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Have you ever met Young Mr. Washington? My time in Williamsburg, VA.

My niece and nephew met Young Mr. George Washington and Mr. George Wythe at Colonial Williamsburg.

Last week, I had the pleasure of vacationing in Williamsburg, VA with my sister, niece, and nephew. Williamsburg is located on the Virginia Peninsula, only about an hour from Norfolk and Virginia Beach. My sister's family loves Williamsburg and I was happy to join in as I've always enjoyed learning more about early American life. 

There is so much to do in the city of Williamsburg and surrounding areas that you will have trouble packing it all in! 

Yankee Candle Village is a must! Not only offering gifts, toys, and candles, the Village also has DIY candle making opportunities! We made our very own jar candle through Yankee Candle Wax Works. Press a button and wax beads pour into your jar to create a weirdly wonderful concoction! 

Zoo lovers will be in awe at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk. About an hour away, this Zoo is a great outdoors activity. We loved wandering through the gardens and exhibits. I think our favorite and longest time spent an exhibit was a toss-up between the giraffes and the tortoises! The best part is that it's located right next to a park, so make sure to pack your lunch! You can leave and come back in the same day, but outside food is not permitted in the Zoo. Buy your tickets online in advance as they aren't sold at the door yet! 

Virginia Zoo Giraffe

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg is a must-do for all ages! Originally part of the Powhatan Confederacy, this area was known as Middle Plantation. After two burnings of the Jamestown settlement, Middle Plantation became the Virginia Capitol. Renamed in honor of King William III of England, this location soon housed the Capitol Building, the Bruton Parish (Episcopal) Church, and a Duke of Gloucester street that connected the two. 

We were able to go inside the Capitol Building and hear about the early judicial system. After taking a stroll down Gloucester Street, we saw working blacksmiths, cooks, the wheelwright, and the leathery along with viewing gardens and farm life. Unfortunately, we could not visit any homes as they are still restricted due to the pandemic. 

 Along the way, we were able to meet Young Mr. George Washington and Mr. George Wythe! 

As a member of the House of Burgesses, Mr. Washington frequented Williamsburg for business and leisure. After being named General, he used Mr. George Wythe's home to plan the 1781 Yorktown Battle. Mr. Washington's presence in Williamsburg was well before he was president though, so it was interesting to hear him speak as a younger general. 

Mr. George Wythe, a prominent lawyer, was also a member of the House of Burgesses and a friend of George Washington. As a very educated man, Mr. Wythe spent a lot of time investing in this new colony and is credited towards being the first to sign the Virginia Declaration of Independence. 

Both Mr. Washington and Mr. Wythe did a great job of explaining who they were while remaining socially distanced. They, along with various Colonial workers, told us that Williamsburg is taking this disease carefully and properly to keep people safe. After all, no one in Colonial Williamsburg is a stranger to disease and ailments as they adjusted to life in the colonies! 

Venturing further up Gloucester Street, we happened to come across the Governor's Palace and it's beautiful gardens. The palace is only allowing visitors in on the first floor- but we learned how they danced and entertained, how their animals worked in the yard after meeting Pat and Mike, two working oxen, and even got lost in the garden maze! 

Walking back out to Gloucester Street, we happened upon the hourly musket firing and got to learn about the armies and their goods at the Magazine yard! 

Don't forget to visit Merchants Square for your favorite chocolates, peanuts, and other shopping! 

There was a lot that we didn't do and I would gladly go back to learn even more! After my sister's family returned home, I still had a couple of days to explore the area by myself. 

Deciding I wanted to know more about certain aspects of Colonial life, particularly interactions with our various ethnic groups, I took a Williamsburg Walking Tour that focused on African and Native American livelihoods. I ended up being the sole person on my tour and had lovely one-on-one conversation with my guide! I found the stories, the legacy, and the will-power of our past American ancestors amazing. It reminds me that we can and will get through whatever is thrown at us in modern life! 

I also decided to visit two plantations outside of Williamsburg to learn even more about Colonial and Civil War life. 

Located about 45 minutes away, off a dirt road, you will find yourself immersed in history at the Shirley Plantation. Shirley is the oldest plantation, developed in 1613, and is the oldest family-owned plantation in America! Owned by the Carter Family, this plantation exists to show and educate people about Colonial Life. Visitors are able to tour the first floor of the home, as the basement, second, and third floors are still occupied by the Carter Family. A walking tour of buildings across the property educates the visitor on the development of the plantation, it's acreage/ farming life, and those who lived on it. 

The second plantation I visited is  the Berkeley Plantation. Think back to your elementary history class. Do you remember hearing about the First Thanksgiving being in Virginia? I sure didn't- I was told it was the Pilgrims in Massachusetts. 

Well, Berkeley's first claim to fame is that they are the site of the very first thanksgiving! This thanksgiving is different from the Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing food. In 1619, After 2 1/2 months on the ship, several men stepped on dry land. Ordered by the ship's company before departure, Captain John Woodlief led a service of thanksgiving for their safe arrival! 

Berkeley Plantation's second claim to fame is that the land was the location occupied by General George McClellan's Union Troops in the Civil War and became the location that the familiar tune, "Taps" was composed and played. 
Berkeley Plantation is also the home to notables such as Benjamin Harrison V, the signer of the Declaration of Independence and three-time Virginia Governor and Ninth President William Henry Harrison and ancestral home to 23rd  President Benjamin Harrison. I know you are thinking- who in the world are these presidents?  Well, our 9th President, William Henry Harrison only was in office 32 days before he died of pneumonia in 1841.  Our 23rd President, Benjamin Harrison, had a lot going on under his tenure of 1889- 1891, so google him in your free time!

There are plenty of other notable historical sites to visit surrounding Williamsburg if you haven't received your fill of Colonial or Civil War life. Yet, there are plenty of other things to do as well! Adults might like to visit the Silverhead Meadery for honey and mead tasting. Have you heard of Mead? Around for thousands of years, this fermented alcohol drink sweetened with honey was the drink of choice during medieval times because it was available and cheap. 

Lunch at Williamsburg Winery 

Perhaps wineries are more your speed? Although, like NC, Virginia's bars are currently closed, which means no tastings, those wineries with restaurants are allowed to serve meals. The Williamsburg Winery at Wessex One Hundred is offering very limited private tastings on the weekends but due to timing, my visit took place in the middle of the week. Nestled in a quiet outside courtyard with great social distancing, I was able to "taste" a couple of wines to pair with my lunch charcuterie board, comprised of various condiments, meats, and Virginia cheeses. With the glass of Virginia Claret and a Rose Creme Brulee, I certainly didn't need dinner that evening! This was a restful afternoon, tucked away from the chaos of tourism, that I really enjoyed. As it was the middle of a weekday afternoon, I could have also eaten inside due availability, but recommendations are to make reservations for indoor seating until governor's rules change. 

Vacationing is difficult for families right now, but I think Williamsburg and the surrounding areas have done a great job to keep the educating the public about our history in these strange times. If you find that you can't venture there in person but want to learn more about Colonial Life, follow Colonial Williamsburg's Facebook page for demonstrations and lectures about various components of Colonial life. You can also spend some time googling the various plantations near Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown too.

What type of family vacations do you take? 

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