*1: Distance traded for atmosphere*
— __Errin Toma__ —
Located approximately 30 minutes from campus, Yorktown Beach is the perfect weekend getaway. While the drive is longer than that to most off-campus destinations, the scenery along the way makes it bearable. Driving with the windows down, the wind blowing in your hair and music blaring, is almost as enjoyable as being at the beach itself. Colonial Parkway South will lead you straight to the beach, where you can choose to pull over anywhere you can find a parking space.
Look for the first pull-off; add another 10 minutes to your travel time by going to the next. It’s the portion of the beach where you’ll probably see the most people, and it shouldn’t be more than a four or five minute drive from the pull-off. Yorktown Beach is truly a local’s spot. People entertain themselves by fishing, sprawling out on blankets, and searching through the millions of shells that line the beach.
No matter where you lay your towel, the water is only a few feet away. After long hours at Earl Gregg Swem Library, the warm sun feels amazing. Despite the warmer weather, the water is frigid cold. If you are brave enough to go in, wear flip-flops or beach shoes for protection; the ground is all shells for the first six feet. When summer finally rolls around, it will be perfect for swimming.
Chances are you will not do your readings for class even if you bring your books. Instead of studying, I recommend laying around, soaking up the sun, dipping your feet into the water, and writing immature obscenities in the sand with a stick. All of these activities require no thinking at all, which is the perfect way to enjoy a lazy afternoon at the beach.
A few miles down the Colonial Parkway, Riverwalk Landing in Historic Yorktown is a great place to end the day. Most of the shops close at 6 p.m., but many of them have later summer hours. The street is lined with tiny shops and restaurants that are unique to the Riverwalk. While most of the restaurants seem too nice to cater to sandy beach bums, the Ben and Jerry’s is more than accommodating. A waffle cone of Cherry Garcia is the perfect nightcap and an excellent way to enjoy a walk down by the river.
*2: Local beach, local company*
— __Lauren Bayse__ —
Jamestown Beach is a 10 to 15-minute drive from campus and offers a satisfying change of scenery for students seeking to enjoy the warmer weather. Its proximity to campus makes it a good destination for spontaneous trips, yet allows you to return with enough time to make your meetings, or finish that essay you’ve been consistently procrastinating on. However, pre-planning is wise, since parking — while free — is nearly as miserable and strict as the parking on campus, and fills up just as quickly. The beach, while nothing extravagant, is scenic. There are boats sailing the waters, beach games played by clusters of people and plenty of dogs.
On hot days, it seems like every college student in the area has the same destination, so the beach may be crowded. With the college students come the Frisbee and volleyball games which create a collegiate environment that makes the last three weeks since spring break feel like they never happened. Of course, plenty of people lounge around and attempt to work on a tan after months of sunless cold. Not many are brave enough to go swimming yet, and the only people in the chilly water are the ones involuntarily thrown in.
Jamestown Beach is definitely not the place to go if you need a break from people on campus; on a hot day, chances are you will run into someone you know. It’s not quiet, so it’s a good place to go if you’re seeking a lively environment. It’s also not the best destination if you want a day-long escape — while you can entertain yourself with beach sports and napping, the lack of bathrooms and places to eat become problem after a few hours. If you go, pack snacks or plan to eat later, and definitely don’t drink too much water.
However, it is a great place to visit if you want to get the beach experience without a long and expensive road trip. You can entertain yourself with whatever it is that you love about the beach: lounging, reading in the sand, playing Frisbee, or if you’re really academically dedicated, you might be able to get some homework done. Even if it isn’t a booming area with a boardwalk, millions of restaurants and centers of entertainment, it’s still a beach, and that in itself can provide hours of enjoyment.
After a few blissful hours at Jamestown Beach it’s easy to come back sporting a lovely red burn on your body that makes it impossible to walk or move. That aside, Jamestown Beach is an easy escape if you want to have a fun afternoon with friends. Go early, and make sure to bring some snacks, a Frisbee and something to entertain you while lounging. Oh, and most importantly, I recommend some SPF 30.
