8 of the Oldest Cities in America

For history lovers, nothing beats the old-time charm and architectural wonder of America’s oldest towns

The United States officially gained independence in 1776; but, of course, Indigenous populations and colonial settlers were here long before then. That means some cities in the country were founded well before 1776 giving them a long, rich history that predates the country by more than a century. Here are eight of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the United States that you can still visit today.

Historic Newport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Newport, Rhode Island

Aside from being one of the country’s oldest cities, Newport is special because its settlement was led by a woman. Boston resident Anne Hutchinson was driven out of the city because of her Antinomianism religious views and a group of followers accompanied her to resettle on Aquidneck Island—after permission was received by the local Indigenous people—in 1636. The Indigenous population had a thriving community there with sophisticated fishing practices and land management strategies.

The Breakers, Newport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hutchinson and her followers settled on the north of the island in an area called Pocasett. By 1639, half of Hutchinson’s group left with William Coddington and Nicholas Easton who took their followers to the southern end of the island to found present-day Newport, now known for its Gilded Age mansions, shopping, and seaside views.

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Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Williamsburg, Virginia

In 1633, the Virginia Assembly ordered the founding of a town called Middle Plantation in the center of the Virginia Peninsula. Unlike other towns at the time, the settlement was not located along the James River. Nonetheless, the town had a hand in a number of historic events like Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 when Nathaniel Bacon challenged Virginia’s governor. Bacon and his followers had burned down many of the buildings in Jamestown and those displaced settlers relocated to Middle Plantation.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The College of William and Mary (the country’s second-oldest college) opened in 1693 and shortly thereafter, Middle Plantation was renamed Williamsburg, after King William. The country’s first mental health hospital was established in Williamsburg in 1773 and in 1781 George Washington assembled his troops there to siege Yorktown and win the Revolutionary War.

Today, visitors can stop in and explore Colonial Williamsburg, the world’s largest outdoor living history museum, educating guests on what it was like living in colonial America.

Get more tips for visiting Williamsburg

Boston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston was officially founded in 1630 but by the time Puritan colonists arrived on the Shawmut Peninsula where the city started it was already occupied by a recluse named Reverend William Blackstone. Blackstone had left England seven years earlier hunting down his own sense of peace and quiet and found it on the peninsula.

Boston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blackstone welcomed the Puritan colonists and showed them where the natural spring was—and then they took over his land. They then granted him back 50 acres of his own property. Four years later, he sold it back to them and left.

Meanwhile, the colonists had built a church, cemetery, tavern, and inn. In 1635, they opened Boston Latin School, the first American public school. Boston took center stage in the fight against British rule with the infamous Boston Tea Party protest of 1773.

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Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe—the oldest state capital still in existence—was officially founded in 1607 but it has actually been in existence since around 1050 when it was home to the Pueblo Native Americans. The Spanish arrived in 1607 and the Pueblo peoples gathered together and attempted to overthrow them toward the end of the 1600s. Their attempts were unsuccessful and the Spanish took control of the city.

Plaza of Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe remained a Spanish city until 1821 when Mexico declared its independence. Santa Fe was briefly a part of the Texas Republic in 1836 and was eventually conquered from Mexico during the Mexican-American War in 1848 after which it officially became a part of the United States.

Santa Fe residents seemingly embrace all aspects of their long and contentious history and tourists can learn more about it by visiting their fascinating history museums, and art galleries.

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Historic Jamestowne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jamestown, Virginia

The second-oldest European-established city in the U.S. is Jamestown, Virginia, founded on April 26, 1607. The first permanent English colony in North America had many ups, downs, and false starts before it became the city it is today. It was originally called James Fort, named after James I of England but the settlement was abandoned just three years later after the colonists faced starving conditions and conflict with the Indigenous population.

Historic Jamestowne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fourteen years later; however, in 1624, Virginia became an official British colony and more order was brought to the city which had slowly been reinhabited. Its name was changed to Jamestown and the city became the capital of the British colonies. By the mid-19th century, the city was declining and concerned citizens began campaigns to preserve this original U.S. city in the early 1900s. These efforts were successful and the city celebrated its 400th year of existence in 2007.

Today, you can visit the Jamestown Settlement and see what life was like back in the city’s first years.

Get more tips for visiting Jamestown

The Strand, Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston, Texas

The first inhabitants in Galveston history were the Karankawa Indians in the 16th century. Galveston Island’s first noted visitor was Cabeza de Vaca, the Spanish explorer who landed in 1528. Its first European settler was French privateer Jean Lafitte. The city was chartered in 1839.

