10 Ways to Explore Historic Yorktown, Virginia

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Yorktown, Virginia, a tiny town located on the banks of the York River, is synonymous with the American Revolution, as it is the sight of the last major battle of the Revolution in the fall of 1781, when British General Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington. The town is also known for its port, the largest between Charleston and Philadelphia, and tobacco trading. Today, the town honors its role in American history with several historical sites, museums, and activities to help visitors better understand the American Revolution.

Travel Tips:

  • Plan on spending 2-3 days in Yorktown; visitors will want a full day just between at the American Revolution Museum and Yorktown Battlefield.

  • Consider purchasing an America’s Historic Triangle pass that allows unlimited admission for seven consecutive days to the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown and Yorktown Battlefield, as well as nearby Jamestown Settlement, Historic Jamestowne, and Colonial Williamsburg.  The ticket offers great savings over individual tickets and allows visitors to skip (often) lengthy admission lines. More information here.

  • There is plenty of free parking at the sites mentioned throughout this post. Additional information about downtown riverfront parking can be found here.

  • Yorktown offers a FREE trolley around town; more information can be found here.

  • This map has specific markings for activities, shopping, lodging, and dining along with hours of operation and contact information.

  • There are dozens of dining options in Yorktown, ranging from coffee and ice cream to grills, pubs, and sushi. More information can be found here.

  • For the broader York County area, this shopping and dining guide provides additional information about pricing for restaurants.

10 Ways to Explore Yorktown:

1. Help perform chores at a recreated outdoor Revolution-era camp at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. The outdoor space includes the Continental Army Encampment, with an outdoor kitchen, doctor’s “office”, and musket firings every day; and Reproduction Farm (the home of Edward Moss, a local farmer during the Revolutionary War), with tobacco barn, utility shed, and several vegetable gardens. There’s also a massive indoor museum with several hands on exhibits and three films. The museum also includes restrooms, a large gift shop, and on site dining options.  Read about our adventures and travel tips here.

2. Drive both auto tours at the Yorktown Battlefield, part of the Colonial National Historic Park. Overseen by the National Park Service, the auto tour includes a dozen stops of historical significance connected to Washington’s siege of the area and Cornwallis’ defeat. The tour is divided into two tours, each approximately 8 miles long. Stops include the Moore House and Nelson House, which are open seasonally to visitors. Make sure to leave time for the Victory Monument and National Cemetery.

3. Explore the Colonial National Historic Park. In addition to the auto tours, the campus includes a visitor’s center with museum exhibits, 16 minute orientation film, restrooms and a gift shop. Read about our adventures and travel tips here.

4. Research the rich history of the area at the York County Historical Museum, which has a collection of artifacts from the Native Americans through Colonial-era Yorktown. Exhibits showcase what life was like for both soldiers and their families during the Revolutionary War, Ware of 1812, Civil War, and World War I and II. The museum is spread across two locations: the lower level of York Hall and next door Museum on Main (which is the Park’s reconstructed 18th century Medical Shop).

5. Explore Riverwalk Landing, which includes dozens of shops and restaurants, with a wide variety of cuisine, dining options (quick service, take out, and full service restaurants), and price points. Many of the restaurants offer outdoor dining and views of the harbor and boats. Check here for a list of options.

6. Pretend be a tax collector at the 1720 Custom House, now overseen by the Daughters of the American Revolution. One of only 12 Historic Custom Houses in America, it is the site where taxes waged on all goods arriving in the colonies were collected. Custom House is open to the public, with free admission, on Sunday.

7. Learn about the role of Chesapeake Bay Watermen in our nation’s history at the Watermen’s Museum. Over a dozen exhibits chronicle the maritime history of the area starting with the early colonial period and the Algonquian tribes through the modern era. The complex also includes models of a wide variety of boats and showcases the evolution of the watercrafts used in the Chesapeake Bay. Check here for a calendar of family friendly activities and special events.

8. Take a cruise on the Schooner Alliance, a tall ship docked in the harbor. Options include day sails, sunset sails, and a pirate adventure cruise, where kids can raise the sails, steer the schooner, and learn other nautical jobs.

9. Look out for ghosts on a Ghost Walk. Older kids might enjoy evening tours that seek to explore alleged haunted buildings and areas in Yorktown.

10. Sunbath at Yorktown Beach. The two acre public beach has a fishing pier and grassy picnic area. Visitors can rent kayaks, paddleboards and bikes from local merchants. Nearby free parking is available and visitors can use the free trolley to transport beach gear.

Looking for other fun in the “Historic Triangle? Check out our adventures at the Yorktown Battlefield, American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, Jamestown Settlement, Historic Jamestowne, and Busch Gardens.


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One Comment

  1. Great to see so many interesting things in Yorktown! You show the many ways in which children can participate and it’s quite a variety. It gives a good background of the history of the day and makes it real for children and adults alike. It would be fun to travel on one of the ships and have the children participate in hoisting the sails etc. Great job!

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