Fun for leaf-peepers, history-buffs, outdoor enthusiasts and Halloween-lovers
Visiting Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown in fall brings the bonuses of crisp walking weather, dazzling foliage, and seasonal festivities from farmers’ markets to creepy creatures and creative haunted happenings at Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream as well as at Colonial Williamsburg.
Day 1: Williamsburg and Yorktown
Morning: Paddle through wetlands
For breakfast Shorty’s Diner, Williamsburg, serves tall orders of pancakes as well as other morning staples.
Drive to Williamsburg’s York River State Park, about 11 miles from the Historic Area. Wheat-colored grasses edges the park’s blue creeks in fall. On a kayak or canoe outing through the peaceful wetlands, you’re likely to paddle past ducks, cormorants and Canada geese. The park offers guided tours at select times as well as rents kayaks and canoes for those who want to explore on their own.
Afternoon and Evening: Pub lunch and Revolutionary War history
Drive to Yorktown for lunch at the Yorktown Pub, known for its local oysters, thick sandwiches and half-pound burgers. During Yorktown Market Days, held on select fall Saturdays, browse stalls brimming with late season corn and fat pumpkins.
At the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, discover things you likely never knew about America’s first war. The museum mixes period artifacts with interactive exhibits. The 4-D video “Siege of Yorktown” drops you into the fury of the battle.
Armed with a sense of the fierceness of the fight, tour the adjacent Yorktown Battlefield, site of the bloody encounter.
Tip: Watch reenactors clash at the Yorktown Battlefield and witness cannon and musket firings at the American Revolution Museum’s outdoor living history encampment during the annual Yorktown Victory Weekend, held the Saturday and Sunday closest to October 19, the battle date. This year’s events take place October 14 and 15.
Grub and ghosts
River views come with your pizza, tapas and craft beers at Yorktown’s Water Street Grille. After an early dinner, head to Colonial Williamsburg, where 250 jack-o-lanterns cast a flickering glow on Duke of Gloucester Street. (From October 27 to October 31, this year.) Go on a lantern-lit ghost walk, learn about witches in colonial Virginia or listen to haunting classical music at a “Monsters, Mayhem, and Music” concert.
Day 2: Williamsburg and Jamestown
Morning: Biscuits and biking
Breakfast on biscuits, grits and other southern fare at the Old Chickahominy House, an area staple since 1955. Afterward, head to Historic Jamestowne, the site of the first permanent English settlement, for a bike ride along the Island Loop Trail.
The sandwiches and sweets at Historic Jamestowne’s Carrot Tree Kitchens at the Dale House Café come with James River views, enough of a reason to linger over lunch.
Afternoon and Evening: Thrill Rides and Halloween Hauntings
Spend the afternoon and evening at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. The frequent winner of the World’s Most Beautiful Theme Park award, Busch Gardens pops with color in fall. Get a panoramic park view from the top of six mega-coasters, just before the gut-wrenching thrill rides drop you hundreds of feet at speeds up to 75 mph.
But that’s not the scary part, at least not in fall when the park stages Howl-O-Scream. The frightening fun starts at 6 p.m. (separate ticket required). Mad axe-throwers, demon skeletons, thirsty vampires and other monsters roam the Terror-Tories, a.k.a. the park’s villages. Ghouls and grotesques pop out at you from the dark corners of seven haunted houses, cleverly designed to bleed shrieks from even the most blasé.
Grab dinner at one of the park’s eateries. Howl-O-Scream takes place, this year, on Saturdays and Sundays in September and October plus on Thursday, October 19 and 26.