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Visit Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg might seem like it's too educational to possibly be fun. However, just the opposite is true. A living museum, Colonial Williamsburg actually inspires curiosity and makes learning effortless. Our family visits at least once a year.

My husband and I first visited the area about 20 years ago with my parents. We enjoyed learning more about the pre-Revolutionary time depicted in the historic area, the charming town, good restaurants and relaxed pace. We moved further away for about 10 years and visiting became impractical. Once we moved back to the Raleigh, North Carolina area, we decided to visit again. But, this time, we would have our children with us. We weren't sure if they would find it interesting or be bored to tears.

To our surprise, our daughters loved Colonial Williamsburg! They were 9 and 7 at the time and found a lot to be excited about here. First, you can see tradespeople practicing their craft. There are blacksmiths hammering out nails and door locks. Silversmiths are hammering spoons and cups. The weavers are creating blankets and fabric, while the tailor hand sews gorgeous garments. All of these skilled people will explain their trade, how it is learned and what it meant in colonial times. Children are encouraged to ask questions and to touch samples of the work.

Second, our girls enjoy how peaceful the historic area is. No cars are allowed, so it's generally quiet. At least, until the Fife & Drum Corps marches down Duke of Gloucester Street from the Capitol building!

There are so many seasonal attractions as well. If you visit in Spring, you can spot baby lambs in the fields and beautiful gardens in full bloom! Summer can be quite hot. We like to stay at the Williamsburg Lodge, which gives us access to two outdoor pools plus an indoor pool and spa. Holiday time features music and decorations throughout the town. Be sure to check the website (www.colonialwilliamsburg.com) to find special events that might require advance booking or a special ticket.

Where to Stay

As I mentioned, we prefer to stay at the Williamsburg Lodge. The historic inn sits adjacent to the historic area, so we walk everywhere we want to go. The rooms are spacious and comfortable and feature unique furnishings. For families on a budget, there is the Williamsburg Woodlands located near the Visitor Center. You can walk or take the complimentary shuttle to the historic area. There is also the luxury Williamsburg Inn (where dignitaries often stay).

Where to Eat

I highly recommend experiencing one of the taverns in the historic area for at least one meal. There are four to choose from: Chowning's (serves lunch and dinner); Christiana Campbell's (dinner); Shield's (dinner) and King's Arms (lunch and dinner). While you pay a premium for the historic experience, the food is good and you will often meet historic characters and enjoy live music. If you're on a budget, I recommend trying lunch.

In Market Square (located at the end of Duke of Gloucester street), there are some more choices. We enjoy having lunch at The Cheese Shop. Go to the back of the store and order a sandwich at the counter. You won't be disappointed! For breakfast, I recommend you walk over to Aroma's. This coffee shop gets packed with William & Mary students and visitors. The poached eggs & grits is amazing!!

If you are interested in history, Jamestown and Yorktown are nearby and both are well worth an afternoon visit. For a more modern attraction, check out Busch Gardens. At Holiday time, they open up for Christmas Town, a celebration of lights, music and food.

Mary Graham is a Vacation Specialist with Coasters & Castles Travel. She lives in North Carolina and has visited Walt Disney World 15 times, with just her husband and with children. Her favorite character is Dumbo and her favorite ride is Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Contact her for help planning your vacation at mgraham@coastersandcastlestravel.com.

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