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Deck the Halls: Christmas Traditions from Colonial Williamsburg to the James River Plantations

Program Number: 7045RJ
Start and End Dates:
12/1/2014 - 12/6/2014; 12/8/2014 - 12/13/2014;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Williamsburg, Virginia
Price starting at: $789.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Holidays
Meals: 15; 5 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Kosher; Gluten Free    

From holly to history, music to merriment, candles to Colonists, experience the historic and cultural significance of Christmas in early America! Savor music, foods and festivities from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries that contributed to modern customs and traditions. Marvel at the world-famous Colonial Williamsburg decorations, learn how they are made and create your own to bring home. Explore religious customs and lifestyles of the people, free and enslaved, who lived and worked on the great plantations. Savor a meal in the 18th-century fashion at a Colonial Williamsburg tavern and depart filled with the holiday spirit.




Highlights

• View the elaborate decorations displayed on the homes and storefronts of Colonial Williamsburg on a stroll with an experienced interpreter, capped off by a meal in an 18th-century tavern.
• Create your own Colonial wreath using traditional materials after a demonstration and experience the talents of skilled musicians, costumed interpreters and an entertaining chef in a series of period performances.
• Explore three centuries of plantation living, from the great James River mansions to a modest farm house to an urban plantation in the town of Williamsburg.



Activity Particulars

Walking up to two miles per day over brick, cobblestone and uneven ground.




Date Specific Information

12-1-2014, 12-8-2014

Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.



Coordinated by Road Scholar.




Williamsburg (Virginia)

One of America’s first planned cities, this one-time capital of the New World was laid out in 1699, and today, the historic community serves as a well-preserved center of American Colonial history, from nearby Jamestown to impeccably restored buildings.



Accommodations
Modern hotel near historic area, indoor pool and fitness center.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
John Labanish

A native of Western Pennsylvania, John earned his B.A. in history and English from St., Vincent College and his M.A. in American history from the University of Pittsburgh. He taught history, government, and English at private and public schools in Michigan and Pennsylvania. During 13 years at the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh, John advanced from collections registrar to curator of education and exhibits, and eventually became director. John also served as an adjunct professor of museum studies at Duquesne University. In 2008, he retired after 23 years at Colonial Williamsburg where he was involved in historic area interpretation, supervision and training of interpreters, historical building management, and first person character interpretation. Presently, John serves as a docent at the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary and as a member of the James City County Historical Commission.
 
Tom Marshall

An instructor in the Music Department at the College of William and Mary for more than 20 years, Tom Marshall has been performing private concerts for Road Scholar participants at the historic Wren Chapel for many years. He has served for two decades as a harpsichordist for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation where he has performed numerous works of the concerto grosso style in original orchestrations, on original instruments. He is featured on many of the historical recordings issued by the foundation. A long-time member of the American Guild of Organists, he has served as organist for the Williamsburg United Methodist Church since 1977. Tom performs frequently with the Virginia Symphony, numerous baroque chamber ensembles, and organ and harpsichord recitals throughout the United States and Europe. He has made seven study tours in Europe to examine and play many surviving keyboard instruments from the 15th to the 19th century.
 
Stephen Christoff

Stephen Christoff has been a musical fixture at Colonial Williamsburg for more than 15 years. Since 2006, he has performed his one-man show called "Seller of Songs" at the Hennage Theater in Colonial Williamsburg to sell-out audiences and rave reviews. In 2007, Stephen was a member of a collaborative performance team that played over 100 performances of "American Musicworks," a signature show designed for the Dewitt Wallace Galleries folk art exhibition, and also performed for the Jamestown 2007, Godspeed Sail and Landing Party Festival. He has headlined at locations including Mount Vernon, Chestertown Tea Party Festival, Virginia's Yorktown Celebration Festival, The National Portrait Gallery, The Library of Congress, The Black Swamp Arts Festival and Disney's Epcot Center.
 
