There was a time not long ago when a family visit to Colonial Williamsburg meant living a, shall we say… dated lifestyle. Many parents, especially those with tweens and teens who bore easily, pushed off a visit to Virginia’s Historic Triangle until their empty nester years.
That’s no longer necessary. Thanks to the surge in gastronomic tourism (71% of travelers surveyed in 2015 said their trips had a moderate or high food focus), many historic destinations are appealing to forward-looking visitors by upping their foodie game.
Now you can stir history into authentic local cuisine and beverages. What a relief.
An Army Marches on Its Stomach
Pretty little Yorktown, adjacent to the famous 1781 battlefield and American Revolution Museum, is a good example. Tucked between small shops and cafes off Historic Main Street is the Visit Yorktown visitors center, with guides to the Watermen’s Museum (about life on Chesapeake Bay), Ben n’ Jerry’s and the Redcoats Antiques shop. Despite the development’s picture-perfect colonial veneer, Segways whiz by on a Patriot Tours and Provisions outing, and Pirate Adventure cruisers are boarding reproduction schooners at the marina.
Our gang went straight to the Riverwalk on Riverwalk Landing, a comfortable dining spot with a big outdoor deck overlooking the York River. Start with the region’s small and sweet, fresh farmed oysters. While little siblings peruse the kids menu, and teens try the Ahi tuna tower, a more adult palate should sample the she-crab soup, a rich creamy concoction of blue crab and crab roe, served with a drizzle of sherry. Pair it with a Sauvignon Blanc from the Williamsburg Winery and you’ll feel like a local.
Those Colonists Needed a Drink
After a day trying to fathom 18th century politics, check out the Williamsburg Tasting Trail. We peeked into the old Lord Paget motel and found the Copper Fox Distillery, which began using guestrooms to make malt from barley and rye in July 2016. Did you know the floorspace of one double room can make 120 cases of single malt whiskey? Trivia is the delight of Rick Wasmund, the Scotland-trained distiller behind Copper Fox’s operation. He’ll offer adults a tasting of the super smooth whiskeys, rye and gin, while kids sit around the (now empty) motel pool.
Rebels Brewing Up Trouble?
All ages can have fun at the Virginia Beer Company, a cavernous new age tavern whose outdoor patio is heated by fire pits and bordered by food trucks. Pull up some stools inside, and the kids can nosh while you sip their flights of homemade beer -– eight shots ($15) at a time! Founded less than a year ago by two students from the College of William & Mary who didn’t want to leave this Williamsburg for the other, it’s one of many such places that have found a real following.
Coming Home to Williamsburg
Foodies and locavores love Cochon on 2nd. Chef Neil Griggs has a story we can relate to: he and his family settled in his hometown of Williamsburg after a successful career in several culinary hotspots. We like the comfy barn chic atmosphere created by wood paneling imported from his grandfather’s barn. Cochon focuses on ingredients that are locally sourced, like those famous oysters, deliciously fried here with a topping of house-smoked bacon, blue cheese and roasted corn. If this is a family celebration with little ones, drop by for a Happy Hour sampling. If you’re with adventurous eaters, book the Chef’s Table overlooking the busy kitchen and work with the staff to create a perfectly customized meal, paired with regional wines.
Come early; the Shops on Second Street is a fun and popular mall for vintage items and more.
Museums Serve Up Colonial Fare & More
When you’re surrounded by a recreation colonial village, you expect a recreation colonial meal, or at least one served by re-enactors in a historic way. At Colonial Williamsburg, Christiana Campbell’s is a favorite splurge for seafood with a colonial vibe, if you’re looking for that. If not, take the family to the student run, hipster book seller in Merchants Square. Your kids will understand how kids cooking up vegan paninis, soy lattes and other healthy fare really love the history of their old school setting.
Our last and most peculiar supper took place at Jamestown Settlement, an innovative museum that’s putting multimedia technology to great use. Their café’s house-made Peanut Soup is odd and a real treat. Like molten peanut butter topped with crushed peanuts, it is a filling and very local item worth trying, especially with a slab of hot buttered corn bread. Or, maybe the kids would prefer jelly?
Any way you want to feed the troops, there’s enough fun fuel for another day of doing, listening and learning in Virginia’s Historic Triangle.
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