YORKTOWN + WILLIAMSBURG + JAMESTOWN = THE HISTORIC TRIANGLE
Have you heard of the Historic Triangle in Virginia? Williamsburg Virginia was named one of New York Times’ 52 places to go, but did you know that it is only ONE of the THREE parts that make up the Historic Triangle?
My daughter and I just got back from our second trip to Williamsburg, Virginia. Two of our closest friends are retired history teachers and they have a timeshare in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Last year my friends invited me and my (then 17 year old) daughter to go with them for a long weekend to see Colonial Williamsburg.
Let me put this bluntly… we are NOT the kind of girls who get excited about history. 😴 We ARE the kind of girls who get excited about traveling, and we love spending time with our friends, so we agreed to go. 😁 Much to our surprise, we LOVED Williamsburg! We loved it so much that we went back a second time and we would be willing to go again!
I’m sure that most of you don’t have the luxury of having two retired history teachers to be your personal tour guides, so I am happy to share with you a little bit of what they showed us….
The Historic Triangle:
During our last trip our friends asked us, “Have you heard of the Historic Triangle in Virginia”. That’s was the first time I learned that Virginia even had something called the “Historic Triangle”. It is made up of Yorktown, Williamsburg, and Jamestown.
Each “leg” of the triangle is approximately a 15 minute drive away. If you are staying in one of these towns for a few days, it’s not too difficult to get to experience all three of them during your trip.
There is SOOO much to see and do in the Historic Triangle, but I will give you some of the highlights.
Battlefield Visitor’s Center
Inside the Battlefield Visitor’s Center in Yorktown you will find a short movie, various artifacts in the museum, and indoor/outdoor activities. This is a great place to start and see what Yorktown has to offer.
At the visitor’s center there is a FREE trolley ride that you can take to Riverwalk Landing. Right now you might be thinking, “If it’s FREE, it’s for me”. This tour is a great option just to see what’s in the area.
When I travel I like to do those Hop on Hop off bus tours right in the beginning of my trip to get an idea of what’s in the area. The first time I tried this was on our trip to Rome, Italy and I’ve been doing it ever since! It is much easier to look around and see what’s there when you’re not trying to navigate in a new town with a GPS. You can easily see what they have, and then make your decisions about where to eat, where to shop, and what to do.
Another option is to take a walking tour or a ranger guided tour of the battlefield. If you would like more information on the guided tours and programs click here. 👈
There’s a store called Patriot Tours and Provisions, which is a short walk from the visitor’s center and they have rentals for segway tours. With the segways you have two options: either 1 or 2 hours, but you must make a reservation in advance. You can rent bicycles here as well.
We chose to do the self-guided tour by car (but you can also do it by bicycle if you’re athletic).
At the visitor’s center they offer maps for the driving tours. There are two driving options on the tour, which are a total of 16 miles. This self guided tour ranked #3 out of 17 things to do in Yorktown on Tripadvisor.
All along the tour there are historical markers so you can learn more about what took place in that area.
In addition to the trolley and other rentals, Riverwalk Landing has a beautiful beach area along the York River. There are shops, live music, fishing, an open air farmer’s market, free events like outdoor concerts and restaurants. You can grab a bite to eat at the Water Street Grille. When we were there they had a band playing by their outside seating area.
American Revolutionary Museum
Yorktown also has an American Revolutionary Museum. In addition to the standard exhibits, there’s a theater and indoor/outdoor interactive exhibits so make sure you block out plenty of time to visit. This museum also has an app you can download, which has fun activities and tours to help you interact while you are inside the museum.
The thing we really liked about Yorktown was that it seemed to have a little something for EVERYONE. Between the beach, fishing, shopping, restaurants, tours, and a museum… I don’t see how you couldn’t find something fun for everyone on your trip to enjoy! 👨👩👧👦
Tickets for Colonial Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area is the largest outdoor living museum in the country. It is designed to provide an authentic 18th century experience. There are a few places where you can purchase tickets for admission into the historic area, but the best place to get them is at the visitor’s center.
