Williamsburg Delivers Tons of Family Fun
Williamsburg, VA, is a well-known destination for getting better acquainted with the days of our nation's founding. Along with nearby Jamestown and Yorktown, it's one of Virginia's three historic colonial communities known as the Historic Triangle. You'll undoubtedly want to expose your children to the rich history of the area, and fortunately, there are options that actually make it fun.
Experience Living History at Colonial Williamsburg
You simply can't visit this city without immersing yourselves in U.S. history. Historical attractions can be a tough sell for kids, but once they arrive at Colonial Williamsburg (101 Visitor Center Dr., Williamsburg, VA), they quickly get caught up in the excitement.
Step back into the revolutionary times of late-1800s America. Professional actors bring the era to life in painstakingly recreated scenes that simultaneously entertain and educate. It's enough fun that the kids won't even realize they're learning, and there's a wide array of exhibits and activities for everyone.
You'll be walking around and exploring outdoors, so dress appropriately for the weather. It's typically hot and humid from late spring through early fall, and it gets chilly in the winter. Bring sunglasses and use sun protection, as you'll be in direct sunlight much of the time. Layers are smart for the cold, so you can remove them as needed as you warm up while walking around.
Check out colonialwilliamsburg.com/explore/family-activities, where you can often find deals on lodgings and dining; sometimes there are packages to Colonial Williamsburg and other local attractions that save you some cash compared to buying individual admission tickets.
Kick the Fun Into Overdrive at Busch Gardens
Williamsburg may be known first and foremost as a historical destination, but it has theme parks too. Busch Gardens (1 Busch Gardens Blvd., Williamsburg, VA) is tons of fun and bound to be a hit.
The park features plenty of attractions for its youngest visitors, along with rides for every level of thrill seeker, from mild to crazy coasters. There are also a number of family-friendly shows. For example, there's the musical Elmo Rocks! with Elmo, Cookie Monster and other beloved characters from the Sesame Street gang; Celtic Fyre showcases Irish music and dancing; and _More Pet Shenanigan_s features trained cats, dogs and birds.
If you're heading over during the summer, be prepared for heat and a lot of direct sunlight. Drink water frequently and don't forget the sun protection. Comfortable shoes are a must. Strollers are available for rent at the park if you have a young one who's not too fond of walking all day.
Get Soaked at Water Country USA
Like Busch Gardens, Water Country USA (176 Water Country Pkwy., Williamsburg, VA) is a SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment property. This one's a water park—the biggest in the Mid-Atlantic region—and it's just a few minutes down the road from Busch Gardens. You can get discounted entry by buying tickets to both parks at the same time.
If you're in town from mid-May through early September, this is a fun-filled way to beat the heat. There are water slides, rides and attractions for kids of all ages and for grown-ups, too. Most people opt to wear bathing suits and water shoes around the park. You can change there, but it's often easiest to show up already in a bathing suit. Don't forget a change of clothes, and bring a bottle of water-resistant sunscreen.
Get Spooked With the Original Ghosts of Williamsburg
All great historical destinations have great ghost stories. Creep through the creepy nighttime streets of Colonial Williamsburg, guided by candlelight and hear eerie tales of hauntings and mysterious happenings with The Original Ghost Tour of Williamsburg (345 W. Duke of Gloucester St., Williamsburg, VA).
This is a memorable way to further explore the city and hear some of its folklore that you won't get at the more fact-oriented historical attractions in the area. It's recommended for kids 8 and up, though if you have one around that age who's easily freaked or prone to nightmares, you consider skipping this activity.
Tours commence nightly at 8 p.m., and since you'll be outside, dress for the weather. During the summer months, there's a second tour starting 45 minutes later to accommodate the spike in tourists. Sometimes an Extreme Ghost Tour is offered as well, but it has mature themes and isn't for the kids.
Decide Whether You Believe It at Ripley's
What's a family vacation without seeing some shrunken heads? Head to Ripley's Believe It or Not! (1735 Richmond Rd., Williamsburg, VA) to check out more than 350 zany exhibits and artifacts that are guaranteed to intrigue, amuse, bemuse or disturb the whole crew.
That's all at the Ripley's Odditorium, but the site has other attractions as well. There's a 4-D movie theater, the Atomic Rush arcade and Ripley's Impossible Laser Race, in which you attempt to navigate quickly through a web of lasers without breaking the beams. And there's a mini-golf course right next door.
Eric Mohrman has been a freelance writer since 2007, focusing on travel, food and lifestyle stories. His creative writing is also widely published. He lives in Orlando, Florida.