Moody Mansion © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston encompasses more history and stories than cities 20 times its size. At 32 miles long and two-and-a-half miles wide, the island is surrounded with incredible history and unique beauty. Having one of the largest and well-preserved concentrations of Victorian architecture in the country, visitors can tour its popular historic mansions.

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Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mobile, Alabama

The French established a permanent presence in the Mobile Bay Area in 1702 and by 1706 there were at least four permanently established sites in the area including the current site of the City of Mobile. Mobile is the oldest permanent settlement in the original Colony of French Louisiana and was its first capitol. The first five governors of Louisiana resided in Mobile and governed an area twice the size of the thirteen English colonies extending from Canada to the Gulf and from the Appalachians to the Rockies.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mobile has a rich past spanning centuries. French, Spanish, British, Creole, Catholic, Greek, and African legacies have influenced everything from architecture to cuisine. No matter where you turn, history is right around the corner. Visit the History Museum of Mobile, explore the battlegrounds of Forts Morgan, Gaines, and Condé or simply walk the streets of historic downtown.

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The Alamo, San Antonio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Antonio, Texas

On June 13, 1691, Spanish missionaries named an area of south-central Texas for St. Anthony of Padua, a Portuguese Catholic priest, and friar. San Antonio was officially settled 25 years later. Then, in 1836, Mexican troops initiated a 13-day siege at the Alamo Mission and the settlers were brutally slaughtered. While San Antonio was further decimated by the Mexican-American War, it rebounded as the center of the cattle industry after the Civil War.

Riverwalk, San Antonio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With a population of around 1.3 million people, San Antonio is now the second-largest city in Texas. Visitors flock to the Alamo historic site and the popular River Walk which is lined with shops, restaurants, and public art.

Get more tips for visiting San Antonio

Worth Pondering…

History, although sometimes made up of the few acts of the great, is more often shaped by the many acts of the small.

—Mark Yost

The Best Stops for a Fall Road Trip

Whether you park for ten minutes or ten days, what destinations do you pull off the highway for?

At some point, everyone starts to think about their dream road trip. For some, it’s a jaunt to the Grand Canyon or touring the Mighty Five in a decked-out RV. For others, it’s traveling Historic Route 66 or the Blue Ridge Parkway. No matter the destination, though, everyone needs to make stops on the way. What are some of your favorites?

For my purpose, a stop is anything from a national park to a state park or a roadside attraction to a Texas BBQ joint. Anything that gets you to pull off the highway, turn off your engine, and stretch your legs a bit—whether it’s to hike a mountain trail or tour a living history museum is up to you.

My vote for the perfect road trip stop is multifaceted and an ongoing list as I travel to new places and explore America’s scenic wonders.

Smitty’s Market, Lockhart © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas BBQ, Lockhart, Texas

Houston and Austin can quibble all they want about who has the best barbecue, but the clear winner is Lockhart. This small town 35 miles south of Austin is the Barbecue Capital of Texas—and that’s not just a municipal marketing ploy. The Texas State Legislature passed a resolution in 2003 officially giving Lockhart the title. Hundreds of thousands of people make the trek to Lockhart every year where four barbecue joints cook up mouth-watering meats made by legendary pitmasters. Here, meat is served in boxes by the pound and eaten off butcher paper on long, wooden tables.

Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks, Montpelier, Vermont

Vermont Maple has been the standard by which all syrups are judged. I think you can taste eight generations of experience in Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks. The Morse Family has been making maple syrup and related products in Vermont for 200 years. And their folksy maple farm is an interesting place to visit any time of year.

Nestled on a hilltop just 2.7 miles outside of Montpelier, the smallest state capital in the U.S., Morse Farm is a throwback to a simpler, quieter time when generations of the same family worked together to carve out a living on the land.

Related article: Must-See under the Radar Small Towns to Seek Out this Fall

Morse Farms Maple Sugarworks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll hear an informative and fascinating presentation about the history and operation of the farm and you can take a stroll on the trail among some of the sugar maple trees. There are farm animals to feed and of course there is a gift shop with a wide assortment of the farm’s products for sale.

Open daily, with slight variation in hours by season. No admission charge. Harvesting season is mid-March to Mid-April. Ample parking is available, including pull-through parking for RVs.

