Historic Coastal Virginia dishes up unique travel experiences

Carol Timblin

Archaeology continues at Jamestown, site of America’s first permanent settlement.

Ride a Segway around Yorktown. Travel by kayak to a winery on the Eastern Shore. Get up close and personal with the animals at Busch Gardens. See how the Rockefellers lived in Williamsburg. Learn how costumes are made at the Jamestown Settlement. Search for ancient fossils at York River State Park.

If you think you have seen everything there is to see in the Historic Triangle, think again.

Our visit began in Colonial Williamsburg on Mother’s Day weekend, a time when the historic area was practically deserted. On a Saturday evening stroll we happened upon a free organ concert at Bruton Parish Church, which dates to 1715. We also enjoyed the historical interpreters at the House of Burgesses, the Governor’s Palace, and the various shops in the village. At R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse we listened to lively, heated conversations about troubles in the “Revolutionary City” and sampled a delicious dark chocolate drink.

We ate lunch at Chowning’s Tavern and dinner at The King’s Arms. Both establishments offer 18th-century menus and live musical entertainment. We also sampled locally made beverages at the Williamsburg Winery and the AleWerks Brewing Company.

It was a rare treat to visit Bassett Hall, where philanthropists John and Abby Rockefeller lived and entertained when they were in town. The Rockefellers began the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg during the 1930s — a tradition that continues today. Abby Rockefeller’s folk art collection is featured in the museum that bears her name.

Another great place to visit is the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary, home to more than 5,000 works of art from around the world.

We also spent time getting to know the well-trained Percheron horses, border collies, black-faced sheep, birds, reptiles, and a porcupine at Busch Gardens. The park’s newest thrill coaster is Tempesto, which runs at 63 mph and features a complete inversion at 154 feet.

At the Jamestown Settlement we took a behind-the-scenes tour of the costume shop and saw a few of the designers’ beautiful creations, including the gown that Pocahontas wore at the English Court. We also visited the Jamestown Rediscovery Research Center and archaeology site, where Dr. William Kelso and his team have unearthed more than 2 million artifacts over the past 20 years. It is no wonder the site has been deemed one of the top archaeology finds in the world.

Archaeology continues at Jamestown, site of America’s first permanent settlement.
Archaeology continues at Jamestown, site of America’s first permanent settlement.

We found the village of Yorktown to be delightful. Located on the York River, it has historic buildings, quaint shops, and restaurants.

Segway tours are the newest way to experience the Yorktown Battlefield, where Gen. George Washington and the French Allies claimed victory over the British on Oct. 19, 1781. Don’t miss the towering Yorktown Victory Monument, filled with the names of fallen soldiers. The Yorktown Independence Day Celebration, July 4–5, will feature military drills, artillery displays, a parade down Water Street, musical entertainment, and fireworks.

Elsewhere in Virginia’s Tidewater, we found the best way to see Historic Portsmouth is a walking tour led by Col. William Crawford, who founded the city in 1752. Other options are a self-guided walking tour or horse-drawn carriage. Olde Towne has a huge collection of historic homes and a number of great museums, including the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum, Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, and Children’s Museum of Virginia.

Historic Hampton, 400 years old and going strong, is home to the Virginia Air & Space Museum, Hampton History Museum, a 1920s operating carousel, and Fort Monroe National Monument.

On the final day of our trip we traveled across the 23-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to Virginia’s Eastern Shore, a peninsula surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay on the west side and the Atlantic on the east. Captain Rick Kellam, of Broadwater Bay Ecotours, shared his vast knowledge of the shore and a history of the state’s thriving seafood industry, from old oyster-shucking days to modern times. He also shucked a few raw oysters for us and served them on the spot.

In the afternoon, Southeast Expeditions provided an enjoyable kayak trip to Chatham Vineyards on Church Creek for a wine tasting. The newly bottled 2014 Steel Chardonnay is a wonderful compliment to the local seafood.

Elsewhere in Virginia

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Wintergreen Resort and the 20th anniversary of the Wintergreen Summer Music Festival and Academy, scheduled for July 8–Aug. 2. This year’s theme is “Cheers! Toast 20 Years of Music in the Mountains.” Opening night on July 8 will feature a “Surprise Birthday Party” concert, showcasing memorable festival performances of the past 20 years performed by national and international artists.

Wintergreen Festival Orchestra’s performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 on the last weekend will celebrate and embody the spirit of the festival’s journey over the past two decades.

The festival also will serve as the venue for 20 world premieres, including Daron Hagen’s score for a performance of Charlie Chaplin’s 1915 movie, The Tramp. There’s something for everyone who attends the festival: solo concerts to chamber music, wine tastings to cooking classes, and post-concert patio parties to “Wild Wednesdays.” (wintergreenperformingarts.org)

New exhibit at Newseum

The Newseum’s “Reporting Vietnam,” on display through Sept. 12, marks the 50th anniversary of America’s first televised war. The exhibit explores how journalists brought news about the Vietnam War to a divided nation via photos, news footage, music, artifacts, newspapers, and magazines. Contributing support for the exhibit is provided by CBS Corporation in memory of 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon, whose legendary war reporting during five decades started in Vietnam.

Showing in the museum’s Robert H. and Clarice Smith Big Screen Theater is Reporting Vietnam: Eyewitness to War, an original documentary about the press coverage in Vietnam.

Also showing are two other original films that explore the protest movement at home and how television changed the way Americans received news from the battlefield.

“The Vietnam War polarized the nation and led Americans to question the legitimacy of authority everywhere,” said Peter Prichard, Newseum chairman and CEO. “The exhibit captures the essence of a complex moment in American history, transporting visitors back to a time when peace, love, and understanding were the goal, but not always the reality.”

Other travel news

Disneyland Resort in California is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer with three new nighttime spectaculars: “Paint the Night” (celebrating Disneyland’s electrical parade heritage), “Disneyland Forever” (a fireworks spectacular), and “World of Color: Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney” (a new presentation of the “World of Color” spectacular in Disney California Adventure).

Game of Thrones fans looking for Westeros adventures this summer might check out blog.goeuro.co.uk/game-of-thrones-travel-guide for a guide to filming locations in Europe.

Carol Timblin welcomes travel news at ctimblin@gmail.com.

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