Parkside Williamsburg Resort
Parkside Williamsburg Resort Williamsburg Virginia is a short drive from my home but yet still feels like a world away in a great way. I enjoy Colonial Williamsburg and always have. I grew up in nearby Yorktown Virginia (Where Cornwallis surrendered the sword). So I already knew the places I wanted to visit and being a tiny bit of a local historian (amateur status only) I will share some of those places with you too.
Day One Arrival at Parkside Williamsburg Resort
The drive over is the same many will take if they fly into the area. While it is possible to fly into Newport News Airport where it is closer, most who are flying to the area will come into ORF which is the Norfolk airport. You will then drive across one of the tunnels to go to Williamsburg. Most travel across the busy HRBT (Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel) which during the week is busy from 3-6:30 PM with heavy traffic.
If you are flying in, try for an earlier flight to avoid the traffic hassle.
If you drive into the area most of you will be coming in on Interstate 64 from the Richmond Virginia area and that is an easy approach to Williamsburg and this resort.
The resort is located at 1827 Merrimac Trail Williamsburg, VA 23185 which is very easy to find even without your phone app and GPS. Once in Williamsburg if you want to eat because you are in town earlier than check-in time, there are many great little restaurants and spots to eat. Some are family-owned and have been around for many years.
One thing that is great about this resort that even I did not realize is the location. It is right across the road from the Bush Gardens theme park. Bush Gardens was previously owned by Anheuser Busch, and they have a plant right next to the park that you can tour as well. It used to be connected as a feature of the park. Years ago, you could get a free beer or two when you did the tour. This meant as soon as us local kids were legal age or could pass for it, we would find ourselves with our parks season pass going to get free beers 1-2 times or more during a trip to the park. Good times.
Now there are plenty of drinks in the park-like many theme parks these days, but now you pay for them all. At least now I am employed and can afford it. Like many theme parks, you can get season passes, but here they are not limited to locals. Also, a pass here can get you into the park, free parking, and even access to their water park not too far away (20 mins).
If you like theme parks at all keep reading tomorrow I will do a deep dive into all things Bush Gardens for you and tell you some secrets of the park, and even some things that are awesome the new owners are doing.
For now, however, I was hungry and headed for great Italian food and Francesco’s there are several great Italian spots in Williamsburg, but this place is my favorite. They do a great job with the sauce. Dinner here starts at 3 PM so if you are waiting to check-in it is just up route 60 from the resort and on the right. You can spend the time from 3 to 4 PM when you can check in eating some great food.
On this trip, I ordered the veal parmesan which is always excellent. In part, because again the sauce is good but they also prepare it well too. Service is nice from local wait staff who have lived in the area for years.
If you are in town with a group, they also have a family feast that feeds 5 people that is a great deal.
Now for dessert, there are a ton of great ice cream places in town. If you have a sweet tooth or brought the kids, you will love these locations. There is everything from a Ben and Jerry’s to several little local spots that have homemade ice cream, soft serve, or some other take on the great dessert. Today I was going to an older spot that I remember from years ago. Shoofly Dairy Bar the owners here are sweethearts and the ice cream is soft-serve but made in-house and without any pre-made mix, it’s old-school good. I made sure to get the shoofly pie with the ice cream on top.
Next, it was time to head back to the resort and check in.
Check out the resort’s virtual tour to see what I saw checking in, and you will too.
They have 3 check-in desks and all were rolling and staffed when I was checking in. With only one person ahead of me in line, check-in was a breeze.
With the accommodations here, you have some wonderful options. You can choose from 1,2, or 3-bedroom rooms that start in size from 650 SQ FT and go up. My choice was a 1-bedroom deluxe they call a King Room. It is well laid out and has a nice kitchen, living room, bath, and bedroom. You can see what looks like the same room I stayed in on the virtual tour.
Next, if you have a family coming check out the 3-bedroom units. These are like full homes of your own for the stay. They are over-the-top nice, and the design and finish are insane.
Since I live in the area, I came back before writing this and toured one 2 weeks after my stay just to tell you guys about them. They are very nice. I would love to use one for a family gathering and may even rent one for Christmas time to give my sister who usually has everyone over to her home a year off. Do it as a special treat to thank her for always making that effort. My home itself is smaller than the 3-bedroom units and not as well laid out. So this would work. Also, as you will learn Christmas time here can be special in Williamsburg.
Right outside the fitness room is an activities room they call the arcade for kids. It has several game tables and plenty of room for them to stretch and hang out with other kids.
All the villas have these amenities as well.
- Cable TV
- Coffee Maker
- DVD Player
- Ice Maker
- Iron/Ironing Board
- Wheelchair Accessible
Then the resort itself offers all of these options.
- Internet Access
- Outdoor Pool
I love that the rooms are wheelchair accessible because more and more families need those options for one loved one.
Day Two Parkside Williamsburg Resort
I have already told you what I am headed to do. As soon as the park opens, I want to be in Bush Gardens. Not to beat a crowd but just to beat the heat of the day and get started early.
