When it comes to bringing the American Revolution to life, no place holds a candle to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia's most popular family destination. The expansive living history site lets families travel back in time to 18th-century America to experience the creation of our young nation. As you explore the city, you'll encounter American colonists who must make the life-altering choice of whether to remain loyal to the British king or to fight for a free and independent nation.
The living, breathing Revolutionary City isn't a place where you passively look but don't touch. You're supposed to chat with the actors in colonial dress (who will stay in character admirably), dine at taverns on Colonial fare, and try countless activities that are authentic to the period.
Families with teenagers can try one of the coolest new activities. Colonial Williamsburg’s educational musket range offers an opportunity to learn about and operate the types of firearms that won independence and supported life and livelihood in early America.
Kids ages 14 and up and their parents can prime and fire replicas of two of early America’s most important firearms: a “Brown Bess” British short land service pattern musket and a fowling piece, a precursor of the modern shotgun. The range’s Brown Bess replicas reflect the variety manufactured between 1768 and 1804 within a broader category spanning from 1717 and 1815.
These guns are the types of musket used by both British and American soldiers during the American Revolution. Muzzle-loaded fowling pieces were used to hunt ducks and other waterfowl in Tidewater Virginia and for farmland pest control. Notably, during the period they could be legally owned by free blacks for the latter purpose.
In addition, families can learn from costumed interpreters about the history of flintlock weapons, particularly in colonial Virginia, their mechanics, use in hunting and defense, plus safety and proper handling.
“For decades our guests could learn about these pieces and watch them being operated," said Peter Seibert, Colonial Williamsburg director of historic trades and skills. "Now they can really experience them – the weight, the smell, and the sound – not to mention how challenging their operation was for people whose lives often depended on it.”
Learn to Fire Muskets
If you'd like to participate in the musket activity, you will need to reserve spaces in advance and present photo ID to purchase tickets on-site. Tickets cost $119 for guests with a minimum age of 14 years. Children under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Ticketed guests will be brought to the musket range via a shuttle from the Williamsburg Lodge. The ticket includes instruction, safety equipment firearms, ammunition, and targets.
More Cool Activities in Colonial Williamsburg
- Be a Revolutionary War Spy: The “RevQuest: Save the Revolution!” series is a popular text-message based alternative reality game where players become agents of the Committee for Secret Correspondence. The game turns visitors into agents working covertly to help their fight for independence from Great Britain.
- Revolutionary Fun for Kids: Join the army and learn about the life of a soldier at the military encampment. Play colonial games at the Benjamin Powell House and get a glimpse of daily life from a child’s perspective.