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Williamsburg (USA)

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      07.04.2013 20:17
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      A living museum in Virginia showcasing Colonial Williamsburg pre- Independence

      Colonial Williamsburg

      A couple of years ago we took my daughter and her partner to the USA with us and visited many sites in Virginia before driving on to Tennessee. My daughter is mad keen on American history and so Virginia was perfect as it was here where the first colonists settled in Jamestown, where the declaration of Independence was made and also where significant Civil war battles too place and where peace was signed so a lot of places of great significance in US history to be found.

      Colonial Williamsburg is a living-history museum based on the historic district of the city of Williamsburg, Virginia, USA. This is a pretty big site encompassing a few blocks of the city and covering about 300 acres. The buildings in this area date from 1699 to 1780 and were some of those which made colonial Virginia's capital city. There are many original houses and other reconstructed ones buildings which have been restored and within the area during times when the public are visiting all those who live in the houses have to wear costume and no cars are allowed within those specific streets. If someone wants to work in their garden they have to wear clothes of the time and use gardening equipment of the time too.

      If you want to visit it is a good idea to plan carefully and choose the day you want because during the day specific events are performed in different parts of the town. The events in the town change depending on which day you visit so do check out which one appeals more to you. What is unusual about this living history museum is that anyone can walk through the historic district of Williamsburg free of charge at any hour of the day. The only time you have to pay is if you want to go into any of the historic buildings, if you want to watch any of the arts and crafts demonstrations, or attend the specific outdoor performances like we did the day we visited.

      You buy the tickets from the Visitor's Center near the Colonial Parkway and I believe our ticket was for the historical triangle and included Jamestown and Yorktown as well but as I didn't do the paying I am a bit hazy on the costs and tickets. While at the Visitor Centre you can see a short film, "The Story of a Patriot", which was tells the story of a young man fighting in the war of Independence and the lead up to the war. This is also where you park the car as there are no cars allowed in Colonial Williamsburg. I think there may be a bus for wheel chair visitors to the perimeter but once in the historical area then it is walk or wheel chair only.

      On the day we visited the first event we came across was Thomas Jefferson giving a speech. There were many people in the audience in costume mixed with the paying public like us. Those in costume heckled the speaker or shouted out in agreement so you really felt like you were part of the time.

      I will probably get the order of our day incorrect and forget some places but so much took place and there was so much to see that you may be grateful for me forgetting some things. We wandered around generally taking in the lovely old colonial house and looking at those in costume, some of the gardens were beautiful full of glorious flowers and indeed neat rows of vegetables and herbs too. There were shops and restaurants offering items that were historical copies or things related to the time, old fashioned sweets and so on.

      The places to eat obviously offered modern food but a word of warning the portion sizes were colonial rather than modern day American portions. My daughter and I said we would share some soup and rolls and the portion of soup would barely have filled an egg cup and the bread roll was suitable for a sparrow and it wasn't cheap either so that was the only negative thing I would say about the entire day. If you are thinking of visiting I would suggest taking a picnic as the food was expensive by US standards.
      One of the other events we attended was Washington in a theatre and you could ask him questions. People were asking really interesting questions tying in the eighteenth century with modern times and asking about the future and what he thought might happen to America . He answered as thought he had no idea of what actually has happened so as though he really was George Washington which was very clever.

      We watched a mini show about where a woman's daughter was marrying someone who was for Independence and she was against and wanted to remain true to the crown and England. This was the theme of the day we visited as the townsfolk debated this question should they remain loyal to the old country or challenge the king's authority for a chance at liberty and equality.

      We 'met' two slaves who had of course no say in the course of history but who still had opinions and we watched a mini play with two who were not sure what to make of the general feelings of uncertainty and which way their lot might be improved .

      As we were walking around the town soldiers marching as a pipe band came along the street and once they passed by you could follow them through the street to the Governor's Palace. When we arrived there a huge crowd was there and something historically important was about to happen. Someone very important arrived in his carriage and met the Burghers of the city. Speeches were made and there was much heckling and amongst the crowd those in costume were discussing with the public what might be happening and voicing their hopes and concerns. It was all very exciting and you did kind of get caught up in the atmosphere. After standing there feeling the tension building with the crowd eventually someone lowered the British flag and the Union flag was raised and in May 15, 1776 this then was the beginning of the fight towards Independence.

      We had a brilliant day walking for miles for one activity or show or debate to the next. Colonial Williamsburg is not all authentic buildings and many have criticized it as being too 'Truman Show' and clinical, far too neat and clean but it was really interesting and even though I studied American history at college I was impressed with the performances and found them authentic and well performed.

