Ok! So in my last post, I answered some of the big questions frequently asked when prepping for a family trip to Colonial Williamsburg. Now, you are finally here! What do you do?
Get Your Tickets!
You can do this at any of the official CW hotels, the Visitor Center, the ticket offices in the Historic Area, or even online. And kids under six are free! The Multiday Ticket is a great deal. We have been using the Historic Triangle Ticket option a lot lately for our out-of-town guests because Jamestown and Yorktown are included and they are worth the visit. If you are planning more than one trip in the year, do yourself a favor and get the Annual Pass. If you want evening programs or carriage rides, make sure you get those first thing too because they do sell out frequently. (Although we hear carriages will soon be available to book online ahead of your trip!)
Check the Calendar
There is always so much happening! There are new programs with different seasons, special events, and of course there are always interesting projects going on in the Historic Trades sites. Check the calendar online or the printed daily program (available at ticket locations), and see what is happening. The Historic Area is huge, so you may be at the Governor’s Palace and won’t know that Thomas Jefferson is having a public audience on the other side of town. There are so many great programs that take place at the Art Museums, but they are a good distance from your Charlton Coffeehouse tour. Check the schedule and see what is happening each day to map out a plan and make the most of your tickets!
Make a Plan
If you are like me, and have young kids, at least half of your crew is going to need a nap midday. And, if you are really like me, at some point the 13-year-old is going to complain she is bored, but the 2-year-old is not ready to leave the sheep and eventually…. everyone is crying. So now that you have checked the calendar and know your options, make a plan! Then you can factor in naptime, lunchtime, etc. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Maybe you will run into Martha Washington out on her horse and see the Fife & Drum Corp and decide to hang out with them for a bit. That’s great! But having a plan will make it so much easier to keep the kids going. Again, it’s best to do your homework ahead of time, and check out the calendar on the website.
Let the Kids Help!
If the kids don’t see the sparkle they are looking for, it is because they are blinded by the shine. The Historic Area has a million adventures waiting to happen. Did they see the Military Encampment on the over there? They can get militia training and in the summer, maybe even fire a cannon! Want to do some archeological digging? We have that too. Carriage rides, ghost tours… Ask them what they want to do! Go to one of the shops and get some 18th-century games to take home as souvenirs. The William Pitt Store is an awesome place to get new games. So is the Market House. And the people who work there are fabulous and will teach you how to play them. Let them be the masters of their own destinies for a while. It will be keeping with our revolutionary theme we have going on around here…
Someone is hungry, another one is thirsty, and two of them have to go to the bathroom…
Make use of the mobile app or map to find places to eat and to track down bathrooms and water fountains. You can read about my recommendations for kid-friendly options in the previous post here. CW puts out a refillable mug each year and has a number of places you can refill them as much as you would like with soft drinks ($1 each refill) or water (free). You can get these refills at the Raleigh Tavern Bakery, Dubois Grocer, McKenzie Apothecary, Chowning’s Cider Stand, and Visitor Center Cafe. The bathrooms are spread out (although improvements to that are in the works for 2017, so huzzah!), so I take the “everyone is going while we are here” approach.
It’s not a perfect process, but it does work and you can make it work for your family. The kids won’t love everything, so just embrace it. Consider it a learning experience in diplomacy. No matter what, if you put a little planning into it and get the family here and ready to roll, this place will do the rest. It won’t just be fun. It won’t just be educational. It won’t just be a wonderful family vacation. It will be all of those things.
Guest Blogger: Katherine Morris Ainslie
Katherine is the Externship Program Coordinator for the William & Mary Law School. She has four children – Alexandra (12), Senet (6), Thaine (5), and Flynn (2). Katherine and her significant other, Alex Morse, are avid board gamers and boast an impressive and ever-growing collection of games. Beyond having their weekly board game parties, Katherine loves hosting visitors and throwing big parties including their famous annual Kentucky Derby party. She also enjoys British costume dramas, obnoxiously bright colors and patterns, cooking, & consuming large quantities of Aromas coffee.