Williamsburg Stories and Tips

Jamestown Settlement

Jamestown Settlement Powhatan Village. Photo, Williamsburg, Virginia

While still under the rule of King James I, some English entrepreneurs formed the Virginia Company with the idea of becoming rich by sending three ships, the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, to the New World. After 4.5 months crossing the Atlantic, they landed on the banks of the James River in Virginia. One hundred and four men and boys then began to establish their new home, which they named Jamestown, in honor of their king. This site became the New World’s first permanent English settlement, 13 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts.

Today, Jamestown Settlement is located about a mile from the original site of Historic Jamestown. We spent several hours at this recreated, interactive site and learned a great deal about the hardships endured the people who founded Jamestown and of the Virginia Indians they encountered. At Jamestown Settlement, the story of is told through film, gallery exhibits, and living history. The gallery exhibits tell of Jamestown's beginnings in England and the first century of the Virginia colony. They also describe the cultures of the Europeans, the Powhatan Indians, and the Africans who were all a part of Virginia in the 1600s. After viewing a very informative film in a modern theatre, we walked a short distance and found ourselves in a Powhatan Indian village, where we saw first-hand several beautifully recreated dwellings, a crop garden, and a ceremonial dancing circle. Our "Powhatan Indian" guides described what their life was like before white men arrived and how it changed. A tool-making exhibit was being enacted while we were there.

Next, we walked to the riverfront discovery area, where another costumed historical interpreter added to our growing knowledge of the adventurous daily life of the 17th-century settlers. We were able to board replicas of the three ships that brought the colonists to Virginia. It’s hard to imagine 104 men and boys all crowded together in such tight quarters for the 4.5-month journey.

On our way to the recreated James Fort, we enjoyed interactive exhibits featuring crop gardens, canoe-building from a scraped-out tree trunk, animal-hide skinning and tanning, and the preparing of meat jerky.

Inside the impressive triangular wooden fort, we examined the "wattle and daub" construction of the church, governor’s house, storehouse, guardhouse, armory, and very small dwellings. More costumed guides explained the roll tobacco played in the success of the Virginia company, while others demonstrated early colonists’ skills, such as blacksmithing, carpentry, forging and metal repair, food cultivation, and meal preparation. You can try on armor, play games of quoits (ring toss) and ninepins (bowling), or witness a demonstration of a matchlock musket being fired.

This wonderful museum is open from 9am to 5pm daily. There is a nice gift shop and large café on the premises. Adult admission is $11.75, and a child’s ticket (ages 6-12) is $5.75. A combination ticket with Yorktown Victory Center is also available.

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