We continued our journey up the East Coast from North Carolina into Virginia.
The first stop was America’s Historic Triangle with three towns that are important to colonial America – Jamestown (the first English Settlement), Williamsburg (the capitol of Britians’s largest and richest colony) and Yorktown (the site of the final battle in the Revolutionary War).
After settling into our campground, we began our tour of the area with a stroll through the lovely merchant’s square in Williamsburg.
The brick streets are lined with shops, restaurants and at the far end lies the gorgeous historic College of William & Mary (the second oldest college in America!). We ate at a great pub, walked around the shops, then strolled the campus.
This photo is one of my favorites of the trip :) I ask them to smile and this is what I get.
There is a great bookstore in the same area where we spent over an hour on both days. Ryan browsed downstairs while the kids and I went up to the Children’s section to read and play. I adore a good illustrated children’s book and read a handful. This one was our favorite of the day – such a witty, clever story surrounding the leaders of the Revolution and totally appropriate for this leg of the trip.
The following day, we ventured to Jamestown where the first settlement in America began in 1607.
Side note: there actually was an earlier settlement on Roanoke Island, NC where we visited on our previous stop. There is mystery as to what happened to the 117 colonists which is super fascinating. Read more about it here.
There are two ways to explore Jamestown: the Historic Jamestowne national park and the Jamestown Settlement. We visited the Settlement which has a full gallery with the history, artifacts and videos inside the visitors center and a replica settlement that you can walk through which is very hands-on.
We learned about the houses that were built, the struggles that the early colonists faced, what types of plants they grew and their relationship with the Native Americans who were already living in the area.
The Powhatan people and the English Colonists built an interesting relationship that was beneficial to both (and harmful as well). We loved walking through the Powhatan village and learning more about their culture and trying out a few of their everyday activities (like removing the fur from a deer hide using a deer hoof!)
The colonists came to America aboard ships and just a few steps away were three replicas on the James River. Again, they have it set up for visitors to climb aboard and have a look around.
I ended up chatting with one of the men in costume who was so knowledgeable about early American history. I am sure I learned much of this in school, but it all left my brain long ago so it was like all of these lightbulbs kept clicking in my head.
So that’s why the British came! (The Virginia Company was funded by weathly Englishmen with the goal of claiming land in America in hopes of discovering gold and silver and producing profitable crops).
Pocahontas ties in here! (She was from the Powhatan tribe, married Englishman John Rolfe – not John Smith as the Disney movie portrays – and was a quick celebrity in England as an example of a ‘civilized savage’.)
The few hours that we spent at Jamestown was very informative and it was helpful that much of it was hands-on for the kids.
The next day, we visited Yorktown. Again, there are two ways to discover the history: Yorktown Battlefield run by the National Parks and Yorktown Victory Center.
We started with the National Park where we joined a Ranger talk that walked us through the battlefield and explained its significance.
Again, I’m sure I learned all of this in school (and I promise I was a good student!), but I was so fuzzy on this part of history before visiting.
Over 150 years after the first settlements were established in America and after years of being unfairly ruled by the British government, revolutionists joined together to declare independence from England. Many things led up to the Revolutionary War (i.e. the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere, The Declaration of Independence) which ultimately ended with the battle at Yorktown.
George Washington, along with Count Rochambeau and their combined Franco-American army defeated the British at Yorktown which would ultimately lead to the British Parliament turning against the war. While Yorktown was not the last battle, it was the most significant and a huge turning point that resulted in America’s independence.
After walking the battlefield, seeing original cannons (!), driving the path where the soldiers encamped and fought, we visited the Victory Center. This was set up much the same as the Jamestown settlement with a gallery (currently under construction to be opened this fall as the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown) and a re-created Continental Army encampment and Revolution-era farm.
This costumed soldier taught us about life in the army, he shared with us the war strategy, how to fire a musket and how to march in formation. We all were quite entertained.
We also sat in to listen to the army surgeon and hear about the medical practices of the time. The boys asked a million questions and our oldest volunteered to learn how the surgeons of that time removed iron musket balls from wounded soldiers (I’ll just say it was ridiculously unsanitary and excruciatingly painful). Again, the hands-on nature made history come alive for all of us.
From the Victory Center, we walked along the river back to our car that was parked about a mile away at the battlefield. Our walk took us through the little town of Yorktown and past old, historic buildings that have stood for nearly 300 years.
To get to our car, we walked through a pathway that was once a major thoroughfare to bring the tobacco from the plantations down to the river for shipping. There is also thought that British General Charles Cornwallis set up a temporary headquarters in the bank of the hillside along the path before the final battle. If those tress could talk!
Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown were added late to our itinerary and I’m so glad we moved things around to fit them in. We all learned so much, the timeline of early American history clicked and we had some great relax time at the bookstore and at our campground.
We moved onward from Williamsburg to a little town of Crozet, Virginia which is just outside Charlottesville.
We planned on visiting the area to see Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, and when I was booking our campsite I recognized the name of the town. It just so happens that one of my besties from college lives in Crozet, just a few miles from where we camped. We were able to squeeze in a visit with Jen and her twins (who are exactly Audrey’s age) and hear all about the local favorites.
Dinner one night was spent on the lawn of King Family Vineyards. You really couldn’t find a dreamier place to sit out, let the kids run, sip their delicious Crose (get it? Crozet/Rose?) and take in the most breathtaking views of the green landscape against the Blue Ridge Mountains.
I am not sure what I am doing here with my arm … but seriously, isn’t this the most beautiful scenery?!
We stayed at the best campground yet where Audrey had the whole bouncy thing to herself and took full advantage of it. There was a pool, a playground, a stage for events, a little stream. It was delightful.
One night Jen and her girls came for s’mores. This was only the second time we’ve pulled out the fire, our camp chairs and the s’mores sticks!
Our main purpose for visiting this part of Virginia was to see Thomas Jefferson’s historic plantation, Monticello.
We began our time with the family-friendly tour which was a great choice for our family. Our tour guide walked us through the rooms on the main floor of the house, giving details on the life of Thomas Jefferson as well as information about the architecture, purpose of each room and notable furniture and decor pieces.
We all felt so inspired by Thomas Jefferson and his love of reading, architecture, innovation. He was an important figure in government – author of The Declaration of Independence, George Washington’s Secretary of State, the second Vice-President, third President, supporter of the Lewis + Clark expedition, and founder of the first state university, University of Virginia – as well as an avid gardner and self-taught architect.
The home and gardens are as lovely as I imagined.
We sat in on a talk on slavery at the plantation. There is a fascinating family tree that connects Jefferson to Sally Hemmings – the half sister to his first wife, Martha, who was a slave on the plantation and mother to six of Jefferson’s children. Read more about it here. Seriously, so interesting.
He wasn’t a perfect man, by any means, but his leadership in our young country was paramount in gaining independence from Britian, the formation of our government and the development of state universities.
This part of the country is just beautiful. Have I mentioned that? It really is.
The rolling hills, lush greenery, farms dotting the landscape, the Blue Ridge Mountains.
We were smitten with it all.
Thanks for visiting Virginia, Emily! We are quite smitten with our history. I’m thrilled you enjoyed it. I’m a big fan, do you mind if I share your post on my blog page?
I love history and traveling so it’s a win win for me. Wouldn’t it be nice if they even taught history in school these days? Seems they are all so bent on making high test scores that they forget about the things that made us great to begin with. I’ll be looking forward to your next post.
You went to two of my favorite places in the whole world! I grew up in Newport News, Virginia, twenty minutes from Williamsburg. And I had the good fortune to graduate from the University of Virginia. Truly magical places, both!
Hi Emily! My family of 5 went on a 3-week RV cross country trip this summer (from Virginia to California, and back). A friend shared your website with me before our trip and I am so glad. I really did not want our trip to end so now we can still travel vicariously through you! Thanks for sharing ~ your pictures are gorgeous and your descriptions really do help us feel like we are there with you! Your kids are adorable, by the way. They are making memories of a lifetime!
The Puritans came and dedicated the land and America in 1607, 13 years before the pilgrims. You should look up the prayer of dedication that took place at Cape Henry 4.28.1607 This particular group came for more than gold and silver…but to evangelize the world. Super interesting! I have been to Cape Henry and it has given me hope! Let me know if you look it up!
These pictures are so beautiful! I guess I’m biased, because I live near Harrisonburg, VA, about an hour from Monticello! And now I want to go visit Thomas Jefferson’s home! I love all your travel posts and am a little sad your journey is almost over! :)
It is utterly bizarre to see photos of my home state near my home town! We here in VA don’t have the opportunity to be fuzzy on the details of colonialism in America, these are the only places we get to go on field trips! I’m excited to get to your side of America and learn more about the west coast. Happy travels!
I live in in Virginia, but reading your posts made me love it even more. I seriously consider Williamsburg to be our family’s happy place. My eldest said, “Mom, it’s like Disney World except it’s educational!”
Love your travels!
I love following along, living vicariously! My family was gifted a week in williamsburg this summer, and at first I was bummed (was hoping for the beach bc we have a 3 year old) but this makes me excited! Love the information and recommendations, can’t wait to explore! Would love more recs from anyone who loves this area!
