Up a slight hill, kids in metal breastplates and helmets were running alongside chickens at the faux James Fort, a collection of thatched-roof buildings including an Anglican church, a two-room dwelling with a kitchen and beds, and the governor’s house, which will open this summer.
The shiniest of the new exhibits at Jamestown Settlement is “Jamestown’s Legacy to the American Revolution,” which opened in March, runs through Jan. 20 and acts as a harbinger of good attractions to come. The more than 60 items on display are only squatting in Jamestown Settlement until their permanent residence at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown opens in late 2016. The Jamestown exhibit provides a satisfying sampling of the museum-in-progress. A life-size coronation portrait of King George III and a copy of Jean-Antoine Houdon’s sculpture of George Washington appropriately bookend the show. In between, I gained an appreciation of the patriots’ punk sensibilities through such objects as a Bible with blacked-out references to the king and a 1765 teaspoon engraved with the saying “I love liberty” and the image of a bird escaping its cage. Fly, free bird, fly.
If you stumbled across the James Fort at Historic Jamestowne, around the bend from the settlement, you might think that the American Revolution Museum construction had migrated west. But, no, the site always looks dirty and dog-bone dug up. And it will remain so as long as William Kelso and his team of archaeologists continue to unearth structures and items from the 1607 trove.
“It’s so loaded with artifacts,” said Kelso, as we stood over a trench containing a 17th century kitchen with two clay ovens, “it’s going to take us a long time to excavate the site.”
The scientists dig on weekdays, weather dependent, and encourage visitors to stand on the sidelines and cheer their progress.
Many of the Jamestown Rediscovery finds are housed in the Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium, another gift for the 400th birthday. The repository contains such James Fort artifacts as the skeleton of the captain of Godspeed, which contains a mouthful of perfect teeth, and buttons, glass bottles and a flintlock pistol from the Civil War period. A corner of the museum also showcases the more recent discoveries, including last year’s sundial and burgonet helmet.
If you want to hear about Mach Tower, the tallest ride in the park, I can provide a review only from the ground. Based on my observations, you will be strapped to the outside of a massive doughnut and dropped 238 feet. You will scream until your lungs are raw and then dizzily walk to the nearest bench and reassess your life.
Now if you care to learn about Verbolten, which opened last year, come take a seat beside me in the German sports car. Don’t forget to lower the safety bar.
The thrill ride, set in the German quadrant, opened last year and involves a scary-scenic auto tour of Deutschland run by Gerta and Gunter. But don’t fall for the cute sibling act: The two are the evil twins of Hansel and Gretel.
After hobbling off the ride, slightly coaster sick, I decided to skip the Griffon (hurtle down 205 feet at a 90-degree angle) for a tamer activity: playing with wolves.
In 2009, the Williamsburg-area attractions started to pull back the Oz curtain, allowing insider peeks and close-up interactions with roller coasters, archaeological digs, Clydesdales and collies, wolves and, this year’s addition, birds of prey. Busch Gardens also gave the wild kingdom inhabitants some extra love, renovating the eagle habitat this year and amping up animal interactions on the walking path.