This Short, Sweet, And Scenic 'Triangle' Road Trip Highlights Virginia's Historic Charm

When you think of Virginia and road trips, the iconic license plates bearing the slogan "Virginia is for Lovers" likely come to mind. This slogan, even older than "I Love NY," holds the distinction of being the oldest state tourism slogan in America. Interestingly, it originally included a modifier, reading "Virginia is for History Lovers." But this should be no surprise for anybody familiar with the state and its origins.

Hailed as "the birthplace of a nation," Virginia holds the distinction of being the site of the first permanent English settlement in the New World. In 1607, after a year-long voyage from England, 104 settlers established Jamestown. Virginia also boasts a remarkable legacy as the home of four of the first five U.S. Presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. As you can imagine, the state is rich with various colonial settlements, battlefields, and living museums where you can see the beginnings of American history come alive right before your eyes.

So if you're a road-trip lover, history enthusiast, or simply eager to learn more about America, the "Historic Triangle" in Virginia is a must-experience journey. This route connects three pivotal sites: Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown, all within less than a 20-mile radius of each other. It's a short, sweet, and scenic road trip that offers a profound insight into the early days of America with stops at Virginia's most charming small towns — an educational and picturesque adventure for both Americans and international tourists alike.

Historic Jamestown: The beginning

Start your road trip in Jamestown, one of the best historical sites to visit in America and the very beginning of English America, located between Route 31 and the Colonial Parkway. It's worth noting that this site was originally inhabited by the native Powhatan people who both helped and clashed with the English settlers. Historic Jamestown inspired many "characters" we know today, most famously from Disney's 1995 film "Pocahontas": Captain John Smith, John Rolfe, and, of course, the Powhatan native Pocahontas. The real stories, however, are not as pleasant as Disney's love story angle — they are filled with tragedy and betrayal. 

Pop-culture discrepancies aside, you'll encounter archaeological digs where artifacts are still being unearthed. Many of these artifacts are displayed at the Archaearium Museum, painting a definitive picture of the colonists' lives. Guided tours can help visitors understand the daily struggles and resilience of the early settlers. Just remember that you'll need at least two hours to travelerblog all three-quarters of a mile of the Historic Jamestown site!

Don't start the car just yet; you should also visit the Jamestown Settlement, a living history museum that recreates the 17th-century atmosphere of the original Jamestown colony. There, you will find full-scale replicas of the first settlers' ships, a re-created colonial fort, and a Paspahegh Town (a Powhatan village), each staffed with historical interpreters in period attire. Additionally, you'll find interactive exhibits, immersive films, and experimental displays that will further enrich your visit.

Yorktown and Williamsburg

Next stop: Williamsburg — America's largest interactive history experience (301 acres) and the most famous historic destination in Virginia, where the entire colonial town looks stuck in time and stays in character around the clock. By an entire town, we're talking about a whole population, from children to the elderly. Expect shopkeepers, townspeople, farmers, soldiers, and taverns filled with patrons dressed in historical attire, interacting with visitors. This degree of 18th-century immersion is simply unparalleled, with 89 original buildings and hundreds of others accurately reconstructed for the sake of education. It's worth noting that in some of these buildings, you can literally walk in the footsteps of Thomas Jefferson!

Last on the map is Yorktown, one of the best East Coast cities for history buffs to add to their bucket lists, which is located within the Colonial National Historical Park. Here, you will discover the last decisive battlefield in the Revolutionary War. Known as "The Siege of Yorktown," in the fall of 1781, General Cornwallis surrendered his British army to General George Washington and the allied American and French forces. Afterward, visit the American Revolution Museum to travelerblog the story of America's founding from the colonial period through the Constitution, with a Continental Army encampment, Revolution-era farm, and artillery demonstrations. Here, the Historic Triangle road trip back in time to America's infancy comes to an end — wherever you're heading next, try to reflect on what you've learned, where you come from, and how to build a better future.