Virginia Trip Report (Long w/ pics)


Sep 2nd, 2008, 10:15 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 391
Virginia Trip Report (Long w/ pics)

We returned from Virginia after a very successful vacation with two kids – we had a great time and would like to thank everyone who gave us great advice, especially the one about spending the day at Mt. Vernon.

The actors:
Dear Wife – DW
Dear Daughter – DD (3.5 years old)
Dear Son – DS (15 months old)

The day started early – too early.
The one day I wished our son would sleep all night (he usually does) he didn’t.
He woke up at one and didn’t go to sleep until three.

The morning was hectic since we just got everything ready the night before but didn’t pack. Of course we figured we’ll get up early.
Man plans & G-d laughs.
Our son was nervous the whole morning, following my wife around like a puppy, not letting me go outside without throwing a tantrum. We understand but we still had to take care of last minute details, as we do on every trip.

As said before we had to go to a birthday party, and we did, which was nice. We planned to leave by 13:00, but we had a good time and we left by 13:30, for those of you who have kids you know that it’s “on time”.

Then the nightmare started, it seemed that we went from traffic jam to traffic jam. A planned four hour trip took five and a half hours – with two bored kids who slept for two out of the five and a half hours. The NJ Turnpike was backed up for miles with no apparent reason, 295 was bumper to bumper with accidents galore and the most hated kind of driver, the “gawker” (those who stop traffic to look at an accident on the other side of the highway) seem to be out in force – but we finally arrived at Washington D.C. after our son has been crying for about 45 minutes.
We ignored our rule that a “travel day” is simply that, not to plan much around it.

We manage to find a parking spot at the maze the locals call “streets” and took a small self tour of the town, saw a few sites and swore we’ll come back for more. By this time it was late, everyone were hungry so we strayed out of our pattern to eat at local places (plus they were all closed) and stopped at McDonald’s for a late dinner.

At least we got to see Washington in day & night.

We then drove to our hotel, got lost several times but managed to finally arrive healthy but tired.

Thank G-d for GPS.

The hotel is beautiful, complimentary breakfast buffet, wireless internet, fridge, microwave and clean, comfortable beds.

Pictures at:

After our complimentary breakfast at the hotel we were fast on our way to Mt. Vernon, after a few wrong turns we almost got there when our son’s breakfast came up. Luckily we packed an extra set of cloths, but he still smelled like puke all day – not to mention our new car.

We’re glad we listened to the wise advice we got and spent the whole day at Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s home. The estate, privately owned, is maintained by the Mt. Vernon Ladies’ Association. There is something to do there for every person, of course visiting the home (which among other artifacts has the original key to the Bastille, given to Washington by the French), the gardens, a working farm and even a “basement tour” which takes you to the locations of the movie “National Treasure 2”, some of which are not accessible to the public at large.

We started at the Ford Orientation Center to learn a bit about what we’re going to see, wife & daughter used that time to go to the bathroom, son used that time to practice going up & down the stairs.
Our 3.5 year old daughter had a blast, granted the tour through the mansion was a bit boring for her, but the guides (each room has a different guide) try to make it interesting for her, she even asked questions and overall had an interesting experience. After the mansion we walked around the grounds, looked at the garden, had a snack and took the “National Treasure” tour for an extra $5, it was worth the money especially if you’ve seen the movie. We then took our kids to see the working farm, the tomb and other buildings which Washington used (like the stables, office, and more – around 20 or so).
We ended our day at the museum, a very interesting audio/visual trip through Washington’s life. At the end there is a little room for the kids which they can play with a huge doll house like Mt. Vernon, some stuffed animals, puzzles, press buttons to hear animal sounds and even get dressed like their counterparts in the 1800’s. A great end to a day where they couldn’t touch anything “interesting”, and loads of fun for all.

We went back to the hotel to rest and then went out to get some water and other supplies. The funniest thing happen during that ride when my wife & 3.5 year old daughter were “debating” giving our 1.5 year old son a water bottle – all the while he’s screeching at the top of his lungs.
DW: give him the bottle.
DD: he doesn’t want it.
DW (more sternly): just give him the bottle!
DD: he doesn’t want it.
DW (loud scream): give him the bottle already!!!
DD: here mommy (handing her the bottle).
DW turns around and gives DS the bottle, which he throws on the floor and continues screeching.
DD (in a soft girlie voice): I told you so.
Pictures at:

A day of travel.

If we learned anything from all our trips is to leave a day of travel alone, not to make any plans; not that we adhere to that rule. We got up, had our complimentary breakfast and were ready to go just in time to miss rush hour travel for our 3 hour trip.

