Living history, spa treatments and roller coasters

Colonial Williamsburg has something for everyone.

williamsburg spa 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
williamsburg spa 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
WILLIAMSBURG, VA. – There are history books, and then there’s livinghistory, a far more interesting mechanism for learning. And in theUnited States, historical tourism’s gravitational center is the town ofWilliamsburg.
The heart of the town, also known as Colonial Williamsburg(www.history.org), is a snug nucleus that pays homage to the UnitedStates’ early history with dozens of original buildings, includinghomes, shops, and public buildings scattered over 301 acres – most ontheir original foundations.
Visitors can march with fife and drum troops, take part in a witchtrial, or fire questions away at historical characters such as ThomasJefferson, who walks the streets attired in powdered wig and perioddress. Events and activities are plentiful and change weekly, butvisits to Colonial Williamsburg will likely entail a combination ofwalking tours, military exercises, trade demonstrations, musicalperformances, 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 300year-old brick building that is home to plays, live music, and theannual Virginia Peninsula Jewish Film Festival. Each year the festivalfeatures a diverse set of award-winning films tied to the universalthemes 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 BuschGardens (www.buschgardens.com), a playground for all ages featuring 50rides and attractions.
Perhaps the most famous is the Griffon, the world’s tallest rollercoaster. 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 zerofor Colonial history. It’s also the perfect place to choose the optionof pampering, and only a few miles from Merchants Square is thesecluded oasis of Kings Mill Resort (www.kingsmill.com).
Set at the edge of the James River, the resort sprawls out overhundreds of rolling acres that include a marina, fishing pond, fourgolf courses, tennis club, five restaurants, a ballroom and conventioncenter, and world-class spa and sports club.
After a day of tooling around Colonial Williamsburg, a pamperingrespite 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: fromthe décor’s soft palate of colors to the plushness of the recliners inthe lounge, where fresh citrus water and herbal teas are sipped inbetween treatments.
Start out the experience by melting away the tension in the steam roomor massive sunken whirlpool, and soon you’re being summoned to aprivate, dimly lit room for a massage. One of the most thorough is theChanging Season Sampler, which blends Swedish massage, aromatherapy,hot stone massage, reflexology and steaming warm compresses into atreatment so relaxing, you’ll think you’ve just indulged in a six-hournap.
The Anheuser-Busch Company owns Kings Mill Resort, so it’s no surprisethat the spa makes its own line of hops-infused lotions and creams.
Hops are climbing plants that are native to Europe, Asia and NorthAmerica . Typically used for flavoring beer, hops is also known forhaving therapeutic qualities because of its 1-3 percent volatile oilswhich produce a sedative effect and promote sleep.
Spa staff members say that hops also has a calming effect on thenervous system and has been used to relieve muscle spasms and nervepain, which is why it has been incorporated into massage oils andcreams.
For those who prefer to forego shopping or sightseeing, full andhalf-day treatments of services are available, with healthy spa lunchesserved poolside or on the spa’s stone terrace overlooking the JamesRiver.
Also just outside the Colonial district is the Williamsburg Salt Spa(www.williamsburgsaltspa.com), a small but inviting custom-made cavecrafted filled with salt blends from around the world.
According to owner Agnieszka Adamska, it’s the first salt spa on theeast coast, and the third in the United States. Opening a salt spastateside, it seems, is no small investment.
Adamska, a native of Poland, spent nearly a year transporting saltvarieties from mines in Pakistan and Poland, where she said salt cavesare common.
“In Poland, people have been using salt caves for centuries to improvetheir health and mood,” explained Adamska. “The secret of the salt isthat it contains 84 different minerals. It also produces healthynegative ions, which purify the air naturally. It’s the opposite ofunhealthy positive ions from computers and televisions.” Not only arethe walls and ceilings made of salt, the floor of the cave is coveredin a sandy carpet of soft, granular salt and branches of Polish birchare dipped in salt and placed in front of air vents to imbue the airwith a gentle salt breeze.
“People love to visit the salt spa because they feel better aftersitting in the cave and simply breathing,” she said. “For some itimproves their sinuses and allergy symptoms. Others say they feel moreenergized. And it’s for all ages: men, women, even babies come andenjoy.”

Stacey Morris is a travel writer based in Lake George, N.Y. Her Web site is www.staceymorris.com .