Every once in awhile, usually as we are driving to Virginia Beach or somewhere south, I’d say out loud in the car, “we should really go to Jamestown.” I hadn’t been in about 25 years, but I did remember Jamestown Settlement capturing my imagination as a kid.
So, finally, we packed in the car and went.
Jamestown Settlement is a living history museum just down the road from Historic Jamestown (the actual historic site). At Jamestown Settlement, you can walk through a recreation of the Jamestown fort along with a Powhatan Indian village and the three ships which first sailed to Jamestown in 1607: the Susan Constant, Discovery, and Godspeed.
The museum ticket also includes a film which we skipped because 3 out of the 5 of us don’t really sit well for these kinds of things. We’ve talked about Jamestown at length before we went so we felt okay skipping it; however, I hear that if you are a bit unfamiliar with Jamestown or it’s been a while, the film helps you get more out of your visit. There is also a gallery indoors which takes you through the history of the settlement… that we also skipped for the sake of time and hungry bellies but I really want to come back and check that part out.
Besides, it was a beautiful day outside and we’d been in the car for an hour, so we headed straight for the outdoor portion of the museum.
Jamestown Settlement is delightfully hands on. The kids were actively encouraged to touch things and try different activities, allowing them to really learn about the culture and immerse themselves in each place.
Our first stop was the Powhatan Indian village.
The kids pounded corn into flour, used oyster shells to take the fur off an animal skin, worked on creating a net and played games. There were lots of houses to visit and explore, and you can see what a Powhatan Indian home would have looked like (quite cozy). Max studied Native Americans of Virginia quite a bit and was a great tour guide as we explored Powhatan homes.
The ships were Hudson’s favorite part of the trip. I was struck by how small they were and we talked about the challenges of living on such a small boat with so many others. Sadly, I didn’t get a ton of pictures on the boat because once we got on the boat, the kids were immediately running around in all directions. The proximity to water, the challenges of fitting through doorways with a baby on my back and the many levels of the boats made taking pictures a little bit less of a priority.
James Fort recreated what the homes were like around 1610 – 1614. The kids could hear the musket fire throughout our trip and were excited to finally see a demonstration. They also got a chance to try it out themselves with their own wooden muskets which was… entertaining. Let’s just say ADD and Colonial warfare make a really bad combination.
They tried on some 17th century armor and toured the Governor’s house, an Anglican Church, and smaller homes. The Fort was filled with the smell of smoke and gunpowder which helped create the atmosphere.
We spent a little over 3 hours at Jamestown Settlement, but definitely could have spent more if we had stayed for the movie and to check out the galleries. There are a couple areas that make good spots to stop and have some lunch; if you plan to visit, be sure to pack some snacks. There is a cafe at the entrance which seemed to have pretty standard museum-cafe fare. After 3 hours in any particular place and certain members of our group start slowly falling apart.
We’ll definitely be heading back to Jamestown Settlement and checking out the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. If you’re interested in checking it out yourself you can find out more information here.