Meals and Lodgings
   Fort Magruder Hotel and Conference Center
  Williamsburg 5 nights
 Fort Magruder Hotel and Conference Center
Type: Hotel
  Description: Beautiful 303 room hotel, close to everything. Has recently undergone a major renovation. Located 1 mile away from Colonial Williamsburg. City bus stop just in front of hotel. Has an actual Civil War redoubt in its back courtyard.
  Contact info: 6945 Pocahontas Trail
Williamsburg, VA 23185 USA
phone: 757-220-2250
web: www.fortmagruderhotel.com
  Room amenities: Classic decor in every room plus a refrigerator, coffee maker, hair dryer, alarm clock, iron and ironing board. Remote control TV, free cable, high speed internet data port and executive desk. Microwave and roll-away bed available at an additional cost.
  Facility amenities: Lounge, guest laundry, indoor and outdoor pools, workout room with treadmill, stationary bike, sauna and more. 24 hour Front Desk. ATM, a sundry shop and complimentary newspapers. 24 hour room service, vending and ice machines on every floor, wake-up service, restaurant, fully air-conditioned.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: TBD Rate varies depending on availability and time of year. Limited rooms. Please call the hotel directly at 757-221-6908 for reservations 8am-8pm Monday-Friday, and 9am-1pm on Saturday. If call is sent to voicemail, please leave name and number for the in-house reservation agent to return your phone call. Let the agent know you are with Road Scholar and the dates you will be with the group at the hotel.
  Check in time: 4:00 PM
  Additional nights after: TBD Rate varies depending on availability and time of year. Limited rooms. Please call the hotel directly at 757-221-6908 for reservations 8am-8pm Monday-Friday, and 9am-1pm on Saturday. If call is sent to voicemail, please leave name and number for the in-house reservation agent to return your phone call. Let the agent know you are with Road Scholar and the dates you will be with the group at the hotel.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM


Travel Details
  Start of Program:
4:00pm: Program registration begins and hotel check-in begins in the hotel lobby. 5:15pm: Start of Program. You will be staying at Fort Magruder Hotel and Conference Center that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends by 11:30am, box lunch available after class for trip home You will be staying at Fort Magruder Hotel and Conference Center the night before.
  Required documents:
The Road Scholar Health & Safety Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Free parking at hotel.
Transportation
To Start of Program
  Location:  Williamsburg
  Nearest city or town:  Richmond
  Nearest highway: Interstate 64
  Nearest airport:  Williamsburg/Newport New Airport (30 minutes)
  From End of Program
  Location: Williamsburg
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details
 

Richmond

 

From Airport

 
 

Service:

 

Commercial Van/Shuttle
Oleta Coach Lines
phone: 757-253-1008

 

Per Person/One Way:

 

varies, depending on current gas prices; call for rates
Prices are subject to change.

 

Travel Time:

 

about an hour depending on traffic 

 

Distance:

 

about 45-50 miles

   

Alternate transportation from/to airport available through Groome Transportation (800-552-7911) or Marrow Transit, a private car service,757-564-5466. Call for rates and reservations.

 

Newport News

 

From Airport

 
 

Service:

 

Commercial Van/Shuttle
Oleta Coach Lines
phone: 757-253-1008
Advanced Reservations Required

 

Per Person/One Way:

 

varies depending on gas prices; call for rates
Prices are subject to change.

 

Travel Time:

 

20-30 minutes 

 

Distance:

 

about 20

   

Although this is a smaller airport than Richmond or Norfolk, it is the closest and most convenient in terms of getting from the airport to the hotel and back. Besides the van service listed above, several taxi companies are also available in the ground transportation area of the airport. An alternative is Marrow Transit (757-564-5466). With Oleta or Marrow, be sure to mention that you are a Road Scholar participant. Note that Williamsburg taxis can drop off but not pick up at the airport.

 

Williamsburg

 

From Bus Terminal

 
 

Service:

 

Taxi
Triangle Taxi
phone: 757-564-6969
Advanced Reservations Required

 

Per Person/One Way:

 

varies depending on gas prices; call for rates
Prices are subject to change.

 

Travel Time:

 

10 minutes 

 

Distance:

 

2 miles

   

Williamsburg is served by both Amtrak and Greyhound, which both arrive at the same Transportation Center. For bus information, call 1-800-231-2222 or go to www.greyhound.com. Additional taxis are available to transport to hotel; all rates are the same.

 

Norfolk

 

From Airport

 
 

Service:

 

Commercial Van/Shuttle
Oleta Coach Lines
phone: 757-253-1008
Advanced Reservations Required

 

Per Person/One Way:

 

varies, depending on current gas prices; call for rates
Prices are subject to change.

