WILLIAMSBURG, VA. – There are history books, and then there’s living
history, a far more interesting mechanism for learning. And in the
United States, historical tourism’s gravitational center is the town of
The heart of the town, also known as Colonial Williamsburg
(www.history.org), is a snug nucleus that pays homage to the United
States’ early history with dozens of original buildings, including
homes, shops, and public buildings scattered over 301 acres – most on
their original foundations.
Visitors can march with fife and drum troops, take part in a witch
trial, or fire questions away at historical characters such as Thomas
Jefferson, who walks the streets attired in powdered wig and period
dress. Events and activities are plentiful and change weekly, but
visits to Colonial Williamsburg will likely entail a combination of
walking tours, military exercises, trade demonstrations, musical
performances, and political speeches.
The heart of Colonial Williamsburg is Merchants Square, a brick-lined,
18th century village filled with retail shops and restaurants.
One of the square’s crown jewels is the Kimball Theatre, a nearly 300
year-old brick building that is home to plays, live music, and the
annual Virginia Peninsula Jewish Film Festival. Each year the festival
features a diverse set of award-winning films tied to the universal
themes of individuality, family, community, and cultural conflict.
Also nearby are the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.
For those with a taste for thrills, there’s the 350-acres of Busch
Gardens (www.buschgardens.com), a playground for all ages featuring 50
rides and attractions.
Perhaps the most famous is the Griffon, the world’s tallest roller
coaster. There’s also a Sesame Street village, water rides, concerts,
and plenty of dining and shopping choices.
But Williamsburg is becoming known for more than just being ground zero
for Colonial history. It’s also the perfect place to choose the option
of pampering, and only a few miles from Merchants Square is the
secluded oasis of Kings Mill Resort (www.kingsmill.com).
Set at the edge of the James River, the resort sprawls out over
hundreds of rolling acres that include a marina, fishing pond, four
golf courses, tennis club, five restaurants, a ballroom and convention
center, and world-class spa and sports club.
After a day of tooling around Colonial Williamsburg, a pampering
respite at the hands of the professional massage therapists,
facialists, and manicurists is the perfect way to unwind.
Every detail at the spa induces an altered state of relaxation: from
the décor’s soft palate of colors to the plushness of the recliners in
the lounge, where fresh citrus water and herbal teas are sipped in
Start out the experience by melting away the tension in the steam room
or massive sunken whirlpool, and soon you’re being summoned to a
private, dimly lit room for a massage. One of the most thorough is the
Changing Season Sampler, which blends Swedish massage, aromatherapy,
hot stone massage, reflexology and steaming warm compresses into a
treatment so relaxing, you’ll think you’ve just indulged in a six-hour
The Anheuser-Busch Company owns Kings Mill Resort, so it’s no surprise
that the spa makes its own line of hops-infused lotions and creams.
Hops are climbing plants that are native to Europe, Asia and North
America . Typically used for flavoring beer, hops is also known for
having therapeutic qualities because of its 1-3 percent volatile oils
which produce a sedative effect and promote sleep.
Spa staff members say that hops also has a calming effect on the
nervous system and has been used to relieve muscle spasms and nerve
pain, which is why it has been incorporated into massage oils and
For those who prefer to forego shopping or sightseeing, full and
half-day treatments of services are available, with healthy spa lunches
served poolside or on the spa’s stone terrace overlooking the James
Also just outside the Colonial district is the Williamsburg Salt Spa
(www.williamsburgsaltspa.com), a small but inviting custom-made cave
crafted filled with salt blends from around the world.
According to owner Agnieszka Adamska, it’s the first salt spa on the
east coast, and the third in the United States. Opening a salt spa
stateside, it seems, is no small investment.
Adamska, a native of Poland, spent nearly a year transporting salt
varieties from mines in Pakistan and Poland, where she said salt caves
“In Poland, people have been using salt caves for centuries to improve
their health and mood,” explained Adamska. “The secret of the salt is
that it contains 84 different minerals. It also produces healthy
negative ions, which purify the air naturally. It’s the opposite of
unhealthy positive ions from computers and televisions.” Not only are
the walls and ceilings made of salt, the floor of the cave is covered
in a sandy carpet of soft, granular salt and branches of Polish birch
are dipped in salt and placed in front of air vents to imbue the air
with a gentle salt breeze.
“People love to visit the salt spa because they feel better after
sitting in the cave and simply breathing,” she said. “For some it
improves their sinuses and allergy symptoms. Others say they feel more
energized. And it’s for all ages: men, women, even babies come and
Stacey Morris is a travel writer based in Lake George, N.Y. Her Web site is www.staceymorris.com .