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Jamestown Settlement vs. Historic Jamestowne: What is the Difference?

  • Post last modified:October 15, 2023
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The names sound similar, possibly interchangeable, but they are not. We want to clear up the confusion most people have when arriving in Jamestown, Virginia, “What is the difference between Jamestown Settlement and Historic Jamestowne?” Honestly, we were just as confused when doing our planning.

First thing to realize is these are two different sites. Since they are next door to each other, with similar names, it’s easy to end up at the unintended location. This is what happened to us. However, both attractions have their own appeal, but are very different experiences.

  • Historic Jamestowne is the actual site of the Jamestown colony and fort. Here you will find the archeological remains of England’s first established settlement in America, dig sites, and an archeological museum.
  • Jamestown Settlement has a large museum, a re-created fort, period actors, and replica ships. Basically, it’s a large living history museum.

In this short post, we answer the questions we had when trying to plan our trip to Jamestown in hope it helps your planning go much smoother.

Jamestown Settlement vs. Historic Jamestowne

Neither Historic Jamestowne or Jamestown Settlement sponsor us. We share our experience to help others plan theirs.

Which Jamestown Site is Run by the National Park Service?

As America the Beautiful Annual Pass holders, this was our primary question.

Historic Jamestowne is co-run by the National Park Service and Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, on behalf of Preservation Virginia. The two organizations split the Admission fees.

This means, if you have a National Park pass* you get a discount on admission, but not free entry. Technically, the National Park Service waves their $15 fee, but you still pay the $15 Preservation Virginia fee.

Jamestown Settlement is a separate organization not associated with the National Park Service.

*Access Pass, Active-Duty Military Pass, and Gold Star Family Vouchers still receive free entry. 

What To Do and Who Would Enjoy the Jamestown Settlement?

Thatched roof building, Jamestown Settlement, Virginia

We feel there’s something for everyone at the Jamestown Settlement, but it’s clearly designed with kids in mind.

The experience starts with a well put-together historical movie about the colony’s beginnings. Next, walk through a comprehensive and modern museum time-lining the colony and exploring the cultures that it impacted; British, Native Americans, and enslaved Africans. In addition to over 500 artifacts, displays include re-creations and interactive activities.

Outside is the replica Jamestown colony’s fort and a re-creation of a native tribe’s village, Paspahegh Town. Both sites include period actors which demonstrate life in each of the settlements.

Replica Discovery sitting in harbor, Jamestown Settlement, Virginia

Finally, replicas of ships that brought the Jamestown settlers across the ocean sit in the harbor, Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery.

We personally enjoyed the museum, historical movies, and replica ships. Though some adults might find the re-created settlements with period acting interesting, we felt these areas appealed more to children.

Read more on our visit to Jamestown Settlement.

What To Do and Who Would Enjoy Historic Jamestowne?

Inside 1617 Memorial Church, Historical Jamestowne, Jamestown, Virginia

Historic Jamestowne is an outdoor active archeological dig site at the original Jamestown location. Those interested in US history will find the site a must.

Though there’s not a lot for young children, it’s a great place for school-aged kids to feel a connection to history. Plus, kids 15 and under get in free.

Within the Historic Jamestowne fort, memorial statues, and plaques, building foundations, grave-markers, and active dig sites denote significant archaeological features.

The site’s most notable feature is the 1906 Memorial Church. Within the church are the remains of a 1617 church built onsite, and a knight’s tomb.

The Archaearium Museum is the highlight of the park. The museum contains key findings from the Jamestown dig sites.  

Next door to the fort is New Town. The colony eventually expanded into this area in the 17th century. Today, only a few buildings remain along the walking trail.

Onsite there’s also a glass blowing workshop and the Island Loop Drive, a five-mile loop through the woods and marsh lands.

We have a more detailed post on Historic Jamestowne to help you plan your visit. 

Which is Better, Jamestown Settlement or Historic Jamestowne?

If you have the time, and the money (they are not cheap), we feel both are worth visiting.

Otherwise, if we had to pick just one site to visit, nothing beats the authenticity of the original Historic Jamestowne. Not only does your visit support the wonderful National Park Service, but it is also literally the site of history.

  • The museum at Jamestown Settlement provided a much deeper understanding of the site’s history in an engaging way.
  • Standing in the belly of the replica ships at Jamestown Settlement helped give us real perspective on what the journey across the ocean must have been like in such cramped quarters.
  • The Jamestown Rediscovery Archeology Tours at Historic Jamestowne are captivating. The historian’s passion is infectious, and we found ourselves hanging on every word.
  • Browsing through the collection of unique artifacts at the Historic Jamestown Archaearium Museum is exciting and humbling. 

Where to Stay When Visiting Jamestown

Most Jamestown visitors stay in nearby Williamsburg. The city’s central location makes it easy to visit Jamestown, but also Yorktown and Colonial Williamsburg.

  • Patriots Inn: We stayed here and felt it was good value. The location was superb, and the large one bedroom included a full kitchen. Oddly, we even had two full bathrooms.
  • A Williamsburg White House Inn: Perfect for anyone looking for a Bed and Breakfast experience with tons of character. The rooms in this century-old estate are clean, large, and tastefully decorated.
  • Marriott’s Manor Club at Ford’s Colony: A little further out of town, this luxury manor has everything you need to make it a special trip. They have three pools, a hot tub, and a 54-hole golf course. Plus, all the Villas have full kitchens.

Books on Jamestown

  • Jamestown, the Truth Revealed: Written by Dr. William Kelso, the director of archaeology for Jamestown Rediscovery, this book is the authority on everything we know about life in the former British colony of Jamestown. It’s a must read for anyone interested in arguably the most important time in American history.
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