Travel is a constant process of self-education. As we visit more and more destinations, we adopt new favorites, replace former cities and resorts with new and more pleasant ones. I've been surprised to enjoy recent vacations at places I had never before considered, beginning with America's most historic experience, in the State of Virginia:
Colonial Williamsburg: When my wife recently suggested that we have a family reunion, a gathering of our grown-up children accompanied by our grandchildren ages 9 to 15, at an area devoted to re-creating the years just before the American Revolution, I was convinced the youngsters would be bored beyond endurance.
The exact opposite occurred. They were fascinated to hear the speeches and dialogues of actors dressed and coiffed to look like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry. They wanted to stay longer in the re-created premises of a colonial wig-maker who displayed his craft. They were particularly delighted to dress up like colonial children, and to be treated as such by other guests at the sprawling resort. They loved eating meals in restaurant-taverns designed to appear out of the 1760s. We all had the time of our lives.
Colonial Williamsburg, in Williamsburg, Virginia, is a gift to the nation from the Rockefeller family. Their attention drawn in the late 1920s to the derelict condition of the historic portion of a larger town, they embarked on a project of reconstruction. Some major buildings, like the "Palace" of the Royal British Governor of that time, were refurbished into their original state. Other structures were demolished, but then rebuilt to their original specifications; more modern buildings of a later age were permanently removed. Whole avenues were reconstructed and the entire area took on the elegant look of a colonial capital, brought back to life by residents of Williamsburg who signed on, as their full-time employment, to wear colonial dress and act the part of colonial people. Some of them play the fife and drum, and escort birthday groups into reconstructed colonial restaurants and pubs. Others perform a highly emotional parade at night, leading guests on a stirring march to the historic former capitol of Virginia.
For accommodations, visitors can either stay in two giant, period hotels of very high quality, or in a greater number of cheaper hotels and motels located outside the actual colonial grounds. In every month of the year, Colonial Williamsburg is open to enthrall visitors from every part of the United States. A visit stirs the senses, the emotions. The transformation of your own life into the 18th century is so affecting, that when George Washington enters a particular auditorium to address the visitors, everyone instinctively stands up as if the costumed actor is the real first president of the United States.
It is a hazardous act to claim any particular destination as "indispensable" to visit--but, so help me, that's precisely what Colonial Williamsburg is for all Americans. It is particularly a necessary visit for your young children, who thereby gain an indelible picture of the reasons for which their country was founded.
Admission is as little as $25 a day for adults, $12 for children, with multi-day tickets costing as little as $50 and $25. Colonial Williamsburg is open every day of the year (even when it's snowing!), and can be visited even during inclement weather, which was the case during my own family's recent. highly successful stay. For more details, go to www.ColonialWillismsburg.com.
Photo: Harvey Berison/flickr