Why: My love of things related to historical reenactment is no secret. I first visited Williamsburg during our most epic RV trip from CA to VA in June 1997. (That was the same trip where I first visited Disney World and hand-wrote our ride-by-ride schedule). At that time, aged almost-11, I was at the height of my interest in American Girl and American history, so it was glorious. I even still had Felicity dresses of the 1770s to wear. So I had long intended to return to Williamsburg during my DC sojourn. When I found out that Peace Corps friends-turned-Arlington transplants Chelsea and Whitney also wanted to go, we planned a weekend trip for shortly before my move.
When: April 13-14, 2013. Williamsburg is something like a 2.5 hour drive from Arlington, so we headed in on a Saturday morning and went straight to Williamsburg. We stayed overnight, and in the morning we visited the Jamestown Settlement before heading home. The weather was perfect–72 and sunny.
How: Williamsburg itself takes a few hours–we were there from about 11:30 until just before closing at 5, and that was plenty of time to see everything we cared to and to feel satisfied. Jamestown took a little over two hours.
We stayed overnight in a cheap motel I got from bidding on Hotwire. In a situation like this, where hotel location doesn’t matter because we have a car and everything is close, and where hotel quality doesn’t matter that much because we are all people who have stayed in $1-a-night hovels in China, a bidding-for-travel scheme works nicely. I recommend researching any travel bidding schemes online before you start (just Google “bidding for travel”) and you’ll get plenty of evidence from forums about acceptable bids. After winning a bid, I also recommend calling the hotel to confirm and to make any simple requests, like for type of beds or for a rollaway, which Hotwire won’t guarantee but which most domestic hotels will do. We got the Days Inn bid for $45, which saved $20+ from the cheapest-available online rate.
How Much: A one-day ticket to Colonial Williamsburg costs $42. They had a promotion when we visited for Virginia residents, who could get an annual pass for that same price with proof of residency. The motel–Days Inn–cost $51 with tax, split among us. The Jamestown Settlement cost $16. Other costs included meals and gas. Whitney drove her car.
What We Did: I hadn’t done a ton of planning about what we would see at Williamsburg, since the exact schedule of what’s open changes daily and since we received a detailed schedule/map upon arriving. Williamsburg is small enough that you can basically wander through each of the main areas and see almost everything open in a few hours. Besides chance encounters with colonial folk in the shops and on the street, are also special events that are more performative. On the day of our visit, there was a series of skits lasting about an hour in which colonists and soldiers reacted to the start of the American Revolution. Some shops you walk in and out at will and check out whatever’s happening; other’s have more elaborate happenings on a specific schedule (e.g. every half hour).
We ate lunch at one of the colonial eateries–an outdoor BBQ-sandwich type place that got the job done. We planned on dinner at one of the upscale restaurants in the shopping village on the edge of the colonial district, Berret’s. The cioppino was lovely, FYI.
After the decent Days Inn-provided breakfast on Sunday morning, we debated what to do among Jamestown Settlement, Yorktown Victory Center, Williamsburg outlet shopping, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, and assortment of other historic towns in our midst. The beach also would have been an option if it had been a little warmer. We decided on Jamestown since it was close and seemed most interesting, and that turned out to be a good choice. Even if we got slightly confused about the difference between Jamestown Settlement (the historically re-built and reenacted extravaganza) versus Historic Jamestown (the archeological site of the actual Jamestown remnants, which we did not visit).
Jamestown Settlement features a surprisingly-excellent museum of pre-colonial and early colonial Chesapeake history (good prep for the California state social studies credential test I was taking a couple weeks hence), and various features like a movie about Jamestown that we didn’t watch. The site itself has three main sections: the Indian village, historical ships in the harbor, and the fort, each of which includes reeneactors and demonstrations in the style of Williamsburg. All in all, it was a nice complement to Williamsburg for seeing the earlier history and for rounding out the weekend.