They are VERY helpful and they are willing to assist you with planning to help you get the most out of your trip. There are different options available, such as a multi-day pass, single day pass, or an annual pass. Colonial Williamsburg is BIG and there is SOOO much to see and do. If you have time to see all of it then I’d suggest getting the multi-day pass. There are different shows and events scheduled for various times throughout the day and night so it’s not possible to see everything in one day.
If you really want to go ALL IN with your experience, while you are at the visitor’s center you can rent period style outfits for your family to wear while they explore the historic area.
From the visitor’s center you can either take a shuttle bus into Colonial Williamsburg or you can walk. Either way, your car will stay in the free parking area at the visitor’s center. The bus can drop you off at various locations throughout the plantation. If you have a hard time walking long distances you don’t worry about having issues with getting around.
The entire town is set up to reflect the way it would actually look during the 18th century. All of the buildings are constructed in the same way that they would have been at that time. This means they use the same tools and techniques as they would have in the 18th century. The workers are in full costume, they speak the part, and the stores are all laid out to be accurate to the time period.
Things to See in Colonial Williamsburg
There are stores like the apothecary, tailor, bakery, wigmaker, and much more. If a store is open they will have a flag out front. When the store closes the flag gets taken down. There are tradesmen like the carpenter, silversmith, blacksmith, and more. Each of the stores and the trade-shops have employees who are happy to tell you all about their jobs.
The Public Gaol (or jail) was Virginia’s main prison. It held debtors and criminals who were either waiting for their trial or their hanging. The cells utilized primitive items such as leg irons, wall chains and food slots. This self guided tour offered a visually disturbing glimpse into the 18th century justice system, but I’ll admit it was my favorite place to take pictures.
Helpful Details for Planning your Trip
There’s a mobile app available that you can download to help you with planning your trip in advance. While most of the attractions are included with the initial pass, there are some additional add on options, such as carriage rides or ghost tours. For those options you would have to purchase tickets ahead of time.
The stores and tours in Colonial Williamsburg close at 5:00 pm, but in the warmer season you can purchase tickets for evening programs. While we were there, we participated in the Trial of a Patriot event. Having worked in the legal field for almost 11 years, this was SOOO much fun for me! There was a trial that took place in front of you with audience members playing various parts, such as the officials and the jury. We could question witnesses and weigh the testimonies to decide if the Patriot was guilty or innocent.
The great thing about Colonial Williamsburg is that most of the events are interactive so the visitors have hands-on opportunities to learn about history in fun ways. I assure you that you do NOT have to like history in order to have a great time at Historical Colonial Williamsburg!
Jamestown Visitor’s Center
The Jamestown visitor’s center has a theater, indoor galleries, an outdoor indian village, and a discovery area with ships. You can take a tour of the Jamestown island loop by car, 🚗 bicycle, 🚴♂️ or by walking.🚶♂️There is a 3 mile or 5 mile option for this tour with a view of marsh, dense woods, and some wildlife like birds. There are large historical markers placed throughout the tour with information about the area’s history. Even if you’re not an expert at the history of Jamestown, you can be by the time you leave.
We had the opportunity to watch 17th century glass manufacturing techniques at the glassblowing experience. The artisans will make vases, pitchers, candleholders, and many more items right in front of you. Admission to watch and learn about the glassblowing is FREE. There’s a really cute gift shop with items for purchase if you are interested in owning a one of a kind souvenir. Watching this demonstration doesn’t take much time. It was really interesting to actually watch and learn about the process from start to finish.
Trust me when I tell you that you don’t have to be any type of history buff to enjoy visiting the Historic Triangle in Virginia. My daughter and I are definitely NOT knowledgeable about history, but we have enjoyed coming to explore these cities for the past two years.
We take the trip on a long weekend and we always run out of time to see everything they have to offer. That’s what keeps us coming back for more! 🤗 If someone ever asks you, “Have you heard of the Historic Triangle in Virginia” you will be able to tell them that you have!
If you liked “Have you heard of the Historic Triangle in Virginia” you might also like: 7 Cheap or Free things to do in Virginia Beach when you Can’t go to the Beach.
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