How to Visit America's Historic Triangle

Horse and Carriage in Colonial Williamsburg
Horse and Carriage in Colonial Williamsburg.

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

America's Historic Triangle, also known as Virginia's Historic Triangle, is located in southeastern Virginia between Richmond and Norfolk. Comprised of Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown, the Triangle is linked by the scenic Colonial Parkway. Visitors to America's Historic Triangle are able to explore the birthplace of the United States through living history museums, cultural presentations, special events and more.

Jamestown - Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the United States, provides insight into the history and diverse cultures of America's earliest permanent colonists:

  • Jamestown Settlement, a museum with indoor exhibits and outdoor living history programs, explores the English, Powhatan Indian and African cultures of Jamestown.
  • Historic Jamestowne, situated in Colonial National Historical Park, is the site of America's first permanent English settlement and the location of ongoing archeological projects and discoveries.

Colonial Williamsburg - This 301-acre historic area is the largest living history museum in the United States:

  • Colonial Williamsburg sites include 88 original buildings, hundreds of reconstructed sites and 90-acres of gardens and greens, offering visitors a chance to experience the sights, sounds, and atmosphere of Virginia on the eve of the American Revolution.

Yorktown - Located on the banks of the York River, Yorktown was established in 1691 as a port and holds a significant place in history for its contribution to American independence during the 1781 Siege of Yorktown:

  • The Yorktown Victory Center examines the American struggle for independence during the Revolutionary era through themed exhibits and living-history programs.
  • Yorktown Battlefield, located in Colonial National Historical Park, is the site of the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War.
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Jamestown Settlement

Replica of the Godspeed, one of three ships that carried the first Jamestown colonists from England
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation

Jamestown Settlement explores the history of Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English colony established in America with the arrival of 104 colonists on May 13, 1607. A museum consisting of an indoor theater and exhibits, outdoor living history programs, a 190-seat café, and gift shop, Jamestown Settlement offers a journey through the first 100 years at Jamestown and provides insight into its diverse European, Powhatan Indian, and African cultures.

  • Theater and Gallery - An introductory film is shown daily at regular intervals in the Robins Foundation Theater. Gallery exhibits explore the nation’s 17th-century beginnings in Virginia and examine the impact of Jamestown settlement.
  • Outdoor Living History - Historical interpreters demonstrate 17th-century technology and activities at living history replicas of a Powhatan Indian village, the three ships that carried the first Jamestown colonists from England (Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery) and a fort that represents the first home of the colonists. A discovery area along the river provides information about economic activities on the waterways.​
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Historic Jamestowne

Archeological Excavation Site at Historic Jamestowne

APVA Preservation Virginia/Historic Jamestowne

Historic Jamestowne, situated in Colonial National Historical Park, is the site of America's first permanent English settlement and the location of ongoing archeological projects and discoveries. Designated areas of Historic Jamestowne include: Old Towne, the area of the triangular Jamestown Fort; New Towne, the area the settlers developed once the fort was no longer needed; The Glasshouse, a re-created version of the original 1608 Glasshouse; Loop Drive, a one way five-mile loop road that follows the higher ground of the island and an alternate three-mile loop.

Exhibits explore the Virginia Company period of Jamestown and offer a new perspective about the first English settlers. Things to see and do at Historic Jamestowne include:

  • Explore exhibits and enjoy a multi-media orientation film in the Visitor Center immersion theater
  • Tour the Archaearium, an exhibition facility, which showcases archaeological findings from the James Fort site including 400-year-old objects that once belonged to Jamestown colonists.
  • Watch archaeologists at work at the 1607 James Fort excavation site
  • Tour the reconstructed 17th-century Jamestown Memorial Church
  • Interact with costumed glassblowers at the Glasshouse and browse the display of hand-blown glass items available for purchase in the gift shop.
  • Enjoy a park ranger lead a walking tour or take a self-guided walk or driving tour around the Loop Drive to explore the natural surroundings and wildlife, including bald eagles, osprey, heron, deer and more.
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Colonial Williamsburg

Historical Interpreters at the Colonial Williamsburg Capitol

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Colonial Williamsburg, the largest living history museum in the United States, portrays 18th-century Williamsburg from 1774 to 1781. Colonial Williamsburg offers a visit to the past in the thriving capital of England's oldest, largest and wealthiest colony, and later, a power center in the new nation.

Encompassing 301 acres, the restored Historic Area includes 88 original buildings, 225-period rooms, 500 reconstructed buildings (many on the original foundations,) a vast archaeological collection, thousands of American and English antiques and more. The Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center, the best place to begin your visit, provides parking, information, admission and program tickets, bus service, an on-site hotel and restaurant reservations.

