Jamestown and Yorktown: Summer Road Trip, Part 1

Jamestown and Yorktown with kids

Wow, well that title pretty much says it all, right? No need to write any more. Someday I should work on my catchy title writing skills. Right now I don’t have any of those. Skills. Anyway.

When we found out that Dave’s sister, Amy, and her family would be taking a trip to Washington, DC this summer, we informed them that we’d be crashing their vacation, and they were very gracious about this. We’ll get to that part later, but today I’m telling you about the pre-DC/extended family part of the trip (er, the first part of that part. I was going to put Colonial Williamsburg in this installment, too, but then it was just getting ridiculously long).

Two of my favorite things about driving instead of flying for vacations are not getting in plane crashes and stopping to see things along the way. In that order, I guess. And, of course, my favorite thing about Dave’s teaching gig is summer break and how it’s longer than regular job vacation time. Put those together and you get this side trip to the Historic Triangle that we added in on our way up to DC. Also, because we really love triangles, we threw in a stop at the science museum in Durham, NC, too (in the Research Triangle, you see).

By the way, these posts are probably going to be incredibly long and have too many pictures. I’m just letting you know.

After we planned the trip, Dave got a really inconveniently timed jury duty summons for the day we were supposed to leave. We weren’t planning to leave until that evening, though, and deferring it would mean pushing it back to the school year when he’d need to get a sub and all that, so we decided to take our chances and hope he didn’t get picked for a murder trial or something.

He didn’t get picked for any trial at all, it turned out. He sat in a room all day and read books and watched TV and played on his phone. He texted me this picture of himself:


And I texted him this picture of me and Abe:


Life is so much more fun since Dave finally got a smart phone.

When he finally got home, we left and drove a few hours to a hotel in some random town in North Carolina. The next morning, we drove a little more and then stopped at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. We have a membership to a science museum near us that offers reciprocal admission with other science museums, and we used the crap out of that thing on this trip.

I vaguely remembered going to this museum on weekend trip I took when I was in college. The main thing I remember is that there was this booth you could sit in that was supposed to demonstrate what it’s like to go deaf. There was a recording of a woman reading a story, and the recording gradually got quieter and quieter. I thought that was hilarious, back when I was twenty. When you go deaf, it gets harder to hear things! Go figure! That exhibit isn’t there anymore.

In fact, nothing looked very familiar, only 19 years later. Weird.

But the kids had fun; it’s always good to break up the drive, especially with a toddler in the car.

Durham Museum of Life and Science leg102s

They had a pretty extensive outside area (and a train!) that looked really cool, but it was 95 or so that day, so we didn’t spend much time out there. They had a few of these big music wall things, and I found them inspiring. Abe needs one, I think:

leg103s leg104s leg105s

After the museum, we drove the rest of the way to our hotel in Williamsburg (we stayed at a Homewood Suites, where we sprang for the blissfully spacious two bedroom suite) and were there in time for dinner.

Our original plan called for us to go to Colonial Williamsburg the next day (Thursday) and then hit Jamestown and Yorktown the day after that. But the weather forecast said it was going to be unbearably hot on Thursday and then mysteriously cool down 15 degrees for Friday, so we reversed the plan since Williamsburg sounded like a longer day with more walking.

A note on ticket prices: These are kind of confusing. You can buy one day or multi-day tickets to Williamsburg or you can buy a pass that also includes Jamestown and Yorktown. And you can buy individual Jamestown and Yorktown tickets or combination ones. Another weird quirk is that (much less expensive) children’s tickets end at 12 for Williamsburg, but if you buy the combination pass for all three sites, the “youth” ticket is good until they’re 15. So, basically, figure out what you want to do for how many days in advance so you don’t show up and have to scramble to figure it out (you can also usually save a few bucks buying online in advance).

And! Most importantly for us: all three sites have a really nice educator’s discount. We knew about this in advance, so we had Dave’s school ID and my homeschool letter of intent along with us. I THINK we wound up getting half price tickets for all of us (that are good for another visit before the end of the year) to Jamestown and Yorktown, and half off the adult tickets for Williamsburg. This discount isn’t something they talk about a lot (and you can’t get it online), but it’s huge if you know to ask about it.


