Episode 19

Top Tips for Visiting Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg is a historian's Disneyland...so you shouldn't be surprised that Jenn has been there over a dozen times in the 9 months we have lived in Virginia.

We give you all the insider advice to make your first visit easier; including, where to park, where to eat (that isn't crowded), how to know what is open, best place to buy tickets...and more!

Video: Tops Tips for your Colonial Williamsburg Tour

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Transcript
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[Music]

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I'm gonna start playing the music

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because the music is awesome

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greetings and welcome to the topic

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History Podcast I am your host Scott

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here with my wife in historian gem hello

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on this podcast we talk about history's

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continuing impact on us and our personal

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journey through YouTube as we continue

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to explore record and share our history

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walks with you

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now before we get into our main topic I

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want to ask for some five star reviews

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last week we had a great review that I

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got to read from not sleepy girl

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Apple podcast reviews help the show grow

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if you don't have an Apple device you

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can ask us questions over on Twitter at

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talk with history or reach out to us

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through our website at talk with

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history.com and don't forget to check

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out our other podcast the history Buzz

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where we interview folks while chatting

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over about history over a couple of

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drinks and we let the conversation

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wander where it may

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last week we talked about the history of

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Colonial Williamsburg and the town's

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path from being one of the birthplaces

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of our nation to today's tourist draw

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but if you've never visited there it can

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be a bit intimidating to know where to

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go and what all there is to do so today

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we are going to teach you what we have

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learned and over a dozen different trips

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to this historic playground so Jen give

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me the inside scoop on what people need

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to do at Williamsburg

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are things that we learned as first

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timers that I wouldn't do again and so I

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just wanted to give recommendations to

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people especially if you're on your way

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to Colonial Williamsburg right now where

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should I go where should I park

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GPS is going to take you to the visitor

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center yes which is where we start off

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with the video I'll put the video in the

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in the in the description and The

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Visitor Center is great I would say it's

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great for two things one the gift shop

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yep they have the biggest and best gift

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shops there two the amount of ticket

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people available to you so they have

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about eight which is great because the

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ticket place in actual Colonial

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Williamsburg is like two people that

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work at a snail's pace it takes forever

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it takes forever so if you're looking to

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get something that sells out quickly

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like carriage rides I would recommend

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you go to the visitor center and get

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your carriage ride yeah don't get me

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started on the carriage rides I know

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but it is not the place to be to get to

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Colonial Williamsburg to be in the heart

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of everything okay because it's a hike

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it's a walk and they have shuttle buses

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if you want to ride a shuttle bus

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and you can park there and I would say

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they have a lot of parking there so if

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you had a bigger vehicle or an RV it

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might be the better place to park

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however

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we found the better place to park that

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also has a lot of parking it's free and

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it's free and it's open is at the

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Rockefeller folk art museum so as I

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talked about in the previous

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podcast The Rockefellers were the

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philanthropists that funded the the

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Resurgence of Colonial Williamsburg and

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part of it is a

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folk art museum that's named for um John

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D Rockefeller Jr's wife Abby Rockefeller

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so Abby Rockefeller folk art museum is

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what you want to put in your GPS and

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that's where you want to park it's free

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you don't have to pay for it a little

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bit closer to Colonial Williamsburg I'd

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say a block closer you will pay but to

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walk one block yeah park it you

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basically Park in this parking lot you

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walk by this Museum on the way and then

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and then you're a block down and you are

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and you're right there you're right on

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Duke now the one thing I will say

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um on a separate video we showed this

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kind of like our behind the scenes video

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was there was that cool walkway

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yeah so the one cool thing about walking

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from the visitor center to Colonial

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Williamsburg

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they break up that long walk with kind

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of walking you back through time yeah

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that was that was actually kind of neat

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so there's this bridge there's this

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walkway slash bridge and there's markers

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there's like plaques in the ground and

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it says hey okay it's 1990 this was on

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TV it's 1960 you know and then all of a

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sudden it starts the color television

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right it starts jumping back in time

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1920 William just women just lost their

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right to vote yeah it's it's like as you

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walk back what are you losing yeah and

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one of the cool ones that stuck out in

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my mind was like sometime in the 1800s

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you can you know most people can't

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travel more than so many miles per day

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over land Stagecoach right so it's

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giving you

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as you're losing your modernization

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trying to take you to back in time that

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that piece was was pretty neat if you

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don't really care about that go park go

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go watch our video and park over by that

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it would be a I mean it's a good work

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workout regardless to walk Colonial

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Williamsburg you can rent scooters if

