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Trip Report with Tweens July 14-17

Georgia
Level Contributor
120 posts
64 reviews
Trip Report with Tweens July 14-17

Hello! I don’t usually do trip reports, but I’ve decided to do so for this trip. In planning, I had a hard time finding current information related to visiting this area with older children so I’m hoping our experiences will help someone. I’ll also post reviews.

I’m a 44 year old female, and I was traveling with my 9 and 10 year old children and my 71 year old mother. My mother lives in N.C., and we live in GA. We’re used to hot summers, and we still thought it was hot in Williamsburg. So if you’ve from a place that enjoys more mild summers, definitely take the heat into consideration.

We started off at Yorktown Battfield. My original plan was to hit both the battlefield and the American Revolution Museum in the same afternoon. That didn’t work out for us. My kids always do the Junior Ranger program at NPS sites that offer it. This was our 10th one. It was by far the most difficult. We were there 3 hours, and my 10 year d still didn’t quite finish it. Fortunately, the sweet Park Ranger saved the day and gave her a badge anyway. We watched the film, which was fine, and watched an excellent artillery demonstration. That was the highlight of our visit to Yorktown. I like seeing George Washington’s tent as well, but I don’t think the kids were impressed. We did not do the entire battlefield auto tour, but just drove to Redoubts 9 and 10 and Surrender Field. By 4:30 (after arriving at 1:15), everyone was burnt out so the kids got their Junior Ranger badges, and we went to check in to our hotel. If I had it to over again, I would skip the Junior Ranger program. We usually find that it enhances the kids’ experience, but the opposite was true this time.

I’ll continue on with our next day (Jamestown!) later.

14 replies to this topic
Centerville, Ohio
Level Contributor
14,291 posts
3,318 reviews
1. Re: Trip Report with Tweens July 14-17

My kids always do the Junior Ranger program at NPS sites

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Junior Ranger program is a great resource, and glad that your children participate.

Georgia
Level Contributor
120 posts
64 reviews
2. Re: Trip Report with Tweens July 14-17

We love the Junior Ranger program, but I wish they’d consider revising the Yorktown booklet. Another NPS tip - my daughter just completed fourth grade, and the NPS has a wonderful program for fourth graders called “Every Kid in a Park”. Because of her pass, my mother and I got into the park for free and only paid the $5 Preservation Virginia fee at Historic Jamestown.

The next morning we got up and made it to Historic Jamestowne around 9:15. We sat through a “guided” tour. I’m not sure why they call it that because we sat the whole time, but it was very good. Then we listened to the Living History speaker “John Rolfe”. He was also very good, but the children thought it was too long. We all enjoyed walking the site, and the Archaerium was amazing. My kids did the Junior Ranger program here as well and completed it with no issues. It does cost $1 instead of being free as it is at most sites. We ate lunch at the cafe, and the food was tasty and fresh. I had planned on around 3 hours at Historic Jamestowne. However, it took us over 4 hours, and we didn’t do everything.

We left and went to Jamestown Settlement. We went outside first to see the ships and the fort. I think seeing the reconstructions of the ships and forts after visiting the original site really helped the kids visualize the history they had learned. The Powhatan Village was nice to see as well. It was a hot afternoon, and by the time we finished walking around outside, my mother and the kids were ready to go back to the hotel. I do regret that we didn’t walk through the exhibits, but they were ready for a break.

That evening we did the Official Colonial Williamsburg Ghost Tour. I had read mixed reviews on it, but we all enjoyed the tour. It was one of my 9 year old son’s favorite things from the trip. Our guide was polished and friendly. There were younger kids and a teen on our tour who didn’t seem very interested. It might be that my kids are just the right age for the tour, but my mother and I liked it, too. The stories relate employees’ paranormal experiences while working on property instead of being what you might think of as “ghost stories”. The tour wasn’t very scary. I should have worn bug spray, though. I got eaten alive.

Georgia
Level Contributor
120 posts
64 reviews
3. Re: Trip Report with Tweens July 14-17

The next morning we walked to Colonial Williamsburg from the Visitors’ Center. We were staying next to the Visitors’ Center at Woodlands and we’re ready before the buses starting running. It was about a 15 minute, easy walk and quite pleasant. I had bought our tickets the afternoon before. I opted not to make any of the “free reservations”. The lady at the Visitors’ Center thought the children’s tours of the Capitol and Palace would be too young for my kids. I was given a map and a list of programs available for the day of our visit. While not everything was open, we still found more than enough to fill our day. We ran out of steam before we ran out of things to do.

Our first stop was Prentis Store to sign up for Dig! My kids got spots in the 9:30 program. Dig! may be the most meaningful educational experience that my kids have ever had at a historic site. I would recommend trying to do the 9:30 program like we did. There were only two other children, and it hadn’t gotten hot yet. It looked like they could accommodate around 15 children at a time. The archaeologists were wonderful, and the children were finding real artifacts (not planted pieces of plastic like at some other kid archaeology programs). In 1946, they dug out the foundations of a building and then decided not to reconstruct it. So they dumped all the dirt back in the hole. Because everything is a big jumble, they decided to create this children’s program. Unfortunately, they’ve almost reached the bottom of the cellar so the fate of the program is uncertain. They’re hoping to get through the summer. I really can’t say enough about what an amazing experience this was.

