We recently went on an awesome vacation to Colonial Williamsburg. (If you are unfamiliar with Colonial Williamsburg, it is a reconstruction of the city of Williamsburg at the time of the American Revolution.) Our family had three fun-filled days in Williamsburg including lots of re-enactments, marching in the colonial army, and completing the spy mission, RevQuest.
If you are a homeschool family visiting Williamsburg, remember to bring some sort of homeschool ID (we have cards from HSLDA) so that you can get the educator discount. We were able to get our adult tickets for half price since we are home educators. We heard about this ahead of time but did call to verify before we went as well. We also really found that buying their refillable cups was a huge money saver.
Our children all were able to enjoy Williamsburg at ages 5, 7, 8, and 9. I think our kids would enjoy Williamsburg even when they are older as well. It seemed quite stroller friendly but would have been much more tiring with littler ones.
In the three days, we didn’t do probably half of what was offered. We really loved the buildings of Colonial Williamsburg and seeing how things worked back then. Part of the reason we did not get to visit every building in Williamsburg is that our kids asked great questions. There were many stops where other families came and went while our family was still listening eagerly.
The more time you take at each stop, the more you will learn. For example, at the cabinet maker, we listened as some kids from a school group went through and asked about simple machines. They filled out a worksheet they had and were out the door. The 4 little Hogans listened to all of this and more questions from other people. Then they fired away with their own questions. Because of this, we found out about secret compartments in a desk, how they make harpsichords, and much more that the man in the shop was not sharing with other families.
I noticed at many of the stops, once the people working there saw that you were not just a casual passerby, they go into much more detail or bring up topics that you didn’t even know to ask.
So if you take the trip, and I hope you do, don’t rush from one place to the next, take the time to really learn in each location. It is always nice to leave while you are still wanting more. Plus a few days before our visit, they restructured the ticket policy. We were going to buy a 3 day pass. Now that same pass, for the same price, is called “multi-day” and is good for the rest of the calendar year! We hope to go back and see some of what we missed.
I feel like we could write a blog post on every location in Williamsburg, but I want you to make the trip. I could not do a good enough job of describing everything anyway.
Below is a list of the places we visited and one thing that we learned. The kids filled in most of these:
Governor’s Palace: Govenor Dunmore (Whose real name was not Dunmore) left the Palace with all of the stuff still inside, so the colonists got many weapons and a lot of wealth.
Kitchen – An old cow has yellow fat and a young cow has white fat.
Gunsmith and Foundry – They made the whole gun there. I was amused when he said, quite literally, “We make the whole gun: lock, stock, and barrel.”
Brickmaker’s Yard – They made the mortar from oyster shells.
Cabinet Maker – They had desks with secret compartments. The desk that the man was working on was modeled after one of the antiques that was in a local museum. It had a secret compartment within a secret compartment.
Randolph House – The family had a lot of slaves, but most of them were not in the house. Instead they were out on plantations that the family owned.
Cooper – Coopers don’t just make barrels, they also make buckets, butter churns, and anything else made with staves.
Magazine – Seargents and captains carried pikes and pole-arms so that they could be identified easily.
Great Hopes Plantation – When they build new building, they constructed it somewhere else, disassembled it, and then reassembled it in the final location. They were using an open area at the plantation to build the new market building and it would be moved to the town when it was finished. This is the way they would have done it in colonial times also.
Blacksmith and Armory – People in colonial times would specialize. Some blacksmiths would make lots of kinds of things, but others would just be a nailer, or some other specialty. A regular balcksmith could make 300-500 nails in a day, but a nailer could make 3,000 nails in one day.
Public Gaol (Jail) – If the jailer did not like you, he would make you clean the septic tank (it was the only building with indoor plumbing).
Milliner – A corset or a stay (from the 1700s) was not uncomfortable. It actually supported the woman’s body and helped her keep good posture. The idea that it was uncomfortable and injured women is a myth.
Silversmith – Most of the things people bought were made out of their own silver. A customer would bring in silver or a silver item that they did not like anymore. The silversmith would weigh it, make something new, and weigh it again. He would keep some of the silver for himself as payment.
Capitol – Virginia wrote a state constitution when they declared independence. Many of the ideas from their state constitution were used in the U.S. Constitution (like the separation and balance of powers).
Geddy House – Woman did not play instruments other than the harpsichord or small guitar because they “should not lift their arms or contort their face”.
Military Camp – Open your mouth when there is going to be a loud noise because it helps equallize the pressure in your ears.
In our 3 days, we did not get to:
Playbooth, Wheelwright, Basket Maker, Bruton Parish Church, Weaver, Colonial Gardens, Shoemaker, Courthouse, Printing Office, Bindery, and Post Office, Wigmaker, Joiner, Apothecary, Wythe house, Hospital, Museums, Many Taverns and places to eat, and maybe some other places that I am forgetting.
There is a lot of talk of slavery on the tours and talks because 52% of the town’s population were slaves. It is presented well, and I think it is a good reminder, but you should prepare your kids so they are not caught off guard.
In addition to the buildings we visited, remember that our kids also got to learn to march in formation, see skits in the streets, be a part of the army for a reenactment, and complete a spy mission called RevQuest. This was an amazing part of our trip, but I wouldn’t have done it if we only had one day in Williamsburg.
Oh and there are lots of shops where you can buy Revolutionary style games, toys, clothes, and more. At the Prentis shop, you can buy items that they actually make during the demos. The prices there seem very high until you remember the hours of labor that it took to make the items. Then they seem almost reasonable.
Visiting Colonial Williamsburg was yet another favorite family vacation. We are looking forward to going back again!