 

Travel Time:

 

1-1.5 hours, depending on traffic 

 

Distance:

 

about 45 miles

   

Travel from this airport to the hotel (and back after the program) includes passage through the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel which is frequently congested, causing long delays. The trip may well cost in excess of $100 per person one way. We recommend using Richmond or Newport News Airports if possible. Alternate transportation includes Marrow Transit (757-564-5466) or Cary Airport Connection (757-963-0433). If using Oleta or Marrow, be sure to mention that you are a Road Scholar participant.

 

Williamsburg

 

From Train Station

 
 

Service:

 

Taxi
Triangle Taxi
phone: 757-564-6969
Advanced Reservations Required

 

Per Person/One Way:

 

varies depending on gas prices; call for rates
Prices are subject to change.

 

Travel Time:

 

10 minutes 

 

Distance:

 

2 miles

   

Williamsburg is served by both Amtrak and Greyhound, which both arrive at the same Transportation Center. For train information, call 1-800-872-7245 or go to www.amtrak.com. Additional taxis are available to transport to hotel; all rates are the same.

 
Driving Directions
  From Hampton Roads and points southeast: Travel west on Interstate 64 toward Williamsburg. Take Exit #242A/Route 199. Go approximately one mile and take the exit for Route 60. Stay to the left when the exit ramp splits. At the stop sign, turn left onto Route 60 West. The Fort Magruder is approximately one mile down on the left. If you reach the point where the four-lane highway narrows to two lanes, you've gone too far.
  From Richmond and points northwest: Travel east on Interstate 64 toward Williamsburg. Take Exit #242A/Route 199. Go approximately one mile and take the exit for Route 60. Stay to the left when the exit ramp splits. At the stop sign, turn left onto Route 60 West. The Fort Magruder is approximately one mile down on the left. If you reach the point where the four-lane highway narrows to two lanes, you've gone too far.
  From Southside Virginia via the Jamestown Ferry: Cross the James River on the Jamestown Ferry (no toll), exiting the ferry onto Route 31/Jamestown Road. Follow Route 31/Jamestown Road toward Williamsburg for approximately 4 miles. Turn right at the traffic light at Route 199. Follow Route 199 for approximately 3.5 miles and take the exit for Route 60. At the end of the ramp, turn LEFT at the traffic light onto Route 60 West. The Fort Magruder is approximately one mile down on the left. If you reach the point where the four-lane highway narrows to two lanes, you've gone too far.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.


Daily Schedule

Day 1: Welcome and Class/Program Overview
(Monday, December 8)
   
 Afternoon: Check In and Welcome, Program Overview, and Participant Introductions.
 Dinner: Enjoy a good, traditional style dinner with a Southern accent, served buffet style in a private dining area. All dinners for the week will be in this venue.
 Evening: Class: "Christmas Traditions of the Past" Take an in-depth look at the holiday traditions of the colonial era. Learn about the songs, the ceremonies and the hearth side celebrations that were observed by our ancestors and that echo even today in some of our customs.
   
Accommodations: Fort Magruder Hotel and Conference Center
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Colonial Williamsburg/College of William & Mary Wren Chapel concert/Decorating Demonstration
(Tuesday, December 9)

Note: The walk through Colonial Williamsburg is a little over a mile long over cobblestone, pebble, and brick paths. There are few opportunities to sit and rest during this leisurely hour and a half long stroll.



   
 Breakfast: Start the day with a generous buffet breakfast in our private dining area.
 Morning: Performance: "A Jamestown Christmas" Learn about the very earliest and more austere customs of this holy season as they would have been practiced by the first English settlers in the New World. An engaging colonist shares her memories of her seventeenth century Christmases on the edge of the wilderness in her strange new home. Class: "Introduction to Williamsburg and Colonial Williamsburg", Through the lifetime memories of a Williamsburg native, receive an introduction to the colonial town and its restoration, undertaken through the vision of a local minister and the generosity of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
 Lunch: A lighter mid-day fare will be served in our private dining area.
 Afternoon: Field Trip: "Colonial Williamsburg and Its Decorations" Walk the length of historic Duke of Gloucester Street in the company of expert guides. Focus on the one hand on the homes, shops, and public buildings. At the same time investigate the remarkable decorations that adorn those buildings. Your guides will describe events and townspeople along with the materials and techniques used to create the wreaths and sprays. Performance: "Colonial Concert" Enjoy a concert of colonial and Christmas music performed in the Chapel of the historic Wren Building by a talented musician from the staff of the Music Department of the College of William and Mary. Class: "Decking the Halls: Christmas Decorations Demonstration" Now that you have seen the wonderful decorations in the Restored Area, learn the details of how to put together similar displays. The class covers the types of materials that can be used, how to select and care for materials, and how wreaths and other displays are created. The class is interspersed with the holiday experiences of the local florist who shares her expertise with you.
 Dinner: Dinner will again be at the hotel in our private dining area.
 Evening: Free Evening: Information will be given about activities that you can choose from to enjoy on your own. During this festive time there are numerous concerts, street theatre, and other entertainments throughout the area.
   