      According to architecture critic "Williamsburg is an extraordinary, conscientious and expensive exercise in historical playacting in which real and imitation treasures and modern copies are carelessly confused in everyone's mind. Partly because it is so well done, the end effect has been to devalue authenticity and denigrate the genuine heritage of less picturesque periods to which an era and a people gave life." I would say that it may be a bit too clean and perfect but if it inspires an interest in history and the facts are correct does it really matter that some buildings are authentic and other reconstructions! I thought it was really well done and would have not enjoyed walking around authentic smelly buildings so long live' clean and neat' in my view.

      I think you are a perfectionist and really knowledgeable on Colonial American architecture then you may not be as impressed as we were but we had a fabulous day and were more than impressed with all we saw. You could join in more fully if you wanted to and hire costumes for your children, there were craft exhibitions and so much more that if you wanted to, you could spend more than a day here and still not see everything. We spent a full day here and went back to our accommodation exhausted but having had a thoroughly great day out.

      Thank for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
      ©Catsholiday

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      • More +
        01.07.2012 08:56

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        A great day out for all!

        Williamsburg, or Colonial Williamsburg, is a living museum based on an old English colony. There are lots of activities to attend and things to see, as well as many performances and tours given throughout the day which are entertaining as well as educational. There are a large number of original shops, non chain, within the town center of colonial Williamsburg including an old style candy (sweetie) shop, a Christmas shop and a number of toy and clothing shops. There are also a number of shops based on the kind of shop that would have been available to the colonists that sell a range of unusual products such as spices, quills and candles.
        Colonial Williamsburg is very good to attend for the July 4th firework display, it has a great display and a great atmosphere overall.
        It is a quaint little town and a great, educational day out for the whole family.

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        04.01.2002 05:55
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        • "Can be expensive"

