Adjacent to the actual site where the settlers lived, Jamestown Settlement is a living history museum. The facility depicts the early 17th century by recreating a Powhatan Indian hamlet, the ships that carried the pioneers, as well as the fort they built. Watching a brave dressed in buckskin weave storage bags from plant fibers, we wonder if Pocahontas, a Powhatan maiden, ever wove a similar sack. Onboard the vessel Susan Constant we try on "slops," the baggy pants worn by sailors; examine the "hanging cabins," benches that unfold to become beds; and try deducing latitude with an astrolabe, an early navigational tool. Despite the lively interpreters at Jamestown Settlement, we find the quiet of the National Historical Park more compelling. The park encompasses the actual site of the settlement, although only modern bricks mark the footprints of the first buildings.
Sitting along the windblown riverbank, listening to the lapping of the gray waters, Alissa and I find it easy to imagine the hopeful people who landed here and the hearty few who survived. The visitor's center displays pottery shards, bits of buckles and other period artifacts, and the rangers lead interpretive programs.
Revolutionary War Battle, Amusement Park
At the other end of the Colonial Parkway, 23 miles away, the Yorktown Victory Center commemorates the 1781 defeat of the British along the banks of the York River. This was the last significant battle of the Revolutionary War. Amid the static displays of maps and timelines, "Witness to the Revolution" captures our interest with its real war stories. We hear Jeremiah Greenman, a Rhode Island American soldier, complain about the deep snow and the constant hunger and Tigoransera, a Mohawk chief, counsel his people to stay out of this white man's war. Despite his neutrality, he is captured by the British and dies in prison.
But "kids' corner" isn't all history and hard facts. When we've had enough of Redcoats and revolution, we head to Busch Gardens Williamsburg to get tossed, twirled, spun and dunked. This theme park with its German, Italian and French burgs, features whirling rides, musical shows, crafts, kids' areas and five coasters. In Land of the Dragons, preschoolers climb tree houses, cross rope bridges and get happily squirted by purple sea serpents.
One of the mega-monsters to tame at Busch Gardens is the Alpengeist, billed as the world's tallest, fastest, most twisted, inverted steel coaster. It hurtles riders at top speeds of 67 mph, flipping them six times and dropping them a dizzying 170 feet. The riders' delighted screams echo in waves throughout the park. By comparison, the Big Bad Wolf seems tame, whizzing us through an ersatz alpine village at a top clip of 48 mph before descending a stomach-wrenching (for us) 76 feet. Drachen Fire twists us through corkscrew shaped turns, and on Loch Ness Monster's two serpentine loops Alissa discovers the delights of being tossed upside down. To calm down after the coasters, we take in the shows.
Something else not to miss, especially when the Old Dominion's afternoons get particularly steamy, is Water Country USA, a 40-acre water park. Our favorites include floating in an inner tube on a river ride, and sliding down water flumes into a splash pool.
Getting and Staying There
Packages and Lodging