A huge thank you to Visit Williamsburg for organizing our family trip and for sponsoring this blog post.
When Visit Williamsburg first invited my family to… well, visit Williamsburg, I imagined we’d spend most of our time in colonial costumes taking pictures in the town pillory, learning how to make wax candles and cobbling shoes. But after talking with them, I found out that the area of Greater Williamsburg has much more to offer that just the historical sites. There’s Busch Gardens, for one and tons of other fun stuff like zip lining and kayaking and water parks. Honestly, it was pretty hard to nail down an itinerary without leaving something out.
Thankfully, Visit Williamsburg put together a three day family trip that balanced educational experiences with more adventure-oriented activities. In the end, we had an action-packed vacation that everyone in the family enjoyed.
We arrived Thursday night so we could start the day fresh Friday morning, so let’s pretend Friday is Day 1.
Day 1: Colonial Williamsburg and Zip Lining
After a quick buffet breakfast at the hotel, we began our day by taking a shuttle (or a “time machine” as it was advertised on the side of the bus) over to Colonial Williamsburg, where we were greeted by townspeople in colonial costumes, fully in character.
Mazzy and Harlow got a big kick out of walking up and down Main Street and visiting the various shops and craftsmen. They particularly liked that they could talk to anyone and ask questions. When we saw a man working busily at his desk on the far side of a room, Harlow encouraged us to walk to the other side of the house so we could get a better look at what he was doing. He said he was making schillings, which we explained were the colonial version of pennies.
Of course, we took advantage of the photo op at the pillory, although Mike needed to hold up Harlow because even with the foot stool, her feet didn’t touch the ground.
Then we sat inside the courthouse to learn all about how Williamsburg maintained law and order. My favorite part was hearing about all the roots of modern legal phrases, like “passing the bar” which relates back to a literal bar in the courtroom that only judges and lawyers could stand behind.
Next, we wandered through a few period houses and gardens before hopping on an old fashioned carriage ride (booked ahead of time) to get an overview of the entire town. The kids loved it. “It’s very bumpy!” Harlow declared through giggles and smiles.
For lunch, we had arranged for a picnic lunch from The Cheese Shop and sat on the grass in the middle of the residential area to spread out our charcuterie and relax. The food was pretty fantastic.
After eating a few bites, Mazzy and Harlow chased each other in the grass, picked dandelions and made me a wild flower bouquet.
Did I mention the weather was absolutely PERFECT while we were there? I could not have hoped for a more beautiful day.
After lunch, we headed to the Palace Garden which was probably the girls’ favorite.
They ran through tightly groomed hedges, tunnels of trees and brightly colored tulips.
Next, we stopped in an old fashioned candy shop, where I let the girls indulge in candy sticks and taffy.
Then we headed to the exit where I said they could each get a souvenir. I thought the girls would want to get dresses or hats, but instead they gravitated to the rifles and bow and arrows. In the end though, they each got a doll.
After we left Colonial Williamsburg (which you can really spend the entire day in), we changed quickly and headed to Go Ape for a zip line and treetop adventure course. Harlow was too small for even the junior course, so Mike took her to a nearby playground while I got suited up with Mazzy.
Mazzy has exhibited her fearlessness quite a few times but it never ceases to surprise me. She is really up for anything and loved being in control of her own rope, clamp and course. I tried my best to keep up with her at every turn, bridge and tree. Which was all about fifty feet from the ground, mind you.
The course was challenging but conquerable. Safe enough for seven-year-olds while still adventurous enough for their adult counterparts.
Harlow, I think, was happy to remain on the ground.
After zip lining was over, we drove over to the Kingsmill Resort, where we would be staying for the remainder of the trip. Kingsmill is a beautiful resort with a golf course, an indoor and outdoor pool and a restaurant overlooking the water. We booked a condo which had a full kitchen.
For dinner, we headed to Berret’s Seafood which was surprisingly delicious. I say “surprisingly” because as a New Yorker, I always think we have the best food, but as I travel more, I’m learning that fine dining exists in lots of other places as well! Virginia oysters are particularly delicious.
After dinner, we wandered into town, which was quaint and car-free, to buy ourselves some candy and ice cream.
Then we called it a night.
Day 2: Historic Jamestowne and Busch Gardens
We began our day at Carrot Tree Cafe, indulging in stacks of chocolate chip pancakes and larger than life omelettes. Then we headed out to Historic Jamestowne, where we learned about the archeological finds, took pictures with Pocahontas and tried our hand at a few lawn games from colonial times— like throw-the-corn-cob-in-the-hoop and lawn darts.
The day we were there, it also happened to be the National Park Centennial, so we got the added bonus of a colonial style band and a room full of kids crafts, like making dolls out of corn husks and building your own cup toss. I told Mazzy and Harlow that this is what kids did before iPads.
After Jamestowne, we headed to Craft 31 where we sat in a covered outdoor space and had an absolutely delicious lunch of burgers and oysters. Yes, more oysters.
They were SO GOOD!!! Craft 31 is a very photogenic place and I took about 1000 pictures.
Then we hopped in the car and headed to the thing the kids were most excited for— Busch Gardens! Again, a full day at Busch Gardens is probably preferable but while I can stay at an amusement park for five full days straight, the rest of my family can’t last nearly as long.
When we walked in, we rented a stroller and picked up some Quick Queue tickets which let you use a shorter line on select rides.
Busch Gardens is spread out into different sections named after countries and a lot of the rides are meant for way bigger kids, so we quickly scoured the map for the symbol that represented the KIDsiderate attractions. Luckily, the Sesame Street Forest of Fun was pretty close to the entrance.
