Colonial Williamsburg: Where History, Golf and Fun Are All-Inclusive
WILLIAMSBURG, VA -- Traveling the country, there are lots of different types of golf resorts. Some, like Pinehurst, are practically shrines to the game. Others, like Pebble Beach, are set in such stunning visual settings that the golf is almost dwarfed by the region's natural beauty.
But it's rare to find a golf destination where the significance goes much deeper than the game, or the space it occupies. Colonial Williamsburg, home of the Golden Horseshoe, is one of those places. That's not a knock on the others-they're exceptional in themselves, and visiting them brings on a special kind of exhilaration.
Colonial Williamsburg, however, is more than golf; it's more than land; it's more than scenery-it's time. Where else can you retrace the steps of our forefathers, relax in five-star luxury, then walk across the street to hit some golf shots on a course designed by Robert Trent Jones?
It's all very well done. 2002 marks the 75th anniversary of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the brainchild of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Williamsburg Rector Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, which restored and preserved Virginia's Colonial Capitol back to its 18th century appearance-essentially saving it from ruin. Several special programs are being instituted this year to mark the anniversary. This could be a very good time to visit.
In the 21st century, Colonial Williamsburg offers a complete vacation destination-first-class accommodations, world-class golf, exquisite gourmet cuisine and un-matched historic preservation. No corners are cut in any area. As Rees Jones (designer of the Golden Horseshoe's Green Course) said, "It's an honor to work for Colonial Williamsburg because everything they do is of the highest quality."
The Colonial Williamsburg experience is vast. Having visited over a dozen times, there's still a wealth of activities remaining to discover. Golfers will rate the Golden Horseshoe amongst the finest golf resorts anywhere-Virginia or otherwise (the Horseshoe remains Virginia's only Gold Medal Resort, as awarded by Golf Magazine). Here, I'll make some non-golf recommendations on what to do while making a visit.
As highlighted in several previous pieces on Colonial Williamsburg, there are a number of different types of accommodations to choose from, custom-designed to match budgetary concerns and service levels. At the top of the list is the world famous Williamsburg Inn, recently renovated and more elegant than ever. If you've ever toured any of the Colonial gentry's classic mansions, you'll feel like you're occupying one of the guest rooms when staying at the Inn. Every detail is accounted for, and every need is taken care of by the staff. It's safe to say, you probably won't want to go home after staying here. One admonition-not for small children!
For those with young kids, you won't have to forego luxury to find a place to stay. Right across the street from the Inn is the Williamsburg Lodge, where the rooms are still elegantly dressed, and the location is also very convenient for access to the historic area or Golden Horseshoe Club. The Lodge also houses the Tazewell fitness center, should you get the urge to work out--or if your muscles are crying for a massage.
For the ultimate in family friendly sleeping quarters, try the brand new Williamsburg Woodlands, located near the Visitor's Center. Additional accommodations include restored Colonial Houses, which provide the ultimate 18th century experience-many of which are in the historic area itself.
Colonial Williamsburg entertainment and educational options are many. For those seeking to combine the two, highly recommended are the evening programs in the historic district. Offerings range from theatrical presentations to practical demonstrations of Colonial trades, to stories and legends told by interpreters in character.
There are even opportunities to take an active part. One program called 'Dance, Our Dearest Diversion' lectures on the social role dance played with our forefathers, then 'requires' audience participation to dance with the participants. In the 18th century, how well you dance was instructive on your role in society-it's a good thing the novices in the 21st century won't face such scrutiny. It's an evening of humor and fun-also a very good family activity.
Another highly recommended evening program is the Legends: Ghosts, Mysteries and Myths tour. Back in the days when there wasn't TV or radio, folks used non-electronic ways to entertain visitors, while also sharing news from places far away. One way they accomplished this is through storytelling-and that's what this program presents. Costumed characters relate stories original to the Colonial period, and it's up to you to separate truth from folly. Some of those tales are downright spooky when told by candlelight!
Other programs include recreated judicial proceedings (with some very interesting witnesses and 'criminals'), Civil War walks, 18th century music presentations and dramatic features. More than enough to see something different every night of the week.
An additional offering not geographically attached to the Colonial area is Carter's Grove, a historic mansion and grounds located about ten minutes from the Capitol. There, you can tour the mansion (restored to its more modern 1940's appearance), and walk the grounds containing the archeological remains of one of Virginia's earliest settlements (Wolstenholme Towne, which was destroyed in an Indian attack in 1622). Fascinating stuff, and another great (mostly) outdoors activity for the family.
All aspects of Colonial History are recreated in Williamsburg, including the 'ugliest' part of America's past, slavery. Several programs discuss slavery's role in early America, including African American culture, music and traditions. A very important part of a visit to the historic area.
As a final set of notes, no visit to Colonial Williamsburg is complete without sampling its culinary delights. For those seeking the 'contemporary' gourmet experience, you'll certainly find it at the Inn's Regency Room, or more modestly at some of the other restaurants in the Foundation's hotels. But for those looking to find out how our forefathers ate back in the Colonial days, then a visit to one of the four Colonial taverns is a must.
Each (King's Arms, Shield's, Christiana Campbell's and Josiah Chowning's) tavern features its own menu and specialties. King's Arms specializes in Meat and Game; Shield's presents home-grown (or hunted or caught) type offerings; Christiana Campbell's is known for Chesapeake Bay and traditional east coast Seafood; and Chowning's specializes in unusual dishes drawn from the traditions of tradesman's taverns in the 18th century.
A personal favorite is the King's Arms. It's located just down the street from the Capitol and originally catered to Virginia's gentry and the 'who's who' of revolutionary political elite. Today, it continues to delight visitors of all sorts, with period furnishings and adornments. The meal itself is hard to forget. You'll probably start with Peanut Soup (a tavern specialty) and for the main course, choose between Oyster-stuffed Filet Mignon, Game Pie or Smoked Trout Filet.
For the somewhat less adventurous, try the Roast Rib of Beef, which will match that found in your finer steakhouses. The fresh horseradish will certainly liven things up, too! Wash it down with regional brews or some excellent 20-21st century wines. The servers are especially knowledgeable about the dishes they serve and also the histories of each tavern-it's all part of the presentation. You'll even be entertained by costumed musicians, and possibly meet the tavern's proprietor!
Colonial Williamsburg is 'the' complete package, and most importantly, you can customize your visit to suit your individual budget and entertainment needs. Several new ticketing plans are also an improvement from a few years ago, and allow for flexibility in what you'd like to do and see during your stay. In other words, it's all-inclusive, and suitable for families or those looking to get away from it all. Choices of historic proportions!
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Special thanks to Rees Jones, Glen Byrnes, Carol Godwin and Ed Allmann in preparing this story.