Accommodations: Fort Magruder Hotel and Conference Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center/John D. Rockefeller's Williamsburg Home/Tavern Lunch/Musical Performance
(Wednesday, December 10)

Note: The walking today can be as little or as much as you like. The trips to the Visitor Center and Bassett Hall are leisurely and you can pace yourself for the afternoon of Independent Exploration in the Restored Area. Bus transportation will be available back to the hotel at the end of the day.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at your leisure in our private dining area.
 Morning: Class: "Eye Witness Perspectives of Christmas in Williamsburg: 18th-20th Centuries" Take a more personal look at the yuletide across time by considering the words of people living in Williamsburg over 300 years. Share your own family traditions, both those inherited and those newly begun. This look at holiday observances will help tie the old to the new, bringing a new richness to your own holiday observances. Field Trip: " Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center" Start your day's outings by viewing one of the informative films highlighting the restoration or colonial life at the time of the American Revolution. Field Trip: "Bassett Hall" Visit the beautifully restored home used by the Rockefellers on their visits to Williamsburg after they became involved in its restoration. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller called this retreat her "Dream of Dreams" and it is lovingly preserved and decorated for the holidays based on her vision. Afterwards, take a leisurely stroll to the Restored Area and begin your personal exploration before pausing for lunch.
 Lunch: Enjoy the ambiance of a Colonial Tavern as you are entertained by strolling musicians and local personalities from the past. Taste southern comfort food in the charm of Shields Tavern, a reconstructed building with a history all its own. In the 18th century, public houses were gathering places for residents and travelers. Partake of a dining experience similar to one enjoyed by patriots like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry.
 Afternoon: Independent Exploration: "Colonial Williamsburg" Building on the overview of the Historic Area that you enjoyed on Day Two, take time now to return the shops and homes that are of special interest to you. This time will extend into the early evening when the candles come on in the windows, the cressets are lit, and perhaps even a strolling musician or two will add to the magic of your experience.
 Dinner: Dinner will again be at the hotel in our private dining area.
 Evening: Performance: "Colonial Instruments and Music" Enjoy the talents of a costumed musician as he plays and explains instruments, both familiar and unusual, of the eighteenth century. Hear the Christmas music popular in colonial celebrations and be prepared to join in on a familiar song or two before the evening ends!
   
Accommodations: Fort Magruder Hotel and Conference Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Christmas during the Civil War/Antebellum Homes/Traditional African American Customs
(Thursday, December 11)

Note: The two historical houses visited today will have limited access for those with mobility concerns. The first floors of both houses can be reached with lifts, but at Endview, the other floors are only accessible by stairs, as is the second floor of Lee Hall. Overall, the walking is not extensive. At both homes, the grounds can be explored and at Lee Hall there is a museum on the ground level that can be reached by ramps.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at your leisure in our private dining area.
 Morning: Class: "Civil War Era Christmas Customs" In the midst of a terrible war, families continued to honor family traditions as best they could. At the same time, soldiers in the field made some attempt to remember the season even as they wrote home of loneliness and hardship. Learn about the efforts that were made to maintain some measure of holiday normalcy despite shortages and missing family members. Explore the similarities of mid-nineteenth century customs with those of today. Field Trip: "Antebellum Plantations" First visit Endview Plantation, built before the Revolution, but interpreted during its pre-Civil War years. This small farmhouse will stand in sharp contrast to the typical picture of an American plantation, though its owner was one of the wealthiest farmers in the county. Then move on to the 1850's Lee Hall Mansion, with its unusual Italianate architecture and experience a more ostentatious antebellum home. Both houses will be decorated for the holidays in mid-nineteenth century style.
 Lunch: A lighter mid-day fare will be served in our private dining area.
 Afternoon: Class: "James River Plantations: Urban vs. Rural" This discussion provides a comparison of the societies that existed in the towns and on the plantations of colonial Virginia. Consideration will be given to the lifestyles of the various classes of people found in the two settings, from gentry to middlin' class to slaves. Free afternoon: Spend the remainder of the afternoon exploring the area further on your own, or taking a quiet break at the hotel. Suggestions will be provided for activities that may interest you.
 Dinner: Dinner will again be at the hotel in our private dining area.
 Evening: Performance: "African American Stories and Songs of the Season" Delight in the wonderful tales and music of a talented entertainer as she takes you on a journey across the years through the eyes of African-Americans, slave and free, as they celebrate the yuletide in Virginia. This engaging performance provides the perspective of the slave and free black families who combined their ancient African traditions with the customs of their masters.
   
