In many respects a visit to Virginia is a great big history lesson, and nowhere is that more true than on the Peninsula, stretching southeast from Richmond between the James and York rivers.

This area saw not just the establishment of English-speaking Colonial America at Jamestown in 1607; it watched as its citizens gathered in Williamsburg to help foment the Revolution, which ended here with the deciding Battle of Yorktown. Today that history comes alive in the "Historic Triangle" of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown.

You will learn all you can absorb at Colonial Williamsburg's beautifully restored Historic Area. At Jamestown you will see where the first English settlers landed, examine archaeological artifacts uncovered from their first fort, and visit re-creations of the ships they came in and the village they built. At Yorktown you will walk the ramparts from which Washington bombarded Cornwallis into submission, thus turning the colonists' dream of a new nation into a reality. Along the James River you will tour the tobacco plantations that created Virginia's first great wealth.

At the eastern end of the Peninsula, where it meets the Chesapeake Bay, Hampton is America's oldest continuously English-speaking town, but it also has a modern air-and-space museum. In the shipbuilding city of Newport News, one of the country's finest maritime museums displays part of the USS Monitor, whose Civil War battle with the CSS Merrimac out on Hampton Roads was the world's first engagement between ironclad ships.

As soon as the kids become bored with all that history, you can take them to the Busch Gardens Williamsburg theme park and the thoroughly wet Water Country USA, which help make this one of America's family vacation meccas.

It's also a bargain-hunter's paradise, with numerous outlet stores west of Williamsburg. And golfers can play some of the country's finest courses.