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Key Tips for Visiting Yorktown, Virginia

See the best of historic Yorktown, Virginia with these expert tips

When visiting America’s Historic Triangle area, you really should consider adding a day visiting Yorktown, Virginia, to your itinerary. Historic Yorktown was the site of the last major battle of the American Revolution. It was also where General Lord Cornwallis’ forces surrendered to George Washington (Cornwallis couldn’t actually manage to drag himself to surrender field that day). 

And as it goes in the musical Hamilton, the world turned upside down. 

Exterior of the brick Museum of the American Revolution at Yorktown, Virginia.
When visiting Yorktown, Virginia, make sure to explore the American Revolution Museum. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go

Visiting Historic Yorktown, Virginia

Historic Yorktown, VA, is located only 13 miles from Colonial Williamsburg and a little over 20 miles from Jamestown Settlement and Historic Jamestowne (at the opposite end of the scenic Colonial Parkway).  

When visiting Yorktown, I recommend that you start your day at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown before you head to the battlefield, but you could easily spend nearly one full day at Yorktown Battlefield alone. 

The American Revolution Museum does an excellent job of giving the full, big picture of the war (including some excellent outdoor, living history exhibits). 

Yorktown ticket options 

You can purchase tickets for the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown ahead of time online or at the museum. There are a variety of multi-day and combination tickets available (some are “web only” specials) that offer seven consecutive days of admission to the museum plus other historical sites in the area. 

Tickets for Yorktown battlefield are available at the Visitor’s Center and are good for seven consecutive days. Your pass also includes admission to the Glassblowing House on Jamestown Island and the island drive. Separate admission is required to see the historic townsite at Jamestown.

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Collage image of the exterior of the brick Museum of the American Revolution at Yorktown, Virginia, and an old American Revolution canon with a text overlay about tips for visiting historic Yorktown, Virginia.

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Where to stay when visiting Yorktown, Virginia 

There are a lot of great accommodation options all within easy distances of Yorktown and the other Historic Triangle sites. We chose to base ourselves in Williamsburg for our trip since we were going to be spending more of our time at Colonial Williamsburg than either Yorktown or Jamestown.

We enjoyed a great rate at the Residence Inn Williamsburg that included a free breakfast every day as well as a kitchen in our room. Check availability and room rates here.

If you want to stay in the heart of historic Yorktown, you might enjoy the highly rated Hornsby House Inn. The Inn is just a few minutes’ drive from the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. It offers a buffet breakfast along with free private parking and free WiFi. Check availability now.

Museum lobby with blue walls and white trim.
Every aspect of the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is done with excellence. Photo: David Vierow.

American Revolution Museum at Yorktown 

The first stop during your day in Yorktown should be the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. The excellent exhibits here do a wonderful job of taking you from the first rumblings of rebellion against the British Empire, through the declaration of independence, the war and into the creation of a new nation. 

(Plus, the gift shop is great!) 

Museum Galleries

Just past the ticketing area of the building is a theater where you can watch an award-winning film about the revolution called “Liberty Fever.” It isn’t very long, and runs every 30 minutes. You won’t miss anything important if you don’t watch the film or if you watch it on your way out for the day. 

There are also other special video presentations throughout the museum galleries. We especially enjoyed the 4D presentation about the battle at Yorktown. 

The museum discourages taking photos or videos within the exhibit space…which is kind of too bad, because the exhibits are stunning, and I’d love to share a few photos with you. 

The gallery exhibits include many displays of military weapons and equipment, furniture, household items and personal effects, interactive and multimedia displays, and an early printed copy of the Declaration of Independence.  

Interior of a revolutionary war military tent full of equipment and furnishings.
Photo: David Vierow

Outdoor Living History Exhibits 

Don’t pass over the outdoor living history exhibits at the American Revolution Museum. While we were there, they included musket firing demonstrations, a replica Continental Army encampment complete with “kitchen”, and a revolutionary war era farm. Living history interpreters on hand offer demonstrations and answer questions from museum guests. 

I even tried my hand at dipping candles while hubby handled an American Revolution-era replica musket. 

Because we needed to eat pretty quickly, we grabbed an easy lunch at the small museum café. The menu is quite similar to the one at Jamestown Settlement, with a good variety of vegetarian and gluten free options. There are also a good variety of restaurants in historic Yorktown near the river. This would have been our choice if we had the time. 

