Yorktown, Virginia: Where Fighter Jets and Clydesdales Live Side by Side

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Yorktown, Virginia: Where Fighter Jets and Clydesdales Live Side by Side

You won’t find many areas in the United States that have more to offer the history buff than the Yorktown, Virginia region. It is called “America’s Historic Triangle” for a good reason. The corners of Virginia’s Historic Triangle represent significant events in colonial America’s story. Connected by the Colonial Parkway, Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown were important stops on America’s journey from the first permanent English settlement, to the battle that secured the independence of a new nation.

That doesn’t mean that there is nothing to offer the family — far from it! In the Yorktown area you will find world-class amusement parks, amazing beaches, nature reserves and aquariums.

Yorktown is part of the Hampton Roads metro area with almost a quarter of the population of Virginia living in this area. You will find Yorktown on the east coast of Virginia, situated on the banks of the James and York Rivers and adjacent to the Chesapeake Bay. Even though Yorktown is a popular tourist destination, it still manages to keep its quaint colonial charm.

Life in Yorktown

My family and I lived in a beautiful home in Yorktown just off the George Washington Highway and the Chesapeake Bay. I was stationed at Langley Air Force Base, where I worked as a Plans Officer at Headquarters Air Combat Command. It was an exciting place to be, and you would always find USAF F-15 fighter planes taking off and landing.

Langley is one of the oldest bases in the Air Force, dating back to 1916 before America entered World War I. The Army Air Service named the base for aviation pioneer Samuel Langley. Langley was used during World War I as a flying field, school for observers and photographers, and for aerial coast defense. In fact, Hampton Roads is home to many military installations situated along the Atlantic seaboard, like Norfolk Naval Base, Naval Air Station Oceana and Fort Eustis.

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USAF F-15 Eagle and F-22 Raptor over the Yorktown coast. PIC: JS

Yorktown has a beautiful waterfront district. Luckily for us, most of the tourists seem to flock to the Colonial Williamsburg area, so we were able to stroll through its cute boutique shops and get a bite to eat at one of the great restaurants at Yorktown’s Riverwalk Landing in relative peace.

Yorktown is also a place to recall the fierce battles fought here as you admire its 18th-century architecture. It’s hard to image the cruel battles that took place so many years ago, but Yorktown was critical in America’s fight for independence. It was inspiring to be able to visit the Yorktown Battlefield and see where the British surrendered to George Washington in 1781, securing American independence.

The Yorktown area is a mix of quaint little towns in the rural areas of Smithfield and Poquoson, and large tourist areas like Virginia Beach and Norfolk. The biggest gripe that we had was the traffic. I had mentioned that about a quarter of the people of Virginia live in the area. Well, there is basically just one road to get from Richmond to Virginia Beach. That road is Interstate 64, and to get to the other side of Hampton Roads, you have to travel underwater. I-64 connects Hampton with the greater Norfolk/Virginia Beach area via the 3.5 mile-long Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel. You can imagine what happens when there is an accident in the tunnel – endless gridlock.

So Much to See!

Putting up with the traffic was worth it. My family and I had what seemed like an endless vacation while we lived in Yorktown. My two daughters had their favorite of course. We were a 30-minute drive to Busch Gardens. Busch Gardens is a fantastic amusement park, themed around various European countries. It is similar to the World Showcase at Epcot in Disney World, but they are known for their roller coasters. We spent many an hour waiting to ride the coasters, and we were never disappointed. It is like walking through Europe with excellent landscaping and authentic reproductions of England, Scotland and Ireland. The park is also home to the famous Budweiser Clydesdales, and you can visit them in their paddock. When school let out, my wife and kids would get a season’s pass to Busch Gardens and spend the summer going to the park.

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Budweiser Clydesdales, Yorktown. PIC: JS

Since my wife and I love the colonial period of American history, Colonial Williamsburg was our favorite stop. In fact, my wife had decorated our home in the colonial style. Colonial Williamsburg is the largest living history museum in the United States and hearkens back to a time in the 18th century when Williamsburg was the center of the government for the British Colony of Virginia. Once onto the Duke of Gloucester Street, you are taken back in time to the dawn of America. It feels like you are living in the 18th century in the place where the idea of America was born. The streets and historical buildings, shops and inns are filled with the stories of the women, men and children who gave us a new world. The Governor’s Palace is at one end of the street and the College of William and Mary is at the other end. William and Mary is a public university and the second oldest in the United States after Harvard. It was royally founded in 1693 by King William III and Queen Mary II of England.

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Duke of Gloucester Street, Colonial Williamsburg. PIC: JS

Even though Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens were frequent stops for my family, there is so much more. Virginia Beach is home to one of the largest boardwalks on the East Coast. The boardwalk stretches three miles along the Atlantic Ocean and has a separate bike path – perfect for strolling, rollerblading and biking. During the summer, there is nonstop entertainment with live musical acts and plenty of dining choices at the outdoor restaurants and vendors set up all along the boardwalk.

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The USS Enterprise and USS George H.W. Bush at Norfolk Naval Base. PIC: JS

Living in Yorktown was the best family friendly assignment I had while in the Air Force. The Hampton Roads area is full of exciting and fun destinations and did seem like a non-stop vacation. You will also find a great aquarium, the Air and Space Museum and you can even tour the great naval power on display at Norfolk Naval Base.

James also lived in Tokyo, JapanAddis Ababa, Ethiopia and Oxford, England.

James Stewart

James Stewart

Jim is a retired US Air Force officer and self-described life-long traveler. Born in Paris, he spent most of his childhood living overseas in Iran and Thailand. Jim has also traveled the globe extensively, living and traveling in the England, Japan, Korea, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Africa. He is currently a freelance writer living with his wife in Pennsylvania.

1 Comment

  • Erika
    Erika

    I’m very jealous of all the places you have been able to live in!

    June 16, 2017 at 8:33 pm
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