Valley of the Gods © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Valley of the Gods, Mexican Hat, Utah

Drive the 17-mile dirt road through Valley of the Gods and you’re left wondering why its more famous neighbor, Monument Valley, attracts visitors in almost infinitely greater numbers. Valley of the Gods features spectacular mesas, buttes, and spires, but none of the crowds; it’s possible you won’t see another vehicle as you make your way past rock formations such as Lady In A Tub, Setting Hen Butte, and Seven Sailors.

Valley of the Gods © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The west entrance is situated on Utah Hwy 261, 10 miles north of Mexican Hat; the east entrance begins on US Hwy 163 about 7 miles east of Mexican Hat. The road through the park is level-graded dirt; a high clearance vehicle is generally recommended.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to 1300. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About 1,400 years ago, a group of people living in the Four Corners region chose Mesa Verde as their home. For more than 700 years they and their descendants lived and flourished here, eventually building elaborate stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls. Then, in the late 1200s, they left their homes and moved away in the span of a generation or two. Mesa Verde National Park preserves a spectacular reminder of this ancient culture.

Bardstown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bardstown, Kentucky

It’s no surprise that Bardstown has been named one of the most beautiful small towns in America more than once. With several well-known bourbon distilleries, wineries, and historic sites, Kentucky’s second-oldest town has a lot to offer the traveler.

Barton 1792 Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’re here for the bourbon, right? Start your tours with a trip to the oldest fully functioning distillery in Bardstown, Barton 1792 Distillery, famous for its signature 1792 Bourbon. Visitors can tour the property’s 196 acres, which showcase more than 25 barrel-aging warehouses, a picturesque stillhouse, and an award-winning distillery. Tours are complimentary and so are the tastings at this local distillery.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stephen C. Foster State Park, Fargo, Georgia

Located within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, this remote park offers access to the breathtaking wealth of flora and fauna of America’s largest black water swamp. Reserve a place on one of the guided pontoon boat tours and enter a primeval world of moss-draped trees, ibis, storks, turtles, and of course the American Alligator, an estimated 12,000 of which live within the refuge. A boardwalk trail next to the boat dock makes it easy to explore a small area of the swamp on foot.

Related article: Leafy Scenes: 12 of the Best Road Trips for Viewing Fall Foliage

Stephen C. Foster State Park is a certified dark sky park allowing guests to experience some of the darkest skies in the southeast. Nine cottages are available to rent, and there’s a campsite for tents, trailers, and motorhomes.

Hubbell Trading Post © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hubbell Trading Post, Ganado, Arizona

Famously known as the oldest continuously operating trading post on the Navajo Nation (it’s been here since 1876), Hubbell Trading Post is a part historic site, part museum/gallery, and part thriving retail operation specializing in authentic Navajo rugs, jewelry, and pottery. A visit to the adjacent Hubbell family home with an impressive collection of Southwestern art and Native American arts and crafts is recommended.

Mission Concepcion © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mission Concepcion, San Antonio, Texas

A functioning Catholic church intermittently since 1731, Mission Concepcion is a picturesque historic structure that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, only a short distance from San Antonio’s most famous mission, The Alamo. It’s worth dropping by for a look and some photos. In particular, keep an eye out for the remnants of the frescoes that were painted on the building when it was constructed, but have badly faded over time.

Jamestown Settlement © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jamestown Settlement, Virginia

Near the site of the first permanent English settlement in America, established in 1607, Jamestown Settlement preserves and recreates life at the time. There are four components to the complex. As you enter, there are museum exhibits featuring artifacts and interpretations of the lives of the colonists, the natives, and the Africans who were forcibly brought along.

Jamestown Settlement © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Continuing outside, you come to a recreated Powhatan village; farther down the path, you come to a recreated colonial fort; then on down to the water, you’ll see, and be able to board, replicas of the three ships that brought the settlers. In each of these outdoor locations, there are interpreters attired in appropriate garb to answer your questions and demonstrate period skills, from cooking to preparing an animal hide to firing a rifle.

Lake Martin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Martin Swamp Tours, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Swamp tours are a must-do for anyone visiting Louisiana and Lake Martin is home to one of the state’s most impressive collections of wildlife. No one can make guarantees where nature’s concerned but a trip out onto this beautiful, man-made lake is likely to bring close-up views of birds including egrets, herons, roseate spoonbills, and eagles as well as the ‘gators for which the region is famous. Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tours offer trips out into the cypress swamps every day. Their guides are friendly, knowledgeable, and full of character.

