During our time in Virginia, we soaked in lots of delicious history. Jamestown Settlement ended up being the best place to keep our kids (aged almost 4 and almost 2 at the time) entertained while hopefully teaching them a few things.
CONTACTING JAMESTOWN SETTLEMENT
The Jamestown Settlement is composed of the indoor museum and an expansive outdoor area including recreations of the fort, a Powhatan village, and three ships that the colonists used to sale from England to Virginia in 1607.
Nearby the museum is Historic Jamestowne, the actual site of the original settlement. The site is administered bythe National Park Service and Preservation Virginia. Jamestown Settlement is a state-operated living-history museum. I recommend visiting both areas to get the full experience of the area’s history.
We started with the museum. There is no photography allowed of the exhibits, but I appreciated how very visual it all was so that I could keep the kids stimulated and also give them some basic information about what they are seeing. There is a 30-minute film that acts as an introduction to the exhibit, though we had to skip it on this trip since our kids are still a bit too young to sit through such a thing.
The gallery displays explore Jamestown’s beginnings as a business venture, the impact of European colonization on the Powhatan Indian culture, and the origins of the first Africans in Virginia. Archaeological artifacts from 17th-century Europe, Africa, Virginia are exhibited, which features three-dimensional structures and small theaters.Many of the exhibits are hands-on, so the kids were able to use their senses to experience the museum.
Outside, you can walk through a recreation of a Powhatan indian village featuring reed-covered houses, crops, and a ceremonial circle of carved posts.
You can duck inside the houses and try your hand at how the Powhatans ground corn.
You can also get hands on with animal hides and woven baskets and other materials. It’s a great opportunity for some teaching moments with kids of all ages, even if mine just enjoyed petting the fur at their current ages, haha.
Throughout the village, costumed historical interpreters are eager to share facts about the Powhatan ways of life while doing live demonstrations. Jasper wasn’t shy about asking them what they were doing and asking if he could help!
He got to try his hand at using a shell to remove fur from an animal hide
Next, we were shown how dried reed fibers are used to create strong rope, and we got to make our own length of rope to take home with us!
After exploring the village, we walked down a lovely path to the recreation of the colonists’ fort.
The fort was populated by lots of little chicken friends wandering around, which the kids loved of course.
Inside the walls of the fort are wattle-and-daub thatched-roof buildings depicting homes, an Anglican church, a court of guard, a storehouse, a cape merchant’s office and a governor’s house.
You may come across interpreters performing household tasks such as baking bread, sewing, producing wood and leather products, and cultivating crops. Keep your ears open, because you may just hear the crack of a matchlock musket being fired.
More chicken buddies. They were literally everywhere!
Jasper was a little disappointed that we couldn’t fire the cannon.
Continuing down the path even farther leads to recreations of three ships that sailed from England to Virginia in 1607.
You can climb aboard all of the ships and explores the inner quarters. Jasper thought it was really interesting! The view from the docks is also quite pretty, even though it was kind of a cloudy, misty day.
After the museum, we headed over to Historic Jamestowne to visit the original site of the settlement, which is still an active archaeological dig site. There’s a long boardwalk that leads from the visitors center to the riverside.
While most of the crumbling foundations at the site are original, the memorial church seen here is a structure constructed the 300th anniversary of the settlement. The inside of the church is currently closed to the public due to ongoing archaeological digs. The church is build next to the only surviving above ground structure on the historic site.
After visiting the museum, visiting the actual location of the settlement was pretty amazing.
The banks of the river are deathly quiet and it was kind of a gloomy day, which ended up being quite appropriate considering the original story and fate of the settlement.
It’s a quiet walk through the Townsite of New Towne and surreal to think of what this used to look like in the 17th century. We weren’t able to complete the entire walk, because we got hit by a torrential downpour!
I don’t know if you can truly see the rain here, but it was pouring!! Thankfully we had a canopy for the stroller and umbrellas and raincoats in tow, but it was a long, wet walk back to our cars!
Overall, we appreciated the visual and hands-on aspects of the Settlement Museum, as it helped keep our kids entertained while we were able to enjoy learning about the area’s history and employ some teaching moments for the littles as well.
Are you considering a visit to Jamestown? What would you most want to see?