Virginia’s Historical Triangle

Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown

Democracy, diversity, liberty, prosperity -- these are the principles upon which our country was founded, and here in Virginia’s Historic Triangle, visitors discover their American roots.

Beginning with the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown established in 1607, through the Colonial period in Williamsburg, and culminating with the Revolutionary victory at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, the story of our nation comes alive in Virginia’s Historic Triangle.

Visitors today to the Williamsburg area can immerse themselves in America’s culture and history while enjoying the most modern amenities. Complementing the historic sites, modern adventure and entertainment delight visitors of all ages. All within a few minutes’ drive, the points of Virginia’s Historic Triangle -- Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown -- offer more than 20 attractions; world-class golf; outlet and specialty shopping; and memorable and fine dining.

The story begins in Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the New World. Visitors can explore Historic Jamestowne, the original site dating to 1607, as well as the foundations of private homes and public buildings. Archaeologists continue to excavate the original James Fort, from which artifacts are displayed.

Nearby Jamestown Settlement traces Jamestown’s beginnings through indoor gallery exhibits and life-size re-creations of a Powhatan Indian Village, James Fort and three ships, and a newly developed riverfront discovery area.

A 15-minute drive east from Jamestown takes visitors to Colonial Williamsburg, the world’s largest living history museum and the restored 18th-century capital of the Virginia colony, Britain’s largest, wealthiest and most populated in the “New World.” Colonial Williamsburg tells the story of “Becoming Americans,” how diverse peoples evolved into a society that values liberty and equality.

Colonial Williamsburg comprises 301 acres of historic buildings, gardens and public greens where costumed interpreters ply their trades and re-enact and interpret aspects of Colonial life Guests can walk to Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area from the Visitor Center across a “Bridge to the Past” that transports them from their 21st-century world into the 18th century.

Along the way they encounter “people of the past” at Great Hopes Plantation where guests observe how most 18th-century Virginians lived in the rural countryside -- whites and slaves working side-by-side in agricultural activities -- rather than the city life depicted in the Colonial capital city.

From the Governor’s Palace to the Capitol, guests become acquainted with costumed residents who are eager to share the news of the day. Trades people at some 20 sites throughout the Historic Area invite guests to help them practice their trades such as shoemaking, barrel making or silversmithing.

Evening programs complement Colonial Williamsburg’s daytime offerings. Art and antiques lovers enjoy Colonial Williamsburg’s exhibits of English and American antiques at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and Bassett Hall, the Williamsburg home of Colonial Williamsburg’s first benefactors Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Only 14 miles from Williamsburg is Yorktown, site of the last major battle of the American Revolution. A scenic drive along the Colonial Parkway, the 23-mile roadway that connects Jamestown to Williamsburg to Yorktown, brings visitors to the Yorktown Battlefield, including fortification and siege lines, Surrender Field and the Moore House, where negotiations for Cornwallis’ surrender took place.

The National Park Service Visitor Center offers an orientation film, a museum featuring artifacts from the battle, including the original tents used by General Washington, and maps for a self-guided auto tour of the battlefield and a walking tour of the picturesque town of York.

Main Street and its surrounding streets are lined with historic buildings, antique shops and galleries. At the state-operated Yorktown Victory Center, innovative exhibits and an evocative film chronicle the Revolutionary era from the beginnings of Colonial unrest to the emergence of the new nation, drawing from the perspectives of ordinary men and women.

Just a few blocks away, the Yorktown waterfront offers visitors the peaceful views of the York River from the tree-lined Riverwalk. Opened in 2005, Riverwalk Landing features a collection of retail shops and riverfront dining.

The waterscape includes two piers — a large T-shaped pier to accommodate tall ships and a smaller pier to welcome pleasure boaters. Situated midway between Yorktown’s two major historic sites, Riverwalk Landing provides a respite as visitors stroll from the Yorktown Battlefield at the east end of town along the mile-long Riverwalk that ends at the Yorktown Victory Center to the west.

Located at the west end of the riverfront, the Watermen’s Museum tells the story of Virginia’s working watermen and their families, who for generations have harvested the rivers and tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay for its abundant year-round seafood. Outdoor exhibits include a five-log dugout canoe and other examples of boat building.

Though many people lived in towns, the plantation was an important center of life in the 18th century. Today’s visitors can get a glimpse of plantation life from three historic properties known as the James River Plantations. West of Williamsburg along scenic John Tyler Memorial Highway lies Berkeley, the site of the first official Thanksgiving in 1619. Visitors can tour the lovely grounds of Sherwood Forest Plantation, home of President John Tyler, 10th President of the United States.

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