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you have people who need the added like

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the little wheelchairs yes you could

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probably rent those in town I have seen

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advertisements for those

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[Music]

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but it is a walking place it is the Duke

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of glossier is a Long Street and one

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done of it is the Capitol Building at

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the other end of it is the College of

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William and Mary and then from that

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spans off the palace green which has the

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governor's Palace right across from that

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green is the ticket office so that's

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where the carriage rides will also start

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as well so you'll see people gathering

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over there and you'll see carriages over

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there now tickets you're probably like

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what do I need tickets for if you want

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to go into any place and engage with the

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people you need a ticket and usually

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they're marked if they're open with a

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colonial flag so the colonial flags will

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be in front of buildings because not

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every building is open every day

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on the weekends I would say most of them

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are but yeah in the in the Prime in the

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summertime in the prime time but if you

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like the with house it's it's always

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open there's certain things it's not

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always open but when you see the flag in

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front it's open but you will need a

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ticket to go inside yeah and and so the

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so going inside right and why do you

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want to buy a ticket to go inside well

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they actually give you a tour right

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they're actually walking you through and

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you can ask tons of questions and you

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can ask tons of questions sometimes they

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have who is the guy that we ran into in

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one of our more recent visits did he he

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was going to play George Washington but

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he was playing something someone else so

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we went to a Tavern yeah and he yes he

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he was going to play George Washington

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he played the tavern owner yeah but but

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he was one of kind of the tour guides

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slash Tavern owner exactly right and to

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in order to get the tour through that

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particular Tavern and learn about the

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kind of cool historical things you'd

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have to have a ticket or you buy a

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season pass like we did so it's just a

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day ticket you don't need specific

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tickets to go into these specific

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buildings okay all right I stand

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corrected there

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um and or you can buy a week ticket or

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you can buy season passes like us okay

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but what it does is it gets you into

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those buildings that are part of the

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normal

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daily tour building now there's special

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tickets carriage rides is special on top

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of that the haunted Williamsburg tours

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are special on top of that they will

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always specify if this is

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an added cost or an added ticket so but

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to get into the regular tours the

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regular buildings

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with the flags in front that you're

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going to need a ticket for that now

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there are things to do without tickets

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and we we show that so there's a maze

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behind the palace that the it's like a

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little garden made it's awesome Hedges

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it's not it's nothing crazy but it's

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it's big enough for kids to run around

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and they love it and you wouldn't know

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it was there unless somebody told you

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and I remember we had walked back there

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and someone said are you going to the

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Maze and we're like What said my kids

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got all excited and we ran back there to

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the Maze and then any gift shop along

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duka glosher it's free to go inside the

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gift shops of course they want to take

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your money so it's free to go in those

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but again if you want to go in and talk

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to the Apothecary or you want to talk to

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the wig maker or you want to go inside

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the palace that's the tour ticket but

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another cool thing to see that's free is

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the the goal or the jail oh yes and

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that's where they held the Pirates

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Blackbeard's Pirates yeah we have it we

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have a separate video a separate video

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on that so that one was neat because I

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didn't realize like you hear about

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Blackbeard

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and you think Blackbeard you kind of

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think the Caribbean you think all that

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stuff but like he got caught in North

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Carolina in North Carolina not far from

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Williamsburg right and and so and if I

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remember correctly he was killed and

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they were trying to take him yeah and

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his but they captured like 15 of his

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crew and brought him back they brought

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him back to Williamsburg right they like

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we were standing in the jail cells where

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Blackbeard's crew right you know there's

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like chains on the walls like so like

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you know think of uh Pirates of the

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Caribbean you know they did the Disney

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ride you know although a lot less

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glamorous and uh so that's free yeah so

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those are those certain things that you

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can do that don't cost anything and you

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can walk around and just talk to people

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and engage with people and they'll have

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sometimes demonstrations or again

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historical characters can be walking

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around

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do you have to like when we went and saw

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Martha Washington kind of do her her

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one-man act right because sometimes they

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have you know those historic characters

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or they have multiple ones like there's

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that kind of theater sitting area do you

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have to have a ticket for that

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I have a ticket for okay so there was

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someone standing there who kind of

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looked at our passes

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that that was amazing I was super

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impressed and surprise just

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flat-footed surprise so those are the

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other events when you get to Colonial

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Williamsburg or you check on your phone

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they'll have a list of events for the

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day or week or month and if they have

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any character talks I recommend going so

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usually they'll have Thomas Jefferson

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usually they'll have Martha Washington

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and usually they'll have George

