Don’t miss the boat!
To be more specific, don’t miss a unique opportunity to board an authentic historical replica of the 18th-century French sailing ship that reunited George Washington and the young Marquis de Lafayette and took part in the French blockade that trapped the British Army in Yorktown, Va. The Hermione, dubbed the French Frigate of Freedom, sailed from Rochefort, France, in mid-April on its maiden voyage of 3,819 miles across the Atlantic and will make its first stop in Yorktown on June 5.
The momentous occasion marks the 235th anniversary of Lafayette’s arrival on the Hermione in 1780, when he brought French support to George Washington and the continental Army. The arrival of Lafayette and his troops helped to turn the tide of the American Revolution and paved the way for independence.
Three days of festivities, beginning June 5 (9:00am–7:00pm), will include free entertainment, programs, activities, and exhibits. Historic shipbuilding crafts demonstrations, conversations with young volunteer sailors, and guided tours of the 213-foot-long, 177-foot-tall ship are just a few of the exciting activities scheduled during the historic visit.
Hermione will sail up the coast to 11 additional iconic ports, including Mount Vernon, Annapolis, and Baltimore, during two months of events. A traveling photography exhibit covering the 17 years of the Hermione’s reconstruction will be free to the public in each port.
More to do in Yorktown
During Memorial Day weekend, the Yorktown Battlefield leaps forward a hundred years from its Revolutionary War emphasis and focuses on the Civil War. On May 23–24 (9:00am-5:00pm), visitors will have the opportunity to wander through authentically reenacted Confederate and Union camps and watch demonstrations of cavalry action, complete with troops firing pistols and cannon.
“We have about 80 to 100 reenactors that camp within the British earthworks,” said Mac McClammy, a ranger with the National Park Service. “It will be an exciting event. We’ll even have a Civil War hospital in the Nelson House, which was used by both sides in the war. The camps are micro-displays of the period.”
Yorktown is a charming riverside community offering not only rich historical experiences, but also a free public beach, daytime and sunset sails, museums, guided Segway tours, outdoor dining, and shopping. Getting around is easy with free parking and a free trolley providing transportation throughout the town and over to the battlefield (March through November).
“I think what people like best about coming to Yorktown, and specifically Riverwalk Landing, for events is the ambiance and the beautiful scenic and peaceful event venue,” said Kevin Ritchie, who plans local events for the county. “It’s a remarkable location with the York River as a backdrop and really is unmatched in our area. There is something going on all the time in Yorktown, with a great variety to appeal to a lot of folks.”
One of the fun free events held each Thursday night, 6:30–9:30pm, during the summer is called Shagging on the Riverwalk. “We have a great line up of bands scheduled for this summer,” said Ritchie. “The 10th annual concert series offers lively entertainment for both participants and onlookers.” Bring your dancing shoes and enjoy great music and awesome views on the York River as you shag the night away.
Insider tip: For just-picked produce, freshly caught seafood, and warm-from-the-oven baked goods, head to Water Street on Saturday mornings, 9:00am–1:00pm, during Yorktown Market Days (May through the end of September). Along with great food, flowers, and artwork, you can enjoy free live entertainment as you shop.
And what could be more patriotic than Fourth of July celebrations in the very town where the last major battle was fought to win our country’s independence? Festivities begin at 9:00am with a colorful parade marching down Water Street. “It’s a family affair — a really neat event,” said Ritchie. A free musical performance by the TRADOC brass band at 8:00pm is followed by spectacular fireworks over the York River at 9:00pm.
For more information:
York Co. Tourism: visityorktown.org
Lafayette’s reconstructed Hermione arrives in Yorktown in June to kick off an East Coast tour.