Mar10

A Trip to Greater Williamsburg, Virginia.

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March 10, 2016 |  by  |  Travel

Based on our previous patterns, you probably know that we go all out for 1st Birthdays… but for 2nd, we have gone back and forth between throwing a neighborhood party and taking a family vacation. Mason’s 2nd birthday was in January and my wife and I wanted to try and find something fun to do on the eastern seaboard that would also incorporate our family from Atlanta. I’ve always been somewhat of a history buff and when I reached out to the Virgina Board of Tourism, it all clicked. They invited us down to visit Colonial Williamsburg & Historic Jamestowne with our family – including five kids under the age of six. It definitely wasn’t peak season for them, but nevertheless, there were still plenty of things to do – we hope to visit again this summer to get the full experience.

For those that aren’t familiar, Colonial Williamsburg is a recreation of how it might’ve looked in the 17th, 18th & 19th century. It’s a 300+ acre living history museum and private foundation that features actual buildings from the 18th century, with costumed employees using colonial grammar and diction.

Our timing on this trip wasn’t perfectly planned, in standard Dad or Alive fashion, as Blizzard Jonas was bearing down on the region. In fact, we made it down there just before the storm started. While most of our neighborhood was confined to their houses, we met the rest of our family at The Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg – a perfect place for the kids to run wild as the snow, ice and sleet piled up outside. We were really lucky to be at such a great location while stuck inside!

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The Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, VA.

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Charlie is in the wolf pack.

If you’re not familiar with the GWL, it’s a lodge-themed hotel featuring a giant indoor water park with huge slides, pools, a massive three-story tree house and much more.

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The main focal point of the water park at GWL in Williamsburg is this giant tree house that includes interactive water-wheels, splash buckets, etc.

There are restaurants inside (The Loose Moose Bar & Grill), a pizza shack and poolside bar & grill, but if you have a hankerin’ to get off property, The Huntsman’s Grill is right across the parking lot, easily within walking distance…

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A nice alternative to get out of the hotel for a bite.

The Lodge has some amazing things for kids including an interactive scavenger hunt game called MagiQuest, an arcade, kids spa and also has some fun things for younger kids including a story-time in the lobby each night, where all the littles attend in their pajamas to listen to characters read books and sing songs.

So knowing we were about to be snowed in, before Jonas hit, we all jumped in the truck and headed for a visit to neighboring Historic Jamestowne.

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The drive in to Historic Jamestowne felt remote, with the James River flanking our right side. I can’t imagine how beautiful this is in the summer.

Historic Jamestowne is a partnership between Preservation Virginia and the U.S. National Park Service. Jamestowne is the first English settlement in America. Upon arrival, we toured the NP museum, which holds many artifacts that have been unearthed over the past several years, and countless others are on display at the Smithsonian.

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A multi-generational adventure.

After this, we met up with Jeff Aronowitz, who is the Assistant Manager of Public and Educational Programs at what’s known as the ‘Ed Shed’ for a private tour.

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The Ed Shed was recently built on a $50,000 grant and offers kids an interactive historical experience. If you look carefully, you can see the very beginnings of the snowstorm that was about to hit…

The walk back to the Shed was absolutely beautiful, on newly constructed walkways that hover over the marshy wetlands.

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Simple, but extremely interesting. The Ed Shed has plans to expand.

Jeff explained to us that Jamestowne Rediscovery is an ongoing archaeological project aimed at recovering artifacts from the original settlement, fort, barracks and church from 1607. The Shed features real objects that have been recovered, as well as a station that allows you to explore the dig site from this past summer with a virtual reality viewfinder. We all took turns standing in place using the viewfinder to look up, down and around at the dig site, which was extremely cool.

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Charlie gets imaged.

Jeff also has a 3d printer on-site and uses it to recreate artifacts that have been uncovered so that kids can hold them, putting less wear and tear (oils from the skin) on the actual objects. He showed us how the scanner and printer work, by taking a 3-d scanned image of Charlie with his iPad. This is as still as the dude has ever stood.

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After years of people touching her hands and arms, you can see where the natural patina has been worn off.

Only a few feet away from the Shed, we encountered a bronze statue of Pocahontas, which is one of the more famous images of historic Jamestowne.

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Charlie stands by the Memorial Church, created in 1907 on the foundation of the original church that stood there in 1619.

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Several plaques line the walls on the inside of the church commemorating important people and events of the time period.

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Mason, Charlie, Ava (with her GWL-gifted wolf ears) and their cousins, Davis and Emma pose inside Memorial Church.

Not far from the church, overlooking the seawall (a modern addition built to prevent erosion) are simple crosses plugged into the ground, indicating exact points where bodies of the settlers were found buried.

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This is an incredibly simple, yet highly moving location in Jamestowne.

To the left of the burial grounds is a statue commemorating John Smith.

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A statue of John Smith, erected in 1909.

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A cannon used to defend the settlement in later years.

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An outdoor place of worship was recreated.

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With our backs to the outdoor area of worship, this view shows the recreated walls of the fort, as well as the Tercentennial Monument in the background, created by the U.S. Government in 1907, on the 300th anniversary of the settlement.

At this point, it’s hard to see, but Jonas was bearing down on us so we headed to the truck.

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Within a few minutes, there were several inches on the ground and we switched to 4WD.

The storm forced the closure of several of the attractions in Colonial Williamsburg, but we were fortunate to sneak Historic Jamestowne in before it started. The next day, we did actually manage to visit Yankee Candle Village, which has little to do with the Colonial aspect of the area, however, with the weather pushing us inside, it was something that was really surprisingly fun for the kids. Honestly, we didn’t expect anything–we assumed we were walking into a store–what we found inside Yankee Candle Village was so much more than that.

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This is one of their flagship stores and is MASSIVE inside. It features home decor, a Christmas section, cooking, toys and of course, candles.

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The Wax Works station allows guests to dip their hands in wax, creating molds of various expressions – sorry, no middle fingers.

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Another fun thing for the kids was to dip their own candles.

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A third station allows you to make your own candle, filling up one of the Yankee Candle jars you’re probably most familiar with little wax beads, while afterwards the staff warms the wax to fuse it all together.

A big thank you to Jacob, who helped all of the kids dip their own – he also came to the rescue after my brother-in-law, Jonathan, a grown man, spilled about 3,000 pieces of candy and jellybeans (they have a self-serving wall of candy) across the entire store. The plus side is that the kids all did really well and didn’t drop a single piece.

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Good job, buddy!

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Jacob helps Ava dip her special kitty cat candle as she makes it into a rainbow–yay for learning about color mixing!

Later that night, we got to celebrate Mason’s 2nd birthday with family back at The Great Wolf Lodge – thanks for having us!

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Nevermind that vein in my wife’s forehead, she’s totally hulking out. It might also be the bottle of wine that she chugged before dinner.

Despite the inclement weather, Williamsburg and Historic Jamestowne had a lot to offer our family. We can’t wait to go back this summer! Thanks to the Virginia Tourism Corporation, Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance, Virginia Preservation and Great Wolf Lodge! For more information on doing your own visit, check out the Visit Williamsburg link!

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We came home to that^…..time to fire up the snow blower….

 

 
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