Related article: Stunning Fall Drives across America

Navajo Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Navajo Bridge, Page, Arizona

The two beautiful Navajo Bridges that span the Colorado River’s Marble Canyon may look identical but they were built more than 65 years apart. The first bridge opened to traffic in 1929 and was, at the time, the highest steel arch bridge in the world. However, it was not designed to carry modern day traffic and its replacement more than twice as wide opened in 1995. Rather than dismantling the original bridge, they left it in place to allow pedestrians to enjoy the spectacular view of the river 467 feet below. Take time to visit the interpretive center on the west side of the bridge.

Wilson Arch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wilson Arch, Monticello, Utah

One of the pleasures of driving this part of Utah (in particular the section of US Route 191 running north from Bluff through Blanding, Monticello, and Moab) is happening upon the incredible rock formations that seem to appear around every corner. This one, Wilson Arch, was named after Joe Wilson, a local pioneer who had a cabin nearby in Dry Valley. It’s an easy hike up to the arch and makes for great photos.

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fredericksburg, Texas

Step back in time to learn about Fredericksburg’s German heritage at Pioneer Museum. The 3.5-acre site gives a glimpse into the lives of the early German settlers in the frontier town of Fredericksburg from the 1840s to the 1920s. Visit the National Museum of Pacific War, a Smithsonian-affiliated museum dedicated to telling the story of the Pacific Theater during World War II. With interactive exhibits and endless galleries and stunning grounds, the museum will inspire all generations.

National Museum of Pacific War © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enjoy Fredericksburg’s diverse culinary scene. From German food to burgers to fine dining, Fredericksburg has something for everyone’s taste. Sip wine at any of the more than 50 wineries in the Fredericksburg area, enjoy a self-guided trip down Wine Road 290 on your own or opt for a wine tour with any of our local wine tour companies. 

New River Gorge Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New River Gorge Bridge, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia

At 3,030-feet this is the world’s third longest single arch bridge. At 876 feet above the river, it is also one of the tallest. The visitor center has picnic areas and hiking trails with spectacular views of bridge and gorge. White water rafting and hiking are popular in summer.

Bridge Day, on the third Saturday in October (October 15, 2022), features B.A.S.E. jumpers and rappellers in a festival atmosphere. New River Gorge Bridge is located on U.S. Highway 19 between Summersville and Beckley.

Historic Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Historic Oatman, Arizona

Once a thriving mining town, then a virtual ghost town when Route 66 was bypassed, Oatman has been reborn as a popular tourist destination for its Old West flavor. Many of its historic buildings still stand including the Oatman Hotel where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent a night of their honeymoon and where the lobby is covered by thousands of dollar bills that tourists have attached to the walls and ceilings.

Related article: 10 of the Best Small Towns to Visit this Fall

Historic Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are cowboy shootouts and gift shops galore. But above all, there are the burros, descendants of animals released in the hills by miners. They function today as the semi-official stop lights wandering the narrow streets and poking their heads into car windows looking for handouts.

Hurricane © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hurricane, Utah

Despite its name, you’re likely to find beautiful weather in Hurricane. And that’s a good thing when you consider the outdoor adventures available just a stone’s throw from the small town. Take advantage of the proximity to Sand Hollow Reservoir and Sand Hollow State Park. Of course, Hurricane is also a home base for many travelers to Zion National Park, so you’ll want to bring your hiking boots for the park’s most notable trails, like Angel’s Landing, Emerald Pools, and The Narrows.

Worth Pondering…

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown trail before me leading wherever I choose.

—Walt Whitman

Live in Colonial Times: Experience the Revolution in a Revolutionary Way

Colonial Williamsburg is the restored 18th-century capital of Britain’s largest, wealthiest, and most populous settlement in the New World

The restored 18th-century capital of Britain’s dominant outpost in the New World, Colonial Williamsburg interprets the cultural establishment of America in the years before and during the American Revolution. The story of Colonial Williamsburg’s revolutionary city tells how diverse peoples evolved into a society that valued liberty and equality.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The world’s largest living history museum—with more than 40 sites and trades and two world-class art museums—is full of participatory experiences. Stop by Raleigh Tavern and see the “Revealing the Priceless” exhibition highlighting efforts to tell the story of Williamsburg’s 18th-century enslaved children, women, and men. Take part in a dig into the past. Tour the laboratories in The Wallace Collections and Conservation Building that examine and restore colonial artifacts. For the adventurous, sign up for axe throwing or learn how to fire a flintlock musket.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Historic church