We went to Jamestown first on Thursday morning. I was very excited about this leg of the trip because I adore touristy things, and I was convinced it was going to be like history Disney World. It did not disappoint.

Jamestown Settlement consists of recreations of a Powhatan Indian village, the ships that brought the colonists from England, and the fort itself, as well as an extensive museum. I thought it was all really nicely done. The Yorktown Victory Center and (especially) Colonial Williamsburg are a lot more Rah Rah Revolution!-y, but Jamestown is more restrained. It’s kind of hard to be too proud of gold hungry, tobacco farming cannibals.

(Incidentally, a facebook friend linked to this essay from Slate. It was published just a day or two after our visit. Very timely and interesting).

I also appreciated how people were dressed up in clothes from the time period and all, but they weren’t devoted to staying in character and pretending they didn’t know what a camera was or anything. That sort of thing unnerves me.


See that woman there? If you wanted to know where the bathroom was or something, she would just tell you instead of saying, “pray tell, what is a ‘bathroom’?”


Everything was very hands-on in the fort. You could try on this armor and actually climb into the beds in the houses and everything.


Also, there were chickens:

leg111s leg112s

Did I mention that it was really hot?


I liked the museum because it was air conditioned it was really well done and had things like a London street scene from the 17th century with atmospheric sounds playing and buildings you could peer into to see how rich people and poor people lived and I’m a sucker for that sort of thing. Also, Abe slept for awhile when we were in there, so I could actually read signs and everything.

We ate in the cafeteria before we left for Yorktown, and they even had gluten free chicken fingers. Just like Disney World!


The drive from Jamestown to Yorktown is a pleasant 30 minutes or so.

They’re working on a new museum here; it’s supposed to be finished in late 2016. For now there’s a relatively small museum, and recreations of a Continental Army encampment and a 1780’s farm. In retrospect, after looking at the website, I think we may have missed some of the museum somehow. There are exhibits on the website that we didn’t see.

Hey! It was even hotter by the time we got here! The kids were getting a little grumpy in the heat, which greatly shortened their attention spans for history related things, so we didn’t stay too long here.


I think this musket firing demonstration was everyone’s favorite part. I selflessly didn’t cover my ears so my hands would be free to take this picture (and Dave covered Abe’s ears instead of his own, which I think he believes to be even more selfless):


Tobacco! This tobacco barn smelled nasty.


In addition to these sites, you can also go to the actual Jamestowne archaeological site and the actual Yorktown battlefield (both maintained by the National Park Service), but we didn’t make it to these since we only had two days in the area.

Phew! And 1500 words later I’ve knocked out…..the first two days of our trip. I’m going to mix in house stuff in between these posts; it’s not going to be all road trip all the time for weeks or anything!



Jamestown and Yorktown: Summer Road Trip, Part 1 — 7 Comments

  1. You are awesome at vacations. We just go places and eat. Typically picking restaurants that aren’t so much for kids, but we do it anyway. I need lots more posts about vacations with kids from you! 😉 Also that text exchange with Dave is hilarious! Glad he didn’t make the murder trial…although that could potentially be a great blog post!

    • lol–I think “you know if you pick me my wife will blog about this whole thing,” is a foolproof way to get out of jury duty 😉

  2. I love these trips of yours. They are very similar to ours. So homeschool-y :), I love it!

    I agree with Amber. I am torn about Dave not getting jury duty :), you know, for blog content 🙂 I am sure there is NOTHING to sign about confidentiality. Pretty sure.

  3. so i laughed through this entire post! it looked like so much fun but your commentary made it. and the pics and and dave sent each other were awesome, but i am unclear how you sent them- pray tell, what is an iphone?

  4. First off, those first photos you both exchanged cracked me up!!!! Literally laughed out loud with Abe poking your face! And the trip ( which I agree with you about the plane crashing thing). Looked fantastic!!! Love the fort and the kids checking out the chickens! And yes the costumes make it more authentic but it is nice when they communicate with u when you have a question ! You guys are so great at teaching your kids about the world!!!

  5. This was hilarious. My favorite picture is of Milo & Gus collapsed on the table from the heat. Yes to the music wall. Your playground NEEDS MORE COWBELL!

Like all human bloggers, I love comments :)