        Williamsburg, Virginia started as a very small town. And in a way, it still is a small town. It has a distinction for being the earliest settlement in America, which in American terms make it old. To the rest of the world, it must seem pretty young. However, old or young, it holds a lot of history. Our founding fathers lived, worked and went to school here. Pocahontas was from here. Anheiser Busch makes most of their beer here. So for a small town, there is a lot going on there. If you are considering coming to visit Williamsburg, there is a wide variety of things to do while you are there. There is Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown, Water Country USA and Busch Gardens. Let me tell you a little bit about each of these main attractions. Colonial Williamsburg is what the area is most known for. This is a small section of town that is blocked from vehicular traffic. It is one mile long and about one mile across. You can visit this section of town at no charge, walk along the main road, read the signs on the houses, visit the shops, eat at the Inns. This is an enjoyable stroll. Or you can purchase passes that will gain you entrance into the larger buildings, such as the Governor’s Palace and The State House. A one day pass will cost about $25.00 American dollars. Children’s passes are less. With this pass, you can actually enter the building and see how the Colonial Americans actually lived and worked. I find the pass a very good idea for visitors. Everywhere you go in Colonial Williamsburg, you will find costumed characters going about life as they would have back then. They are more than willing to stop and chat with you about the Colonial days. Some of the other activities are candlelit tours. The tours usually start around dusk and are on a variety of topics from pirates to ghost tours. The cost usually runs from $15.00 to $20.00 American dollars and are very interesting. Re-enactments of battles and trials are held thr
        oughout the summer months. A stop at the visitor’s center before starting out is an excellent idea. They have plenty of information and pamphlets for planning your visit. Jamestown is another site you can visit. This is known for being the very first settlement in Virginia. The cost to enter is $18.00 American dollars for adults. Once inside you will enter a small museum. There are a few displays and lots of information about the settlement. Inside the museum is a small theater that shows short films about the life and times of the settlers. Exiting the other side of the museum, you go outside and right to the Indian Encampment. There you will find several costumed characters leading the life of the Early American Indian’s. You can see the tools they used, the food they ate and the teepees that they lived in. After passing through there, you will come to the Jamestown fort proper. Inside you can join up with a tour or wander freely around. The buildings are all replicated in authentic style. The characters will amaze you with their ability to show exactly how things were done in that day and age. It is very authentic, down to the heat, the bugs and the smell. After leaving the Fort, you stroll down to the river, where three boats await you. These are replicas of the ships that brought the first settlers. You can board the boats and wander around, feeling the waves beneath you as you explore. Jamestown is one of my favorite haunts in this town and can fill an afternoon. Yorktown is another settlement that you should visit. The cost is about the same as Jamestown. You once again enter into a museum. However this museum is much more expansive and contains animatronics displays, along with interactive activities. Upon leaving the museum, you take a stroll through time in the Walking Time Line. As you stroll along, you can read the billboards that take you from the start of the settlement until current time. From there you can
        visit a middle class farm and see how they survived during that era. With a house, a barn, a cook house and more, you find out what herbs they used to cure themselves, how they slept and ate. You will also see how they made their living off of the main crop of the area, tobacco. When you tire of that, you can stroll over to the military camp and find out about the life of the Colonial soldiers. See their tents, their uniforms, their weapons. You even get a chance to fire a musket off. Find out how they punished the prisoners of war and disciplined the soldiers. Another afternoon can be sent in Yorktown. Busch Gardens is an amusement park with rides, shows and more. It is split up into European countries, such as Ireland, Italy, Germany and England. Each country has at least one show and several shops and eateries. There are at least 4 or 5 rides in each country as well. I find this park to be a nice visit, but there are some problems with getting around. The layout and maps are confusing. The variety of shows that they have is good. They have a 4D movie theater that is fun. They have musicals which are good. The shows are not timed well though, as it is hard to get from one to the other without missing parts of one show or another. The rides are good enough for what they have. The roller coasters are my favorite, boasting 5 of them. However, I often found that at least one or two of them were closed for one reason or another, which can be disappointing. The park is located right by the Anheiser Busch Brewery. They use to have tours of the brewery from the park, however, they have discontinued the tours, which is a big loss. The cost to get into the park is rather steep too. Around $35.00 American dollars for an adult and a little less for children. So, while I think that Busch Gardens is fun, for the cost, I think it could be better. Water Country USA is, surprise, a water park. Upon entering the park, you will hear the tunes of the
        ‘50’s beach music playing everywhere. There are changing rooms and lockers available. The lockers cost $1.00 to use. You must bring your own towels, as the park does not supply any. When you are ready to swim, there is a wide variety of places to choose from. For the little ones, there are splashing pools with small slides and other amusements. For the more daring, there is a large variety of large water slides. For the wild at heart, there is the Wave Pool, where every 10 minutes or so the wave maker kicks in and you are tossed about on the large waves it provides. For the more sedate there is the Rambling River. This is a large doughnut shaped river that goes around in a circle. The current keeps you smoothly drifting along. Most of it is in the shade and they provide large, comfortable inner tubes to ride on. This is my favorite part and I could drift along relaxing for hours. The thing that I like the most about this park is that they provide life jackets all over the park in all sizes, from a small child to a large adult. They do not charge for the use of the jackets. I find this very convenient and a nice touch. So, if you are into the water, this is the park to see. The cost for entry is around $27.00 American Dollars for a one day pass. Depending on how long you intend to stay in Williamsburg, there are some ways you can save money getting combination passes. Such as a Jamestown/Yorktown pass. Or a Three Day Busch Gardens/Water Country pass. You can purchase one day, two day or seasonal passes to most of the parks. It really depends on what you want to do and how much of it you want to do. When you are not visiting one of these sites, there are still things you can do. There is a great deal of shopping malls, outlet stores and small stores located all over for the shopaholics. There are also some very interesting dinner theaters, with themes such as the medieval show at Rosy Rump’s Regale Dump. Or the Myste
        ry Dinner Theater. There are movie theaters, miniature golf courses, bowling alleys and many more things to do if you wish. One thing I would recommend is renting a car. While during the summer months they do offer a limited shuttle service, the only other way to get around is to walk or by taxi cab, which can be expensive. So I would say that a car is almost necessary to do and see everything there is. The hotels in the area are of a wide variety of price ranges. From the very nice Hilton, down to some rather questionable privately owned motels. Another tip, especially if traveling during the summer months, be sure and confirm any hotel reservations you may have. If you are arriving after 10pm, be sure to call and let the hotel know you are coming, or they very well may rent your room out to someone else. Most hotels after 8pm will consider you as a no show. Well, there you have it. Williamsburg is a very good place to visit with lots of interesting history and fun things to see and do. I think it is one of the best places to visit if you are able to. I should know, I lived there for 15 years. In terms of cost, it is less expensive than many of the other tourist towns that we have in our country. In terms of excitement, it is a very historical area, so if you are interested in history, this is the place to see. There is plenty to keep you busy and entertain the kids with. All in all, a great family vacation.

