A Child Learns “Living” History

When we left Florida on our RV Road Trip up the Eastern Seaboard, our goal was simply to see what we could see. Neither of us had been as far north as New England and, after a lot of international travel, we wanted to see more of North America. Most importantly, we’d get to have our 8-year-old granddaughter with us for part of the summer. What we didn’t know was how much fun that would be. See if you can figure out who had the most fun….

Girl catches fish

Gabriella caught her first fish in North Carolina

Gabriella joined us in North Carolina where she got to fish with her Papa and vacation with my family on the Outer Banks. We then set out on a tour I put together because of a story she told me last Thanksgiving. During our turkey dinner Gabriella explained how the Indians had helped the early pilgrims survive by teaching them to plant corn. It must be a favorite story in elementary school because I remember hearing the same story. Forgetting for now that there’s much more to the story, I was excited to bring what she knew to life for her. I wanted her to see where that history was made.

While in the Outer Banks we started our lesson by attending the outdoor drama, “The Lost Colony,” which told the story of the early pilgrims who didn’t survive. We then set out for Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia to learn more. Gabriella got into the spirit of it right away.

Colonial Costume for girl

The Visitor Center in Colonial Williamsburg rents period costumes and this girl wanted to one

Colonial Williamsburg is an amazing living history museum that recreates life in America in the 1750-1775 pre-Revolutionary War era. As you walk along cobbled streets you can stop at authentically recreated buildings or at one of the 88 original ones preserved from that period. You may visit a workshop that makes candles and make some for yourself. You might help make barrels at the cooperage, or buy some candy or a bonnet at one of the small stores. You can sit in on a trial at the courthouse which might get a pig-snatcher some time in the pillories and stocks out front.

Costumed actors stroll the streets and remain in character as they interact with you. You may encounter George Washington or Patrick Henry or some other historical character and get to ask them questions. Visiting children wearing the period costume, like Gabriella, seem to get special attention and interaction with the actors.

Three Colonial Williamsburg women

The Williamsburg “colonists” would often curtsy to Gabriella in her costume

Costumed girl and woman resting in Colonial Williamsburg

We ate at one of the four taverns, served by a costumed waitress who stayed in character. She gave us gigantic napkins which amused us. We were lucky to have them, she said. In other places we’d have to “give a dog a bone”. I had heard that curious expression and asked her to explain. Some places didn’t provide napkins so you would have to entice the house dog over with a bone from your plate. While the dog was chewing the bone under your table, you could wipe your greasy hands on its fur. That’s why you want to “give a dog a bone”.

Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg

The Kings Arm Tavern, photo courtesy publicdomainpictures.net

Williamsburg’s parade grounds are lively with dramatizations and pageantry. We got to see the excellent Fife and Drum Corps and a rousing speech by an interested Frenchman on horseback. You many recall that the French were at war with England and so were our friends in our struggle for independence.

Williamsburg's fife and drum performance

A fife and drum performance near the Old Courthouse in Williamsburg

Costumed horseman in Williamsburg

This French General gave a rousing speech of encouragement to the colonial forces

Fife and Drum band takes to the street with followers

Gabriella followed the Fife and Drum Corps in the streets of Colonial Williamsburg


The town of Jamestown, which lies a few miles from Williamsburg, is the home of the first permanent English settlement in the New World. When the colonists arrived, it was occupied by the Powhatan tribe; Pocahontas’ father was the tribe’s chief. History tells us that the Powhatans did indeed provide the colonists with food, for a while. But the colonists were not farmers and their demands became too great. It didn’t turn out too well for the colonists or the Powhatans.

Pocahontas figures large in this early American/British history, having reportedly saved John Smith’s life. She was herself kidnapped, later married an Englishman, and was received by the King in England. Her story fascinated Gabriella. Bedtime in the RV was easy after we got her a couple of books about the Indian Princess. She would read herself to sleep each night and, I imagine, dream of the life of Pocahontas.


The story of Pocahontas enraptured Gabriella. Photo by Ferris

Pocahontas' home

Gabriella admired Pocahontas’ village

The History lesson continues

Gabriella also told me that she wanted to see “the big white house where the President lives”. Will the outside do? We weren’t able to get admission to the White House, but our Congressional Representative did get us a tour of the Capital Building, including the House of Representatives chamber. I think Gabriella’s favorite history lessons in DC came from our visit to the Smithsonian.

A view of the White House

With her Papa outside the White House

Exit poster at Capital Building in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Capital Building

Two girls with dinosaur at Smithsonian Museum

She made a friend and had loads of fun at the Smithsonian Museum

New York City

The Statue of Liberty, World Trade Center, Wall Street, the commerce of Times Square plus her first Broadway play, “Matilda”. Gabriella (and Grandma and Grandpa) had a swell time in New York City. We parked our RV on the New Jersey side with a view of The Lady from our coach. We took the ferry across the Hudson, and rode many a subway all over the City. Gabriella was a trooper. My Fitbit recorded well over 10,000 steps per day, and she was right there with me.

Grandchild and Papa in Times Square

Times Square

Child with evening view of NYC over the water

Our view in the evening

How to pack if you’re 8 years old

As a constant traveler, I’m always reading other travelers’ ideas about how to pack a carry-on bag for an extended trip. Now I’m going to share a fantastic tip for all of you, especially if you are an 8-year-old. You too can get everything you need for a month long trip in a carry-on bag and a Jasmine daypack for your personal item. Just be sure to leave half the suitcase and the entire daypack for toys! Remember, you learned it here.

How to pack if you are an 8 year old girl

The child Goes home

There’s always the time when you have to say goodbye. Phil accompanied Gabriella back home to San Francisco and then rejoined me in upstate New York, as our Eastern Seaboard Road Trip continued. We were sorry to see our grandchild go but very happy to have shared Early American History with her.

Girl with head and hands in stocks in Colonial Williamsburg

I hope you enjoyed this edition of carolsuestories.com. If you would like to follow our travels in real time, I invite you to connect with me on http://www.facebook.com/carolsue.ayala. In addition, I hope you will leave me your comment below. I would love to hear from you.

5 responses to “A Child Learns “Living” History”

  1. Steve Hoch says:

    Another terrific, and in this case sweet post! Keep ’em comin’!


  2. Jane says:

    Thank you Carol Sue, what a summer of memories y’all made with your precious grand daughter, loved reading about your adventures!

  3. Lynn Brown says:

    Glad y’all had a good trip. We leave for France this weekend for two weeks. Hoping our floors aren’t completely rotted out when we get there. We have a lot of work to do but hopefully will get to do some sightseeing too.

  4. Margaret says:

    Love all your stories an photo wonderful .just a inspiration to us ! Safe travels .

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