You need to expand your trip and all of it’s adventures by writing a book. You’re an excellent writer and you have the ability to make your readers feel as though we’re in that Airstream with you and that we’re visiting all the sights you’ve traveled at the same time. You will be amazed how often later in life your children will mention this trip. Such a wonderful bonding experience between siblings and parents. Safe travels. . .
Thank you Linda!
Will you be stopping in DC??? If so you should definitely do the National Archives – houses the Declaration, Constitution etc…
Hopefully you can get into Baltimore and visit Ft. McHenry! Also there is Antietam battlefield as well as Gettysburg on your way to PA where you really need to see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.
So much history in the eastern USA very hard to fit it all in.
We took our kids to those places when they were growing up. Loved them all especially Williamsburg. It’s been fun following your travels.
I’m getting sad for you that your trip is coming to a close. Thank you for sharing it with us! I hope to reference it in a few years when our kids get bigger enough for this kind of experience.
I have followed your trip from Brisbane Australia and have learnt so much about America and your history. I wanted to thank you for posting such interesting content and the photo’s are just wonderful if I ever make it to America I now have some idea of where I would want to go and what I would like to see. I can’t believe you are nearly at the end so sad for you all…..and us!!!
We are headed to these exact spots next week. Now I’m even more excited!!
O I loved Virginia when I visited, it looked the same…I love those trees. This will be a trip your children won’t forget. In a world full of hustle it’s good to just be a family
So we just drove through the Blue Ridge Mountains this weekend on our way back to Ohio from the OBX, and I was researching to find out more about the area – I learned that the trees In that particular range of the Appalacian Mountains produce high levels of isoprene which creates the blue haze that covers the mountains! And the whole time I’m reading and learning, I’m thinking about your family and how fascinating it must be to learn new things like this EVERYWHERE you go…so cool!!! Enjoy your last couple of weeks on the road!
I’ve loved watching your travels and stories unfold – what an impressive trip! I know you talked about taking a photography class online before you left, could you post a link to that again? Also, what kind of camera(s) are you using…and lens…and if you have commentary on any of that would be AWESOME! Enjoy the rest of your trip! xoxo – Terri
We highly recommend Ashley’s SnapShop courses (https://www.ashleyannphotography.com/snapshoponline/).
I am still hoping to do a post on photography … that will come soon!
Oh Em, its so fun to read about this trip because you’ve been to so many of my favorite places: Charleston, OBX and of course Williamsburg! We lived in Williamsburg for 3 years and went to all the places you visited- multiple times! My daughter even got to stand in the exact spot where Pocahontas got married! You have brought back so many memories for me. Now I’m going to read your NC post because we lived there for 3 years too!
I’m a Virginia girl so I vote this stop as my favorite! Williamsburg area is a place I grew up going to and now take my kids. You did an amazing job capturing the history of that area and of course, our mountains…I can watch the sun set behind them from my kitchen and I couldn’t live away from them!
Hope you continue to have an amazing and safe trip!
I was so glad to see this post today because I realized after seeing your posts for the 4th of July in DC that you had probably already been through Virginia and I was thinking that it must not have made an impact on you because you had not posted anything!! LOL
I live in Madison County and work in Charlottesville – and I happen to think that the Blue Ridge is the prettiest sight in the world! I am very glad you enjoyed it, too.
Thank you so much for sharing this trip with us! I have enjoyed it and I love knowing that you and your family have, too.
God keep you as you travel back home!
What a wonderful experience. Your visit to Monticello and mention of Jefferson’s life reminds me of a book I recently finished – America’s First Daughter by Laura Kamoie and Stephanie Dray – it tells the story of Jefferson and his family (from the invasion of the Red Coats to his death) through the eyes of his daughter Patsy (Martha). Both authors are historians first and much of the text was taken from letters of Jefferson, Patsy, and others. I so enjoyed this novel and learned so much about our nation’s birth. You might enjoy reading the book on the heels of your trip.
Wow, this place looks beautiful & sounds so fascinating.
It looks like somewhere I would want to visit.
Love following your blog! Your family photo’s are priceless, but the personality of your son the “poser” – what a hoot! So fun! Safe travels for the rest of your trip, and know that all of your hard work blogging the trip is really appreciated!
Oh, he’s full of personality! Especially when a camera comes out
You may enjoy backtracking and watching the series “Turn,” for its history and on site locations such as Colonial Williamsburg……… You MUST make a Christmas season return if this was one
of your favorite stops! Just imagine a totally adorned wreath on every door full of local fruits and greens. The miniature lady apples and pineapples!! A candle in every window! Does it make you love the architecture/all of the moldings and decorating style—-or do you still love the style in the beach house you rented–simple, open and fresh?
