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Top Tips for Visiting Colonial Williamsburg
Episode 199th May 2022 • Talk With History • Walk with History - The History Inspired Travelers
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Colonial Williamsburg is a historian's Disneyland...so you shouldn't be surprised that Jenn has been there over a dozen times in the 9 months we have lived in Virginia.

We give you all the insider advice to make your first visit easier; including, where to park, where to eat (that isn't crowded), how to know what is open, the best place to buy tickets...and more!

Video: Tops Tips for your Colonial Williamsburg Tour

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Transcripts

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[Music]

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I'm gonna start playing the music

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because the music is awesome

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greetings and welcome to the topic

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History Podcast I am your host Scott

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here with my wife in historian gem hello

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on this podcast we talk about history's

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continuing impact on us and our personal

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journey through YouTube as we continue

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to explore record and share our history

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walks with you

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now before we get into our main topic I

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want to ask for some five star reviews

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last week we had a great review that I

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got to read from not sleepy girl

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Apple podcast reviews help the show grow

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if you don't have an Apple device you

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can ask us questions over on Twitter at

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talk with history or reach out to us

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through our website at talk with

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history.com and don't forget to check

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out our other podcast the history Buzz

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where we interview folks while chatting

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over about history over a couple of

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drinks and we let the conversation

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wander where it may

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last week we talked about the history of

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Colonial Williamsburg and the town's

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path from being one of the birthplaces

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of our nation to today's tourist draw

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but if you've never visited there it can

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be a bit intimidating to know where to

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go and what all there is to do so today

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we are going to teach you what we have

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learned and over a dozen different trips

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to this historic playground so Jen give

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me the inside scoop on what people need

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to do at Williamsburg

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are things that we learned as first

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timers that I wouldn't do again and so I

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just wanted to give recommendations to

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people especially if you're on your way

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to Colonial Williamsburg right now where

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should I go where should I park

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GPS is going to take you to the visitor

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center yes which is where we start off

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with the video I'll put the video in the

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in the in the description and The

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Visitor Center is great I would say it's

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great for two things one the gift shop

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yep they have the biggest and best gift

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shops there two the amount of ticket

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people available to you so they have

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about eight which is great because the

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ticket place in actual Colonial

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Williamsburg is like two people that

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work at a snail's pace it takes forever

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it takes forever so if you're looking to

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get something that sells out quickly

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like carriage rides I would recommend

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you go to the visitor center and get

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your carriage ride yeah don't get me

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started on the carriage rides I know

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but it is not the place to be to get to

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Colonial Williamsburg to be in the heart

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of everything okay because it's a hike

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it's a walk and they have shuttle buses

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if you want to ride a shuttle bus

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and you can park there and I would say

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they have a lot of parking there so if

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you had a bigger vehicle or an RV it

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might be the better place to park

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however

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we found the better place to park that

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also has a lot of parking it's free and

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it's free and it's open is at the

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Rockefeller folk art museum so as I

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talked about in the previous

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podcast The Rockefellers were the

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philanthropists that funded the the

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Resurgence of Colonial Williamsburg and

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part of it is a

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folk art museum that's named for um John

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D Rockefeller Jr's wife Abby Rockefeller

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so Abby Rockefeller folk art museum is

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what you want to put in your GPS and

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that's where you want to park it's free

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you don't have to pay for it a little

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bit closer to Colonial Williamsburg I'd

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say a block closer you will pay but to

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walk one block yeah park it you

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basically Park in this parking lot you

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walk by this Museum on the way and then

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and then you're a block down and you are

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and you're right there you're right on

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Duke now the one thing I will say

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um on a separate video we showed this

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kind of like our behind the scenes video

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was there was that cool walkway

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yeah so the one cool thing about walking

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from the visitor center to Colonial

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Williamsburg

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they break up that long walk with kind

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of walking you back through time yeah

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that was that was actually kind of neat

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so there's this bridge there's this

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walkway slash bridge and there's markers

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there's like plaques in the ground and

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it says hey okay it's 1990 this was on

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TV it's 1960 you know and then all of a

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sudden it starts the color television

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right it starts jumping back in time

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1920 William just women just lost their

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right to vote yeah it's it's like as you

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walk back what are you losing yeah and

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one of the cool ones that stuck out in

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my mind was like sometime in the 1800s

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you can you know most people can't

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travel more than so many miles per day

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over land Stagecoach right so it's

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giving you

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as you're losing your modernization

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trying to take you to back in time that

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that piece was was pretty neat if you

