A day of history

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

We live in a very historically rich area in Virginia, and there is no shortage of historic sites to visit. We're minutes away from the Historic Triangle, which includes Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. We love these sites and I highly recommend them if you ever have the opportunity to visit.

We recently took a day to explore a few lesser-known areas and it turned out to be a wonderful trip. We headed toward Smithfield and Surry counties and stopped in at Bacon's Castle and the Smith's Fort Plantation. I was skeptical at first that the kids would be interested beyond a quick look around because of their young ages (6, 2.5 and 8mos).

Bacon's Castle was the site of Nathaniel Bacon's Rebellion in 1676. When our guide started us out with a 15 minute movie, I thought we'd never make it through that whole thing, much less the 45 minute tour. But, I was super-surprised when the kids enjoyed the whole thing. Even the baby was good which is nothing short of a miracle for that amount of time. The movie was full of cool images of the house throughout many transformations and the guide was entertaining. He had lots of great stories to tell of riches to rags and ghosts and lovers. He made a point to include our children in the discussion and tour, which was fantastic. We had a picnic on the grounds, which include a garden and lots of open space. All the folks we met were very friendly and accommodating.

At Smith's Fort Plantation, our guide was also wonderful and full of fascinating facts. Smith's Fort Plantation sits on a portion of the land that was given to Pocahontas and John Rolfe from her father, Chief Powhatan, as a wedding present. This tour was shorter as the house is much smaller, but the furnishings were not roped off, and not to be touched, so it was a little less kid-friendly. Aiden tried to sit on a 200 year old chair and Bryn wanted to play with a doll that was at least 50 times her age. Then they spotted a wasp on the floor of one of the bedrooms and that became their focus for the rest of the tour. Still, we had a good time and learned quite a bit.
The gift shop downstairs is sort of a mini-museum and sells books, post cards, a period type home decor made by locals. Behind the house you can take a short drive to see the site where the Fort was to be built. It was started, then abandoned when the famine at Jamestown became a concern.

I've added photos from our trip to my slideshow if you'd like to take a look. If you get a chance to visit any of these sites you should. They offer many rich learning opportunities for all ages.


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