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          05.05.2001 15:31
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          Williamsburg, or more correctly, Colonial Williamsburg (Williamsburg itself is a modern city) is on a very busy peninsula on the south side of Chesapeake Bay. From the north, you approach this (over and under) the Chesapeake Bay Causeway and Tunnel. Driving on the causeway is the oddest sensation, you feel as though you are driving on a boat the water surface is so close! The Peninsula itself is stiff with history from the first settlement at Jamestown to the place where the Brits finally threw in the towel and ended the War of Independance. There are also Civil War sites and, maybe the best of all, old plantations, to visit. Being the USA, they do things on the grand scale and get it right! Despite the general bustle of this area (big Navy and Air Force bases are nearby), between Jamestown and Yorktown, taking in Colonial Williamsburg en route, runs a Park Way, a road built simply for tourist traffic, no lorries and restricted access, so not much use to locals going to work or shopping! It's bliss, you are transported to another time (despite the air conditioned car) on a lovely quiet road. I mention plantations. There are several to visit but, we only had time for one, Shirley, but it is quite beautiful overlooking the James River. The house is still in private hands (I am talking 10 years ago) and descendants of the original family still live there, so the tour is of the ground floor only. But it is fascinating and includes viewing a haunted portrait. The story is that this portrait objects to being hung anywhere other than on its "own" wall. They once sent it to NY for an exhibition and it shook itself off the wall! It's a good yarn and whether you believe it or not, standing before it being told that story makes the back of your neck go all tingley! When I was there, Jamestown didn't amount to a great deal, it has been left to the depradations of the swamp for too long, but looking at a web si
          te recently, it is evident that in the 10 years since I was there, a lot of archeological digging has gone on and a great deal more has been found out about it, so I'd love to go back. But stop and consider the names. Just about every one goes back to Colonial days, Jamestown, Williamsburg, William and Mary University (a lovely, leafy campus worth simply driving past if you are short on time), Yorktown etc. etc. And the locals really DO say things like, "Where y'all frum?" and "Y'all cum back, now!" One lady at a supermarket checkout engaged us in conversation for some time, holding the queue up in the process, but no-one minded, she was perfectly at liberty to welcome the English visitors - "Y'all cum back, now!" Made us feel REALLY welcome!

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            12.08.2000 02:23
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            If you are going to Virginia on holiday - try to visit Williamsburg. Here is re-created an American town at the time of the American revolution. The town comprises a number of houses, mansions and other building of that age or looking like they came from that age. It isn't like Bath, Edinburgh etc - but don't let this worry you. Nothing was originally located there - but hey this is the US - many plantation houses of the C18 now have air con !! You arrive at Williamsburg and after parking your vehicle in the large car park (there are a number) - proceed to a huge Visitors Centre. Here you can buy what is called a Patriot Pass - which allows you to come back as many times in the year for free. You never do - but its worth considering !! You have your photo taken and are given a pass which you can choose whether or not to wear. Getting into the centre of Williamsburg is achieved on an air-conditioned bus complete with Tour Guide. These run every 5 minutes or so. Once there - you have to be impressed. There are no cars and are many people walking around in period dress doing period things. There are houses, shops and workshops of all shapes and sizes and there is usually someone there who will give a little talk and answer questions. When I went (back in 1995) I remembered the Governors Mansion and the Court House. In the latter was someone speaking in olde worlde english about slaves and how much they cost. Its really good !! If you want to eat there is a seperate area containing shops and restaurants away from the olde worlde bit where you can buy Williamsburg chocolate, and other gifts. There are English type pubs where you can be served by wenches. There is loads to do/see and you can spend a day or 2 visiting it all. At the end of the day, catch the bus back and watch a story about the town in the Visitors centre. We stayed there 2 nights about 10 minutes walk from the centre.
            We picked up a book of hotel vouchers and negociated a discount !! America works on discounts. Get a guide when you arrive in a new area and see what you can save. At the end of the day, we were tired and hungry. There is a very interesting TGI type eatery nearby which was busy. So, for a great historical day out - check out Williamsburg. If those nice Dooyoo people would create me some Virginia sub-categories I could tell you about Jamestown !!

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            Williamsburg is a city located on the Virginia Peninsula in the Hampton Roads region in southeastern Virginia. It is bordered by James City County and York County, and is an independent city. The Bureau of Economic Analysis combines the city of Williamsburg with James City County for statistical purposes. The Historic Triangle of Virginia, which also includes Jamestown and Yorktown, is among the most popular tourist destinations in the world, with Williamsburg is located in the center. The three are linked by the National Park Service's bucolic Colonial Parkway, a 23 mile-long (37 km) National Scenic Byway which is carefully shielded from views of commercial development. The toll-free Jamestown Ferry is located at the southern end of the Colonial Parkway, State Route 5, another scenic byway, links Williamsburg and Richmond).