Jamestown Settlement with your kids
One of the most important things to glean from this post is that there are two places to soak in the history of Jamestown.
Jamestown Settlement: A recreation of the first permanent American settlement in 1607. Yes, even before the pilgrims, people.
Historic Jamestowne: The ACTUAL site of the first permanent American settlement. If you can believe it, no one thought to start digging around here until the 1990’s. New discoveries are happening there everyday.
Today I am just going to cover our time at the Jamestown Settlement (recreation), although we did visit both in one day, it is not easy. The Settlement has 4 main parts. The museum (the only part completely inside), the indian village, the boats, and the english settlement. Sadly, the day we went, it was POURING rain for the first few hours. But when you travel that far, and only have one shot, you just suck it up and go with it. We did not spend one second in the museum. It looked inviting, new, and dry, and if we had more time might have looked through it. We arrived at 9am and did not leave until around 12:30pm. My 7th grader had just finished reading the novel Blood River a story about Jamestown for English class in case you want your child to read about it before you take your trip.
Our first stop was the Indian village. There were several Powhatan tents. They are oval and long in shape. Sitting on deer skins around a fire, touching tools and handmade artifacts was intriguing. One of my boys said that was his favorite part. On a sunny day, they have many more activities outside, like digging a log into the shape of a canoe and working on animal pelts. We could have stayed as long as we wanted, and this Indian would have captivated the boys a long time. He answered every question, and the rain meant we were the only ones in there. Disney spoiler alert: Pocahontas didn’t marry John Smith, although her life was still fascinating!
Our next stop were the docks so that we could get on one of the recreated ships. Since it was raining we went immediately below deck to listen to a crew member talk about the conditions, the chamber pots, and a variety of cannonballs. We were astonished to learn about having to stay below deck for the entire voyage while holding your chamber pot, no matter what was in it. Eeewwww! There are 3 ships at the dock, but due to the rain, we only visited one of them, and had the entire thing to ourselves. The boys were surprised by the lack of a ship’s wheel for steering. They weren’t invented yet. As the interpreters pointed out, Jack Sparrow looks good behind a ship’s wheel in the movies, but it wasn’t actually invented during that time period.
The english settlement is in a triangle shape and consists of several buildings. These include the church, tobacco and meat storehouses, Governors home, military barracks, kitchen, armory and more. At Christmas time, there is a performance of the Lord of Misrule in the Church at designated times. It was a very tongue and cheek performance that made everyone laugh. They were trying to show that Christmas was not a big deal during that time, as they were just trying to survive. So maybe a little drinking, games, and pranks were all that they celebrated with.
It took about 3 1/2 hours to do everything we wanted. Their museum building is state of the art and had a great looking restaurant too. But we had packed a picnic lunch that we ate in the car, due to the pouring rain. The sandwich from The Cheese Shoppe made the surroundings not matter…but I digress.
Overall, I think the Jamestown Settlement is a great place for kids to see the big picture of what everything should have looked during the time of the first permanent English settlement in America. I think it sets up a great foundation before you take the short drive out the the ACTUAL site. I’ll talk about the ACTUAL site in another post. But when your kids see the triangle shape fence at the ACTUAL site, they’ll remember that same shape at the recreation and what it looked like. And when we see those wheels in their brain start to turn and make those connections, that’s what it’s all about, right?