Important Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area Sites include:

  • The Governor's Palace - a symbol of British authority
  • The Capitol - seat of colonial power and site of Virginia's vote for independence May 15, 1776
  • Peyton Randolph site - where historic trades carpenters are reconstructing an urban plantation
  • Raleigh Tavern - where Virginia patriots defied the Crown and met to discuss independence
  • George Wythe House - home of Jefferson's teacher and friend
  • James Geddy House - site of family life and several family businesses
  • Duke of Gloucester Street - Colonial Williamsburg's principal street

Throughout the Historic Area, dramatic vignettes, interactive programs, and historical interpreters bring the 18th century to life, including:

  • Historic Trades Demonstrations
  • Historic Foodways
  • African American Experience
  • Gardening
  • Animals - Rare Breeds Program

Museums within walking distance of the Historic Area:

  • DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum
  • Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum
  • The Public Hospital
  • Bassett Hall, home of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr.
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Yorktown Victory Center

Actors dressed in military uniforms demonstrate live cannon firing techniques used at Yorktown.

Jamestown - Yorktown Foundation

The Yorktown Victory Center is a museum that examines the American struggle for independence from the beginning of colonial dissent, through the American Revolution and the founding of a new nation. A snack and beverage vending area with patio seating and a gift shop are on-site. Exhibit Areas at the Yorktown Victory Center include:

  • Gallery Exhibits - Gallery and open-air exhibits explore the events leading up to the War, the Declaration of Independence, the effect of the Revolution on the lives of a representative group of people and more.
  • Outdoor Living History - Historical interpreters demonstrate daily life during the last year before and the ten years following the war in a re-created Continental Army encampment and a 1780s farm.
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Yorktown Battlefield

Cannons at Yorktown National Battlefield
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corp. - All Rights Reserved

Yorktown Battlefield is the site of one of the most important battles in United States history. On October 19, 1781, a British army under the command of General Charles Lord Cornwallis surrendered to American and French forces led by General George Washington and General Comte de Rochambeau, effectively leading to the end of the American Revolutionary War.

The best place to begin a visit to Yorktown Battlefield is the Yorktown Visitor Center, where park brochures, maps, and information about daily events are available. A short orientation film, The Siege at Yorktown, is shown every 30 minutes and museum exhibits explore details of the Siege. At the museum shop, books, reproduction items, and audio tours are available for purchase.

Things to do at Yorktown Battlefield include:

  • Explore the area on your own on a self-guided tour
  • Take a self-guided audio tour
  • Take part in one of the Ranger Guided Programs, which include 30 minute Siege Line Walking Tours, 45-minute tours of the town of York and 25-minute Non-firing Artillery Demonstrations. From mid-June to mid-August, the Young Soldiers Program offers kids the opportunity to learn about the life of a Revolutionary War soldier with a costumed interpreter.​
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The Colonial Parkway - Locations of America's Historic Triangle Sites

A brick railroad underpass along the picturesque Colonial Parkway
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the National Park Service, Colonial National Historical Park

The Colonial Parkway is a 23 mile (37.0 km) scenic route that connects the historic sites of Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. In terms of colonial history, sites along the Colonial Parkway span the 174 years of the arrival of Jamestown settlers in 1607 to the final major battle of the American Revolutionary War in 1781.

Joining Historic Jamestowne at the western terminus and Yorktown Battlefield at the eastern terminus, the Colonial Parkway is part of Colonial National Historical Park. With a speed limit of 45 miles per hour, the three-lane Colonial Parkway offers picturesque views of the surrounding landscape for a leisurely tour of America's Historic Triangle.

Locations of Historic Sites

  • Historic Jamestowne Entrance Station - Located at the Colonial Parkway's western end about 7.5 miles from Colonial Williamsburg.
  • Jamestown Settlement - Located adjacent to Historic Jamestowne on Route 31 South (Jamestown Road) about a mile from Historic Jamestowne.
  • Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center - Located midway between Richmond and Norfolk: From I-64, take exit 238 onto VA-143 East (Camp Peary/Colonial Williamsburg) and look for the green and white signs for the Visitor Center. After VA-143 becomes VA-132, bear left onto VA-132Y toward the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center at 101A Visitor Center Drive. A 500-foot pedestrian bridge connects the Visitor Center with a path that leads to the Historic Area.
  • Yorktown Battlefield Visitor Center - Located at the eastern end of the Colonial Parkway, approximately 15 miles east of the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center.
  • Yorktown Victory Center - Located on Route 1020, at the edge of Yorktown about two miles from the Yorktown Battlefield Visitor Center.
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