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Historic Jamestowne with kids

Historic Jamestowne is the ACTUAL site of the first English settlement in America in 1607. How could you not take your kids to see that if you’re anywhere close?


We started our adventure right after lunch. Historic Jamestowne is a part of the National Park Service. It is an actual island connected to to the mainland by a causeway. We decided to take the driving tour around the rest of the island before visiting the actual site  You can do it without ever leaving the car. Every few hundred feet, there are pullouts with interpretive signs.  All 5 of us took turns reading and it took about 45 minutes. The kids enjoyed taking turns reading, but were glad to get out of the car when we were done. I’ve heard in the warmer months, you can do this tour by bike. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

You have to park the car and go through a building to make it outside to the site. They have to make sure that you’ve paid the entrance fee, right?  They’ll also tell you what ranger tours or archeology digs are going on that day. Out the back door, over a bridge, and you’ll come upon a large obelisk statue, and off to the right spot the triangle shaped fence of the fort right next to the water. The only historical building is a church rebuilt on the original foundation that they excavated. There are even glass floors in some parts of it, through which you can take a peek at the original foundation.

Since it was POURING rain, we settled in the church for an archeology walk that turned into a talk while we huddled inside. The young archeologist covered the massive digs that are going on around the site. He was informative, had photos to share, and held the boys attention even though it wasn’t necessarily a kids talk. I still can’t believe they didn’t really start digging around there until the 1990’s. Crazy!

I must preface the interest my kids had in Jamestown by saying we prepped them. Big time. Junior, my 7th grader, read the novel Blood River for his English class a few months earlier. Before we left home, Hubby read all of them a chapter about Jamestown from the book “Seven Miracles that Saved America”.  Even though Bo is barely 10 years old, it still held is attention for most of the reading. It basically summed up the terrible survival conditions and how close they came to all dying off, or leaving.  

So when the archeologist mentioned the starving time when Jamestown went from approximately 450 people to only about 65 people, they had an idea of what he was talking about. But when he mentioned that they now had evidence of cannabalism for survival, they were riveted. I guess that is the benefit of having all boys. The more gross, the better, right? So be aware of your kids ability to handle this type of information.

The Archaearium is a small modern building that houses the artifacts and skeletons that they have already dug up. So when the archeologist told us about “Jane”, whose skull showed signs of cannibalism, the boys were all in. Since the exhibit is so small (but constantly growing with new discoveries, I’m sure) we were in and out in about 20 minutes.

The triangle shaped fence of the fort....

The triangle shaped fence of the fort….

Thankfully, while we were in the Archearium, the skies cleared and we were able to walk around the historic site without drowning. Although there were no active digs, you could see lots of areas covered by tarps. Seeing how close the fort was, and still is, to the water, made the whole thing more real for everyone. I know I had a sense of pride for our history as a country as I stood there.  They have placed a statue of John Smith quite close to the edge as well. We looked off towards the water and tried to imagine barely surviving and waiting for a supply ship to come around the corner.

By then, we were tired from our day of feeling like drowned rats, and headed back to the car. As we walked past the obelisk statue again a ranger was beginning his talk. So even in these winter months, there is plenty to see and do.

Other small details….there is a small cafe on the grounds between the site and the Archaearium that we did not visit. We were still full from our car picnic earlier so I can’t say what was available. Also, there is a glass blowing house on the island as well. We made a quick stop there on our way out.  My boys had never seen a glass blower before so they thoroughly enjoyed it. But if you’ve been to one before, there is nothing amazing about this particular one. It has a working area and a tiny shop attached. Our stop was maybe 20 minutes at the most, but enjoyed by all.

All in all, Historic Jamestowne took about 3 hours to visit, including the archeology talk that lasted about 45 minutes. So going to the Jamestown Settlement and Historic Jamestowne in one day is absolutely possible. Just realize that you can’t do everything, and to get an early start. We didn’t set foot in the museum at the Jamestown Settlement that morning. And we didn’t stop in the museum at Historic Jamestowne that afternoon before heading out the back door to the actual site. Truthfully, the recreations, interpreters, and archeologists told the story so much better than I could have tried to, by guiding the boys through the museums as lovely as they looked.

Sorry for the lack of images in the post, but when it is pouring down rain, you have to do something to save the camera and keep on, keepin’ on!

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