Summer trip to Virginia
Busch Gardens Williamsburg:
Need some recommendations regarding a summer road trip to Virginia
So, this isn’t directly a theme park related question, but was looking for any tips anyone might have regarding a trip to Virginia. I’m a big history buff and my wife is a big fan of old architecture and we feel like we can find both there.
So the plan is to take a road trip from our home in Jacksonville, FL up to Virginia at the end of June (my wife is a teacher, so there is no avoiding it, my vacations every year are in the 90 degree weather) Originally, we were going to base in the Charlottesville area and visit the historic sites around there and relax, but my main question is regarding Williamsburg. I’m going back and forth on this one. I really would like to visit Busch Gardens Williamsburg because my understanding is that it is a beautiful park. But of course, when you start looking into Williamsburg everyone says you just HAVE to visit Colonial Williamsburg and all that stuff. My issue is, I feel like Williamsburg is going to be a very “touristy” place to visit overall and not as conducive to rest and relaxation. So right now I’m leaning towards maybe just doing 1-2 nights there and visiting Busch Gardens and maybe Jamestown, because that seems like it’s more hard, historic stuff from archaeological digs and not just a giant touristy theme park, which is what it seems Colonial Williamsburg is, and from there head to Charlottesville for a few more relaxing days to visit Monticello and the other presidential homes in the area. Does anyone have any suggestions? Again, the amount of days in Williamsburg is where I’m kind of wavering…I’m just not sure if Colonial Williamsburg will be as much fun as it sounds in the hot summer temperatures at the height of tourist season and being a big theme park fan, Busch Gardens kind of calls to me… Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated, especially in regards to any historic homes or battlefield sites in the area that others have visited and enjoyed.
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From Tony Duda
Posted March 21, 2013 at 11:23 AM
I lived in Richmond for 6 years in the 1990s.
Your idea of Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg should be reversed. Jamestown is worth a couple of hours and CW a couple of days but 1 day gets you most of it. The whole CW is a museum with actual and faithfully reconstructed buildings with all the CW people in colonial garb and talking like colonials. It is not the stupid pseudo-talk of ren faires. Yorktown battlefield is also worth a visit if you are truly into history.
Richmond is worth a visit for the museums and monuments (Monument Blvd). Visit downtown and the area immediately west (The Fan) for the best stuff. Don't go to south Richmond or suburban outskirts.
Virginia has a vast amount of history and places to visit, anywhere you go has something. I really like Harper's Ferry for the beauty and history (during the Civil War, it was in Virginia).
If you're a history buff, and I taught history for a brief time many years ago, Williamsburg is an excellent time. Be sure to catch the historic walk & re-enactments that begin, if I remember correctly, around 10:00AM to 1PM. That is the best part of Williamsburg, not to be missed. They do a different revolutionary segment each day. Jamestown is really two sites, both excellent from a historical perspective. The archeological digs are interesting for hard core history buffs. But I actually enjoyed the re-enactment site better. The recreation of the Powhatan Village and the three ships & makeshift fort/settlement are excellent. And there's a new huge museum on site that even has superb recreations of London streets & buildings, etc.... There's a plantation nearby, Carter's Grove, if you want to do a slower paced day.....And of couse, there's Busch Garden's Williamsburg, which is definately the world's most beautiful park, more beautiful than any of the Orlando parks. The park is set on rolling hills with large forested areas and wooded walking paths between the lands. The attractions are a notch below the Orlando theme parks but still enjoyable. Plus it has a collection of excellent coasters and an almost Spidey level ride, Dark Kastle..... If you stay at one of the hotels across the street from historic Williamsburg, your vacation will be more leisurely & relaxing.
Also, the buildings in old Williamsburg, are for the most part, the "original" buildings that were restored when the Ford foundation rescued the town from its dilapidated state. It's great from the perspective of one interested in architecture. Some of the buildings are inhabited by the employees and not open to the public. We visited one of my friends a few years back that lived there with his wife who was exec. sec. to the Director. When we arrived he opened the door to his house, which was a couple of doors down from the Raleigh Tavern. His cat ran out and while his door was open calling for the cat, about a half dozen tourists walked in thinking the house was on the visitation list. It's really more like a real town than a tourist center. They're just living in a different time era. It's very low key and generally pretty quiet, except when they're doing military or firing drills. Also,old Williamsburg is not a seperate area like a theme park. It blends in with the existing streets, homes & hotels of the area. You can walk into the area without a ticket. The pass is needed to actually go into the historical bulidings that are sprinkled through the settlement. The new town area is actually apx. 5 miles away. There's a lot of hotels there, but its preferable, as I said before, to stay at a hotel adjacent to old Williamsburg. That way you can walk over to the area at your convenience, or take a rest at the pool during the hot Virginia afternoons.
