Bringing history to life, Jamestown Settlement is a popular attraction in Virginia’s Historic Triangle. However, it’s not cheap. Surprisingly, it’s not even the historical location of Jamestown, England’s first permanent settlement. So, what is Jamestown Settlement and is it worth visiting?
We found ourselves at the Jamestown Settlement after confusing it for Historic Jamestowne. If you don’t already know the differences, our post on Jamestown Settlement vs Historic Jamestowne will clear up your understandable confusion.
Only after waiting through the lengthy ticketing line did we realize we were in the wrong place. However, as we already waited, we decided to give it a chance. Here, we review our experience, to help you work out if visiting Jamestown Settlement is right for you.
Jamestown Settlement does not sponsor us. We share our experience to help others plan theirs.
Browse the Jamestown Galleries
Starting our visit of Jamestown Settlement in the museum, we spent roughly two hours indulging in the materials. Spread between several large galleries and divided by time periods, the exhibit detailed everything about life in the colony, including the arrival of women to the real first Thanksgiving.
Using replicas and interactive displays, we felt the exhibition had a lot more to offer than the visitor center at the original site. The museum alone made our visit to Jamestown Settlement worth it.
Also, the two well put-together movies were worth making time for.
- 1607: A Nation Takes Root: A documentary which examines how the colony started and developed.
- Bacon’s Rebellion: Held in the unique 4-D multi-sensory, multi-layered projection theater, this movie tells the story of Nathaniel Bacon’s 1676 uprising, which led to the burning of Jamestown.
Stroll Jamestown's Re-created Fort Town
Next, we moved on to the re-created Jamestown fort. However, it’s worth noting, the original fort’s location is further down the peninsula in Historic Jamestowne.
Inside the replica fort, Tudor style homes with thatched roofs portrayed the old-world English colony. Within each building, historical interpreters acted out various tasks, from housekeeping to forging nails at the blacksmiths. All the while, matchlock muskets fired in the distance.
If you’ve never been to a living history museum like this, you’ll likely find it interesting. However, we felt it was mostly geared towards kids.
Wandering through the buildings took us about 20 minutes. We stopped to listen to a few historical discussions with the interpreters and a musket demonstration. Though, we didn’t enjoy the fort nearly as much as the museum.
Climb Aboard the Three Ships of Jamestown
Representing the three ships which brought England’s first permanent colonists to Virginia in 1607, replicas of the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery sat in the harbor for us to discover.
Sitting in the belly of the larger ship, Susan Constant, we looked around as we tried to picture 71 people living in this tiny space for four-months as they crossed the Atlantic. All that, just to come to a new land and face the hardships of a brutal winter. Can you imagine?
Though it only took us about 20 minutes to explore the three ships, they definitely helped make our visit to Jamestown Settlement worth it.
Learn Something New in the Paspahegh Town
Near the original Jamestown colony lived the Powhatan native people. You’ve most likely heard of the Powhatan chief’s favorite daughter, Pocahontas. Don’t worry if you can’t remember her story. The museum at Jamestown Settlement goes into great depth about the relationship between the Chief, Pocahontas, John Smith, and the colony.
Jamestown Settlement’s re-created Paspahegh Town aims to educate visitors about the Powhatan people and how they lived. Dried grass huts housed various artifacts and tools once used to prepare food and make pottery.
Unfortunately, during our visit, few historical interpreters were around to explain the artifacts, but most were easy to interpret ourselves.
Our Final Thoughts
Honestly, the Jamestown Settlement isn’t an attraction we would typically go to. It’s definitely geared towards kids.
However, despite our hesitation, we enjoyed our time, especially in the museum galleries. The information was well presented and thorough. By the time we went to Historic Jamestowne, we had a great grasp of the events and hardships of England’s first permanent settlement.
For us, Jamestown Settlement was worth visiting as we came away with a better understanding of the colony. Those who enjoy historical museums, re-creations, and period acting will likely also enjoy their visit.
However, don’t worry if you feel it’s not for you. The original site at Historic Jamestowne is just down the road. As an active archaeological dig site, there’s always something new being discovered.
Where to Stay for 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.
Here are more articles on Virginia’s Historic Triangle and nearby attractions you may enjoy.