Traffic. Crowds. Heat. Three drawbacks we always face during our annual trip to Williamsburg, but this year we managed to beat two of them.
Since we were just there after Christmas, we debated not going to Williamsburg this Memorial Day weekend. But, it’s hard to buck tradition, and we consider ourselves lucky to have family (and friends!) who are willing to provide room and board and babysitting for a few days away from home.
Driving down I-95 through DC and dealing with the Virginia Beach traffic the Friday night before Memorial Day always sucks the life out of our vacation before it even starts. So, this year, we decided to take the slow route: I-97 south from Baltimore to US 301 (remember My Name is Earl?) over the Potomac, then US 17 and some back roads through the Tidewater to Williamsburg. We faced a teeny bit of bumper-to-bumper idling and a whole slew of traffic lights, but the trip didn’t take much longer at about 5 1/2 hours; in fact, we beat everyone else by about 20 minutes!
As for the crowds, we decided a few weeks in advance that we would avoid the biggest draws in town: Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens. Both are fine destinations, but neither caters to the preschool set in a way that justifies the cost of a ticket year after year. Add in the stifling humidity typical of late-spring Virginia and a couple of thousand strangers, and you can see why we chose an alternate itinerary.
The kids did not let us sleep in on Saturday, but with no reason to rush out the door, we enjoyed lounging around our air-conditioned suite. Around 11-ish we drove into Williamsburg, parked the car and walked into the eastern end of the reconstructed colonial zone. Without spending a dime, we took in the Bruton Parish graveyard, explored the gardens, visited a shop and, after meeting up with the rest of our crew, watched the fife and drum parade. We then had lunch at the Cheese Shop in Merchant Square.
Next, we picked up Steph and Dru and hopped on the free ferry to Surry County. Once there, we drove to Chippokes Plantation State Park for a fossil walk along the James River. The weather was warm but breezy. The kids were tired but eager to find some shark’s teeth, which, unfortunately, was the only item we would legally be allowed to collect (Seriously, Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation? You do know that your coastline is littered with millions of shells, right?). Dru found a shark’s tooth and Delton was convinced (several times) that he found some bones. All in all, a fun trip. Next time, maybe we can get the kids in some kayaks!
That evening, Dale and Brenda watched the kids while Leish and I went to a dance program at the colonial Capitol. Afterward, we picked up some beer (a mix-and-match six pack—can’t get that in PA) and played some Apples to Apples with our cousins.
As the others headed to Busch Gardens on Sunday, we dragged Jim, Steph and Dru to the Virginia Living Museum, a natural history museum we’d first been to a couple of years ago. Again, it was a big hit with the kids, and we purchased a family membership that will get us in free at the Lancaster Science Factory, Whitaker Center, North Museum and Franklin Institute back home. Julia was a little bit scared of the animatronic dinosaurs, but really enjoyed looking for the animals on the boardwalk outside.
We ended the day by decompressing at the resort pool, which had thankfully re-opened five minutes after we arrived (after being closed 30 minutes because of some distant lightning). Delton met a couple of older boys and began playing with them in the water. He was so proud to walk out up to his neck, and we kept encouraging him to let us take him out more. Julia was a bit more timid, but loved hanging out in the kiddie pool.
Did I mention the heat? It actually seemed slightly less hot (but no less humid) this time around. Unfortunately, the hottest day of our trip was Monday, which under normal conditions would have been OK…but not when the air conditioning on your car has called it quits. We ran the thing full blast all the way home to no avail (and only to discover later from our mechanic that we could have caused some major damage). Even with the less stressful route home, front windows down and make-shift shades for the kids, a certain someone found the heat unbearable and our days with the Freestyle were numbered. But I’ll let Leish tell that story.