Celebrate summer with history, sailing, music, and charm

Angela Blue

There’s something special about the month of July that makes us feel honored to be Americans. It could be the fireworks lighting up the night sky, the sound of patriotic melodies filling the air, or the sea of red, white, and blue waving gallantly on our country’s flag. In Virginia’s Historic Triangle, that patriotic fervor is especially captivating during July.

Perhaps nowhere outside of Philadelphia can you savor America’s quest for freedom more than Yorktown, home to the site where British Gen. Charles Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington and his French allies to end the Revolutionary War.

Yorktown navigationVisiting the quaint but charming town is like stepping back in time, but it’s been rejuvenated in ways guests can appreciate. Eighteenth-century homes and revolutionary battlefields are interspersed with eclectic shops and delightful dining experiences, many of which offer prestigious views of the York River. Take an afternoon to discover the area via bicycle, guided Segway tour, or free trolley.

To get a true understanding of our nation’s beginnings, head to Jamestown Settlement where you can go aboard replicas of the three ships that brought colonists to the New World and explore re-creations of settlements where the colonists lived, as well as a Powhatan village. (historyisfun.org/jamestown-settlement)

Explore the Revolutionary period at the Yorktown Victory Center, where you can join in musket drills with Revolutionary War soldiers and comb cotton on a Revolution-era farm. The center is currently being transformed to include expansive permanent exhibition galleries as part of the up-and-coming American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, scheduled to open in late 2016. The Victory Center remains in daily operation. (historyisfun.org/yorktown-victory-center)

Insider tip: Summer fun on the East Coast is best paired with water views, so cruise over to Yorktown’s waterfront, known as Riverwalk Landing, and explore beyond the sand on a kayak or stand-up paddleboard, or see if the fish are biting.

Setting sail

If you’re inclined to journey even farther beyond the shore, hop on the Alliance for a daytime or sunset sail. This 105-foot, three-masted schooner sails from Riverwalk Landing Pier, allowing passengers a true experience of what it was like to sail during the time that Captain John Smith explored the same waters.

“Whenever there’s a breeze, we’re sailing the ship,” said Captain Greg Lohse, who owns the Alliance as well as the two-masted Serenity with his wife, Laura. “The whole idea is to get people to slow down a little bit,” he said. “This is the pace that people had 200, 300 years ago, when the early settlers came here.”

The schooner Alliance sets sail on a sunset cruise.
The schooner Alliance sets sail on a sunset cruise.

During the relaxing two-hour cruise, you learn fascinating details about surrounding attractions, along with Revolutionary War history. “It’s historic, it’s scenic, and it’s fun,” Lohse said. In addition to viewing the Augustine Moore House, where the surrender of the Siege of Yorktown took place, and the Yorktown Battlefield, you may see diamondback and lagerhead turtles, osprey, dolphins, fish, and blue crabs.

Snacks, water, soda, beer, and wine are available for purchase below in the schooner’s galley, and if the crowd is feeling festive, Lohse will fire the ship’s cannon. There’s even a Pirate Cruise available for young sailors.

Independence Day and more

If all that weren’t reason enough to visit, there are some exiting events happening this month.

Williamsburg’s Independence Day Celebration is an all-day experience, beginning with a Salute to the States behind the courthouse and the reading of the Declaration of Independence on the courthouse steps. Join in the excitement of a Colonial Faire with tomahawk throwing, cannons, drills, games, and crafts. Later in the evening, the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums will perform, followed by a Salute to the Nation tribute to our armed forces. The fanfare concludes with a spectacular display of fireworks. (colonialwilliamsburg.com)

Like Yorktown, Williamsburg teems with activity throughout the summer. At the end of historic Duke of Gloucester Street, wander Merchants Square’s modern-day shops and restaurants.

Don’t miss the treats at Wythe Candy and Gourmet, including the handmade fudge, freshly dipped caramel apples, and the region’s largest selection of candy. The daily chocolate bar giveaway (buy three and get one free, with 200 to choose from) is popular — and why not? — but there are many other specials to check out as well.

On Saturdays, the farmers market sets up in the square, featuring fresh produce, plants, and palate-pleasing creations.

During Yorktown’s Fourth of July festivities, you can soak up the history of our country’s beginnings with a parade, band concert, and fireworks over the York River.

Throughout the month you can kick up your heels for the free Shagging on the Riverwalk Beach Music Concert Series, Thursdays, 6:30–
9:30 p.m., on the waterfront.

This month, take a moment to let the music of the fifes and drums resonate, let the magic of fireworks excite as they did when you were a child, and wave your flag proudly and dearly.


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