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Washington those are the ones they

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usually have the most of because those

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people were so Pinnacle to Colonial

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Williamsburg and we went to Martha

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Washington and she was fantastic so not

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only I was so impressed they dressed

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they stay in character she talked about

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what it was like being the first first

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lady yeah and so the time period for

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when she like she was acting was a year

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into George Washington's presidency or

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two years or something like that yeah

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something was two years into his into

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his first term first term and how they

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didn't know what to do with the first

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lady and they didn't really have and

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they were New York they were in New York

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and they didn't have any protocol for

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her and they didn't have any budget for

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her to like furnish the the

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president's mansion and because it

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wasn't the White House then and so

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basically what she had to just kind of

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make do with and figure out and then but

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they did expect a lot of her they expect

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her to host all these dinners and

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expected her to host all these teams she

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said like I think she said like the

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first dinner they were hosting was like

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three days after they got to New York or

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something like that so she had to set

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all this stuff up you know so she she

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the acting was fantastic I was so

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surprised and then she took questions so

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she's ready to answer questions which

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means you know she has that knowledge

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she has that historical and again she I

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mean she did she tried to answer any kid

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questions she was ready for all the

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Hamilton questions right there was tons

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of Hamilton questions but she just she

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was great she answered them in stride I

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was so surprised at how good she was

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like seeing her I would actually go see

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more characters if I'm if I was there

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again yeah and I hear they have ones

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with Thomas Jefferson just contemplating

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what to write in the Declaration of

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Independence and you know George

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Washington is contemplating how to

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be the president of a country not

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knowing what you know just the first one

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to do it all so you're setting all this

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precedence so it's a bunch of the that

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kind of thought process and pondering

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and stuff so definitely I would

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recommend those they do plays from time

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to time I saw a play there okay and that

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also requires a ticket but it's not

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above and beyond your cost and you can

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see them act out at play that would be

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of from the time and that was really fun

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as well

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now now some other tips you know I'll

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talk about real quick as far as like

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eating there yeah so we did The Tavern

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we did King's arm Tavern and that was

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just that King's arm is definitely more

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of an adult you know you need to

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probably make reservations for that and

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it's going to be expensive it was cool

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but it's historic they will serve you

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the food that they ate at the time

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they'll tell you all about whatever

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you're eating they will and they'll give

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you a lesson in like your napkin yep

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they put the napkin on me how long it is

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and why it's this long and and then kind

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of stuff that you're drinking and what

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would they drink and some of the little

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appetizers like the relishes and stuff

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things that would basically be preserved

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for long periods of time but I would

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recommend a Tavern again reservations

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and expect to spend some money yeah I

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mean if you're if you're bringing your

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kids

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um you actually can't eat in the the

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museum so that's a good tip that's it

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that's not a lot of people know about

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yeah around lunchtime it's gonna get

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crowded especially down at the end of

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Duke of glossier or opposite of the

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capital close to William and Mary is

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where you're going to have all the food

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shops and it gets packed it gets packed

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so you have like you know the Mellow

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Mushroom pizza and you're gonna have

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things like quick little Eatery kind of

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things and it's packed hour wait two

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hour wait but the museum has a food

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court yeah so if you just go back to

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where you parked by the museum and you

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don't have to pay to go in the museum if

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you just you go because it's like is it

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downstairs like oh you go in and it's

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like it's right up front yeah it's right

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up front and you just say I'm going to

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go eat at the food court they let you

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right in now usually with your ticket

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you can get into the museum for free

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anyway that's a great museum it's a

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great museum and if you have kids with

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you they give you kind of a scavenger

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hunt so it's fun for kids to do as well

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so another tip if you have little ones

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with you but you can eat there they have

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salads there they have sandwiches there

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they have drinks there we've done that

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once or twice and it's just easy hardly

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any line and you can it's a great view

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it's cheaper and it's this much cheaper

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yeah so that's a great tip if you're

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looking for a place to eat

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[Music]

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there's also see oh honey tours oh

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so you could pay they and I think they

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do these pretty much every night because

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they're so fun but they do it by Lantern

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and they take you from house to house

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and and they also have like

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so so again I'll I'll paint a picture of

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Colonial Williamsburg for for those who

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haven't been there right if there's the

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main drag

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and you know this it's some Cobblestone

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and this that and the other yes the

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Blaster is the big street that's the big

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street and then kind of what tees off of

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it is what goes down towards the power

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screen

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um and then you've got all these little

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things that you can do off you know off

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of each kind of side street and this

