Virginia is Still for Lovers… of Food, Wine, and Relaxation
By guest blogger Andrea Deagle
Are you fond of television shows where people go to an old building and have a paranormal experience? Consider yourself a history buff? Do you like cooking demos that let you taste the food? Does 45 minutes sipping wine while watching a sunset sound appealing? Virginia – the Old Dominion – is still a terrific place to sightsee and now offers ways to investigate the unknown and indulge in the here and now.
More than a family vacation spot, Williamsburg has become a town rich in visual arts, fine food, and ecotourism. Located in the Mid-Atlantic, this charming town has the good fortune of entertaining visitors year-round. It's a place where you can feel at home, get a taste of the South, brush up on American history, and feel safe.
Whether touring with a bus group (a great way to get discount attraction tickets) or with family, there is so much in the surrounding 50 miles. To get started, here is the baker's dozen of essential ingredients for your Williamsburg "to do" list (day trips included).
- Jamestown Island (National Park Service) – This is the real beginning of America – 1607. Stories of Captain John Smith, Pocahontas, and the amazing New World colony lay here on the banks of the beautiful James River.
- Jamestown Settlement – Three reconstructed ships are open to public; rebuilt James Fort (houses, church, blacksmith) and the Indian village are also open; plus a state-of-the-art museum with London to America and Africa to America journeys.
- Colonial Williamsburg – An architectural wonder, this is a fully restored 18th century city with a great combination of living history, relaxing walk-about opportunities and decorator’s dreams. Take the Tavern Ghost Tour hosted by tavern employees.
- Art Galleries – Merchant's Square, near the College of William & Mary, is home to 15 galleries and shops and a short walk from the historic area of Williamsburg.
- Williamsburg Cuisine – Seven bistros, three colonial taverns, a theater kitchen, two nationally-acclaimed dining rooms, and great barbeque are a sampling of how this town offers something for everyone.
- Ecotourism – Grab your binoculars to spot some of the many bald eagles that nest here. Bicycling, kayaking, and hiking on trails are all available as low environmental impact activities. Also, check out the nearby Great Dismal Swamp for wildlife and recreation.
- Busch Gardens – Voted "most beautiful theme park" for 16 consecutive years by the National Amusement Park Historical Association, this park offers a different twist with a European theme and top-rated roller coasters, the famous Clydesdale horses, and renowned live shows.
- President's Park – Think you can name all U.S. presidents? You might after a visit here. Walk the trail through busts of all presidents, a collection of first ladies' gowns, and the oval office set from Saturday Night Live.
- Williamsburg Winery – There are superb wines being produced here, plus a restaurant, tastings, gift shop, and museum.
- Yorktown – Take a short drive to Yorktown, historic site for the last battle (and surrender) of the Revolutionary War. York River waterfront area has shops, restaurants, and river tours.
- Virginia Tidewater Plantations – See ruins, farms, majestic mansions – all captivating and part of the American fabric.
- Richmond – Home to revolutions of many kinds from Patrick Henry's "Liberty or Death" speech, the capital of the Southern Confederacy, and the African-American strive for civil rights. Also, take time to visit Virginia's capitol building.
- Relax – Golf (plenty of courses), shopping (from eclectic to mainstream), spas, water (Water Country, Virginia Beach, your hotel's pool), gardens, and playgrounds.
Like many destinations, there are different reasons to go at different times of the year. Virginia summers can be hot and humid, but this is a great time to plan some "get wet" activities. Winter is mild and peaceful, with the occasional snowfall to make it magical. Spring is azaleas, tulips, daffodils, and school kids. Fall may be one of the perfect times to visit. Foliage peaks at the end of October and the weather averages the high 60’s.
For additional information, the Virginia Tourism Corporation has extensive Web-based guides, and Williamsburg has two sites, gowilliamsburg.com and visitwilliamsburg.com. Group tour information can be found on all Web sites.
Andrea Deagle is a native Virginian and resident of Williamsburg. She is currently Director of Group Sales for the Hampton Inn & Suites Historic and has been involved in the travel industry for over 20 years.