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don't really care about that go park go

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go watch our video and park over by that

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it would be a I mean it's a good work

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workout regardless to walk Colonial

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Williamsburg you can rent scooters if

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you have people who need the added like

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the little wheelchairs yes you could

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probably rent those in town I have seen

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advertisements for those

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[Music]

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but it is a walking place it is the Duke

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of glossier is a Long Street and one

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done of it is the Capitol Building at

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the other end of it is the College of

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William and Mary and then from that

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spans off the palace green which has the

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governor's Palace right across from that

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green is the ticket office so that's

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where the carriage rides will also start

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as well so you'll see people gathering

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over there and you'll see carriages over

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there now tickets you're probably like

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what do I need tickets for if you want

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to go into any place and engage with the

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people you need a ticket and usually

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they're marked if they're open with a

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colonial flag so the colonial flags will

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be in front of buildings because not

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every building is open every day

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on the weekends I would say most of them

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are but yeah in the in the Prime in the

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summertime in the prime time but if you

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like the with house it's it's always

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open there's certain things it's not

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always open but when you see the flag in

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front it's open but you will need a

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ticket to go inside yeah and and so the

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so going inside right and why do you

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want to buy a ticket to go inside well

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they actually give you a tour right

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they're actually walking you through and

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you can ask tons of questions and you

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can ask tons of questions sometimes they

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have who is the guy that we ran into in

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one of our more recent visits did he he

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was going to play George Washington but

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he was playing something someone else so

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we went to a Tavern yeah and he yes he

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he was going to play George Washington

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he played the tavern owner yeah but but

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he was one of kind of the tour guides

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slash Tavern owner exactly right and to

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in order to get the tour through that

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particular Tavern and learn about the

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kind of cool historical things you'd

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have to have a ticket or you buy a

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season pass like we did so it's just a

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day ticket you don't need specific

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tickets to go into these specific

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buildings okay all right I stand

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corrected there

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um and or you can buy a week ticket or

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you can buy season passes like us okay

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but what it does is it gets you into

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those buildings that are part of the

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normal

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daily tour building now there's special

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tickets carriage rides is special on top

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of that the haunted Williamsburg tours

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are special on top of that they will

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always specify if this is

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an added cost or an added ticket so but

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to get into the regular tours the

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regular buildings

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with the flags in front that you're

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going to need a ticket for that now

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there are things to do without tickets

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and we we show that so there's a maze

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behind the palace that the it's like a

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little garden made it's awesome Hedges

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it's not it's nothing crazy but it's

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it's big enough for kids to run around

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and they love it and you wouldn't know

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it was there unless somebody told you

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and I remember we had walked back there

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and someone said are you going to the

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Maze and we're like What said my kids

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got all excited and we ran back there to

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the Maze and then any gift shop along

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duka glosher it's free to go inside the

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gift shops of course they want to take

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your money so it's free to go in those

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but again if you want to go in and talk

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to the Apothecary or you want to talk to

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the wig maker or you want to go inside

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the palace that's the tour ticket but

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another cool thing to see that's free is

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the the goal or the jail oh yes and

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that's where they held the Pirates

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Blackbeard's Pirates yeah we have it we

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have a separate video a separate video

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on that so that one was neat because I

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didn't realize like you hear about

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Blackbeard

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and you think Blackbeard you kind of

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think the Caribbean you think all that

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stuff but like he got caught in North

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Carolina in North Carolina not far from

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Williamsburg right and and so and if I

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remember correctly he was killed and

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they were trying to take him yeah and

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his but they captured like 15 of his

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crew and brought him back they brought

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him back to Williamsburg right they like

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we were standing in the jail cells where

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Blackbeard's crew right you know there's

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like chains on the walls like so like

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you know think of uh Pirates of the

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Caribbean you know they did the Disney

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ride you know although a lot less

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glamorous and uh so that's free yeah so

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those are those certain things that you

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can do that don't cost anything and you

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can walk around and just talk to people

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and engage with people and they'll have

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sometimes demonstrations or again

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historical characters can be walking

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around

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[Music]

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do you have to like when we went and saw

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Martha Washington kind of do her her

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one-man act right because sometimes they

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have you know those historic characters

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or they have multiple ones like there's

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that kind of theater sitting area do you

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have to have a ticket for that

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I have a ticket for okay so there was

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someone standing there who kind of

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looked at our passes

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that that was amazing I was super

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impressed and surprise just

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flat-footed surprise so those are the

