Today, most of Yorktown and the surrounding battlefield areas are included in this 4,300-acre section of the Colonial National Historical Park. You can drive around the key battle sites, which have interpretive markers, but begin at the visitor center, where the 16-minute documentary film Siege at Yorktown is shown on the hour and half-hour. Not to be missed among the museum displays is Washington's actual sleeping and dining tent, now preserved in a hermetically sealed room (it's really cool to actually walk into his tent without entering the glass-enclosed room). There's also a replica (which you can board and explore) of the quarterdeck of HMS Charon; additional objects recovered during excavations; exhibits about Cornwallis's surrender and the events leading up to it; and dioramas detailing the siege. Upstairs, an "on-the-scene" account of the Battle of Yorktown is given by a 13-year-old soldier in the Revolutionary army, his taped narrative accompanied by a sound-and-light show.

National Park Service Rangers are on hand to answer questions. They give free tours of the British inner defense line seasonally (call the visitor center for times).

To make it easy to follow what happened, the park is divided into two routes. You won't stay in your car the whole time; it's frequently necessary to park, get out, and walk to redoubts and earthworks. A lot of the drive is very scenic, winding through woods and fields abundant with bird life. The Encampment Route is especially beautiful.

On the 7-mile Battlefield Route, you'll see the Grand French Battery, where French soldiers manning cannons, mortars, and howitzers fired on British and German mercenary troops; the Moore House, where British and American representatives hammered out the surrender on October 18, 1781; and Surrender Field, where the British laid down their arms at the end of the siege.

Note that the Moore House usually is open daily 10am to 4:30pm during summer, weekends 1 to 4pm in spring and autumn, but check with the visitor center to be sure. The 10-mile Encampment Route takes you to the sites of Washington's and Rochambeau's headquarters, the French cemetery and Artillery Park, and allied encampment sites.

Best Battlefield Strategies -- You'll enjoy the 90-minute audio driving-tour tape or CD of the Yorktown battlefield. Narrated by "British and American colonels" whose polite hostilities to each other are most amusing, the taped commentary further elucidates the battlefield sites. Listen to the introduction in the parking lot; it will tell you when to depart. Tape or not, drive the Battlefield Route first; then if time permits, the Encampment Route.