We made an unscheduled stop at the site where Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson died, it was a nice diversion, about 10 miles out of our way, it was interesting for us and fun for the kids since they could run around. The rest of the way was uneventful, except a short stop in a rest-area to turn on the DVD due to constant, consistent and assertive demands for a peanut butter cracker which we didn’t have.

We arrived in Yorktown to find a very charming little town, with a beautiful boardwalk and wonderful shops, later we found out that the “historic” boardwalk is new – nevertheless – very charming. We had some time to kill before we could check in so we walked around for a while and had lunch at the café in the Riverwalk restaurant, right on the river. The food was good, but honestly anytime I eat on the water the food takes second place. Once we checked into our hotel we took a nap and got the kids to the pool (this was our 3.5 year old daughter’s bribe to be good during the ride), they had an excellent time and so did we. We had dinner again at the Riverwalk Restaurant (around $75 for three), which was good but was a bit disruptive by our 15 months old son – I hope they understood even though one of us spent half the meal outside with him. You can’t really fault him since he’s most likely all discombobulated and doesn’t know what’s going on.

Pictures at:

DS got up as usual, at 5:30, unfortunately there is no where within walking vicinity which one can get a cup of coffee that early (before 9:00). We figured we’ll eat breakfast somewhere on the way Colonial Williamsburg, which didn’t work out. This was one time were we did very little preparation except the “let’s go there” plan, we found out that it’s very difficult to find parking anywhere near the colonial part of Williamsburg, so off to the visitor’s center we went where we found out all the prices, etc. What they forgot to tell us is that you really don’t need tickets to get into the city or to view the “shows”, but only to get into the buildings (extra for the Governor’s Mansion). Again, not their fault just our lack of preparation.

Colonial Williamsburg was nice, we didn’t think it really was worth the price, but I’m sure that if our kids were school age we might have changed our minds and worked around their schedule. We walked all over, had breakfast at Aroma, cheap & tastes like it (plus loads of flies – if our children weren’t starving we wouldn’t have stopped), and bought some chocolate covered peanuts at The Peanut Shop, expensive & tastes like it. We spent the day walking around Colonial Williamsburg, checking out some of the old buildings, gardens and the Governor’s Mansion (worth the extra money), we also spent an extra $12.50 each (minus our son) for a 15 minutes carriage ride which but our coachman wasn’t very talkative (not a word from beginning to end) our daughter though had a blast.

We walked back to the visitor’s center, bought a magnate and some postcards that our daughter could send her friends. Both kids were asleep by the time we pulled out on the road from the parking lot, so we decided to go shopping – save ourselves some money instead of eating out every night. Our first lesson was that “deli” has a completely different meaning than what we know it as – the definition of deli is Virginia is “a liquor store with some chips”, our second lesson: “bottom dollar” is not a dollar store but a supermarket.
We ate at a local place (around $60) and had dessert at the local Ben & Jerry’s.

Pictures at:

Woke up early and took a walk, but this time towards the Yorktown battlefield, on the way I met a friendly park ranger, I asked him if I can walk through the battlefield with the stroller – his eyes said yes, but he said I have to pay. I understand he can’t give me any other answer and on hindsight it was unfair of me to even ask him that. However I saw some more historical parts of the town, by the time I got back DW was awake and we had breakfast in our room before venturing off to Busch Gardens.

Originally we weren’t going to go to Busch Gardens but we are glad we did, our kids had a blast. We bought tickets ahead of time on the Internet, as well as a parking pass which saved us a couple of bucks. Since we are early risers we got there before the park opened – and we weren’t the first ones. The park is set up in sections, each one named after a European country and with that country’s theme, even though most of us who has been at that type of park know that you’ll find the same junk in every “country”.

The first thing we did was head straight to the “Pet Shenanigans” show, stopping on the way to view the Clydesdale Horses, the bald eagles & gray wolves; the 50 yard section with the eagles & wolves took us 15 minutes to pass due to DD’s interest in viewing those animals – and will take us 15 minutes for the rest of the day. The Pet Shenanigans show was very good, we enjoyed and our kids got to meet the “stars” at the end. From there we walked around to the Land of the Dragons, basically the kiddy ride section, which again our kids loved. DS loved his first theme park experience and cried every time his ride was over, he did not like the little dragon boats because there is a part which they get knocked around a bit (it goes down a slope) – but the rest was a hit.

We decided to go have lunch at “Grogan’s Grill” (not bad, good Irish stew) and to see the Irish dancers but DS fell asleep so only DW & DD went in while the men were walking around. Once we got back together we went to visit the Clydesdales and take our picture with Carl Jr. (bought the photo for $16.99 which was our big purchase of the trip), the kids rode several times on a Clydesdale themed ride nearby and out we went, around 16:00 or so, not before we had to go through the 50 yards in 15 minutes exercise, but this time it was longer because DD had her eye out the whole time on a path which leads us through the bird area – it was worth it because we saw a presentation about the parrots and she was brave enough to ask a question..