Accommodations: Fort Magruder Hotel and Conference Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: James River Plantations/Decorations Workshop/Historical Visitor
(Friday, December 12)

Note: As with the historical homes on Day Four, the two homes visited this morning will have limited access for those with mobility restrictions. In entering each home, visitors must negotiate a half story of steps (6-10) to get to the main floor, and also to the basement of Berkely for the introductory film. At both homes, the grounds can be explored with little difficulty.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at your leisure in our private dining area.
 Morning: Field Trip: "The James River Plantations" First visit Berkeley, "the most historic" of the great river plantations. This is the ancestral home of the Harrisons, who boast a signer of the Declaration of Independence and two presidents among their descendants. Explore the 1726 Georgian mansion with your guide, then stroll the extensive grounds on your own. Next travel to Shirley, first of the James River plantations, dating to 1613. Here you will see original furnishings and portraits from the 18th century owners whose descendants remarkably still occupy the home. Both of the homes will be decorated in anticipation of the holiday season. Time will be given at both sites for individual exploration. Holiday snacks & cookies are traditionally served.
 Lunch: A lighter mid-day fare will be served in our private dining area.
 Afternoon: Workshop: "It's Your Turn: Hands On Decorating" Having now seen and learned about holiday decorations in a variety of settings, you have the opportunity to assemble your own table center piece. A wide variety of natural materials, candles, and florists' items are available for you to work with. Your facilitator will spin many yarns about his own decorating adventures as he guides you to create your masterpiece.
 Dinner: Dinner will again be at the hotel in our private dining area.
 Evening: Performance: "A Colonial Lady's Christmas: Martha Washington" You will be honored with a visit from America's first First Lady as she reminisces about her Yuletides past. She will describe colonial Christmas traditions in town and on the plantation and share some stories about her famous husband at home and on the field of battle.
   
Accommodations: Fort Magruder Hotel and Conference Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Colonial Foodways/Wassail/Departure
(Saturday, December 13)

Note: End the week on a quiet but festive note with traditional food and drink.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at your leisure in our private dining area.
 Morning: Class: "Plantation Foodways" Learn about the foods, tools, and techniques of colonial cooks as you participate in the concoction of a simple but delicious dessert of the time. Not only will you get to assist with the preparation, you will enjoy a sample of this traditional holiday treat. Performance; " Christmas Music and Wassail Toast with Mistress Cynthia" Delight in the antics of a talented historical interpreter as she entertains you with music and tales of the common folk. Then finish your week of traditional Christmas celebrations with an appropriate wassail toast. Final Farewells
 Lunch: Pick up a box lunch with sandwich, fruit, chips, cookie, and beverage before heading home.
   
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Free Time Opportunities
 
  Williamsburg Tidewater Area: Williamsburg/Jamestown and Yorktown
Our Road Scholar programs are filled with fascinating and informative classes, field trips, excursions and extracurricular activities. The day-by-day itinerary details what you will see and do. The schedule includes a free afternoon during the week to pursue your own interests; otherwise, there will be only a few hours of unstructured time per day. Because the Road Scholar schedule is so full, there will be little opportunity for independent exploration of other sites in the Williamsburg area. We suggest you consider staying additional time before or after the program to enjoy local attractions, particularly because of all the special events during the holiday season. Visit our web page with links, sample schedules, hotels, web pages, Colonial Williamsburg and more. For additional information, visit www.roadscholar.org
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.


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