3 National Park Service Experiences within 30 Minutes of Williamsburg, Virginia
Historic Jamestowne, Yorktown Battlefield and Colonial Parkway are 3 must-see national park experiences right here in the Greater Williamsburg area of Virginia.
There are 410 National Park Service (NPS) parks, monuments and areas in the U.S. covering more than 84 million acres, ranging from Death Valley (the biggest park) to the Statue of Liberty (a tiny island). Most people tend to think of the 59 National Parks, but they forget that amazing NPS properties, sites and monuments can be found east, as well as west, of the Mississippi River, and three must-see experiences can be found right within the Greater Williamsburg, Virginia, area: Historic Jamestowne, Yorktown Battlefield and the Colonial Parkway.
They may be small in the grand scheme of things, but they are mighty on the scale of American history and importance and make a visit to Greater Williamsburg more affordable than ever. That’s because in 2016, if you are a fourth grader or age-equivalent free-choice learner, you and your family can receive a pass that will give you free access to hundreds of parks, lands and waters through August.* Fourth graders can go to everykidinapark.gov to print a voucher they must take with them on the road!
There is no better place to start exploring the National Park Service parks than in Greater Williamsburg, and here are four reasons why:
1. Let’s start where it all started: Jamestown. The good, the bad and the ugly. It’s here on this spot of the NPS, which is a co-shared property with Preservation Virginia, where America was founded. And they are still discovering amazing finds today. In addition to the fort, church and original traces of the settlement, you and your kids will be walking in the steps of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas. As the colony expanded, the Virginia Indians were pushed out of their homeland. In 1619, the arrival of Africans was recorded, marking the origin of slavery in English North America. America has come a long way, and it’s rather amazing to look at the swamp of an island and think this is where it all began. There is a $5 Preservation Virginia special reduced fee to enter Historic Jamestowne in 2016 with the free NPS pass. The regular fee to enter is $14, and it is shared by the National Park Service and Preservation Virginia.**
2. And let’s bookend history where it all ended (at least for the British): Yorktown Battlefield. It’s still there. The same land, trenches, remains of fortifications. Discover what it took for the United States to be independent as you explore the site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. Here at Yorktown, in the fall of 1781, General George Washington, with allied American and French forces, besieged General Charles Lord Cornwallis’s British army. On October 19, Cornwallis surrendered, effectively ending the war and ensuring independence. Can you image what it was like to see the world’s greatest superpower march between American and French troops into a field and surrender their weapons and furl their flags? There is no fee to visit Yorktown Battlefield in 2016 with the free NPS pass*. The regular fee to enter is $7.
3. Connecting the two NPS properties is a unique scenic roadway, operated by the NPS, called Colonial Parkway. It is a 23-mile “parkway” stretching from the York River at Yorktown to the James River at Jamestown. It connects Virginia's historic triangle: Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown. Several million travelers a year use this route to enjoy the natural and cultural beauty of Virginia and a throwback to Colonial times and a pristine natural environment. Completed in 1957, this three-lane roadway allows motorists to appreciate the surrounding landscape, while reducing impact on the resources and providing for traveler safety. The maximum Parkway speed limit is 45 miles per hour. Passage on the road is free.
4. The best reason of all? All three of these sites and experiences are within the Greater Williamsburg region of Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg, which is full of surprises – ziplines, water parks, theme parks, roller coasters, historic gardens, breweries, spas, living-history museums and much more.
*Fourth graders are able to go online to everykidinapark.gov and print a voucher to receive their free pass. They must bring this voucher with them to receive their pass.
**At Historic Jamestowne, guests of the fourth grader pay an entry fee. The price is reduced to $5/person for up to three guests. The fourth grader will get in free with an Every Kid in a Park pass.