Jamestown, Virginia: The Beginning of the United StatesJanuary 11, 2011 1 Comment
Everyone knows the story of the Pilgrims arriving at Plymouth Rock. What is not as well known, however, is the story of Jamestowne (as it was spelled in the 1600s). A group of 104 travelers from England, financed by the Virginia Company of London, landed on the Virginia shore in 1607. The settlement managed to survive intense hardships in the early years, making it the first permanent English colony in what would become the United States.
In those earliest days, who would have guessed that less than 170 years later another town just around the corner would become the seat of the American Revolution? Today Jamestown is considered part of the Historic Triangle alongside Colonial Williamsburg and Yorktown. If you are visiting the Williamsburg area, Jamestown is an easy day trip. You can even take the free Historic Triangle shuttle bus.
The Jamestown Settlement is not actually the site of the original colony. Instead, it is a recreation of the fort, the ships that carried the original settlers, and a Powhatan Indian village. The Powhatan tribe was instrumental in helping the settlers acclimatize to their new surroundings, as well as an important source of trading. Costumed interpreters are on hand throughout the day, and since the “artifacts” are actually reproductions, kids are permitted to run and play freely throughout the buildings.
There is also a fairly extensive museum on site that chronicles the history of the area. Small children may not get much out of the museum displays, but older kids and adults will not want to miss this. Perhaps the adults in your group could trade off visiting the museum and the settlement?
There is an admission fee to Jamestown Settlement. Depending on your family’s needs, it may be best to purchase one of the many combination tickets that include admission to Colonial Williamsburg and/or nearby Yorktown. Visit the Jamestown Settlement website for the latest information.
Historic Jamestowne is the site of the original settlement. The site is jointly managed by the National Park Service and the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. There is a small fee for adult admission, while those aged 15 and under are admitted free. Admission is included in a variety of Historic Triangle tickets. Additionally, those who hold National Park Service passes or certain other types of passes may be admitted free. Visit the Historic Jamestowne website for details.
The site has several points of interest including the Jamestown Memorial Church and the elaborate Voorhees Archaearium. The Archaearium is a fascinating collection of memorabilia unearthed from the original James Fort site. It also serves as a working research center, so there is no telling what sort of project may be underway during your visit. Both children and adults seem mesmerized by the displays, which do an excellent job of explaining things in a captivating way.
Tips for Parents
Jamestown can be surprisingly hot during the summer and cold during the winter. Rain is not uncommon, particularly during the summer months. Watch the weather forecasts and try to choose a day to visit when the weather is relatively mild. Most of the exhibits at both the settlement and the historic site are outdoors on uneven ground, so choose comfortable walking shoes and clothes that can get dirty. Although strollers are permitted in both locations, they can be unwieldy, so take one only if absolutely necessary.
There are cafeterias at both locations, but depending on where you are when you get hungry, it can be a fairly long walk to the café. Carry snacks and bottled water with you, but note that both must be entirely put away in a bag or purse when visiting the museum or outdoor living history areas at Jamestown Settlement. There are sidewalks and benches along the perimeter where you can move to have a snack.
The Historic Triangle shuttle runs throughout the day between the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center and Jamestown with stops at both the Jamestown Settlement and Historic Jamestowne. Shuttle service may be limited or unavailable during the winter months. The shuttle is free and convenient, but those with very small children may prefer to take your own car. The drive is short and easy, parking is free, and having a car gives you total flexibility in your schedule.