There’s a pretty awesome splash park when you first enter, but we hightailed it to Grover’s Alpine Express because Mazzy had been talking non-stop about roller coasters. Grover’s Alpine Express is obviously not as advanced as other roller coaster rides in the park but it’s still a more serious ride than your typical kiddie coaster. Harlow passed the height restriction but at the last second, chickened out. It looked a little too fast for her. Mazzy and I loved it.
Because there is such a big variation in the rides at Busch Gardens, Mike and I decided to split up for the rest of the afternoon. He took Harlow in the stroller and looked for more kiddie rides, while I explored some of the more adventurous sections of the park with Mazzy on foot.
Our first stop was Trade Wind, which Mazzy loved and wanted to board again as soon as we got off.
The other ride she loved was Roman Rapids, a circular boat ride similar to one I remember loving as a kid. Thankfully, we finished the ride without getting too wet. Others fared way worse.
After a few more rides and one huge cup of lemon ices, we backtracked to Escape from Pompeii, which we did not escape in the best shape. It’s a flume ride and Mazzy loves flumes, but she was not prepared for the fire inside the building before you get to the big hill. “It’s all pretend, Mazzy!” I told her when she clung to my arm, clearly terrified. “No, it’s not! It’s real fire, Mom!” She was right, it was real fire. You could feel the heat of it even though I tried to explain that it was just pyrotechnics and would not hurt us. Still, by the time we went over the edge on the big hill, Mazzy was pretty shook up and the hill just made it worse.
We got DRENCHED.
In fact, at the end, after the hill was over and the water had seemingly taken it’s full effect, Mazzy looked at me totally horrified and I looked back at her and said, “It’s okay, sweetie! It’s all over now!” At that exact moment, as if right on cue, a second huge splash of water landed directly on her head.
I tried my best not to laugh. (Snicker.)
After that, Mazzy was done with the big kid rides and wanted to find her Dad and Harlow to see what they were doing. We found them at Elephant Run which was much more Mazzy’s speed at that moment.
The girls ended up having a blast and I stifled my urge to make everyone trek across the park to ride the new wooden coaster INVADR. Maybe next time, when the girls are a bit older.
Look how excited Harlow was to win some tickets at the carnival games.
Wherever we go, the kids always want to find time to swim in the hotel pool and this vacation was no exception. We left the park to ensure there was a little swim time before dinner. They splashed around to their hearts’ content.
We ate dinner at the hotel and the kids barely made it back to our room before conking out.
Day 3: American Revolution Museum and Riverwalk Landing
We began the day with a huge Sunday morning buffet breakfast at the Kingsmill Resort. Mike was especially pleased with the abundance of sausage, grits and bacon. “The South knows how to do breakfast meats!” Mike exclaimed as he sunk his teeth into an impossibly thick piece of bacon.
Then we took a scenic drive to Yorktown, via the Colonial Parkway (which is part of the Colonial National Historical Park), stopping along the way for a photo op by the York River before heading to the new American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
Mike loved walking the girls through various history lessons about the founding of our country and I was shocked to see how much knowledge he had retained since grade school. I also liked that the museum told the story of the revolution through many different perspectives— the settlers, the Africans they enslaved and the Native Americans.
Although some of the museum movies which reenacted battle scenes were a little too much for the kids to handle, overall we had a great time.
After the museum, we headed to the Riverwalk Landing for lunch outdoors by the waters.
We walked over to the beach and let the girls play in the sand. Harlow had no problem pulling up her dress to wade in the water.
She ran around in an oversized colonial hat most of the day which made for the best pictures ever.
Then we crossed the street for some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. As you know, my kids must sample the ice cream everywhere we go, even if Ben & Jerry’s is in NYC too.
Afterwards, Mazzy and Harlow really wanted to spread a blanket in the sand and go swimming, but sadly enough, it was time to head back to the airport.
If you are considering a trip to Greater Williamsburg, I am happy to conclude that there is tons of fun stuff to do there; more than we were able to accomplish on our trip! We make all of our trips short so the kids can go without missing school, but truly, each place we go, I think we should have stayed longer. If you have more time, I’d recommend making Colonial Williamsburg its own day and Busch Gardens its own day too. And throw in the water park! (I didn’t even tell Mazzy it was there. Shhhhh.)
Find out more information at VisitWilliamsburg.com.
The Cheese Shoppe – my favorite sandwich is smoked turkey and swiss with house dressing on French bread. Try it next time!
Oh, and PS – the water park (Water Country USA) doesn’t open until Memorial Day.
I came over from London to do my postgrad at William & Mary and this post made me soooo happy as I’m planning to bring our three kiddos over to VA as part of a whistlestop 3 states tour next summer. So cool to see how the ‘burg works with children as opposed to being a student. Happy times…. Added together with all your top NYC tips I feel like you are practically planning our 3 weeks for us – don’t suppose you’ve got a trip to Austin coming up?!?
I grew up on the other side of the river from Yorktown and went to college in Williamsburg. Awesome job hitting all the best spots! The Cheese Shop is the absolute best.
This is such a vain question but where did you get your platform sport sandals? They seem like the perfect combo of style and comfort! Dying to snag a pair for my family vacation to Orlando!
I think they might be the brand Born 🙂 she did a post about them a while back! I have some boots from the brand and they’re SO comfortable and great quality!
This is so helpful! Thank you. Normally I don’t comment on sites, but I wanted to tell you that I also have a Mazzy who is 13! We are planning a trip to Colonial Williamsburg soon. My Mazzy is a fearless, adventurous soul as well who describes us as “history nerds”. Blessings to your beautiful family!