Details: Williamsburg-area attractions
My last visit to the Virginia attraction, about 10 years ago, had not fared so well. Let’s just say that after a wearisome butter-churning demonstration, I switched to margarine. I also contracted a phobia of costumed actors.
But the Williamsburg of yesterday is not the same as the Williamsburg of today. History, thank my lucky stars, did not repeat itself on my most recent visit.
Over the years, Colonial Williamsburg and the satellite attractions of Yorktown, Jamestown and Busch Gardens have expanded and evolved, creating new experiences that will surprise return guests. Of course, you can still see the Smiths (tin, silver, black) laboring over their craft, and I assume the cook is still assaulting her butter. But you will also find the new in the old — text-messaging with revolutionaries, for example.
To discover Williamsburg 2.0, I returned a few weeks ago with an open mind, a rejuvenated sense of curiosity and a charged cellphone — because despite the progress, Colonial Williamsburg does not have outlets.
Significant birthdays require over-the-top presents. You wouldn’t give your 99-year-old uncle a striped tie for his centennial, would you?
In 2007, Jamestown Settlement commemorated the 400th anniversary of the community’s founding by enlarging and updating the state-operated museum, which originally opened in 1957 for the 350th milestone. The gift to America’s first permanent English colony included new exhibits and galleries inside and out. A series of artifact-packed rooms, for instance, delves into the lifestyles and traditions of the English, the Powhatan Indians and African cultures; you can sample the Algonquian language, a form of which the Powhatan people spoke, and stroll down a mock English lane complete with tenements and barking dogs. The renovation plan also injected more juice into its life-size re-creations of James Fort, a Powhatan village and a landing dock with replicas of the ships that crossed the Atlantic, landing in Virginia in 1607.
At the Powhatan village, a female interpreter dressed in tawny animal skins explained that the setting was based on a 400-year-old community that lived five miles down the road. She encouraged me to step inside any of the five houses on display, where the interior decor was wall-to-wall road kill. Outside one abode, a woman sewed tiny shells onto an animal hide dress that she had created from scratch. Across the way, a woman tended a garden. She was all alone — where were all of the Powhatan men? — so I gave her a hand with the digging. I pushed the soil around using a long wooden staff with a knobby end, hoping the tractor would be invented within the next five minutes.