It had been more than 3 years since we last took off on a real vacation. Between my bedrest pregnancy with Grayson, juggling life with a new baby, then saving up for and purchasing our new home, we just couldn’t scrape up enough time or money to make it happen. With our Wyndham timeshare, you lose your travel points if you don’t use them up every couple of years, and as such we need to take two vacations this year (a lovely predicament for sure).
So we packed up the car this spring and headed up to Williamsburg, Virginia. This was Grayson’s first road trip, and I was a little apprehensive about how he would handle all those hours in the car. I made a lot of preparations, gathering things to keep him busy and plotting places to stop and stretch our legs along the way. But somewhere in Georgia the poor guy developed a fever and decided to sleep most of the way up. As a matter of fact, that darned cold snuck up on us each during the course of the week. On the bright side, it only lasted about a day for each of us, and it gave us a reason to slow down and take some time to relax which is something I never plan enough time for during a vacation.
It was cold and rainy on our first full day there, so we hopped back in the car and drove a little ways north to Shenandoah where the forecast called for a chance of snow. It never did get quite cold enough for it to snow, but our visit to Grand Caverns was a great way to escape what could have been a dreary day.
We purchased Spring Bounce Passes that offered us unlimited admission to both Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens throughout the week we were there. We’ve long since learned that the best way to explore a place is to take your time and not feel like you have to cram every experience into just one day. So this Bounce Pass was just the ticket!
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect by Colonial Williamsburg before we got there. I imagined it would be somewhat of a cross between our local Pioneer Art Settlement and St. Augustine, Florida. I was very impressed by its size as well as its high degree of authenticity. Many artisans live and work in the settlement, giving their trades real world applications. The blacksmiths forge hardware for the wheelwrights, who construct all the wagons used in the historic district. There are wigmakers and shoemakers and tailors whose products are worn by the residents. And you are welcome to watch and learn from each tradesman as you explore farms, homes and community places.
There were two things we planned to surprise Katie with during our trip. The first was Busch Gardens, in which we lost the element of surprise when she noticed that the bounce pass clip-on ticket (which we were required to wear to access much of Colonial Williamsburg) also included details of her week’s long admission to the theme park.
Our second surprise was a day trip to Washington D.C.. Katie and I had originally hoped that our main vacation destination would be D.C., but we decided that it would be a more fulfilling stay if we waited for Grayson to be just a little older. Its proximity to Williamsburg made it close enough to warrant a day trip though, so we planned a day to visit the National Mall. As for the surprise, we did actually tell her that we were driving out to see the National Mall. We just didn’t explain that it wasn’t your average shopping mall.
Her first clue was when we drove past Arlington Cemetery. “Isn’t this the big cemetery that’s close to Washington D.C.?” she asked. (Clever girl.) Once she saw the Washington Monument in the distance, we knew the jig was up so we came clean. And after a brief initial disappointment that she wouldn’t explore the accessories of a Build-a-Bear workshop, she was totally psyched!
We found valet parking for $20, just a block away from the White House. We’d originally planned to take the Metro in, but after some advice from a good friend who had visited the week before, we learned it would save us both time and money to park in the heart of D.C. It would have been fun to ride the Metro, but that’s one of many experiences we’ll have when we return for a longer visit in a few years.
We could not have timed our visit any better because the cherry blossoms were in full bloom an the day we were there. If I understand it correctly, the trees only look like this for one day each year, sandwiched with a day or two of the flowers blossoming and dropping on each end. The city was very crowded that day as a result, but it was worth it to witness what could be a once in a lifetime experience.
I was amazed by how much we were able to see in such a short amount of time. We were only there for a few hours, and we leisurely took in the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Museum of Natural History. It would have been easy to work in even more sightseeing, but I wanted to save a lot for our future trip and we still had to commute a couple hours back to Williamsburg.
Then there was Busch Gardens. Oh, how I love a good theme park! Again, timing was on our side as the seasonal park reopened just that week. We visited mostly during the weekdays while locals were at work, and the attractions had very short waits, if any at all! Katie reaped the rewards of having a little brother as we did a child swap for all of the thrill rides. This meant that Josh and Katie would wait through the line while Grayson and I waited for them at the exit. Once they finished their ride, Josh took over Grayson patrol, I hopped onto the ride, and Katie would get to ride twice without having to wait in line a second time. She expressed how much she’d love to have another little sibling so she could ride three times in a row, but I explained that it wasn’t how the child swap worked so she’s once again good with our family dynamic.
Of course, Grayson got to ride his share of attractions as well. Plus he had the best seat in the house.
All in all, our first vacation back in the saddle was a huge success! We learned, we played, we explored, and there was still so much left to see that I’d go back again in a heartbeat!
If you haven’t already watched our vacation video, click on the image below or use this link to watch it directly on YouTube. It’s a little long, so you might want to pop some popcorn first. But those 14 minutes of moving pictures illustrate our trip far better than my words ever could.