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Yorktown Battlefield 

Once you’ve completed your American Revolution Museum visit, it’s just a short drive over to the Yorktown battlefield. Yorktown battlefield is part of the Colonial National Historical Park and managed by the U.S. National Parks Service. 

Yorktown Battlefield Visitor Center 

Begin your time at Yorktown Battlefield with a stop at the Visitor’s Center. You can speak with someone at the front desk to get a map of the battlefield and ask about any special programs. Yorktown Battlefield usually offers regular guided tours with their park rangers. 

Also, in the Visitor’s Center you can watch the short film about the American Revolutionary War battle at Yorktown while you’re waiting for your guided tour to meet up. It’s quite dated and at one point the film was out of sync with the sound, but it did provide a good overview of the battle (in just about 16 minutes) before our tour.  

Don’t overlook the small exhibits area there. They actually have one of George Washington’s battlefield tents (seriously) as well as one of the flags that the British army handed over to the colonial forces at the surrender ceremony. Surrender Field is one of the stops on the Yorktown Battlefield auto tour. 

It’s also a good idea, while you’re in the Visitor’s Center, to check to see what other parts of the battlefield are open or closed and what the hours are. We were hoping to get into Moore House, the traditional site of where the terms of surrender were hammered out, but it did not open at the time I thought it was supposed to. A quick question to one of the staff in the Visitor’s Center could have probably saved me a little disappointment.  

Old American Revolution canon sitting behind embankment on a battlefield.
Photo: Plan, Ready, Go

Yorktown battlefield guided tour 

If you have time to do a Yorktown guided tour with a park ranger, please do so. They are friendly and knowledgeable…good tour guides. The Yorktown Battlefield tour gave us a more in-depth overview of the events of the battle than the Visitor’s Center film and provided important context for the parts of the battlefield we saw up close later during our driving tour. 

And if you’re concerned about there being a lot of walking, don’t. There was some, but I don’t think we ever wandered more than 100 yards from the Visitor’s Center. And at the places we stopped there were often benches for those who wanted to rest a bit. 

Allow an hour to about an hour and 15 minutes for the tour. 

Yorktown battlefield auto tour 

To guide you on your tour of the battlefield you can download the free Yorktown Tour Guide app. It offers two driving tours.

PLEASE. I implore you. Follow the National Parks Service signs asking visitors to keep off of the battlefield earthworks. The effects of erosion and inconsiderate guests make them more difficult to maintain and preserve. 

Stops along the tour route include important sites such as: 

Redoubts 9 and 10 

This is the spot where Marquis de LaFayette led American troops to storm the British position at redoubt 10, while the French took redoubt 9. The fall of these two positions allowed the Allies to complete their siege line and increase their bombardment of Yorktown. General Cornwallis requested a cease fire within only a few days. 

Small, two-story white colonial house with leaves on the ground.
Moore House hosted meetings to hash out the terms of surrender. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Moore House 

This was the private home of Augustine Moore, where officers from both sides met to negotiate the terms of surrender. Make sure you check at the Visitor’s Center to find out if the house will be open during your visit, so you’re not disappointed if you want to go in. 

Open field surrounded by trees and old split-rail fences.

Surrender Field 

This is the spot where Cornwallis’ forces laid down arms. Though the war still continued for a while, Yorktown was the last major battle of the American Revolution. 

Both the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown and Yorktown Battlefield are must-see sites for anyone interested in Revolutionary War history. 

Final thoughts on visiting Yorktown, Virginia

Between the American Revolution Museum and Yorktown Battlefield you’ll have as much as you can handle of learning about the important events that led to the Revolution and then how it ended.

And while you can do both in one day, you many find that you need more time.

More articles about things to do in the Historic Triangle

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Exterior of the brick Museum of the American Revolution at Yorktown, Virginia, with a text overlay about how to visit historic Yorktown.

 Key Tips for Visiting Yorktown, Virginia

4 Comments

  1. Linda K Welty-Cohen says:

    I’m so excited to visit these 3 places! Planning a road trip to visit the Battlefields of our history. This has been a dream of mine from childhood

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      That’s wonderful! I hope you have an amazing trip!

  2. Thank you! We’re headed there today, great tips!

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      You are very welcome! I hope you have a great time!

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