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Family Trip to Williamsburg, Virginia
We Go To Williamsburg, VA
I'm trying something new. Although Hubpages is primarily a place to post articles (it is not a BLOG site) I thought I would see if I could use it to post details of our family trip to Williamsburg, VA. The information provided may be useful to others who might also be planning such a trip. The last time I was in Williamsburg was nearly 30 years ago. I was living in California and our 8th grade class took a 10 day field trip to Washington DC, including a day-trip to Williamsburg & Jamestown.
Williamsburg, VA is about 10 hours from our home in Massachusetts. With 4 kids, we tend to take vacations that we can drive - as airfare for 6 would probably cost more than we typically budget for the entire vacation.
PLANNING: Planning for this trip was pretty minimal. Neither my wife nor I require every detail and hour to be scheduled. However, a few small details needed addressing:
A. A Place to Stay: A family of 6 cannot squeeze into most hotel rooms. So, as we have done for several vacations in the past, we book a room at The Homewood Suites in Williamsburg, VA. We like these places for 3 reasons:
- They have rooms large enough to accommodate a family of 6
- They serve a full breakfast every morning, included in your room rate
- They serve a light supper every weekday evening, also included in your room rate
NOTE: We booked using Expedia.com. They had a better posted rate than we could get from the hotel directly.
B. Packing: Having booked the room, we also had to make some additional plans for packing our luggage this year. We traded our minivan for a Toyota Highlander. Although it drives VERY nice, it has very limited storage space. So - thanks to the wise advice of my wife - we decided to purchase duffel bags for the kids and just strap them to the top of the car with some strong tie-downs. Perfect!
C. Bounce Pass: The only other piece of "planning" that went into this trip was the online purchase of what is called a "Bounce Pass." This was recommended by a friend, and it is clearly the most affordable way to purchase entrance into Busch Gardens, Water Country and some of the museums at Colonial Williamsburg. The Bounce Pass also includes parking at all these activities. If you plan to do each of these, then a Bounce Pass is the right way to go.
DAY ONE: SATURDAY
We left our home in Massachusetts at about 5:00AM on Saturday morning. The cat and dog would be cared for by my parents. Thank you!!!
First Stop: COFFEE!! I was up at 4:00AM to pack all the luggage on top of the car, so a quick stop at Dunkin Donuts was an absolute necessity.
We knew that we would be around Baltimore, MD at lunch time. So I looked up that city on this great website that shows the location of restaurants that have been featured on Food Network. The site is called TV Food Maps.
Doing so led us to CHAPS PIT BEEF. Cool! So we plugged in the address into the GPS and decided we would do lunch at Chaps on the way to Williamsburg, VA.
Chaps wasn't especially easy to get to, but I blame that on a GPS that probably needs some updated maps. However, after navigating a few back roads,we arrived at a little shack serving up some really tasty meats. From the outside, it didn't look like some place we would ordinarily stop. But the staff inside was very helpful, and guided us toward some very tasty menu options.
I went with the newly added "Guys Triple D" sub: Beef, corned beef and sausage. Yum!
We arrived at our hotel around 4:45PM. After unpacking, we picked up some pizza from Pizza Hut, ate in our room, and enjoyed a little time down in the hotel pool.
DAY 2: SUNDAY
Sunday morning we headed to church. I looked online for a local Presbyterian church. Would have liked to visit an OPC church (my own denomination) but there were none nearby. We have many close friends in another Reformed presbyterian denomination known as the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America), and found they had a local congregation in Williamsburg.
Grace Covenant PCA is currently involved in a search for a pastor. Having gone through that process, and therefore sympathizing with the difficulties this can involve, we were happy to visit our brothers and sisters at Grace and worship with them.
The guest preacher was an Army chaplain who preached on Jonah chapter 1. It was a convicting sermon on sharing the gospel, having a true heart of compassion for the lost. The whole service was very refreshing from what is so often going on in Christian churches today. The service began when the service leader looked at the congregation and said "God calls us to worship. But we can't. On our own, sinners like us cannot approach a holy God. But the good news is that God has made a way for sinners to worship Him. His name is Jesus Christ."
If you are reading this - I hope you attend a church that still preaches the gospel. I hope you attend a church which isn't afraid to tell people they are sinners and in danger of the wrath of God. I hope you attend a church where you are constantly reminded that without Christ you have no hope. I hope you do. If not, please find one.
Sunday afternoon we met some dear friends from Richmond, VA. They drove down to Williamsburg. We shared a lovely lunch (got some sandwiches from The Cheese Shop) and enjoyed a leisurely walk and conversation through historic Colonial Williamsburg.
We walked through Bruton Parish (originally formed in 1674) which I'm told is the oldest continually running church currently in the U.S. The architecture was beautiful. The site was both interesting, but also somewhat sad. Bruton Parish is an Episcopal church, part of a denomination that once held to faithful Biblical doctrines and the gospel, but today has almost entirely forsaken her history.
After saying goodbye to our friends, we went back to the hotel to enjoy a quiet end to a wonderful day.
DAY 3: MONDAY
Monday morning we were ready to attempt Busch Gardens, the Williamsburg amusement park that boasts many thrill ride roller coasters including "The Griffon" which is the tallest dive roller coaster in the U.S.
