Plenty of utensils and wares decorated tables in 18th-century America, but only a few became a symbol of protest during the Revolution, one of them was the teapot. It's these subtle traces of cultural change that take center stage in the permanent and temporary exhibits at DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. Here, developments in civilian and military infantry, such as ignition systems and muzzle-loading firearms, signal the progress of 18th-century weaponry, while 1690s-1820s furniture from New England through the Mid-Atlantic highlight developing cultural and regional trends.
Though a bulk of the museum's collection—including one of the biggest assortments of British ceramics outside England—was mainly used in the home, some objects were designed for outside the domestic sphere. An original fire engine built in the mid-18th century stands unscathed by flames, and a collection of medals made for George Washington honors the time he beat up that cherry tree. Scholars delve deeper into these and other artifacts during lectures held in Hennage Auditorium.
Day and night, the US Coast Guard–certified Lost Pearl, a replica of a 65-foot Spanish galleon, roams the waters of Virginia Beach while searching for scallywags. During family cruises, kids take in tales from the pirate crew and battle passing vessels with spewing water cannons while their parents sip on beer, wine, and frozen drinks. Come dusk, adults converge on the decks to mingle over cocktails and watch as onboard pirates present bawdy skits.
Colonial Williamsburg's 300 acres of taverns, tradeshops, homes, and community buildings stand preserved as if it were the 1770s, at the turbulent moment when Virginia colonists were debating independence from Britain. As visitors stroll the sun-dappled streets, they immerse themselves in the daily life of the town's citizens—shopkeepers, artisans, politicians, and enslaved servants who dream of freedom, but fear the chaos of war. Political discussions and protest demonstrations give guests the chance to leap into the revolutionary spirit themselves. Or, they can browse the town's 15 historic trade shops, where nearly 80 masters, journeymen, and apprentices practice pre-industrial trades from blacksmithing to leatherworking.
A duet of museums give historical context to the town's vibrant life. Housed under one roof, the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum let guests admire three centuries' worth of rustic ornamental woodwork or learn how a portrait of George Washington saved a family farm. Alternatively, for a taste of the 20th century, they can stroll across the landscaped grounds of Basset Hall, the former residence of John D. and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Jr.
Nestled in America's Historic Triangle in an area that was first colonized in 1633, The Williamsburg Winery stretches across 320 acres of picturesque farmland known as the Wessex Hundred. The vineyard's first grape-crushing dances took place in 1987, and they've since developed to produce 25 sip-ready varietals along with a lengthy list of vintage library wines ideal for tucking in a cellar or serving to a homesick time traveler from 1993.
In a setting styled to evoke the mood of an 18th-century European winery, tours meander along a pebbled walkway alongside simple stucco structures before ducking inside a quaint wine museum. Inside the tasting room, private wine cellar, or the Gabriel Archer Tavern that overlooks the grounds, oenophiles can swirl, sip, and throw their heads back to gurgle aged libations from a large roster of wines.
Taste of Williamsburg's guides would love to spend the whole day showing you the sites of the city. But they'd rather do that while they show you where the city's best ribs are. And since you're already on that side of town, they may as well as take you across the street for a life-changing slice of cheesecake, available only during its Dessert Attack tour.
During enthusiastic walking food tours, a savvy guide shows small groups around Williamsburg's thriving dining scenes, taking them through neighborhoods from Merchants Square to New Town and helping them discovering new dining digs across the city. At each stop, chefs at an array of restaurants prepare traditional regional dishes or global cuisine—at one establishment guests may sample Virginia ham or peanuts, at the next they'll enjoy reinterpreted macaroni-and-cheese or goat-cheese pizza (which George Washington often enjoyed cold for breakfast).
Twice a day, Virginia Balloons' hot air balloons roar to life, elevate into the air, and showcase the landscape that makes Virginia an ideal place to defy gravity. The colorful balloons float above farmlands, along Virginia Beach, and over the lush forests that grow in the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains. And if natural wonders aren't enough, the wind can carry balloons over historical Virginia for a bird's-eye view. Pilots, each with thousands of hours of flight time, guide these high-flying adventures. And, to create lasting memories, they toast each completed flight before sending balloons back to Oz for storage.