Five Ways to Explore the Yorktown Battlefield in Yorktown, VA

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In the fall of 1781, British General Lord Cornwallis, and over 8,000 British troops, surrendered to General George Washington at Yorktown, ending the Revolutionary War and solidifying independence. The site of that battle and and surrender is now part of the Colonial National Historic Park, one of the first parks created, in 1930. The park includes a 23 mile scenic parkway that connects Yorktown Battlefield and Historic Jamestown. Both Yorktown and Jamestown have Visitor Centers with museums, outdoor activities, and many ranger led programs to showcase important events in our nation’s history.

Traveling with Kids:

  • Start at the Visitor Center to purchase ticket and check schedules and ranger led programs, and get your National Parks Passport stamps. Restrooms are also located in the Visitor Center

  • Kids will want to complete a Junior Ranger booklet to earn a badge. Purchase one in the gift shop, located in the Visit Center.

  • Consider taking a ranger led tour for in depth history- check here for more information and schedules. Kids will be most interested in the Young Soldier Program with a costumed interpreter (usually offered during summer months).

  • The museum is partially handicap and stroller accessible (the exhibit inside the ship is not handicap accessible).

Five Things to do at the Yorktown Battlefield:

1. Watch the 16 minute orientation film (shown every half hour) shown in the auditorium in the Visitor Center.

2. Explore the museum, which is situated in and around a replica HMS Charon, a 44 gun Frigate ship. Highlights from the museum include

  • a Lafayette cannon and parts

  • short video with highlighted 3D map of the battle, and 

  • Dioramas depicting various scenes of the battle

  • An explanation of the difference between a battle and a siege

  • The instructions for making an earthwork

  • A reproduction of George Washington’s command tent headquarters

3. Take one, or both, driving tours through the battlefield. Each route (red and yellow) includes six stops over the course of seven miles and takes approximately 45 minutes to complete. Follow the road signage and grab a map at the Visitor Center.

4. Visit at least one of three homes on the driving tour: Moore House, Nelson House, or George Washington’s headquarters. The home of Augustine Moore was where officers from both armies met to negotiate the surrender of Cornwallis’ army. Thomas Nelson Jr. was one of Yorktown’s most famous residents, known for leading the local “tea party” in 1774 and later becoming the 3rd governor of Virginia and commanding Virginia militia at the siege of Yorktown. His home is open to visitors throughout the year.  Washington’s Headquarters is positioned between the American and French camps. 

5. Pay your respects at the Yorktown Victory Monument, which overlooks the York River, about a quarter mile from the harbor district, and at the Yorktown National Cemetery, next to the where the British surrendered to Washington. The cemetery includes over 2,000 graves, only 1600 are marked. A majority of the graves are for unknown persons, many of whom were Union Army soldiers.

There is plenty to do in downtown Yorktown- check out shopping, tours, and dining options here. For more historical fun in Yorktown, check out our visit to the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown and nearby Jamestown Settlement.

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3 Comments

  1. Seems like much have changed Since we were there 20+ years ago. Great information and can be included with trips to Washington and so many places.

  2. Seems like much have changed Since we were there 20+ years ago. Great information and can be included with trips to Washington and so many places.

  3. Seems like much have changed Since we were there 20+ years ago. Great information and can be included with trips to Washington and so many places.

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