The kids fell asleep in the car before we were out of the parking lot (by the way, kudus to Tomtom who had the main routes of the Busch Gardens parking lot on their GPS), once we got back to our hotel they got up and we took them for a swim in the York River. Ate some sandwiches at our hotel room for dinner and bid everyone goodnight.

Pictures at:

Due to our lack of preparation we didn’t realize that there are two Jamestowns. The Historic Jamestown & the Jamestown settlement; the first is the actual historical site (another way to say a museum & archeological dig) and the second is a “living history interpretive site”. After some quick reading (we did get up early with our son) we decided to go to the Jamestown settlement and headed out – to eat breakfast. We ate at Colonial pancake House, probably the best breakfast we’ve had the whole vacation and very reasonable (around $35 for four with a 10% discount from our coupon book). As an added bonus we finally got to eat Virginia ham in Virginia.

Since we didn’t have an address (the Jamestown Settlement is actually in Williamsburg) we went to the Colonial Williamsburg visitor center since we remembered being there that they provide shuttles to Jamestown and the route is well marked from there. We drove our own car but followed a shuttle that happened to be in front of us to the Jamestown visitor center where we bought our tickets.

Before you walk over to the settlement do yourself a favor and stop at the amazing museum they have created. The museum takes you through several stages such as conditions in England, the trip on the ships (including finding the North Star), the East India company, history of the Indians (including a wonderful display on Pocahontas which enthralled our 3.5 year old daughter), the conditions of slavery and much more – it was well worth the time.

There was also a display of John White’s original watercolors (more on that later) which we decided to visit at the end when our kids will be tired. Before we went outside our daughter got a “challenge” from one of the ladies at the visitor’s center (she stood behind a table explaining old navigation & furring techniques): find three chickens & two roosters!

After the museum we walked over to the Indian settlement, went on the reproductions of the three ships and the fort. Each area has “costumed interpreters”, games, houses, props and demonstrations.
The best part: the kids can do and touch everything (excluding firearms & cooking demonstrations); needless to say they, as well as us, had a blast through and through.

When they were good & tired (our son was sleeping in the cart) we went back inside (our daughter managed to find the lady who gave her the challenge to notify her of a successful ending) and entered the John White exhibit. John White was the artist which accompanied many expeditions to the new world and some of his watercolors and sketches survived to this day. Those artifacts have a significant historical designation being that through them we know today what the natives looked like, what they wore, their habits and customs. The exhibit is on loan from the British museum (first time since 1965) and will go back this year.

We ate lunch at the visitor center’s cafeteria, went through the gift shop (lots of nice stuff but we only buy one magnate from each place) and home we went.

Special thanks to the people who worked at Jamestown – everyone was nice, courteous, knowledgeable and took their time with two adults who have two kids around their necks.

The evening we spent at the pool and a great dinner at Red Hot & bbq in Williamsburg (they were kind enough not to make us go to our car to get the 10% discount coupon and simply gave us the discount). We also went to the huge Yankee Candle shop and bought some presents in the area since they were much cheaper then the parks, remember to go to Richmond Road in Williamsburg for restaurants & memorabilia.

Pictures at:

Home sweet home – if we could get there.
A planned 6.5 hour trip took almost 9 hours due to traffic jams from
We had a great vacation in Virginia, but we’re glad to be home.

Some tips we learned
1) Never underestimate the intelligence of a 3.5 year old
2) We wish we would have gotten our kids some children’s books about Mt. Vernon, Jamestown & Williamsburg before we left.
3) We saved hundreds eating breakfast, lunch or dinner (1 meal a day) at the hotel in our room.
4) We probably saved several hundreds more by buying bottled water at the supermarket – we went through 2 cases easily. Water at any of the parks will cost you around $3 a bottle.
5) As usual, we picked up the free coupon book available almost anywhere – we got some great tips & discounts.

zlaor is offline  
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Sep 2nd, 2008, 11:17 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 10,663
Thanks for the great trip report, zlaor. I'm glad you had fun. I'm sorry you didn't have a good breakfast at Aromas. It's usually pretty good. One of my favorites is the Colonial, too.

We could have told you all about CW and Jamestown if you had only asked. Oh well, next time!
Birdie is offline  
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Sep 3rd, 2008, 07:42 AM
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Birdie, I think Williamsburg is geared more towards school age kids, but we still had a great time. We'll be back I'm sure.

Part of the problem was that we couldn't take a tour with our son so we had to split up where one person takes the tour and the other is entertaining the kids.
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