Williamsburg with Teens: A Perfect Family Day
Each year, approximately one million visitors travel to Colonial Williamsburg, the jewel of the Historic Triangle (which also includes nearby Yorktown and Jamestown), to enjoy its impressive interpretation of a colonial town. As tourists of all ages wander the streets and drink in the atmosphere of this "living museum," costumed re-enactors dazzle even skeptical vacationing teenagers with stories.
A "British" loyalist, for instance, overhearing you tell your teens about George Washington, will declare George a traitor. Your children will get an opportunity to understand history as it was happening at that time. Today, it is clear that George Washington is a hero to Americans, but to an English loyalist living in Williamsburg at that time, he was an upstart rebel turncoat.
Any Williamsburg vacation with teens should include at least two days, and your first day should be dedicated to enjoying all that Colonial Williamsburg has to offer. Create a teen-friendly itinerary that allows your kids to select from the many events, attractions and restaurant offerings. Williamsburg is a safe family vacation place, so teens can wander the shops and streets at their own pace.
Colonial Williamsburg offers packages that include multi-day admissions to the amusement parks, lodging at the Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel & Suites, daily breakfast, admission to Colonial Williamsburg's historic areas and museums, and complementary transportation to Busch Gardens and Water Country USA.
101A Visitor Center Dr.
On day two in the Historic Triangle, you may want to spice up things for your vacationing teens. This is actually quite easy with the popular amusement park, Busch Gardens, and a water park featuring more than 30 rides and attractions, Water Country USA located nearby.
Here are some tips for what to wear or have in your car if you decide to bounce between the amusement parks: bathing suits, towels, suntan lotion, bug spray, changes of clothes and sandals (better not to wear shoes and socks if you plan on doing the water rides at Water Country USA, or if you go on Busch Gardens' Roman Rapids or Escape from Pompeii, as you will end up walking around for a long time in squishy, water-soaked socks).
A great itinerary breaks up day two into three equally entertaining segments:
Start your teen-oriented day with a quick breakfast, and then head straight to Busch Gardens to be there when it opens. Virginia in the summer is very hot and humid, so the best time to enjoy the roller coasters and Busch Gardens' other rides is early in the morning. Busch Gardens has three impressive roller coasters, Alpengeist, Apollo's Chariot, and Griffon, the world's tallest, floorless dive coaster. All three roller coasters made it on Theme Parks Magazine's Reader's Choice Top Ten Steel Roller Coasters list and are a hit with teen vacationers.
One Busch Gardens Blvd.
Hours: Vary; please see website for details
Admission: Regular admission $61.95, children (3-9) $51.95, children 2 and under are free; parking $13
Once the day starts to heat up and Busch Gardens starts getting crowded, it's time to head over to Water Country USA, which is just a short ride down I-64 (Warning: In the summer, I-64 is the main route of travel for people who live north of this area to get to the beaches of southeast Virginia and North Carolina. Traffic can get backed up pretty heavily on Saturdays and Sundays). To save money, you may want to use this time to stop at a fast food place for lunch before entering the water park.
Water Country USA, has a large assortment of water rides for all ages. There are big slides, a lazy river, a huge wave pool, plus a kiddy area for younger children. Visitors need to bring towels and a bathing suit (although there are stores on site that do sell both if you forget), and renting a locker is highly recommended.
Water Country USA
176 Water Country Pkwy.
Hours: Vary; please see website for details
Admission: Regular admission $44.95, children (3-9) $37.95, children 2 and under are free; parking $13
Unfortunately, this teenager-friendly itinerary won't work all year round. Water Country, for instance, is open from May through September. Busch Gardens is open for limited hours during the spring, and then during the fall, the park turns itself into a gigantic, scary haunted house at night for its popular Howl-O-Scream event, which is very popular with vacationing teens. Busch Gardens is also open for the Christmas holiday season from November 26th until December 31st, with the exception of Christmas Day.
Note: The trick to making the most of a trip to this area's amusement parks is to buy either a one-day or several-day "bounce" pass that allows the purchaser to go to both Busch Gardens and Water Country USA as many times as he/she wants during the days the tickets are purchased for.
The perfect way to end the day is to visit nearby Yorktown. This is the town where British General Charles Lord Cornwallis was forced to surrender to General Washington, effectively ending the Revolutionary War.
There are ranger-guided tours of Yorktown available, but if your family arrives too late, you can still do the two self-guided driving tours of the grounds. The Yorktown Battlefield Visitor Center is open from 9am to 5pm every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day, and the park grounds close at sunset.
This is also the perfect time to treat the family to a sunset cruise aboard a three-mast schooner on the York River. As you float down the river, the crew will entertain your teens with Yorktown's history and point out interesting sites.
Riverwalk Landing Pier
Prices and times vary; please see website for details
At night, most teens will enjoy a ghost tour of Yorktown. Guides take you along Yorktown's streets and point out cannonball marks from the Revolutionary War, which are still visible on some buildings, and share tales of Yorktown's past. Your vacationing teens will learn the history of Yorktown without even realizing it. This ghost tour/history lesson is a nice complement to Colonial Williamsburg's historic recreations and to nearby Jamestown's exhibits and demonstrations.
During the times when Busch Gardens and/or Water Country, USA are closed, you can add Jamestown to your Williamsburg area family vacation itinerary. Jamestown was the site of the first successful colony in North America and is where Pocahontas met John Smith. In fact, a visit to Jamestown should be incorporated during any trip to Williamsburg with teens.