Family Weekend Getaway in Historic Triangle

  • Distance from Washington, D.C.: 153 miles
  • Best time: April to October
  • Best for: FamilyFood and Wine

Even if history isn't their favorite class in school, kids are all but guaranteed to get interested in the evolution of America during a visit to the Virginia cradle of colonial development. The thriving community of throwback attractions that has sprung up around Colonial Williamsburg, a huge, interactive complex, continues to add new touches every year. Join the faithful flock of families that visit during high summer season and school vacation weeks—just make sure to bring comfortable shoes and caffeine for a lot of questions from the stimulated young minds you'll also have in tow. –By Elana Schor

Friday

Historic Triangle Cheat Sheet

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1.Get everyone excited for the next day and redeem your online tickets (you did buy them in advance to save, right?) with a stop at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center. Watch the movie, Williamsburg—The Story of a Patriot, for an introduction to how early Americans lived and shaped the changing country.

2.Fuel up for the sightseeing to come with an early dinner at the popular Italian kitchen Sal's by Victor. The pizzas are simple and crowd-pleasing but the menu also delves into refined flavors such as smoked salmon ravioli in vodka sauce.

3.Leave room for dessert at Extraordinary Cupcakes, a fast favorite among locals when it opened last year thanks to the top-notch ingredients in iced treats as big as your head. Don't miss the Madagascar vanilla flavor.

Saturday

1.No one will leave hungry after breakfast at the Old Chickahominy House, where local Virginia ham accompanies the omelets and proprietor Miss Melinda's famous pancakes are the perfect fuel for a day of exploring.

2.Colonial Williamsburg is more than just a 173-acre historic district lovingly brought back to life over the course of nearly a century by the wealthy Rockefeller family. It's also a fun destination! Time your visit to catch the Fifes and Drums March that regularly makes its way from the Capitol to the Palace Green.

3.In the Market Square area, don't miss the Courthouse, where costumed players reenact the course of old-time justice, complete with powdered wigs and pre-Revolutionary legal slang. Embrace your inner actors with the chance to play defendants, lawyers, and other players in these daily dramas.

4.There's no better reminder that higher education is cool than a lunch trip to the College Delly. A cold draft beer is the perfect adult accompaniment to the simple but delicious menu of sandwiches, pizzas, and nachos.

5.Back in the colonial complex, don't miss the Governor's Inn that Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson called home after its 1722 completion. Nearly three centuries later, you can be transported back to its previous incarnations as a staging ground for grand balls and a temporary war hospital, thanks to the team of talented guides.

6.Reward your troops with a round at Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf, a putt-putt course where waterfalls and bridges set the buccaneering mood. (Or splurge on an afternoon trip to Busch Gardens, where older kids and teens will love the roller coasters, while parents kick back with a little shopping and dining at one of six European-themed areas, from Germany to Scotland.)

7.Sing along to a rousing 18th-century pub tune over Welsh Rarebit—think colonial open-faced grilled cheese—and ribs at Chowning's Tavern. Cell phones are banned to complete the back-in-time experience, and the "half-pint" menu has plenty of great options for kids to go with your glass of old-fashioned ale.

Sunday

1.Treat yourself to a refined brunch that young palates can still appreciate at The Trellis. Its ever-changing Modern American menu blends fresh, local ingredients in healthy but satisfying dishes. (The Death by Chocolate dessert is a perfectly unhealthy choice to cap the experience.)

2.Head 15 minutes southwest to the nearby Jamestown Settlement, home to the first British colonists in the New World. Tour the painstakingly recreated village, where the depth of knowledge and development already achieved by the Powhatan Indians before the Europeans arrived is sure to impress you.

3.Before the long car ride home, head to the Settlement Café inside the Living History Museum. Prices are decent, and vegetarian options are available to supplement the hearty meat stews and barbeque sandwiches.

Where to Stay

Located a skip and a jump from Colonial Williamsburg, with free breakfast and parking, the Woodlands Hotel and Suites (rates from $80/person/night) is perfect for families who don't need many amenities save for extra room and helpful staff. Larger groups will love the interconnected suites.

For the parent who wants to play as much as any kid, the Kingsmill Resort (rates from $220/night) offers championship-caliber golf and a world-class spa in addition to sumptuous beds fit for visiting dignitaries.

When to Go

From the open-air promenades of Colonial Williamsburg to the speedy roller-coasters of Busch Gardens, the Historic Triangle region is made for higher temperatures. From November through March, some of the more popular restaurants and attractions may close or limit their hours.

In June, the Yorktown Maritime Weekend provides boat-loving kids with an extra encouragement to learn about the sailing style of the earliest Americans. September is Arts Month at the Jamestown Settlement, where extra events provide a window into the decorative crafts and creations of the Powhatans. Check the Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce website for a frequently updated listing of events.

How to Get There

By car from Washington DC: Williamsburg and Jamestown are about 3 hours from Washington DC. Take I-395 South out of the city until you reach I-95 South, then exit at I-295 South. Exit onto I-64 East, then merge onto State Road 143 and follow signs to Williamsburg.

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