*3: Local park provides serenity*
— __Lindsay Hundley__ —
Save Waller Mill Park as a getaway option for those weekends when you know you don’t actually have time to get away from campus. Located on Airport Road no more than 15 minutes from the College of William and Mary, the park’s free admission could not be better for college students on a limited budget. Whether you are looking for a peaceful spot to de-stress after midterms or a fun spot for your club or organization to enjoy an end-of-the-year picnic, this park is the place for you.
For all you tree-huggers or naturally outdoors-y types, tons of enjoyable trails meander through the park. Not only are there hiking trails, but you can cruise along the bike trail as well. If you are looking for something a little less active, you can spend your day fishing at the pier. The Waller Mill Park also offers a variety of boat rentals, including row boats, kayaks and the ever-so-popular paddle boats, for a reasonable fee. If you split the price of a boat between two or more people, it will probably cost less than what the average college student spends on coffee in one day.
Other attractions include a miniature dog park, a number of spots available for picnics of all sizes and even a playground for those interested in indulging their inner child. Let’s not forget the ice cream shops, which provide the universal treat for a nice day, right at the park. With all that it has to offer, Waller Mill Park is a great place to take your parents on a weekend visit, have a romantic date for two, or just goof off with your friends.
Remember to bring the essentials for any outside trip along with you, though. Any time you’re near the water, bugs will be sure to follow you, so you’ll definitely want to take some bug spray. Carrying a couple of extra dryer sheets in your pockets will also keep those annoying pests away. You’ll want to bring sun screen as well; the trails may be covered with trees, but don’t let that deceive you — getting a sunburn is still a very real possibility.
If none of these activities catch your interest, you can always use this park as an excuse to get away from campus. Pack up a blanket, some snack food, and even bring readings for class. Listen to the relaxing sounds of the paddle boats, and appreciate the sunlight glistening on the water — it’s the perfect way to spend any sunny afternoon. If you don’t believe me, check it out for yourself. You won’t regret it.
*4: History enthralls onlookers*
— __Emily Mason__ —
When looking for a good day trip complete with entertainment and a scenic view, consider heading out to Jamestown. Perhaps it seems a little obvious, or even a little bit lame, but there is a reason the settlers picked the spot. On a sunny day, there’s no better place to be, and best of all there’s no shortage of entertainment.
Due to the ready availability of historical sites across from campus, it is not a huge surprise that Jamestown gets overlooked. There is a lot more to this tourist destination than people in costumes and a big statue of Pocahontas. Recently, historic Jamestown has been revamped with new exhibits and attractions. A brand new visitor center has exhibits exploring Jamestown’s chaotic past, including the most recent discoveries, like the drought that ravaged the area when the settlers first arrived. There are even artifacts from the past century: everything from buttons celebrating the 350th anniversary of the site in 1957 to the Virginia state quarter issued in 2000.
Another recent development is the Archaearium. Built above ground so it won’t disturb any archaeological deposits, it is an exhibition of artifacts recovered at the James Fort site, including the skeleton of J.R., a settler killed by a musket wound in his knee. Since Jamestown is a working archaeological site, actual archaeologists talk with visitors about the ongoing excavations, ranging from covered wells to grave sites.
A replica of the original Jamestown fort with outlines of the buildings is another historical site worth visiting. For those interested in the more recent past, there is the Jamestown memorial church, the main body of which was built in 1906 to commemorate the original structure.
Don’t get me wrong, the history itself is interesting, but the best part by far is the scenery. The boardwalk that connects the visitor center to the Jamestown island is like a completely different time and place. For those who love wildflowers, trees and marshlands look no further. If that doesn’t suit you, the view of the James river from the shoreline is particularly amazing. So, grab a drink at the Dale House Cafe — or sneak a few beverages in yourself to avoid the overpriced merchandise that often accompanies historical sites in Virginia — sit back and admire.
While a visit to the historic section costs $10, it is entirely worth it in my opinion. It is easy to spend a day there, and it is even easier to get back to campus when you’re done.