Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A Note on Colonial Williamsburg

So, the vacation came to an end and we did great. The kids endured and even enjoyed the experience and the adults made it through. On Monday we (meaning the Wife, the King, and the three kids as well as my sister and her four kids aged 3-9) journeyed to Williamsburg, Virginia to visit Colonial Williamsburg. As a public service, I offer here my critique and assessment of all things Colonial and Williamsburgian.

For those of you not familiar with the concept, back in the 1930's, John D. Rockefeller bought a bunch of land in Williamsburg, Virginia with the idea of reconstructing and preserving the Colonial capital that once stood there. Several of the original buildings remained there and the concept of preservation is still very much adhered to at the site. The site also tries to give visitors a flavor of what it might have been like to live in that era with actual craftsmen and workers plying their trade on the streets of this capital. To wit, there is a very fragile balance between education, entertainment, and preservation at this quasi-historical/theme-parkish enterprise. Reenactments abound but all within the actual framework of the era and the location.

The Pros:

The preservation and the reconstruction was simply amazing. The Governor's Palace beams with stature and elegance and the Wythe House, though simple, provides a manorly example of Colonial life. My kids loved the chickens, the sheep, and the oxen that seem to be spread throughout the experience. I loved the two archaeological sites which were both informative and well presented to the public. I even had a PhD student from William and Mary sit and spend ten minutes with me describing his site. The Wife and the Sister both enjoyed the quaint buildings and especially enjoyed the Bruton Parish churchhouse that is still a functioning parish with routine services.

The reenactments were first-rate and for history buffs and all others people without seven children in tow, they were well worth staying and seeing. The cast members were all well informed and, in some cases, downright scary. Of all the things that we did, the brickmaker was the highlight of the trip. There is just something about letting little kids slop around in mud that makes them smile from ear to ear. Our kids were no exeptions. Even the King dirtied his feet in pursuit of a good time.

The Cons:

Bring your own food. I like roasted quail at $25 a plate as well as the next guy, but with seven children in tow, I wasn't about to fork out that much after I just forked out $42 for my entrance fee. We wound up paying $6.00 each for PB & J sandwiches, kettle chips, cookies, and apples which sounds like a great deal (and is) except when it takes them 25 minutes to get the sandwiches to you. I am pretty sure that in colonial times, the patrons of restaurants that didn't give them good service threw a fit. I did not, but I sure wanted to. Oh, and I paid a slick $7.95 for a pedestrian roast beef sandwich. Word to the wise: Take your own food and drink.

The cost is steep. My sister said she would pay each and every time cause she loved the history and the tours were so informative, but for the average family where King's Dominion and Busch Gardens are just a stone's throw away, the cost is steep and the payoff is limited. Some kids will get bored cause outside of frolicking in the mud, there isn't much exciting there for the Gameboy and PS2 crowd.

All of this said, I loved it. This is real and living history. The College of William and Mary (founded in 1693) sits right there and kids are attending classes as you are touring and sightseeing. I loved the whole thing and even suggest you travel down the Colonial Parkway to Yorktown and see the sites there as well. Beautiful and informative at the same time.


Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Sounds like a lot of fun. What else did you do?

3:31 AM  
Blogger Marie said...

We spent a couple days there on the way home from our honeymoon 4 years ago. It was ridiculously hot & humid when we were there, but we enjoyed it. The night-time ghost walk was very cool!

8:36 AM  
Blogger Anita said...

Thanks for the review! I especially like your appreciation for the fact that the kids of today have limited attention spans. Sounds like a good trip for me. Not so great for my kids. Especially the waiting for lunch part.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Indigo said...

With prices like that, are you sure you didn't go to Disney World?

7:16 AM  

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