I woke early though, so first I am headed off for breakfast. I had a hard time making up my mind between two local breakfast spots I enjoy. Food for Thought, and Not Another Pancake House each are on route 60 again closer to the resort than the Francesca’s and very close to each other. I let the crowd decide and today there were fewer people at Not Another Pancake House, so that is where I went. Their menu is larger and a little cheaper than the Food for Thought menu. If cost is a consideration, pass Food for Thought and give this a try.
I had pancakes and eggs with sausage and all was right with the world.
Now it was time to head to the park. Since I am from near the park, I went ahead and ordered a season pass online. It had been a few years since I had one, and I had moved since my last pass, so instead of renewing a previous pass, I just purchased a new one.
This meant that today when the park opened, I would need to get my photo taken and get my new pass made at the park. The process used to be more involved, but technology makes everything faster and easier these days.
They now call the program the annual pass but it is essentially the same thing. They just have more options and price points now.
I just obtained the annual 1 park pass at a level that provided me a few free guest passes and free parking. How much I have been traveling I like should have gone for the premium version that also includes the Florida parks as well, but I did not this time.
Looking at the Bush Garden’s website, I can see that they have now won an award for the World’s Most Beautiful Theme park for 30 consecutive years. This is a lovely park, and it goes back to the design and layout of the park.
You enter into Bush Garden’s in England and every section of the park has a Nation theme. For years they called it Bush Garden’s the Old Country I found an old commercial on YouTube for your enjoyment. Here is another from 1984 as well. I think I worked in the park just 4 years after this aired for fun and some spending money at 17 years old in 1988.
In the park you find 9 villages themed around 6 countries. England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, and Italy. All the areas have villages, and some have additional villages on that Nation theme. With New France, Octoberfest, and Festa Italia finish out the list.
England is the main entry point to the park and has some shops, shows, and food. There is also a clock tower, which is where most people would set times to meet back with their party (group) at a set time for dinner, a show, or to leave the park.
Kind of the “OK kids have fun, stick together, and meet back here by 6 PM for dinner kind of thing. Not even sure if that is a thing anymore, or if people just call each other on their cell phones. Many years ago, the park had telephones and my sister who is 5 years older loves to share stored how she would be left at the park with a quarter to make a phone call when she was ready to leave off if there was an emergency.
Amazing that in the 80s you could just leave a pack of kids at an amusement park and let them go away with just a quarter for a safety net.
They have an online park map that you can review here, and it looks a lot like the old maps they used to print and hand out so people could find their way around. I will need to grab a printed one if I can find one. They might be fun to have for a wall of a game room or something one day.
Once you pass through England, you have some directional options right will take you to Scotland, a sharp left to the cable cars, left to Italy, or in Scotland, you can also get aboard a train and tour the park departing from it into several other countries.
Now for those who are not athletic or young, the train maybe your best option for getting around the park easier. The train stops in Scotland, New France, and Festa Italia so it makes moving around the park to many of the main areas easy. There are some step walks and even some stairs that I never felt when I was young, but I feel now.
I took the train first but instead of using it to transfer around the park, I just wanted to do the ride. If you ride it around the park and stay on, it only takes about 29 minutes to ride around the entire park. You stop at each station and some people get off and on, then the train moves on to the next stop. The trains are old steam trains and the engineers and conductors love their jobs. It is an engaging ride for everyone to enjoy.
If you are riding the train during Christmas or Halloween times, the train is even decorated and themed as well.
After my ride around the park, I got off again in Scotland and went to the right towards Ireland. I thought I would grab a pint of beer at the pub and see if they had the old shooting game outside, I played as a kid. It was a game with light guns that would make animatronics do things when you hit a tiny target with your gun. Many when I was young, I loved that. Well, my little shooting range was gone or at least shut down for this trip. Maybe that is not PC enough for these days. I do not know.
Funny thing it is easier to get a beer now in the park than it was when a major beer company owned the park. Not a big deal either way just interesting. When you were in the shops in the 80-90s in England, you would have also seen a good number of Budweiser items for sale now those are understandably gone.
Things change, but I am very glad the park is still here and making hundreds of thousands of people happy each year. From Ireland, I walked further around to the right towards France. France has a huge Royal Palace Theater where some major music acts, and many more that were once huge, have played over the years.
Over the span of many years, I have seen a ton of amazing shows there. For nearly a decade the family has access to a corporate season pass that would get 4 guests in the park and also included reserved 3rd-row seats to every show. That was amazing! The best seats in the house to shows like the Beach Boys, Ann Murry, ZZ Top, Oak Ridge Boys, R.E.M., Charlie Daniels, Wayne Newton, Billy Joel, The Alman Brothers, Boston, Chicago, Jerry Lewis, Waylon Jennings, and so many more great concerts over the years.
Yes, some of my life has been spoiled for sure. That is one reason I love looking back, and that memory lane is my favorite road to go down.
