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I recently took my children to Williamsburg Homeschool Days. It was a fantastic field trip! This was our 4th trip to the Revolutionary City and our 2nd time coming during Williamsburg Homeschool Days. Over the years I have picked up a few tips to make for a smooth trip. My husband usually stays home to work while I fly solo with both kids. A smooth trip is essential!
I fell in love with the charm of Colonial Williamsburg shortly after we began homeschooling. We had only been homeschooling for a month and saw a Groupon for a hotel just a few miles from the colonial area. I had no idea if my kids would even enjoy Williamsburg. They were only 3 and 6 and I worried that they would get bored. Turns out they love exploring historic sites as much as their mama.
My daughter enjoyed our trips so much that when we announced that we were definitely moving from Washington to North Carolina she immediately suggested we go to Williamsburg again.
These tips are helpful even if you plan a field trip at a different time of year. We have visited a few times other than during homeschool days and found that these trips ring true then too.
Williamsburg Homeschool Days Tips
Williamsburg typically hosts Homeschool Days twice a year – in September and in February. There is a pretty substantial discount available. Homeschool days seem to be held during the slow time, so it is a great time to visit.
Tip #1 Buy Tickets Ahead of Time
Homeschool days tickets are quite a bit cheaper than the standard ticket price, but they are not available at the ticket counter. They must be purchased in advance. The Colonial Williamsburg homeschool days fine print requires some sort of proof that you are a homeschool family to get the discounted rate. I bring my official homeschool registration letter from North Carolina as my proof. A homeschool membership card, such as HSLDA or VA Homeschoolers, would likely also work. One trip I was asked for the proof and another time it was never mentioned. I would go ahead and bring it just in case.
Technically, you are able to walk around the historic area without a ticket, but there are two reasons to buy a ticket:
- entrance into historic buildings – this is where most of the learning happens
- shuttle bus rides – riding a bus is exciting when you do school in the dining room
You will be given a clear badge with your ticket. Wear this clipped so that it is visible to shuttle bus drivers and historic building hosts.
Colonial Williamsburg also offers a homeschool days rate for lodging too. Most recently we stayed at the Woodlands Hotel. It is right next to the Visitor Center and shuttle bus pick up area. I like staying on the property so that I don’t need to move my car again after we arrive, but that is just a preference. A larger family might be better suited in a local Airbnb.
Tip #2 Choose Your Top 5 Ahead of Time
There is a ton to see and do in Colonial Williamsburg. It is pretty much impossible to see absolutely everything in one trip. We just finished our 4th trip and still haven’t seen every single exhibit.
Make a list of the things your family is most interested in checking out.
I had both of my kids make a list of their top 5 a few days before we left home. Some of the buildings are things they remember enjoying from previous visits. The other exhibits are things they saw on the Colonial Williamsburg website. After they had both finished their lists we compared them to see if there was any overlap.
I recommend a top 5 list rather than top 3 because not every building or exhibit is open every day. It is possible that a building on the list won’t be available during the trip. Observing the Indian Delegation was on our list, but it turned out not to be offered either day that we were in town. That is okay though. We still saw plenty of other things from our list.
Tip #3 Wear Comfortable Shoes
There is a lot of walking in Williamsburg. Our first day here we logged over 15,000 steps! I think that is pretty good considering we spent 3.5 hours in the car and laid around our hotel room all evening.
The terrain varies between cobblestone, old brick walkways, compact dirt, grass, and grass. There are also stairs located in buildings like the Governor’s Palace, Capitol Building, and taverns.
I don’t know about your kids, but my kids never mention that their shoes are getting small until they are painfully small. I specifically checked in on the fit of their tennis shoes about a week before our field trip to Williamsburg homeschool days. This way I had time to take them shoe shopping before we loaded up the car and headed out of town.
Tip #4 Bring Snacks
My kids are in the pre-teen and teen bottomless pit stage. They eat all the time! We ate out for lunch and dinner, but I always had easy snacks like Lara bars and applesauce pouches in my field trip bag.
There are not many snack options available for purchase inside the Revolutionary City. Most of what we saw was ice cream, candy bars, and cookies. I brought our glass water bottle and that kept us from buying drinks from the hidden vending machines.
Obviously don’t eat or drink while in the historic buildings, but the interpreters didn’t mind us bringing a bag with sealed snacks and a locked water bottle in with us. There are benches scattered throughout the colonial area and picnic tables near the taverns. If the ground is dry you can even spread out a picnic blanket on the Palace Greens.
Tip 5# Talk to the Interpreters
The interpreters in each building are an amazing wealth of information. They know so much about the history of the buildings and life in Colonial Williamsburg. Feel free to ask them questions.
Williamsburg was really slow and quiet when we were in town, so we frequently had the interpreters’ full attention. I encouraged my kids to ask at least one question in each building. It seemed like one question lead to another and before I knew it, we had spent 15 minutes chatting with the interpreter. We learned things that we had not heard or read before, such as:
- 52% of Williamsburg was enslaved during the Revolutionary time period
- the price of clothing depended on the fabric, not the style
- upper-class children had to stay in their bedroom unless their parents gave them permission to leave
- Revolutionary war soldiers began the war carrying their cast-iron skillets until they were able to get light weight, military issue, tin kitchenware
Talking with the interpreters is a great way to hold children’s interest. I noticed that once an interpreter realized that the children were engaged they wanted to keep them that way. The interpreter in the apothecary happily opened drawer after drawer and jar after jar, letting my children touch everything. The interpreter in the foundry poured melted metal into a mold to create a spoon right before my children’s eyes. An interpreter in the wig shop compared the colored wig powder to hair chalk today.
Tip #6 Bring Something for Downtime
Even if you plan to spend all of your time strolling down the charming Colonial Williamsburg streets, make sure to bring something in case there is downtime. We brought two games – one board game and one card game.
The card game, Speedy Words, came in handy when we had a longer than expected wait for lunch one day. It fit right into a pocket in my field trip bag.
The board game, Ticket to Ride, was a perfect way to spend a rainy hour on our second afternoon. We set up the game with hot tea next to a roaring fire in the hotel lobby.
It was an awesome field trip. I’m so thankful that we have such an amazing field trip opportunity just a few hours away from our home.
Have you ever been to Williamsburg Homeschool Days?
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