As someone who grew up attending services with my family every Sunday, I’ve always enjoyed visiting historic churches—especially when they represent a piece of history. The Historic First Baptist Church of Williamsburg is one of the country’s earliest African American congregations. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke here in 1962 inspiring the congregation’s participation in the civil rights movement.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quench your thirst

Greater Williamsburg is home to a tasty mix of breweries, distilleries, and a winery. It offers a journey through the old and the new—and the exciting—ways of making beer, wine, and spirits. Check out the fun at relative newcomers like The Virginia Beer Co. or the Precarious Beer Project and old standards like The Williamsburg Winery and Alewerks Brewing Company. Leave the driving to others by taking a Drink Williamsburg tour. Cheers!

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Find your outlet

You can’t return home empty-handed. Go shopping. Browse the more than 120 stores of Williamsburg Premium Outlets. Pick up bargains at Burberry, Calvin Klein, Nike, the Coach Outlet, Oakley, Ralph Lauren, L’Occitane, Swarovski, Waterford, and many others.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nature abounds

Williamsburg may be known for its colonial history but it’s also a fabulous spot for nature lovers. There are quiet waterways to explore, large parks to wander about in, and pastoral beauty all around.

If you’re interested in getting outside to experience the wildlife, Waller Mill Park is where birders can find everything from warblers to woodpeckers and osprey. It’s only $2 to park and several wonderful trails take you through stands of pine and hardwood including one that takes you to a fine lookout spot.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park also features two closed-in dog runs, a disc golf course, a children’s playground, a playing field, and several types of boats to rent including pedal boats, canoes, kayaks, and row boats. Fishing fans can toss a line for largemouth bass, blue gill, white perch, catfish, and other species.

A trip along Island Loop Drive on Jamestown Island provides numerous opportunities to get up close and personal with nature. It’s a short drive (there are two loops; the longest is about 20 minutes) that takes you over pretty marshes and lovely, curving, wooden bridges.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a leisurely drive or bike ride along the scenic 23-mile Colonial Parkway that provides a physical and metaphorical link between Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. Scenic driving, interpretive pull-offs, biking, and fishing are available along this National Scenic Byway. You’ll pass plenty of quiet ponds and skirt along both the James and York Rivers giving you a great chance to spot hawks, herons, and other big birds.

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a tour standing in place

Head to Yorktown and hop on a Segway with Patriot Tours for a one- or two-hour tour covering the waterfront and historic Main Street. Riding a Segway is easier than you think. Lean forward, imagine you are moving, and—presto—you are.

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

America’s Historic Triangle

Of course, a visit to the area isn’t complete without visiting all the historic sites it’s known for.  Must-sees include the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown and Yorktown Battlefield (where the American Revolution was won), Jamestown Settlement (where America’s first permanent English colony comes to life), and Colonial Williamsburg (the world’s largest living history museum depicting life in the 18th century).

Historic Jamestowne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Three places in Virginia can lay claim to where America was born. The first permanent English settlers arrived at Jamestown in 1607. At Williamsburg, the ideas of independence and revolution took form. The siege of Yorktown in 1781 was the last major battle of the American Revolution. In this Historic Triangle, discover the history of the diverse people whose lives form the earliest chapters of America’s story. Experience the past and discover commemorative events, educational programming, and entertainment all in one place. Colonial Williamsburg has a Historic Triangle ticket so that you can save when you explore all three places.

Historic Jamestowne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jamestown

Discover the world of the settlers who established the first permanent British settlement in the New World at Historic Jamestowne, a National Park Service and Preservation Virginia site. There you can talk with archaeologists about their excavations on the exact site of the first permanent colony in America, experience the first democratic assembly, and visit the Archaearium, a museum that houses some of the two million artifacts uncovered since the Jamestown Rediscovery Project began in 1994.

Historic Jamestowne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For another view of the time, visit Jamestown Settlement and watch 1607: A Nation Takes Root, explore artifact-filled exhibit galleries, climb aboard replicas of the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, visit re-creations of a Powhatan Indian village, and walk through a re-creation of the original fort interacting with interpreters.

