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Hidden Gems / The Travel Detective / USA

Hidden Gems of Williamsburg, Virginia

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williamsburgMention Colonial Williamsburg to just about anyone and they’ll immediately think of tri-pointed hats, the fife and drum corp, and a healthy dose of early Americana. But Williamsburg is famous for another American pastime as well. One known for high speed thrills and, in many cases, pure terror.

At Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, there’s a rollercoaster called Griffon. It’s known for being the fastest dive coaster in the world. “Dive Coaster” is amusement park lingo for a rollercoaster that does total freefall. Coasters like this must undergo constant safety inspections, and for good reason. If you ask, you can take a behind-the-scenes tour, where you actually get to see what the maintenance crew does every day at 4 a.m. before the crowds arrive.

If stomach-churning amusement parks aren’t your taste, Williamsburg is happy to oblige the more refined palate. With the fifth largest wine industry in the United States, there will be a few pleasant surprises for even the most seasoned connoisseur.

When most Americans think of wine, they think Sonoma or Napa in California, maybe the state of Washington. But what few people realize is that Virginians have been making wine since the early colonial days. The Williamsburg winery 300 Acres maintains that tradition—with a modern twist.

300 Acres has integrated an advanced cross-flow filtration system into its winemaking process. In the fiercely traditional world of professional vinting, this kind of change can be the ultimate taboo. But Virginia winemaking has had a rebellious reputation ever since Thomas Jefferson planted his first grapes at Monticello.

With all of these modern delights, it can be easy to forget that Williamsburg is just 20 minutes from Jamestown, the first British settlement in North America.

In 1698, after a fire destroyed the Jamestown capital for the fourth time, Virginia moved the statehouse to inland Williamsburg. The town has been taking fire seriously, and has had volunteer fire service ever since.

After a trip down the James River, it’s easy to understand how the early colonists found this place so appealing. The natural beauty is some of the finest on the Eastern Seaboard, and even today the place can feel like a remote outpost in a distant empire. That is, unless you spend the whole trip upside down and squealing.

To learn more about Peter Greenberg’s hidden gems of Williamsburg, Virginia, check out this exclusive clip from season two of The Travel Detective.

By Peter Greenberg for