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other events when you get to Colonial

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Williamsburg or you check on your phone

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they'll have a list of events for the

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day or week or month and if they have

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any character talks I recommend going so

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usually they'll have Thomas Jefferson

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usually they'll have Martha Washington

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and usually they'll have George

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Washington those are the ones they

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usually have the most of because those

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people were so Pinnacle to Colonial

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Williamsburg and we went to Martha

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Washington and she was fantastic so not

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only I was so impressed they dressed

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they stay in character she talked about

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what it was like being the first first

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lady yeah and so the time period for

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when she like she was acting was a year

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into George Washington's presidency or

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two years or something like that yeah

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something was two years into his into

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his first term first term and how they

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didn't know what to do with the first

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lady and they didn't really have and

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they were New York they were in New York

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and they didn't have any protocol for

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her and they didn't have any budget for

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her to like furnish the the

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president's mansion and because it

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wasn't the White House then and so

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basically what she had to just kind of

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make do with and figure out and then but

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they did expect a lot of her they expect

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her to host all these dinners and

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expected her to host all these teams she

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said like I think she said like the

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first dinner they were hosting was like

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three days after they got to New York or

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something like that so she had to set

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all this stuff up you know so she she

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the acting was fantastic I was so

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surprised and then she took questions so

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she's ready to answer questions which

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means you know she has that knowledge

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she has that historical and again she I

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mean she did she tried to answer any kid

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questions she was ready for all the

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Hamilton questions right there was tons

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of Hamilton questions but she just she

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was great she answered them in stride I

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was so surprised at how good she was

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like seeing her I would actually go see

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more characters if I'm if I was there

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again yeah and I hear they have ones

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with Thomas Jefferson just contemplating

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what to write in the Declaration of

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Independence and you know George

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Washington is contemplating how to

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be the president of a country not

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knowing what you know just the first one

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to do it all so you're setting all this

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precedence so it's a bunch of the that

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kind of thought process and pondering

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and stuff so definitely I would

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recommend those they do plays from time

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to time I saw a play there okay and that

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also requires a ticket but it's not

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above and beyond your cost and you can

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see them act out at play that would be

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of from the time and that was really fun

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as well

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now now some other tips you know I'll

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talk about real quick as far as like

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eating there yeah so we did The Tavern

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we did King's arm Tavern and that was

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just that King's arm is definitely more

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of an adult you know you need to

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probably make reservations for that and

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it's going to be expensive it was cool

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but it's historic they will serve you

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the food that they ate at the time

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they'll tell you all about whatever

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you're eating they will and they'll give

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you a lesson in like your napkin yep

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they put the napkin on me how long it is

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and why it's this long and and then kind

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of stuff that you're drinking and what

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would they drink and some of the little

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appetizers like the relishes and stuff

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things that would basically be preserved

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for long periods of time but I would

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recommend a Tavern again reservations

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and expect to spend some money yeah I

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mean if you're if you're bringing your

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kids

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um you actually can't eat in the the

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museum so that's a good tip that's it

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that's not a lot of people know about

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yeah around lunchtime it's gonna get

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crowded especially down at the end of

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Duke of glossier or opposite of the

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capital close to William and Mary is

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where you're going to have all the food

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shops and it gets packed it gets packed

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so you have like you know the Mellow

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Mushroom pizza and you're gonna have

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things like quick little Eatery kind of

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things and it's packed hour wait two

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hour wait but the museum has a food

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court yeah so if you just go back to

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where you parked by the museum and you

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don't have to pay to go in the museum if

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you just you go because it's like is it

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downstairs like oh you go in and it's

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like it's right up front yeah it's right

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up front and you just say I'm going to

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go eat at the food court they let you

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right in now usually with your ticket

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you can get into the museum for free

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anyway that's a great museum it's a

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great museum and if you have kids with

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you they give you kind of a scavenger

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hunt so it's fun for kids to do as well

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so another tip if you have little ones

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with you but you can eat there they have

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salads there they have sandwiches there

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they have drinks there we've done that

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once or twice and it's just easy hardly

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any line and you can it's a great view

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it's cheaper and it's this much cheaper

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yeah so that's a great tip if you're

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looking for a place to eat

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[Music]

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there's also see oh honey tours oh

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so you could pay they and I think they

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do these pretty much every night because

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they're so fun but they do it by Lantern

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and they take you from house to house

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and and they also have like

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so so again I'll I'll paint a picture of

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Colonial Williamsburg for for those who

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haven't been there right if there's the

