Last week Samantha Brown, one of my favorite travel celebrities posted East Coach Beaches with Nearby History. Since the beach is always on the top of my son’s travel list and history is on mine, I excitedly clicked the link in my Facebook news feed. Her list included Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, Fort Sumter in South Carolina and the Wright Brothers National Memorial and the Lost Colony in North Carolina. I still haven’t’ made it to the first two on her list, but we were fortunate to check out both the Wright Brothers National Memorial and The Lost Colony last summer when we spent a week in the Outer Banks.
My son loved historical sites when he was younger, but now he is a teenager and understandably moaned a little upon leaving the beach after a morning of soaking up the rays and waves. But you see, we have a deal which works pretty well when you only travel with two people, we split our time 50/50, so we both get to enjoy things that interest us. I reminded him of our family rule on our way to the town of Manteo which wraps around Shallowbag Bay on the eastern side of Roanoke Island and told him that we were about to travel about 400 years in history in six hours!
Roanoke Island Festival Park
Roanoke Island Festival Park (2 hours) is an interactive family attraction celebrating the first English settlement in America. Here we were able to see the Elizabeth II, a 69-foot sailing vessel representative of those who sailed to the New World in 1585. We also enjoyed exploring the Coastal Algonquian culture and longhouses where we were able to check out activities like rope making, basket weaving and tanning hides. At the Settlement Site, we were able to see how the 16th-century settler lived and tried out the straw and feathered beds (which were not very comfortable), woodworking and blacksmithing.
Fort Raleigh is a National Park Service site that preserves part of England’s first New World settlements from 1584 to 1590. The visitor center houses several exhibits and runs a 17-minute film. There are nature and hiking trails and the Earthen Fort.
The Elizabethan Gardens designed as a living memorial to Queen Elizabeth and the Lost Colony. The garden was quite elaborate. As we walked the pathways, we found an Elizabethan gazebos on the sound-front, a sunken Elizabethan knot garden and a collection of Renaissance statues. I enjoyed taking in the beauty of the hydrangea and crepe myrtles, and my son had a great time running along the pathways that also served as a maze.
The Lost Colony Outdoor drama also takes place in the park. We decided to partake in the backstage tour (1 hour) for a behind-the-scene look at how the production comes to life at the Waterside Theatre. We were able to see the cast members getting ready for the show and how the props were moving around the set. We also learned historical and fun facts about the show. For example, we were able to see one of the armored vests that Andy Griffith wore when he was on the show many years ago. My son enjoyed checking out all the weaponry.
After the backstage tour, we took our seats in the waterside amphitheater to enjoy the longest running outdoor drama. The play runs June through August at 8:00 p.m. and last 2 hours. The Lost Colony tells the story from over 400 years ago when 117 men, women, and children sailed from Plymouth, England in an attempt to settle on Roanoke Island; they vanished two years later. The only clue left behind was the word “CROATOAN” carved into the post. The play includes epic battles and Indian dances along with the pageantry of the Queen and her court and the celebrated birth of Virginia Dare making her the first child to be born in the Americas to English parents.
The theatrical performance is enormous with over 200 actors, technicians, designers, and volunteers. Living in New York, I have seen many shows. I thought The Lost Colony ranked right along some of the best Broadway productions combining music, comedy, romance and dance. It was a great way to end our time travel on Roanoke Island. The Lost Colony educates and is great family entertainment. If you are ever in the Outer Banks, don’t leave without visiting Roanoke Island. There is something for everyone in the family, and your kids will learn about one of America’s first mysteries and wonder whatever happen to Virginia Dare!
What beach vacation have you taken in a little history?