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that the other

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um so the palace green is like this

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really it's a gorgeous kind of it's what

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it sounds like it's like a big green

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it's like a big lawn almost like a like

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I would almost call it a field except

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that it's between a bunch of buildings

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and so the kids love running around

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there but at night time when we do these

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we you and I went to go do a ghost tour

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so all around kind of where the palace

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green is there's like these like torch

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kind of little Lantern things and they

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actually light them and they're and

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they're they're lit and it's like it's

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real flame it's just kind of sitting out

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there and so you have all these cool it

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gives like it's such a colonial feel

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it's so it was so neat and I and I'll be

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perfectly honest I was a little bored

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during the ghost tour because uh it's

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not really my cup of tea but you love

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that stuff well I love the history

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behind it so we learned so much about

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George with on that tour because they

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got us they got to give you the setting

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right they got to set the stage for you

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so you learn all about the historical

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figure who lived in the house and what

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was the conflict and what's the story

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now but I just love because you're

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getting a big part of history and it's

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funny and I don't think I told you this

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was I don't think I realized until we

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went to do the George with ghost ghost

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tour that that's the reason you like

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ghost tours too much so much it's for

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the history yes

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I just I never I never can I never

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connected that I was like the reason you

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like ghost tour so much is because it's

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history not because of the ghost but

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because of the history that comes with

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every think about any like if you're

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listening think about a ghost story you

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know if you've ever been to London and

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done a Jack of repertoire or you know

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things like that think about how they

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set these ghost tours up yes it's all

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history it's all history they're telling

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you about here's what's going on and now

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they kind of embellish a smidge and they

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kind of set the time but they're telling

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you the history and then they're telling

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you about like you know the other

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worldly experiences and the lights and

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you know whatever yeah so so those are

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absolutely fun and then of course you'll

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pay extra if you want to do a carriage

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ride and we did a carriage ride so I

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know if you're gonna do it I'm gonna

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tell this part of the carriage ride

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story here Jen so for those listening

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for the husbands right if you're

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significant other wants to do a carriage

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ride

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so if if you can do it I believe you can

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buy carriage ride tickets at the visitor

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center yes yes so I would actually

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recommend that now we ended up buying

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tickets at the um was it the lumber

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house the lumber house so we which is

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kind of the other ticket spot it's right

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on the main drag it's it's pretty

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obvious it's where all the carriage

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rides start but you cannot get carriage

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ride tickets

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probably 30 minutes after they open

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I stood in line for an hour and we still

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almost missed a spot I know there was

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the guy in front of me

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uh or he was like three or four people

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in front of me he was there for like two

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hours just standing there just to be

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just just to get a carriage right to be

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the first person to spend I don't know

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what it was we we had a discount because

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we had our our season passes it was like

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60 bucks or something like that

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um but he was standing in line for two

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hours and he was lucky to get one of the

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morning spots

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you know so I had a feeling because what

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they they told us now this is what the

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Williamsburg again told us that as we

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checked in they're like oh yeah they

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sell the tickets here at this Lumber

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house first for the carriage rides and

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then they sell them at the visitor

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center there's no way that's true no

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because as we were buying that many

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people as as we were buying tickets

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they're like oh yeah these things are

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like they're you know that spot just

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went that spot that spot just went I was

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like what do you mean this you guys have

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been open for all of 15 minutes

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and all the spots were almost gone yes

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so but it was pretty cool it was pretty

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cool so I recommend we had an open

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Carriage I recommend the open Carriage

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because it's so much easier to look

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around and see the sights I also

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recommend you'll if someone's in

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colonial dress and part of Colonial

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Williamsburg they'll engage with you on

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your Carriage yeah yeah as you're as

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you're kind of encouraging by they'll

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stop at the bow to you which is a

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greeting which is a you know it is a

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colonial greeting of because you were

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wearing your like fancy clothes yeah so

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I I bowed too like I gave a nod so it's

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fun that's fun to do do you have the

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closed carriages which are also cool but

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I think if you really want to look

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around and see the scenery there are

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characters that are bigger ours was

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probably like a four person those are

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there are characters that will be like

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eight people or ten people so I know

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people will specifically ask for those

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so just be aware if you want one of

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those be there early I recommend the

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visitor center yeah and you can't buy

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them in advance you have to buy them day

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of it's um I'll be perfect class that

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was kind of like my one of my least

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favorite experiences of just buying the

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tickets I was also hungry and cold and I

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stood there for an hour and but it was

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our anniversary I was like I was I was

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ready to bite someone's head off by the

