginia Beer Co., Silver Hand Meadery, Williamsburg Winery, Copper Fox, and 8 Shires Coloniale Distillery.
It was a pleasure to partner with Visit Williamsburg, Williamsburg Taste Festival, and Kingsmill Resort who provided hotel accommodations and tickets to attractions for me and the kids during our stay. All opinions are my own and based on personal opinion.