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main drag

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and you know this it's some Cobblestone

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and this that and the other yes the

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Blaster is the big street that's the big

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street and then kind of what tees off of

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it is what goes down towards the power

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screen

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um and then you've got all these little

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things that you can do off you know off

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of each kind of side street and this

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that the other

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um so the palace green is like this

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really it's a gorgeous kind of it's what

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it sounds like it's like a big green

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it's like a big lawn almost like a like

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I would almost call it a field except

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that it's between a bunch of buildings

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and so the kids love running around

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there but at night time when we do these

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we you and I went to go do a ghost tour

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so all around kind of where the palace

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green is there's like these like torch

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kind of little Lantern things and they

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actually light them and they're and

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they're they're lit and it's like it's

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real flame it's just kind of sitting out

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there and so you have all these cool it

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gives like it's such a colonial feel

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it's so it was so neat and I and I'll be

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perfectly honest I was a little bored

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during the ghost tour because uh it's

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not really my cup of tea but you love

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that stuff well I love the history

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behind it so we learned so much about

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George with on that tour because they

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got us they got to give you the setting

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right they got to set the stage for you

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so you learn all about the historical

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figure who lived in the house and what

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was the conflict and what's the story

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now but I just love because you're

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getting a big part of history and it's

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funny and I don't think I told you this

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was I don't think I realized until we

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went to do the George with ghost ghost

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tour that that's the reason you like

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ghost tours too much so much it's for

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the history yes

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I just I never I never can I never

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connected that I was like the reason you

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like ghost tour so much is because it's

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history not because of the ghost but

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because of the history that comes with

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every think about any like if you're

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listening think about a ghost story you

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know if you've ever been to London and

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done a Jack of repertoire or you know

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things like that think about how they

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set these ghost tours up yes it's all

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history it's all history they're telling

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you about here's what's going on and now

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they kind of embellish a smidge and they

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kind of set the time but they're telling

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you the history and then they're telling

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you about like you know the other

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worldly experiences and the lights and

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you know whatever yeah so so those are

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absolutely fun and then of course you'll

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pay extra if you want to do a carriage

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ride and we did a carriage ride so I

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know if you're gonna do it I'm gonna

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tell this part of the carriage ride

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story here Jen so for those listening

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for the husbands right if you're

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significant other wants to do a carriage

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ride

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so if if you can do it I believe you can

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buy carriage ride tickets at the visitor

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center yes yes so I would actually

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recommend that now we ended up buying

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tickets at the um was it the lumber

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house the lumber house so we which is

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kind of the other ticket spot it's right

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on the main drag it's it's pretty

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obvious it's where all the carriage

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rides start but you cannot get carriage

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ride tickets

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probably 30 minutes after they open

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I stood in line for an hour and we still

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almost missed a spot I know there was

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the guy in front of me

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uh or he was like three or four people

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in front of me he was there for like two

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hours just standing there just to be

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just just to get a carriage right to be

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the first person to spend I don't know

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what it was we we had a discount because

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we had our our season passes it was like

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60 bucks or something like that

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um but he was standing in line for two

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hours and he was lucky to get one of the

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morning spots

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you know so I had a feeling because what

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they they told us now this is what the

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Williamsburg again told us that as we

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checked in they're like oh yeah they

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sell the tickets here at this Lumber

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house first for the carriage rides and

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then they sell them at the visitor

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center there's no way that's true no

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because as we were buying that many

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people as as we were buying tickets

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they're like oh yeah these things are

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like they're you know that spot just

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went that spot that spot just went I was

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like what do you mean this you guys have

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been open for all of 15 minutes

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and all the spots were almost gone yes

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so but it was pretty cool it was pretty

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cool so I recommend we had an open

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Carriage I recommend the open Carriage

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because it's so much easier to look

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around and see the sights I also

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recommend you'll if someone's in

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colonial dress and part of Colonial

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Williamsburg they'll engage with you on

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your Carriage yeah yeah as you're as

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you're kind of encouraging by they'll

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stop at the bow to you which is a

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greeting which is a you know it is a

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colonial greeting of because you were

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wearing your like fancy clothes yeah so

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I I bowed too like I gave a nod so it's

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fun that's fun to do do you have the

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closed carriages which are also cool but

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I think if you really want to look

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around and see the scenery there are

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characters that are bigger ours was

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probably like a four person those are

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there are characters that will be like

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eight people or ten people so I know

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people will specifically ask for those

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so just be aware if you want one of

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those be there early I recommend the

