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If your clients are visiting Williamsburg, Va., with their family this summer, tell them to set a day aside to head to Yorktown to visit the newly reopened American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
The museum, formerly the Yorktown Victory Center, has emerged from a $50 million renovation that has more than doubled both its indoor and outdoor space and added state-of-the-art exhibits.
Families start their visit with a movie that introduces a handful of people — an African-American soldier, a patriot’s wife and a witness to the Boston Massacre, among others. You’ll meet these people again in the galleries, where they discuss their war experiences in their own words via touchscreens, videos and documents. A highlight of any visit is a short movie that dramatizes the Yorktown battle, shown from both sides. It’s in a nearly 360-degree, 4-D movie theater, where seats rattle along with General Cornwallis’ windows and battle smoke rises from the floor. (It might be a bit intense for kids who are younger than 7 or sensitive to loud noises.)
Another highlight is the victory tree in one of the last galleries: Lanterns on the tree show visitors’ thoughts on liberty and democracy, which guests can add to via a touchscreen at the museum or online.
During my time at the museum, there was also a lot of interest focused around a screen that lets guests direct either British or American armies during three key battles leading up to Yorktown. After museum-goers try their luck, they learn how the battle really played out.
Kids of all ages were also drawn to another screen that directed them to take a personality quiz and then paired them up with real people from the revolution to learn more about them.
After the museum, visitors can head outdoors, where they will find an 18th-century farm, an army encampment and a small amphitheater.
You might think the exhibits would seem redundant after a visit to Colonial Williamsburg, but in fact the two experiences complement each other. This living museum focuses on rural life, while Williamsburg depicts city life.
Check online for tickets; there are different combinations that cover several of the area’s historic sites.