Busch Gardens, as you may know, was originally named because it was owned and operated by the Anheuser-Busch brewing company. Interestingly, Anheuser-Busch was originally a brewery on the point of bankruptcy. Purchased by Eberhard Anheuser in 1860, and partnering with son-in-law Adolphus Busch in 1869, it eventually rose to an incredibly profitable company which sold for 2.4 Billion in 2009.
The day at Busch Gardens begins with packing a lunch (much more affordable than buying food in the park). We arrived at the park around 10:30AM and did the rides until about 1:30PM. We ate at 1:30PM in the parking lot, then decided to go back to our hotel (it was quite hot and humid) for a quick dip in the pool, with plans to return in the evening for more rides and fireworks.
After swimming and eating dinner (provided by the hotel) we returned to the park around 7:30PM and walked around for another 2.5 hours until they closed at 10:00PM.
The Griffon - This coaster was a blast, consisting of 3 rows of 10 seats and a 205 foot drop at a 90 degree angle! Loved it!
Apollo's Chariot - This one consisted of high speeds flying up and down hills. You can feel yourself lifting up out of your seat as you ride over the hill tops and plunge into the next valley. Definitely worth it!
Verbolten - Combination indoor/outdoor coaster with (for me) an entirely unexpected 88 foot plunge. The coaster comes to a complete stop in the dark interior of the "Black Forrest." Then, out of nowhere, the whole coaster just "drops." Quite a thrill.
Curse of Darkastle - Probably the best 3D animation I have ever witnessed. You wear 3D glasses for this ride, and are brought through a castle in which various "ghosts" and other creatures and objects are constantly coming toward you. Sounds, wind, mist all accompany this ride for a very realisted multi-media experience.
Day 3 ended back at the hotel room with the kids, watching the various Olympic events on TV until it was time for bed.
This is what I am reading while on vacation right now:
Up Next for Vacation Reading:
If I finish the above book, the next one on the list is this title. This will be the 4th of 4 books I am trying to read before the end of summer.
DAY 4: TUESDAY
The "Bounce Pass" we purchased provides access to Water Country as well. So, since the weather on Tuesday looked good, we decided to take advantage of this opportunity and do the water park today.
Water Country offers such a wide variety of slides and activities that it is easy to entertain the whole family. Joshua, our youngest, isn't ready for any of the really fast and high water slides just yet, so my wife (no great fan of fast rides either) gladly offered to take him around to the various pools and smaller slides suitable for his age.
Planning a trip to Water Country yourself? Here are a few tips from our day there:
- Wear some kind of water-friendly footwear (flip flops, water socks, etc). The paths, though often shaded, can sometimes be VERY hot on the feet. And most rides allow foot gear, or provide a cubicle in which to store them while you ride.
- Sunglasses, if you like them, are fine on most rides. The BIG drop slide (& Vanish Point) will not allow ANY loose items. So you may want to have something to do with them on that ride (a pocket, or a friend to hold them).
- I saw people carrying cell phones, they had them in zip lock bags in their swimsuit pockets, but personally I would leave them in a locker.
- Lockers ($18 for a full day large locker) are available. A place to put your park pass, wallet, beach towel (if you bring one - not really needed, as you can leave it in your car).
- Water fountains are available at various points around the park (usually near lockers and rest rooms), but there are PLENTY of places to buy food and drinks if you are so inclined. For those who have bathing suit pockets, you may want to put some cash in a zip-lock bag.
- If you come with a group, and are going to split up, picking a time and location to meet again is helpful. You don't need a watch, as there are LOTS of staff around to tell you the time. But a waterproof watch might be helpful.
DAY 5: WEDNESDAY
On Wednesday we decided to take a step back into U.S. history and tour Historic Jamestown. Now, we could have parked at the Williamsburg Visitor Center and taken the shuttle for free, but we decided to just drive there ourselves and have the option to leave whenever we needed to. It is only a 15 minute ride.
Now...you may need to understand something about visiting "Jamestown." There are 2 different locations (and 2 different admission charges) when it comes to visiting and exploring the first permanent English settlement in America:
Jamestown Settlement: This is the site maintained by the state of Virginia and includes a museum (with replicas & films), an Indian camp, a replica of an English ship, and a replica of James Fort. Information on this location is found HERE.
Jamestown via the National Park Service: This is the Federally maintained location. This is the site at which you can view the famous "glass blowing" exhibit. Information on this location and the fees involved can be found HERE.
We opted to visit the first location. The inside museum was very educational and well done. The "dressed" characters were very well informed and able to answer all my questions. There was sufficient variety to keep even the youngest of our family reasonably interested (little boys like dead animal furs and ships!).
On Wednesday afternoon I wanted to get out of the hotel, so my wife and youngest child took a ride to a nearby park: Waller Mill Park. To our surprise, the park offered small boat rentals. So Bonnie and Joshua took out a paddle boat, and I got a chance to do a little kayaking.
Wednesday evening brought myself and the 4 kids back to Busch Gardens for an evening of more roller coaster riding and fireworks. Bonnie got a bit of a break and hung out in the hotel room.
DAY 6: THURSDAY
By Thursday we decided that another last trip to Water Country was in order. This time I would make sure I tried out the famous Vanish Point ride with the girls.
We did the Water Country thing for several hours then returned to our hotel room for lunch.
In the afternoon we wanted an activity with a little less sun exposure, so we opted for a drive to the mall.
If you happen to be in Williamsburg, VA and are looking for a nice indoor mall to walk around in for a while, check out the Patrick Henry mall in Newport News, VA. It is about 20 minutes from Williamsburg and has a lot of dining options also.