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time I brought him coffee when he

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brought coffee and I was like you you

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taught you asked me like how I was doing

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and I just didn't say anything I was not

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having it

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but so eating that was one of the things

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when we stayed at the Colonial House the

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Lewis house the Lewis house through the

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Colonial Williamsburg and you can stay

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in colonial houses eating is something

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you would be where do you do breakfast

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where do you do dinner so you can always

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eat at the Colonial Williamsburg Inn

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they we had a great dinner there did it

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was very nice but it's kind of off the

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beaten path a little bit it's not on the

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main drag it's a little pricier it's a

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little pricier so if you want to go into

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town and it's I say into town Loosely

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but the this is closer to William and

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Mary down Duke of glossier there's some

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great little breakfast places there that

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you can eat and there's like I've said

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the pizza place is there there's also a

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really great candy store we always go to

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yeah we get like gummies and they have

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chocolate covered everything and of

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course there was a Scottish store there

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yeah and we love that store so they have

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a bunch of different tartans in there

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they have things that are made of wool

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and sweaters so that's a very cool shop

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to go in as well yeah so I would say

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right if you're gonna Target you know

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I'll give you breakfast you know the the

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person listening I'll give you breakfast

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lunch and dinner recommendations for

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that little downtown spot because

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there's quite a few places to eat down

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there but they're pretty separate right

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so if you're looking at breakfast we

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actually went to what's called Aromas

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a-r-o-a-r-o-m-a-s and it's kind of

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around the corner right but it's not far

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you put it in your phone you can find it

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you know and it's it's not a short short

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walk but great breakfast spot we ate

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there twice it was it was really really

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good there's another place that was

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closer to the main drag but it's more of

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like a bakery type place

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um you know some pre-prepared stuff not

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like they're not gonna make your

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pancakes right there

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um

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and then uh if you're doing lunch so you

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mentioned the Mellow Mushroom

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um that pizza pizza joint again not too

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far away and there's actually other

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places to eat in that same little

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complex

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um so I they do like drinks and stuff

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like that wineries that's kind of a big

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deal so that was the other place that we

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ate on our anniversary night was the fat

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Canary and that's kind of one of the

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nicer places down there nice places it's

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a nice place you need you're going to

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need reservations most likely

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um and they also have like a wine cellar

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type Place downstairs

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really good food I mean and they had it

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all set up right for when we went there

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for our anniversary and like I got some

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major husband points when I when I got

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that set up

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um fat Canary is great if you can make

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reservations advance I would not say

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that fat Canary is for kids but the

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Mellow Mushroom Aromas you know so

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there's some there's some family spots

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there and to be perfectly honest like if

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you want to get slightly outside of just

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like the core Colonial Williamsburg I

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mean there's a whole City around you yes

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it's a modern city so you have

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everything available to you there as

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you're walking down the street if you're

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curious about the houses is it original

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building is it restored every house has

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a placard on it yeah and so you'll be

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able to see the history of that house

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was it who lived there what did they do

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you know what how long it was it was

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occupied that kind of thing so again

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those are kind of things if you're

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curious they've done a really really

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great job of giving that information to

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you pretty much every house even off the

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main drag every house it's in that 300

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acre

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area has that little placard on it yeah

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and again not only is there stuff for

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the adults to kind of look and see if

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they're interested because kids they're

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not going to go read the placards right

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but they will engage with the blacksmith

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yes right or they will engage with what

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was the the little red car the wood

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carver or the weapons area right I mean

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there's we talked to one of her friends

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is it Greg who said he was like hanging

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out the Army for like an hour yeah you

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know and in Greg's my age it's not a

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kick

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um but uh so so there's lots of really

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fun stuff to do there so Colonial

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Williamsburg it really is history come

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to life

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so you walk through the same streets

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that are founding forefathers walked

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it's almost surreal and to be honest it

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could be difficult to grasp in one trip

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so give yourself some time if you end up

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making the trip out there but if you

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ever do make it to this historical

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Disneyland I think about everything that

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was done in those historic houses the

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taverns the late night dinners by

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candlelight and yes perhaps even

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business done during carriage rides by

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the palace green

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thank you again for listening to the

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[Music]

About the Podcast

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Talk With History
A Historian and Navy Veteran talk about history inspired travels, their YouTube channel journey, and examine history through conversations with the curious, the explorers, and the history lovers out there

About your host

Profile picture for Scott Bennie

Scott Bennie

Host of the Talk With History podcast, Producer over at Walk with History on YouTube, Editor of the Hashtag Historic newsletter.