For many visitors to Virginia’s Historic Triangle, Yorktown is relegated to a rushed afternoon of Revolutionary War stops and memories. Beginner’s mistake.
Not only is this sleepy seaside getaway steeped in early American history, it features spectacular seafood, unexpected culinary gems, live music, and one of the most accessible waterfronts. of the region. Minus the crowd. Use these tips to find out what Yorktown has to offer beyond the battlefield.
With a waterfront fitness trail, birds, and art galleries tucked away along various side streets, there is a lot of atmosphere in walking to the destination that is built into the vacation equation. In fact, if you choose your accommodation option strategically, it’s entirely possible to enjoy a couple of days of relaxed exploration without having to drive all the way to departure. For my husband and I, this place was the York River Inn. A mid-range bed and breakfast overlooking the water, it offers reasonable walking access to almost everything Yorktown has to offer.
Perhaps the coolest perk of Yorktown’s waterfront is the multiple stretches of sandy beach you can enjoy just by stepping off the walking path with a picnic blanket. I noticed that locals and visitors alike select their own places to picnic, read, watch the boats and more. If journals and sketchbooks regularly pop up on your packing list, taking time for a few quiet beach retreats is something you’ll want to make a priority.
Although the city is tiny, there is some fun diversity in the types of dining establishments available. Carrot Tree, for example, is a nifty breakfast cafe by the waterfront parking lot offering platters of hummus, homemade sides, healthy wraps big enough to share, and a selection of fun baked goods. Affordable for the average vacationer, this is a great place to take a break from a waterfront stroll. I’m a fan of their spinach and orzo pasta salad and the must-have carrot cake, but their giant homemade cookies are also great value. Priced at a dollar and a half, they can easily be shared while you sit on the beach enjoying the salt air. Nearby is Umi Sushi, where they will assemble the roll of your choice right in front of you. Individual appetizers and rolls start around $ 6. Please note that places are extremely limited here. A good alternative for sitting down, after shopping for sushi with one of their Japanese wines, is right on your hotel’s balcony overlooking the water.
Switching over to lighter lunch options, savvy locals head to the Yorktown pub for a satisfying dinner and high-quality seafood. If an old-fashioned beach vibe with blue collar workers with hearty food is your scene, this is definitely a place you want to set aside time on your itinerary. If you arrive very hungry I have found value in both their fried oyster sandwich and their battle burger entrees. They are filling enough to satisfy, and pair well with a frosty regional beer. If you want something a little lighter, try their grilled cheese sandwich with chili or clam chowder. Wood-fired pizza the higher your speed? Water Street Grille has a nice selection, as well as outdoor seating by the waterfront overlooking the City Bridge. You can people-watch with their dogs and listen to music outdoors on weekend nights. Their mac and cheese appetizer is definitely worth a try.
Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters is arguably the most interesting place to stop for a bite to eat. Housed in the heart of historic Yorktown in a period building that was once a coffee shop and tea house in America’s early days, this place is as much a destination as it is a place to grab some java and a snack. With historically inspired blends and drinks, on-site roasted coffee beans, and baked goods that will make an adult woman cry, it’s well worth a visit. The fact that you can start your exploration of the area in a building actually used for one of its original purposes? Invaluable. If sugary treats aren’t your thing, breakfast sandwiches have more than enough protein to get you a morning of strenuous walking. On a personal note, their 18th century java rocked my world. With a large size that rings at under $ 5, it’s doable for the average traveler.
Once you’ve grabbed the caffeine and you’re good to go, Mobjack can help you organize historic walking tours. From the cafe’s outdoor seating area, a duo of history and education experts offer a number of topics related to the history of Yorktown. Ticket prices are around $ 10 per person and tours can also be booked in advance on the Mobjack website. Enjoy all the period buildings and notable places in the Old Town as you sip and walk around with a pair of knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides. Custom options here include ordering a packed lunch for after your tour, adding an extra bag of goodies to a private tour, and booking a private dinner for an intimate group upon request.
If traditional ghost tours are your thing or you’re looking for a nifty Halloween element for your visit, you can also book an experience with Yorktown Ghost Walks, which guides you through some of the common stops along the traditional walking tour. and puts a paranormal fly over Yorktown’s rich past. A smaller historical experience is available via the free Yorktown Tram, which provides useful information between popular stops throughout the city.
For a traditional-style schooner experience that takes you out on the water overlooking where America finally gained independence, descend to the water’s edge and book a sailing slot on the Alliance. Named in honor of the Franco-American alliance that helped tip the balance of the siege, this is an interactive experience with crew members letting volunteer guests participate in the raising of the sails. It is definitely a calm and relaxing activity reminiscent of the beginnings of our country. Local dolphins also make frequent appearances. Tickets start at $ 41 per adult, with adult drinks and snacks available for purchase on board. If military ships are more at your speed, keep your eyes peeled for the Coleman Bridge, a major city focal point. With a double-leaf design, it opens regularly to allow ships to the naval armament station just upstream of the river. It’s a fun sight to see and a reminder that the naval connection with this coastal part of the beach runs deep.
Museum enthusiasts have two options available. The American Revolutionary Museum in Yorktown offers living history pieces, interpretive exhibits, artifacts, and multiple video experiences for Revolutionary War buffs looking for period-specific information. It is an easy stop on the way out of town and provides a comprehensive picture of events and life during the period. The price of an adult ticket is $ 18. The Watermen’s Museum is easily accessible on foot while exploring the Yorktown Waterfront Trail, and interesting for those interested in the area’s rich seafood heritage. It features artefacts from underwater archaeological projects and information about long-time fishing professionals regionally called watermen. Entrance tickets for adults cost $ 5.
As you make your way to and from Yorktown, a fun addition to your trip is taking the time to visit the craft distilleries just up the road in Williamsburg. Distillation in this region has been around since the beginning of our country, so experiencing it is a great way to build enthusiasm for the destination or to extend the excitement after your visit. Two in particular are worth seeing. Copper Fox produces craft whiskey matured with toasted fruit wood and traditional ground malted barley, all in a place that is as much of an experience as the spirits themselves. A hidden underground bar with leather furniture and weekly live jazz concerts add a bit of glamor. Add to that the collection of board games and the outdoor seating area with a tub fireplace, and you’ve got an establishment clearly committed to delivering a quality whiskey experience that is unpretentious and accessible to all. Their classic four-pour tasting flights cost $ 10, and cocktails made with house whiskeys are also available. Their blonde Mary made with yellow tomato and rye juice is absolutely spectacular.
Eight Shires offers a more boutique experience with spirits produced using ingredients, methods and recipes related to early America. A small outdoor tasting garden and intimate indoor bar, along with free tours and a vintage distillation exhibit make this an interesting stop at either end of your waterfront visit to Yorktown. $ 5 installments, free tasting samples of clear spirits, and mid-range personalized cocktails inspired by Paul Revere, George Washington and Ethan Allen add fun and value. My favorite choice was their spiced rum, but their bourbon is also a hit with the locals.
If you make both stops at one end of the trip and need a quick lunch break before hitting the freeway or the airport, Casa Pearl offers a bit of retro whimsy with great food. Housed in a renovated old gas station with industrial decor, the restaurant offers local seafood as well as homemade lemonade and other goodies at good prices. Save room for their $ 6 Fried Oyster Tacos and Hush Puppies.
With extreme walking, plentiful free parking, and tons of authenticity built into the infrastructure, Yorktown, VA is a safe bet for travelers looking for a tailored experience that won’t break the bank. Free outdoor music, relaxed atmosphere, and enthusiastic locals add extra icing to the travel cake.
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