Yorktown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yorktown

Explore Yorktown Battlefield, a National Park Service site. Then stroll through the 18th-century village of Yorktown. The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown tells the story of the nation’s founding through immersive indoor exhibition galleries and films and outdoor living-history experiences. It offers unique looks at the lives of everyday people overtaken by revolutionary events. Inside, nearly every attraction is interactive. Outside, there are old-fashioned interactive options. Drill in an Army encampment. Help fire artillery. Pick up a recipe from colonial cookbooks at the bakehouse. Tend to the crops at a 1780s colonial-era farm.

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Colonial Parkway

The Colonial Parkway is a 23-mile scenic roadway stretching from the York River at Yorktown to the James River at Jamestown connecting Virginia’s Historic Triangle—Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown.

Worth Pondering…

The truth is, I love history and studied it in college, with a particular focus on early American history. My love is so deep, in fact, I went to school at The College of William & Mary in Colonial Williamsburg.

—Alexandra Bracken

Historic Triangle: 400 Years & Counting

Virginia’s Historic Triangle is full of living history and fun for the whole family

Traveling through America the past is often hidden, masked by strip malls and suburban sprawl. However, restoration and reconstruction projects are occurring in cities and towns across the nation to preserve our past for future generations.

The Historic Triangle is formed by Historic Jamestowne, Colonial Williamsburg, and Yorktown Battlefield, three cities that were instrumental in America’s development, freedom, and democracy.

Historic Jamestowne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On May 14, 1607, the ships sent by the Virginia Company of London, the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, landed at Jamestown Island with 104 passengers—all men and boys. They began building America’s first permanent English settlement, predating Plymouth in Massachusetts by 13 years.

Historic Jamestowne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Decimated by disease, famine, and Indian attacks, less than half of them survived the first year. However, with more settlers arriving every year and the establishment of their first cash crop, the tiny settlement began to flourish.

Historic Jamestown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Through living history, a film, and gallery exhibits, the aspirations of these pioneers and the hardships they faced are depicted at Jamestown Settlement. Located about a mile from the original site, Jamestown Settlement is 10 minutes from Williamsburg, Jamestown’s successor as capital of the Virginia colony.

Historic Jamestown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your visit to Jamestown Settlement begins with an introductory film that presents an overview of Jamestown’s origins in England and the early years of the colony. Exhibition galleries chronicle the nation’s pre-17th-century beginnings in Virginia in the context of its Powhatan Indian, English, and western central African cultures.

Leaving the indoor exhibits, visitors arrive at the Powhatan Indian village where costumed interpreters discuss and demonstrate the Powhatan way of life. From the Indian village, a path leads to a pier where the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discover are docked. Visitors can talk with costumed interpreters about the four-and-a-half month voyage from England.

Historic Jamestown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Triangular Fort James is a recreation of the one constructed by the Jamestown colonist on their arrival in 1607. Inside the wooden stockade are wattle-and-daub structures and thatched roofs representing Jamestown’s earliest buildings including dwellings, a church, a storehouse, and an armory.

More settlements followed and it was in Williamsburg that the seeds of revolution were sown by the intellectual and independent thinkers who flocked to the city.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Become a resident of a city on the verge of war—or in the midst of it—as you explore the government buildings, shops, homes, gardens, and taverns of Williamsburg. Encounter townspeople on their own soil as they live through a time of change and uncertainty. Buzzing with political discussion and dispute, the city comes alive. Enter the residents’ homes or learn about their workplaces; see where they sleep, where they eat, and where they socialize.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many of the buildings, like the Courthouse, Magazine, and Wetherburn’s Tavern, have stood in Williamsburg since the 18th century. Others, like the Capitol and Governor’s Palace, have been reconstructed on their original foundations. Some of the buildings are used as private residences and offices. Flags out front indicate areas open to guests.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The port city of Yorktown forms the third point of the Historic Triangle, famous for its decisive battle and end to the Revolutionary War.

Yorktown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you stroll through historic Yorktown, let the past envelop you as you immerse yourself in 300 years of history. Here you can experience many 18th century homes, visit the location where the surrender terms for the Battle of Yorktown were negotiated or the home of the Virginia militia with its walls still bearing the scars of cannonballs fired upon the village in 1781. Explore the battlefields, fortifications, and historic buildings where American independence was won.

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Americans won their independence here during the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War on October 19, 1781, when British troops surrendered to General George Washington and his French allies.

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, Yorktown Battlefield is joined by the scenic Colonial Parkway to Colonial Williamsburg and Historic Jamestown and is located just 12 miles east of Williamsburg.

Worth Pondering…

On the whole, I find nothing anywhere else…which Virginia need envy.

—Thomas Jefferson