When day-to-day chaos becomes overwhelming, it’s not uncommon to dream of a simpler time. A time before computers and cell phones. Parentology’s advice: escape to the 18th century. No time machine required, simply set a course for Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg.
First, make sure to download the free Colonial Williamsburg Explorer app. Yes, it’s tech, but will allow you to plan itineraries, book tavern reservations and purchase tickets for same-day programs.
Head to the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center to procure a schedule of events. On the list — sites for catching interpretive programs by historical figures like Thomas Jefferson, Aggy of Turkey Island and Patrick Henry. While here, kids can rent period costumes from lawn dresses with mobcaps to white shirts, haversacks and tri-corner hats.
Though shuttle buses circle the 301-acre Historic Area, most families may prefer to explore by foot.
Venture forth from the Visitor Center across a bridge and suddenly the 18th century erupts. A path leads to the Historic Area’s 500 buildings, gardens and pastures of rare-breed sheep, horses and oxen.
In “town,” the Governor’s Palace stands majestically at the top of Palace Green. The original 1722-built mansion served as residence to seven of Virginia’s royal governors and two state governors: Henry and Jefferson.
Further down the green is the Wythe House, where a breed of chickens with fancy feathery feet strut. In the home’s parlor, Jefferson and Henry read law under George Wythe, the nation’s first law professor and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Horses and carriages on Duke of Gloucester Street denote one’s arrival at the Greenhow Store and Lumber House ticket office. This is the place where families can book carriage rides.
A block east on Market Square, kids fall in line and join short military drills at the Magazine Yard. Those with a love of marching should stick around until 5 p.m. to catch the Fifes and Drums on parade.
At lunchtime, families can dine alongside “colonists” in the Historic Area’s dining taverns. A favorite with kids is Chowning’s Tavern with its picnic-table filled backyard shaded by grapevine-laden arbors.
Head next to the Blacksmith to watch bellows fan embers and horseshoes being hammered into shape. Also on Duke of Gloucester Street is the Apothecary Shop with its mesmerizing stock of herbs and potions.
At the eastern end of Duke of Gloucester Street is the Capitol, Gunsmith and Public Gaol (jail). The Capitol was reconstructed to look like its 1705 predecessor that was destroyed in a 1747 fire. Virginia legislators declared their independence from England here, prior to the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
Still to visit are Colonial Williamsburg’s two museums – the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum.
At Bassett Hall, Colonial Williamsburg preserves the local home of founding benefactor John D. Rockefeller Jr. and wife Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, who resided there during the city’s restoration in the 1930s and 40s. Myriad programs and hands-on activities are geared towards children, giving a whole new perspective on art. Things from a simpler, unplugged time in history.