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Recently, my husband came home from work and informed me that he would soon have to go to Williamsburg, VA for a some sort of conference in which Karl Rove would be speaking. He was hoping I wouldn't be upset because he would have to bail on some plans that had been on our calendar for ages. Mad because of flaking out on plans for work? No, not me. Never. Mad because he was going to the very place I had mentioned hundreds of times and not taking the kids and me with him? Not quite angry, but very jealous. So, after sleeping on the idea (and thinking about it a lot), it was determined that we would get to go. The aforementioned plans that I had? Dropped like a hot potato in a crowded kitchen. Colonial Williamsburg, here we come!
So, um, I was going to have to take the kids on the historic tour without my husband, because he did have to be somewhere that day. And, Katie had an ear infection. And, I had to pull Alex out of school to go so I felt like I had to make this trip super-educational. And, my feet hurt after walking however many miles in 40 degree temperatures. But, it was so worth it!
We had a great time. Really, we did. It wasn't crowded (at all), we were able to just walk right into all the demonstrations we wanted to see, and most of the buildings were decorated for Christmas. Alex stood in the jail cell that once held some of Blackbeard's pirates, Katie enjoyed gingerbread and a rousing lap around the courthouse green, and I drank hot chocolate. LOTS of hot chocolate.
And, while we were there, we learned a great deal. Don't believe me? Keep reading for the inside scoop on surviving a cold day in Colonial Williamsburg (which is in Virginia, for those of you who didn't pass elementary history).
1. Take the stroller and make your child ride in it! Your back will thank you. Just remember that you cannot take strollers into any of the buildings, except for the Visitors Center (they trick you at first, you see). So, make sure you pack lots of treats to lure your child back into the seat after they've been lifted out for the upteenth time. Also, if you pull a tired, desperate, sad face at some of the Colonists, they might let you take the stroller in anyway. At the very least, they'll let you park it as close to the door as humanly possible and try to entertain your children while you listen to the spiel that only you are actually interested in.
2. Go in lots of stores and buildings. Even the ones you aren't interested in! Trust me, they have fires in there. You'll be warm. You'll be happy. Ahhhhh......
This was taken outside the Mary Dickinson store, which sells lots of fabric and hats and aprons and girly stuff. I saw a cute waistpocket with embroidered birds that would have been perfect for my clothespins... but not for $46. They can live in a walmart bag for now.
3. Get a map and mark the bathrooms as soon as you arrive. After drinking all that hot chocolate and apple cider, your children will thank you. Also, do not, DO NOT, request that your child turn around for a picture while his is running off to find the bathroom. He will not be happy.
4. Promptly show your kids what happens if they misbehave. But, don't forget that a child can't get out of the stocks without some help. Definitely don't walk away, expecting your son to follow you. He won't. If he's smart, he'll scream for help. If he's lucky, you'll hear him.
5. Pose your kids beside some garbage and take a picture. Don't worry, you won't look like a fool. See those barrels? They're trash cans. See the shopkeeper in the background? I annoyed him later in the day by ordering some cold hot cider. I didn't KNOW it would be hot! I'm surprised he didn't plant a "kick me" sign on my back after that one.
6. Learn some stuff from very knowledgeable tour guides. This gentleman went on tangent after crazy tangent about Revolutionary history, which was incredibly fascinating. (yes, really!). The bonus: We were inside where it was warm.
7. Then, go meet some of the other awesome interpreters. If you go in the down season, you'll have a chance to actually talk with them. This guy was a really cool silversmith who spoke in modern-day slang while wearing a period costume. The whole experience felt awfully Back To The Future-y for some reason. Equally awesome was his pimp who stood on the street, ushering unsuspecting tourists into this incredibly entertaining demonstration. Very, very cool and unexpected.
8. Follow the signs. Upon leaving the Magazine (where the Colonists housed their guns and other weapons), we saw a sign pointing around the corner to another place. I can't remember the name of the demonstration or this gentleman, but I'm glad I followed Alex around the corner of the building. This guy would have been part of the military, working to make bags and hats and things for the soldiers. Upon entering his shop, he immediately put Alex to work, soaking leather for shaping. While most of the shopkeepers and demonstrators attempted to show how boys Alex's age would be in some sort of apprenticeship position by now (one store owner even offering to keep Alex in the cellar with his cats), this guy actually gave my boy a hands on experience. Upon questioning about his costume, he also explained that the color of his lapel and cuffs, as well as the type of buttons on his coat, denoted his rank in the military. Very, very interesting stuff.
|photo by ComputerGuy, via a Creative Commons license|
9. Then, get lost in a maze. Explore the gardens behind the Governor's Palace (you don't need the super ticket to go to the gardens). If you look hard enough, you'll find this hedge maze. If you get out of the maze and go around it's perimeter, you'll find the "Mount" from which this picture was taken. Obviously, we didn't make our way all the way through so I had to rely on someone else's skills to share.
10. See what you can and smile. Know that, unless you have more than one day to spend here, you won't be able to see it all. Enjoy the nuggets. Take lots of pictures. Live in the moment. Cry "Huzzah!" and "Encore!" Especially if there's a particularly satisfying scene.
The Magazine houses more than just guns.