We saw and did a ton at Colonial Williamsburg. Another highlight for my son was the brickyard. He loved stomping in the mud. My daughter’s favorite part was the Governor’s Palace tour. Both kids enjoyed Patriots at Play. We visited lots of the trades. Some were better than others. Sometimes it depended on who had come in before you and what kind of tangent they got the speaker on and your willingness to wait them out (I.e. the silversmith was talking about infant mortality while we were In the shop). Overall, Colonial Williamsburg was the favorite of both of my kids of all the sites. There are just lots of interesting, hands on opportunities for kids (like kneading bread at the Public Armory outdoor kitchen).

We had lunch at King’s Arm Tavern. While we all enjoyed our meal, the hostess seemed irritated that I had a reservation. Our reservation was for 11:30 AM, which happens to be the time that they open. There were lots of walk-ins at that time, and they were seated before we were. We only waited a few minutes, but I really don’t think my reservation did us any good. I’m not sure if it’s a new system or what. Our lunch only took about an hour and was a nice break in the day.

I really worried about our Colonial Williamsburg day because of the negative reviews I read, but it really went smoothly. Yes, it was hot and a lot of walking. We certainly didn’t do everything, but we were satisfied with what we did do. I wanted to see the fife and drum parade at 5:00, but when the rest of my group was exhausted by 4:00 (including my 9 year old son who never gets tired), I knew it was time to take the bus back to the Visitors’ Center. If I were to do it again in the summer, I think I would try to spread Colonial Williamsburg out over two days.

Georgia
Level Contributor
120 posts
64 reviews
4. Re: Trip Report with Tweens July 14-17

Our last morning in Williamsburg, I offered my people the choice of visiting the American Revolution Museum in Yorktown or skipping it and starting our drive back to my mother’s house in N.C. I bought a combo ticket for the Revolution Museum and Jamestown Settlement in-line before we arrived, but I fully prepared to let the difference be a donation. My 10 year old daughter said that she had had enough history, but my 9 year old son and my mother wanted to go to the museum. The ayes have it! I’m so glad we went! What a beautiful, interactive museum! This is when I began to regret that we skipped the exhibits at Jamestown Settlement. While we enjoyed exploring the living history Encampment and Farm, the exhibits and the incredible 4-D show really made the experience. My son’s favorite part was trying on a French uniform jacket and holding a musket for a photo. My daughter lived all the interactive features and the reproductions of various artworks depicting the Revolution. In hindsight, I would go here first and then visit the Yorktown Battlefield, skipping the Junior Ranger program and focusing on the seeing the actual battlefield. We spent around 2 hours, but you could definitely spend more. We skipped the introductory video and certain aspects of the Living History that we felt were covered by our other visits (like the artillery demonstration).

We made one last stop on our way to N.C.: Historic St. Luke’s Church mear Smithfield, VA. We have a family connection to the church, but it’s also the oldest brick church in British’s North America. Worth a look if you’re passing through the area.

Overall, we had a wonderful time. It definitely took longer to do things that I thought it would, and the heat definitely slowed us done, even though we’re Southerners. Hope this helps someone!

Fremont, California
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
Level Contributor
32,854 posts
6,430 reviews
5. Re: Trip Report with Tweens July 14-17

Nice trip and trip report.

Thanks for sharing with us about your trip.

7 posts
6. Re: Trip Report with Tweens July 14-17

Thank you so much! We are thinking about going next summer with a 9 and 11 year old and this definitely helped!! Are there alot of hands on things for the kids at colonial williamsburg?

Georgia
Level Contributor
120 posts
64 reviews
7. Re: Trip Report with Tweens July 14-17

There were a lot of hands on things for kids at Colonial Williamsburg, on my opinion. Check out the website before you go and see if there are doing Dig! or something like it. At the brickyard, the kids could stomp in the mud, but they also could help make bricks or lay them. One little girl couldn’t stop telling me how she had written her name in a brick and it would be used in a real building. At Patriots at Play, they can try out colonial games, and there was also a simple craft related to colonial life. My son kneaded bread in the Public Armory area. You can touch the samples of hair in the Wigmaker. In the printing press office, you can try out the thing they use to apply the ink and touch the type letters. I’m sure there are some experiences that I’m forgetting and plenty that we didn’t get to do. When you’re closer to your trip, check out the website and app to see the sort of programs they’re offering and what days things are open.

I think your kids are the perfect age for Colonial Williamsburg! Mine loved it!

4 posts
8. Re: Trip Report with Tweens July 14-17

Thank you!!

Williamsburg...
Destination Expert
for Williamsburg
Level Contributor
7,116 posts
63 reviews
9. Re: Trip Report with Tweens July 14-17

I'm so glad you did a trip report! Your experiences will help other travels. It sounded like it was a very good time for all. I'll link in the trip reports collections here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g58313… Thank you!

Maplewood, New...
6 posts
1 review
10. Re: Trip Report with Tweens July 14-17

This is very helpful! I'm headed to Williamsburg with my twin daughters (13) on August 14. We have three nights and are planning on touring Jamestown and Williamsburg. We are also staying at the Woodlands.

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