Colonial Williamsburg faithfully portrays the days before the Revolutionary War through historic buildings and costumes, but it's the interpreters who bring history to life. Most play their parts so well that visitors leave better informed about U.S. history and wanting to learn even more.

Williamsburg is like a colonial time machine. Thomas Jefferson may tip his tricorn hat as you stroll the crushed-oyster-shell streets, and then he'll expound on the virtues of freedom and self-government. Patrick Henry will be glad to warn you of the evil ways of the British crown. Poke your head into a Williamsburg shop, and you might strike up a conversation with Martha Washington.

You can visit Williamsburg along with the nearby towns of Jamestown and Yorktown. Together, they form the Colonial National Historic Park. At a mile/kilometer long, it's the nation's largest outdoor living-history museum. For more modern diversions, there's Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Water Country USA and the newer parts of the city.

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