All, just wanted to bump this back up since we're leaving this Sunday for Virginia. With the understanding that I'll really need to return to Virginia for another vacation to see everything, we are really not spending long in each place we visit...sort of ordering a bunch of appetizers from the menu instead of an entire huge meal, ya know? That being said, we leave on June 16th driving from Jacksonville, FL and we will have all day on the 17th and all day on the 18th and maybe a few hours in the morning of the 19th in Williamsburg. So if you had two full days in Williamsburg, what would you do? My thoughts are a day in Busch Gardens, a day in Colonial Williamsburg and then check out Yorktown (the actual battlefield, not the living history museum) for a few hours in the morning before we head to western Virginia for the next part of our trip. A part of me also wonders if I should just save Colonial Williamsburg for a trip when I have more time to see it all. Would you say its worth the 40.00 admission just to get into the buildings, or can you have a good experience just wandering the town? I did not get a hotel directly at Colonial Williamsburg as nothing really fit into my budget, so staying at a Best Western in the historic district. Trying to just not stress about the trip, because you can only see what you can see, and what you don't, you just have to come back for. Any additional advice on my above concerns would be fantastic.
At Williamsburg you really need to be able to enter the buildings to get the experience. If I only had two days & a morning I would do one day and the next morning at Colonial Williamsburg and one day at Busch Gardens. I've been to Yorktown. It's OK but it's really something you can do in a few hours. It's more of a side trip than a destination trip. If you have a full day at Williamsburg, make sure you do the historical re-enactment which begins aroud 10 or 11 AM. As a fellow history buff & long ago history teacher, it doesn't get better. It will be a series of 6 or 7 seperate historical vignettes that move from area to area. Each one will have their own set of historical figures, and they are all quite amazing. That takes up about 2 to 3 hours, then you'll have the rest of the day to enter the buildings and watch their individual re-enactments. You'll need a ticket to do all of the above. They might have a discount flex ticket available that combines Busch Gardens with Williamsburg, but I don't know if that works economically for a two day stay.
I'm not familiar with the Best Western, but if it's located in the historic district, as you indicated, it's probably within walking distance of Colonial Williamsburg. And adjacent to the historical district is a themed shopping district, which has a large number of good restaurants. There's also a couple of authentic restaurants in the colonial area, but they usually require advance reservations for dinner.
Thanks Rob...I think I will definitely try one full day at Colonial Williamsburg and one full day at Busch Gardens. The way I see it, I'm not at work and I'm going to be doing something enjoyable, so trying not to stress the details too much. Jamestowne and Yorktown both sound interesting as well, however that might be a good thing to do if I'm ever passing through again...always nice to have stuff to look forward to next time.
I actually have one additional question regarding Colonial Willimasburg...my assumption is this isn't like Disney where you have to "wait" to go into the "park"...it sounds like you can walk around the city, but the buildings won't be open until a certain time, etc...what time would you recommend getting there? My wife and I will buy our ticket that day, as she is a teacher and will get 50% off one ticket...assuming you would start at the vistors center area and then walk the city from there? Just don't want to be TOO lost when I get there.
I'm not sure of the exact opening time, but I think the Visitor's Center opens around 9:00 AM. I would get there early & get the ticket. On the way during the short walk to the actual Colonial Williamsburg is a new area which is a recreation of a early plantation. It's real interesting. I would stop there and walk around for about 15 or 20 minutes. Then proceed along the path to the town area. Colonial Williamsburg is not seperated from the surrounding areas, so you can go early if you want to check out the logistics. When you're at the ticket center, get a brochure on the re-enactment so you can see what time it starts. It's very impressive, so its a must do. Plus, that way you won't waste your time since it's choreographed so well. The re enactment will be at the far end of the town, in the vicinity of the Capital building and the Raleigh Tavern. It doesn't get crowded early, so it's very enjoyable then. It's like going back into history on a quiet early morning in the town. The other plus is that the mornings are cooler, so you don't have the hot humidity that will be present later in the day. Since the town is not cordoned off, you can also walk around during the evening when everything but the restaurants are closed. It's earily quiet then, but your lady will enjoy the romanticism of the night there. They do have guided "ghost" tours. We tried one once but didn't really care much for it. Could have just been a poor tour guide though. If you're an early riser you can easily walk around before the visitor center opens since there are no barriers anywhere.....Hope the weather co-operates for you. You will really enjoy both the park and the town. Everything is first class, and both are absolutely beautiful. And I agree, just do the two, and don't try to do more.
One more thing. The must see building at CW is the Governor's Palace. And the magnificent gardens behind it are authentic to the time period horticulture wise.
Also visit the College of William and Mary which is located at one end of Colonial Williamsburg; it's a beautiful old university. Thomas Jefferson studied there!
From Tony Duda
Posted June 11, 2013 at 12:02 AM
I was in Williamsburg 2 weeks ago for a day and a half and did Busch Gardens from 4 to 6 pm and then 10 am to 6 pm (closing time). I was able to do everything that appeals to an adult- dark rides, coasters, stage shows and animal shows, with repeats on several attractions as wanted. It was HOT and a lot of walking but there are so many trees it actually looks like a village in a forest so shade is plentiful. If you buy the Fun Pass and not a 1-day ticket, you get admission every day until Sep. 2, both cost the same, $70. This is an option for short visits on arrival or departure day.
Thanks to all for your recommendations. We are doing this road trip style, so won't be long in any one area, but I look forward to hitting the highlights in each area and then planning to re-visit in the future anything I might have missed. Your comments have been very helpful in planning my two full days in Williamsburg, for that I am appreciative and grateful.
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