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visitor center yeah and you can't buy

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them in advance you have to buy them day

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of it's um I'll be perfect class that

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was kind of like my one of my least

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favorite experiences of just buying the

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tickets I was also hungry and cold and I

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stood there for an hour and but it was

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our anniversary I was like I was I was

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ready to bite someone's head off by the

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time I brought him coffee when he

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brought coffee and I was like you you

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taught you asked me like how I was doing

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and I just didn't say anything I was not

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having it

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but so eating that was one of the things

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when we stayed at the Colonial House the

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Lewis house the Lewis house through the

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Colonial Williamsburg and you can stay

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in colonial houses eating is something

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you would be where do you do breakfast

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where do you do dinner so you can always

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eat at the Colonial Williamsburg Inn

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they we had a great dinner there did it

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was very nice but it's kind of off the

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beaten path a little bit it's not on the

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main drag it's a little pricier it's a

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little pricier so if you want to go into

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town and it's I say into town Loosely

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but the this is closer to William and

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Mary down Duke of glossier there's some

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great little breakfast places there that

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you can eat and there's like I've said

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the pizza place is there there's also a

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really great candy store we always go to

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yeah we get like gummies and they have

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chocolate covered everything and of

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course there was a Scottish store there

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yeah and we love that store so they have

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a bunch of different tartans in there

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they have things that are made of wool

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and sweaters so that's a very cool shop

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to go in as well yeah so I would say

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right if you're gonna Target you know

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I'll give you breakfast you know the the

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person listening I'll give you breakfast

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lunch and dinner recommendations for

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that little downtown spot because

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there's quite a few places to eat down

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there but they're pretty separate right

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so if you're looking at breakfast we

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actually went to what's called Aromas

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a-r-o-a-r-o-m-a-s and it's kind of

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around the corner right but it's not far

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you put it in your phone you can find it

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you know and it's it's not a short short

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walk but great breakfast spot we ate

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there twice it was it was really really

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good there's another place that was

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closer to the main drag but it's more of

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like a bakery type place

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um you know some pre-prepared stuff not

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like they're not gonna make your

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pancakes right there

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um

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and then uh if you're doing lunch so you

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mentioned the Mellow Mushroom

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um that pizza pizza joint again not too

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far away and there's actually other

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places to eat in that same little

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complex

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um so I they do like drinks and stuff

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like that wineries that's kind of a big

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deal so that was the other place that we

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ate on our anniversary night was the fat

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Canary and that's kind of one of the

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nicer places down there nice places it's

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a nice place you need you're going to

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need reservations most likely

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um and they also have like a wine cellar

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type Place downstairs

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really good food I mean and they had it

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all set up right for when we went there

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for our anniversary and like I got some

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major husband points when I when I got

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that set up

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um fat Canary is great if you can make

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reservations advance I would not say

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that fat Canary is for kids but the

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Mellow Mushroom Aromas you know so

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there's some there's some family spots

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there and to be perfectly honest like if

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you want to get slightly outside of just

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like the core Colonial Williamsburg I

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mean there's a whole City around you yes

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it's a modern city so you have

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everything available to you there as

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you're walking down the street if you're

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curious about the houses is it original

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building is it restored every house has

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a placard on it yeah and so you'll be

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able to see the history of that house

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was it who lived there what did they do

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you know what how long it was it was

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occupied that kind of thing so again

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those are kind of things if you're

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curious they've done a really really

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great job of giving that information to

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you pretty much every house even off the

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main drag every house it's in that 300

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acre

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area has that little placard on it yeah

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and again not only is there stuff for

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the adults to kind of look and see if

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they're interested because kids they're

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not going to go read the placards right

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but they will engage with the blacksmith

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yes right or they will engage with what

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was the the little red car the wood

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carver or the weapons area right I mean

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there's we talked to one of her friends

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is it Greg who said he was like hanging

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out the Army for like an hour yeah you

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know and in Greg's my age it's not a

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kick

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um but uh so so there's lots of really

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fun stuff to do there so Colonial

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Williamsburg it really is history come

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to life

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so you walk through the same streets

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that are founding forefathers walked

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it's almost surreal and to be honest it

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could be difficult to grasp in one trip

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so give yourself some time if you end up

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making the trip out there but if you

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ever do make it to this historical

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Disneyland I think about everything that

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was done in those historic houses the

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taverns the late night dinners by

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candlelight and yes perhaps even

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business done during carriage rides by

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the palace green

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thank you again for listening to the

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