Greater Williamsburg: Where Living History Comes Alive

Learn to fire a musket. Eat a colonial-era pie. Weave a Powhatan Indian basket. Enjoy all this and more on a visit to historic Yorktown, Jamestown, and Colonial Williamsburg, the world’s largest living-history museum.

Capital at Colonial Williamsburg
Jamestown Settlement Powhatan Village
American Revolution Museum at Yorktown
Historic Jamestowne

The idea that history is entombed in a textbook is, well, history.

For proof, visit Greater Williamsburg and step into a living, breathing experience even more resonant and relevant today. Debate the definition of equality at the 5th Virginia Convention in Colonial Williamsburg. Squeeze into a bunk aboard the Susan Constant at Jamestown Settlement. Drill with the Continental Army encamped at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.

Here’s how you can explore the past in ways only possible in America’s historic triangle — Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown.

Colonial Williamsburg has transformed in recent years into a hands-on participatory destination. Stop by the Capitol and maybe you'll be chosen to be Patrick Henry in "Resolved," an interactive interpretation of the 5th Virginia Convention. The convention laid the foundation for the Declaration of Independence a few weeks later. Behind the Peyton Randolph house, there’s a “Patriots at Play” area with more than 100 animals, including horses, chickens, and sheep, featuring several rare breeds. There are also games, crafts, and, of course, chores (here’s your chance to milk a cow). Or head over to the firing range and learn how to use — and fire — a replica musket. Got an ax to grind? Take out that frustration on the ax-throwing range. It’s the trendiest of historical skills. 

For a different kind of living history, check out the daily "Bits and Bridles" tour of Colonial Williamsburg’s modern stables and Rare Breeds Program. Or immerse yourself in the experiences of the conservation teams at The Wallace Collections and Conservation Building where visitors can explore labs including Archaeological Materials, Wooden Artifacts, Paintings, Paper, Textiles, and Upholstery. 

At the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, you'll hear, see, and even feel the stories of ordinary people in that extraordinary time. Inside, nearly every attraction is interactive. Battle Game gives visitors, using a touch table, the chance to command troops during the battles of Cowpens, Camden or Kings Mountain in South Carolina. Outside, there is an Army encampment laid out according to the principles of Major General Friedrich von Steuben, the Prussian credited with shaping the Continental Army into fighting form. Adjacent to the camp is a farm with a residence, bake house and slave quarters. You can help with an artillery firing or muster for drills. You might get a chance to sample the tarts or pies made with ingredients and period tools from recipes in colonial cookbooks.

At Historic Jamestowne speak with archaeologists about their excavations on the site of the ill-fated colony. Join William Kelso, the director of archaeology, for special tours of the 1607 James Fort (check the online schedule). While there, visit the Archaearium, a museum that houses some of the more than 1.5 million artifacts uncovered since the Jamestown Rediscovery Project began in 1994. 

Jamestown Settlement features replicas of the original fort built by British colonists, three sailing ships, and a Powhatan Indian village. Interpreters will help you grind corn, weave a basket, fit you for armor, and explain how to prepare a meal. Maybe you'll find an egg laid by one of the chickens that roam the settlement. There are a handful of special events throughout the year offering opportunities to participate in artillery firings, celebrate American Indian songs and dances, and enjoy a feast beginning on Thanksgiving. 

If that's not enough history, create more of your own by exploring Greater Williamsburg's outdoor activities10 most popular attractions, and family fun things to do.  Then plan your visit today.