Monday, October 8, 2012

Two legs of the Historic Triangle…and Rollercoasters!

Our recent trip to Williamsburg was phenomenal! Seven days within America’s Historical Triangle was a distinctive vacation experience. Previous destinations have possessed a robust history, but none have come alive to this degree. The area has a wealth of activities for all ages and is linked by the pristine Colonial Parkway.

Congested Parkway at rush hour, yes we are stopped!
The Colonial Parkway is managed by the National Park Service and provides scenic access to the main sites of the Historic Triangle (nothing is more than 20 minutes apart). It is paved to present a historic charm and lined with tall, lush trees that occasionally act as natural tunnels. It passes under old, red brick bridges, and edges along many bodies of water. Traffic is almost nonexistent and frequent turn outs provide excellent viewpoints. The drive is a site in itself.
We decided to start day one fast (literally) and went to Busch Gardens. Short lines meant we could move from coaster to coaster in about the time it took us to ride each one. The Griffon was wild and the only one we needed to hop back on for a second run. The initial drop and speed of the plunge is unforgettable! We soon figured out though, we are no longer impervious to being constantly flung in all directions at super-fast speeds. Completing the roller coaster marathon before lunch, the afternoon required a mellower vibe to keep our heads on straight! 


 Like everything else in Williamsburg, Busch Gardens is strongly committed to its theme, which is divided into numerous European countries. For example, in Germany, there is an Oktoberfest building, and the roller coaster puts you in a car on the Autobahn that takes you careening through the Black Forest. They even have animal exhibits including an Eagle rehabilitation program and an aviary where friendly exotic birds will hop right on your shoulder.
Williamsburg -  Busch GardensAs an added bonus, Howl-O-Scream was in full swing. At 6 pm, the park becomes a frightful domain for all kinds of evil (insert maniacal laugh here). Creatures roam the park, hiding out in bushes and leaping out of the mist. Fully detailed costumes and an original ensemble of creepy music added to the scary atmosphere. My wife is not a fan of this in general, but amazingly toughed it out through 3 of the horrifying haunted houses. My fingers only got slightly crushed in the vice grip she had on them!
After a day of thrills, we started our tour of the Historic Triangle at Jamestown. Born here are the exaggerated stories of John Smith and Pocahontas and the sometimes mysterious happenings of the first English settlement. However, its history recently gained added clarity as an extensive archaeological dig began in 1994. This lead to numerous discoveries about the original colonists and the struggles they faced. A vast collection of relics has been found and are now housed in a newly created museum. As we walked along the water on a perfect day with clear blue skies, it was hard to imagine the documented hardships that took place on this land.

Site of the original James Fort

Not far down the road from the original site is a gallery and living history museum dedicated to Jamestown. An Indian village and the original James Fort have been replicated, with interpreters demonstrating how they cooked, hunted, washed clothes, developed armor, and fired muskets. Docked on the water are replicas of the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, the three ships that transported the original 144 settlers from England. Cramped with people and supplies, our current need for space feels silly when you realize that for the entirety of the four and a half month voyage, 105 passengers combined on the three ships squeezed below deck like sardines, with another 39 crew sailing the ships.
We wanted to visit the sites in their chronological order, so Colonial Williamsburg was next, which I covered in detail here.
The final leg of the historic triangle is Yorktown, the site of the decisive American/French victory over Lord Cornwallis’ army in 1781. The Yorktown battlefield is a national park, offering tours from park rangers. There is a self guided driving tour that takes you along each of the American and French siege lines, the woods where the American troops camped, and the field where the British Army surrendered. Also visible are redoubts #9 and #10, the last strongholds of the British outer line that were taken during daring night raids of vicious hand to hand combat. All of the other history we witnessed is inspiring in its own way, but there is something about standing on ground where people sacrificed their lives. It carries a powerful impression that I can't adequately describe.

Yorktown waterfront
 The waterfront city of Yorktown is a heap of personality. The white sand beach stretching alongside the York River is gorgeous, while fun shops and restaurants line the waterfront. Here, we toured the house of Thomas Nelson, Jr., one of the more unknown signers of the Declaration of Independence. Architecturally, the brick home would be worthy of a visit, but as a residence occupied by British leaders during the war, it still shows original cannon damage from the siege. Also located in town is the Yorktown Victory Monument and Victory Center, a museum on the Revolution.
A week in Williamsburg was almost not enough. Each day of the trip, we accidentally found more things to do than we had previously thought possible (and we read A LOT beforehand). We still stuck to our convictions, and relaxation was prevalent as we spent two afternoons at the pool, slept ten hour nights, and watched the entire third season of Modern Family! However, if you like staying busy there are day trip options galore. Virginia Beach, Monticello, Charlottesville, and Civil War sites can be seen without an overnight.

The weather in late September was superb, with temperatures ranging from the low 70’s to mid 80’s with a lot of sunshine. Crowds were minimal and we did not need to wait for any tour, event, or lunch/dinner seat, and we went to some of the more highly rated places to eat. This was another ideal shoulder season trip. 

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