Hope the children saw the Hogs Head on the plate and learned about pound cake in the kitchen!
I rented an entire Tavern for my mother’s 65th b’day—what a treat! Had the ladies come to the
gathering room after dinner in their matching cotton gowns and caps carrying candles and played games!
NY Times Calls TURN “Beautifully Filmed”; Jamie Bell Talks Spies …
He doesn’t want to be one of these people who wants to step up. … According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, TURN “looks like a series that will be … Trail,” a series of Colonial and Revolutionary War-era attractions and TURN filming locations.
I love following your exploits on this trip. I love history and traveling so it’s a win win for me. Wouldn’t it be nice if they even taught history in school these days? Seems they are all so bent on making high test scores that they forget about the things that made us great to begin with. I’ll be looking forward to your next post, and the one after that and the one after that…. :-)
Love traveling with you. I feel like you have tucked me in your pocket and I get to experience all the highlights. This will be a trip of a lifetime for your family. My children are all grown, with children of their own, and yet we still talk about when we drove from Florida to Oklahoma and all the things we saw and did. Safe travels – can’t wait to hear what we see next!
So glad you loved Virginia, where I live, which is so rich in living history and as you saw, so beautiful! I am sad to see your amazing travels come to an end soon — have really enjoyed the blog!
So glad you loved Virginia, where I live — it truly is full of living history and as you saw, so beautiful! I am sad to see your amazing travels come to an end soon, have really enjoyed the blog!
All this information is so amazing! You need to put it all in some type of family travel guide or e-book or something. Thanks so much for sharing your adventures!
Again, thank you for sharing your family’s road trip. I have enjoyed every post!
Some of my favorite places! Love seeing your kids enjoy it all!
As a Virginia native – I loved this post! Looks like you all had a wonderful vacation and I loved reading your recap!
So glad you loved “my” state! I had recommended all these places when you were soliciting ideas. Very happy your family was able to experience the beauty and history of Virginia!
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts from this amazing trip! You’ve inspired me to plan a smaller scale trip on the east coast for my family. Enjoy your last few weeks!
So much fun! Thanks for sharing with us!
I actually grew up in Crozet and went to University of Virgina in Charlottsville! Now I live 15 minutes from Winchester. I love the Virginia hills and Blue Ridge Mountains :).
I was so excited to see your pictures of Monticello. I just finished reading “America’s First Daughter” which I highly recommend. It is a novel based on the letters of Thomas Jefferson written from the perspective of his daughter Martha (Patsy).
I love all your trip posts, but this one is particularly fun for me! I grew up in Charlottesville, went to high school in Crozet, my high school friend’s parents used to own that campground and we held our high school reunion picnic there last year AND my husband and I went to the College of William and Mary! Thanks for all the great photos and so glad that you enjoyed our part of Central Virginia!
So many connections! I love it. What a gorgeous part of the country.
Your posts are always so inspiring, and I’m loving following you around the country. We visited the Williamsburg/Jonestown areas several years ago and loved re-learning the history. Somehow it just stays with you a little better when you stand in the place than when you just read about it in a book, or hear a teacher or watch a movie! :)
I look forward to every post! Thank you for sharing, Emily!
I absolutely agree! I can’t wait to see how it impacts our kids as they go through school and learn American history. They will have such an interesting experience absorbing the information after seeing so many of the important historical sites.
How fun! I love hearing all of your stories and would love to see some of these places one day. If you’re looking for a good history podcast, check out Presidential. Each podcast is about a different president starting with Washington. My boyfriend and I listened to it while we were road tripping last month (Arizona to Montana) and it was a great way to pass the time and learn more about each president.
Ok that picture on the stairs is awesome! Love your little gir with her hand in her pocket.
Isn’t it cute?! Thanks for following along!
Soooooo good! This was so informative, educational and breathtaking! Rolling into one seems so effortless on your part – but I know better ;) Thank you so much for sharing and giving us good ideas for where we can explore in that neck of the woods.
Thanks, Iris! I worked hard to share not only the places we visited but also a bit of the fascinating history. Thanks for your kind comment!
It’s so wonderful that you are seeing all the beauty this great country has to offer. My husband and I took 3 wk trips out west and east (different trips!) and were amazed. There’s something for everyone, from deserts to mountains to oceans. It’s a fantastic country. I am l o v i n g this trip and don’t want it to end!
I don’t want it to end either :)
This country is so BIG and diverse in people, climate and landscape. We have so enjoyed getting just a tiny taste of it this summer.