What’s old will be new again. A saying that holds a lot of truth.
While this didn’t work out quite like expected for Ponce de Leon and his Fountain of Youth, it is working out for Williamsburg, Virginia.
Just a three hour car ride from DC, and I was trekking along in a place where forward-thinking entrepreneurs and culinary creatives are finding a balance between the ancient and the eclectic. It’s a long weekend that must be had.
Here’s how you should spend your next extended weekend:
Pre-travel: Book a room at Kingsmill Resort Williamsburg. Not only is this property perched on the James River, but it can also lay claim to sitting on the most historic 177 yards of golf in America. This handsomely treed property has many luxury amenities available for you and will be sure to cement memories during your stay:
Do It: Colonial Williamsburg
This notable district goes hand-in-hand with a living-history museum, which means actors are portraying what Colonial life was like all throughout. Many of the shops and restaurants greet you with characters in period-costume and dialogue. The way in which the actors interact with you will have you asking your neighbor for some general reassurance as to what year it is.
Do it: Resolved, an American Experiment
An immersive show offering the opportunity to become a part of the Burgess or a member of Parliament, this laugh-worthy performance keeps you listening with raised eyebrows as the actors re-imagine the courtroom events of the past in believable manners.
“The beginning dialog popped into my head when I woke up in the morning,” says Katrinah Lewis, writer of Resolved, an American Experiment, and Colonial Williamsburg Artistic Director of Museum Theatre. Katrinah went on to add that once she has a solid final draft of her plays, she brings the entire ensemble of actors together to read it and pick it apart, further showing her discipline and democracy in her creation of theatre.
Also Do It: Williamsburg Winery
Head down to Williamsburg Winery and seek out their Pyment Honey Grape Wine, a silky mead of floral and earthy flavors that creates a signature taste worth remembering. After your meal, ask for a tour of their wine cellar, where classical music is being played on surround-speakers to the barrels of grapes 24/7 to keep them calm and suppressed in order to produce the best quality wine possible. Classical is the only music allowed; we’re told heavy metal didn’t make the cut. Certainly not the grapes of wrath.
Do It: Visit Virginia Beer Company
With a name like Virginia Beer Company, you’d think they’d have been around for a century and a half, but instead, they’re rather recent. Founded by William and Mary alumni, and fellow college rock band mates, Chris Smith, and “lead singer” Robby Willey, this modern-retro dugout authors such original beer gems as “Saving Daylight” and “Free Verse”. Be sure to spend a couple hours in here as you view the beer-making process by way of their fermentation laboratory behind large glass windows. Furthermore, here you’ll get in touch with the spirit of music that lives through the many live events that take place on their front patio area. Also, ask Chris or Robby about their ties to The Grateful Dead concerts in the area.
You’ve gotta eat lunch:
Traditional Spanish food seems unlikely in Williamsburg, but there’s a reason for this tapas bar and market. It is well-known that the historic triangle has roots intertwined with the U.S. military, which brings us back in time to founding-father Don Harris, a young Naval Chaplain at the time, who first experienced Spain and all her beauty. This appreciation was passed on to his family as they lived in Spain for many years. They eventually moved back to the states and the Harris family opened La Tienda to provide Williamsburg with only the finest quality traditional products from Spain. Since it’s lunch, know that here you can find a Paella of perfect sustenance that must be forked into your mouth immediately. Note: ask the owner, Jonathan Harris, about how the archeologists at Jamestowne are said to have found Spanish relics on the site. He’ll tell you what he can. I cannot confirm nor deny these words. But really, ask him. The plot thickens…
Do It: Historic Jamestowne
Arguably the most stirring part of your trip may take place at Historic Jamestowne, where you can explore the actual location of the first enduring English settlement in America. You’ll bear witness to the ongoing archaeological digs in search of more details and relics related to the beginning of America. Pay attention to the small area with wooden benches appearing set-up as if for a church service; this was the actual spot where John Rolfe and Pocahontas were married. Take the time to walk this olden soil by the shore and you will feel the quaintness and the days of long ago transpire beneath your feet.
Also Do It: Taste Studio
When it comes to relaxing and learning about food, tastings/classes add a new dimension to it all. With a set-up comparable to a television studio where a celebrity chef would usually take the stage (ala Rachael Ray), you’ll be able to watch your Williamsburg host chef dazzle you by making precise incisions into a baby carrot to perfectly resemble your face! Wow! While that isn’t exactly true, you’ll still have the option of sampling some chic eats, beer, wine, and spirits from the relaxation of a front row seat in a state-of-the art kitchen. Be sure to call first before planning, since hours vary monthly.
Should Do It: Merchant’s Square and The Shoe Attic
Check out the shopping district known as Merchants Square (134 N Henry Street) to not only stroll the outdoor mall but to harmonize with the architecture, and to discover some hip places to buy crafts and gifts for a loved one or yourself. Don’t forget to swing on into The Shoe Attic (409b W Duke of Gloucester St) and say hello to Brittany Rolston, an entrepreneur who prides staying on top of the latest trends to sell some of the coolest kicks in Southeastern Virginia.
Dinner’s Calling: Culture Café or The Amber Ox Public House
Want quirky crossed with memorable and innovative small plates? Then head down to Culture Café, where the restaurant walls themselves are pieces of artwork encompassing an alternative environment of creative energy. Owner David Everett says, “Culture Café likes to push the boundaries on everything!” Feeling a bit more traditional with a craft beer mindset in tow? The Amber Ox Public House puts foods you know and love on a pedestal with a take on them that satisfies the casual diner and food snob alike. The Amber Ox supports over 20 local farmers, fish mongers, and artisans in the Hampton Roads area.
Do It: American Revolution Museum at Yorktown (Arm@Y)
A top-notch indoor and outdoor Museum covering the American Revolution and also featuring historical period performers much like Colonial Williamsburg, ARM@Y fulfills the history buff inside us all. From the 4-D movies to the outdoor re-created soldier’s camping area and the plantation keep, you’ll walk away from this experience phased by what the American Revolution was all about.
Chow Down: Riverwalk Restaurant
Before moving on to your next activities, you’ll need to make sure your caloric intake for the day is in check. Sitting lovely on the York River in Yorktown, The Riverwalk Restaurant is where you can sink your tusks into quite possibly the best club sandwich within 100 miles, The King of Clubs – try it and see why. Or if you fancy something a bit lighter and certainly favorable to the region, the Signature Salmon Salad does the duty just fine.
Do It: Patriot Segway Tours
After lunch at Riverwalk Restaurant you can easily walk out the front door of the restaurant and to your right about thirty steps (rough estimate) to try the one thing you’ve wanted to try for years but always seem to put off. That’s right. Riding a Segway! Give this experience a shot as your tour guide will direct you along the historically charming streets of Yorktown, while the refreshing breeze from the river glides across your cheeks as you max out at seven miles-per-hour. Fear not if you have never ridden a Segway before; your tour guide trains you in a matter of five minutes.
Or Do This Instead: Busch Gardens Williamsburg:
For the 28th consecutive year, Busch Gardens Williamsburg has been ranked the most beautiful theme park in America. That alone is enough of a reason to spend many hours or a full day visiting. The layout, design, and gardening of the park is masterful. As a contrast between 17th Century European countries and modern day everything else, Busch Gardens is a family adventure that tosses you through shows and rollercoasters. It is this endeavor that puts the crown on the head of Williamsburg as king of family destinations in Virginia.
You can follow Dan Fecht on Twitter: http://twitter.com/realdanfecht
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Cultural and Poetry Editor