I am a ride wimp about rides. There are some in this park that those who love rides will fall in deep and instant love with. One of the best is the oldest or one of the oldest rides. The Lockness Monster a roller coaster that does several 360 degrees loops. Also, a new contender for the favorite of the rollers coaster for coaster fans is Apollo’s Chariot. This one has a drop on it that even looking at people on the ride taking that drop makes me say no. But real roller coaster fans love it!
For me, I was happy to just be in my old stomping grounds and checking out France, and then New France after that. In New France, I did take on a coaster (The Invader check out this virtual ride) but I only tried it because I saw just one drop and while it is a big one it was no Apollo’s Chariot kind of drop. So, at 50 I road like my 4th real roller coaster. It was fun but for my ride wimpy self not sure I would hop back on right away.
Next, I wanted to walk it off and head to another country that had more rides I felt I was ready for. This had me walking to Germany and on to Italy.
I enjoy the Mach Tower which is in the Octoberfest section. After riding I then went across the bridge to Italy and then road the battering ram. Next to the battering ram, there is the Da Vinci’s Cradle, but that one is not for me. I have seen too many people get off and lose a drink, or a full meal very close to the exit of the ride. If you are a big rider, go on an empty stomach and I hear it is a fun one.
Walking on to Festa Italia, there are many more small carnival-type rides that I enjoy. So, I road several in that section. Then I got on the Roman Rapids. Often on the Roman Rapids, you get wet, but a next-level secret is to go on the Escape from Pompeii water ride, which is close to this area next. The reason is that it has a great deal of fire and will probably dry you off more than you get wet again. If you sit in the middle, you are less likely to get wet than sitting in the front or rear on that ride.
Once you are dry like me on this 78-degree day (in 20 minutes) you may want to take a break and get some food or see a show. Several of the shows are in England at the Globe Theater or the Abbey Stone Theater in Ireland. Which is just the next section over from Pompeii.
After a show and then some food I went to the Battle for Eire, you can see the video here.
That was a fun day in the park and I may have to come back again while I am in town. I could have walked back to the resort,, but I drove back.
Day Three Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown
The Jamestown Settlement is one of the best-focused experience-based museums in the world, and Colonial Williamsburg is more of the same. If you love history and specifically American History, this is where it all started, and where you should start.
I have been to each hundred of times, because of my love of history, and great memories from my Childhood.
I started my day at the Jamestown Settlement. If you are in town to experience the history, you may want to get a pass that gives you access not only to Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg but also Yorktown.
Yorktown offers both extensive battlefields and several museum elements as well. As a resident, I have an annual pass that grants me access to all the properties and the features of that pass are available very affordably for just a few days instead of the full year for visitors.
Jamestown gives you access to actors and actresses that are also trained historians that will share great information with you about their lives, trades, and much more. Every one of the properties has movies that are must-see experiences, as well as hands-on engagement with amazing staff. Jamestown is my favorite for those experiences. I had one of the most amazing conversations on a visit with a boat maker who was hand carving a canoe on a previous visit. Later I had an experience with a Native American and Historian who was a wealth of knowledge about the Native Tribes in the area, which was fascinating.
The Jamestown settlement is more of a stand-alone experience than Yorktown or Colonial Williamsburg. It sits alone on the water near the local ferry port to Surry Virginia. Yorktown has a great visitors center and extensive battlefields but also has modern businesses like the Yorktown Pub that you can go and eat at or enjoy other modern-day fun while in that immediate area.
Likewise, Colonial Williamsburg has a mix of modern-day stores, shops, and restaurants right next to and around the exhibits and experiences. If you plan on going to Jamestown, I would go on a full stomach and allow at least half a day. Do not worry, there is plenty of food just up the road from the settlement, and back by the resort as well.
When visiting Jamestown, I encourage you to take the guided tour you will get much more out of your visit. This is also important at Colonial Williamsburg. If you drive the 40 minutes or so from Colonial Williamsburg to Yorktown via the Colonial Parkway, make sure you go down to little Yorktown beach while you are there. It is a great spot.
For me after spending 4 hours or so at Jamestown I headed for Colonial Williamsburg to do a tour again and visit the Apothecary I think the medicinal items from the 1700s are fascinating. While in the area, let the kids check out the toy store in town and stop in the candy store as well. Spend some time walking on the cobblestone streets and imagine what life must have been like for the early Americans and Virginians.
I could write about all the things to do at these locations for days. Heck, it could become a book someday, but check out the websites and decide for yourself what is best for your trip. There are also many hidden historical parks and areas in the Williamsburg area where your only expense is the gas in the car, and time to get there.
You can also take the ferry over from Jamestown to Surry to see some amazing historical sites on that side of the James River as well. For Naval history buffs, there is the entire idle fleet in the James River and in nearby Newport News called the Mariners Museum.
Looking out at Hampton Roads you can enjoy many more amazing locations for history, museums, and amazing places to visit.
I am leaving many places and things off this list just for the time and the length of this article. You will love you stay at Parkside especially if you love history, theme parks, and fun. When traveling make sure to book with TZort and travel resort style.