Five ways to savor the last of summer

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com

With the start of public school on Sept. 6 and the autumn equinox on Sept. 22, summer's end is near no matter how you look at it.

Regardless of how welcome cooler weather might be, make the most of summer's end by spending time outdoors in ways both familiar and unexpected.

Here are five suggestions from Virginia Gazette reporters.

Take a sunset cruise

Step aboard the "Alliance" for a two-hour sunset cruise along the York River, and there might even be a special sighting.

"Sometimes we see dolphins," said Laura Lohse, owner of Yorktown Sailing Charters.

The company offers a variety of tours, from a sightseeing cruise to a pirate adventure cruise, but the sunset cruise is the only one to occur at that picturesque time of day, Lohse said.

After the "Alliance" sets sail from Riverwalk Landing in Yorktown, it cruises past the Victory Monument, Yorktown Battlefield and other sights. Lohse said the ship sometimes passes warships headed to the Naval Weapons Station.

Though the sunset cruise in particular isn't narrated, the ship's crew does share bits of history, about the sights and the ship.

Built in 1995, the "Alliance" is a schooner of traditional design.

"The rigging is all traditional, just like you would've seen 200 years ago," Lohse said.

Guests can even help raise the sails, if they so desire.

If relaxing is the main endeavor, that's OK too. Grab a beer or glass of wine, available for purchase on the ship, and simply enjoy the ride.

"It's just a beautiful time of day," Lohse said.

Through Aug. 31, sunset cruises depart daily at 6 p.m. From Sept. 1-20, the ship leaves at 5:30 p.m., and from Sept. 21-Oct. 7, at 5 p.m. The cruise costs $37 per person.

Lohse said children are encouraged to check out the pirate cruise which departs daily at 11 a.m., except Sundays. After Labor Day, the cruise will only depart on Saturdays. Pirate cruises cost $22 for children ages 12 and under.

"We get the kids to raise all the sails. We teach them knots. They all get to steer the ship," Lohse said of the interactive nature of the cruise.

For more information, call 757-639-1233. To book a cruise, visit sailyorktown.com or call 877-724-5956.

Go to a nearby park

Cool off in the shade while exploring 2,550 acres of marshes, bogs, creeks and trails at the York River State Park. The estuarine habitat is home to muskrats, otters and Blue Heron, and it offers plenty of chances to get outside and on the water while the weather is still warm.

"We have miles of trails, waterways to explore and great views of the creek and river," said John Gresham, the park's Education Support Specialist.

Today, the park is celebrating Estuaries Day with free programs for families throughout the day.

Children can fish in the river using nets or go on a pirate-themed geocaching mission. Park interpreters will lead free canoe and kayak trips on Taskinas Creek. Personal rentals of kayaks and canoes for people not participating in a program are available for a fee.

The park offers programs every weekend through September, including night hikes, paddle boarding excursions, river seining (net fishing) outings for children and stargazing.

Lend the park a helping hand Sept. 10 at the National Day of Service and Remembrance and National Public Lands Day. The park is recruiting volunteers to help beautify the Powhatan Forks Trail.

For more information on all the activities at the park, go to dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/york-river.

There are plenty of other parks to check out, each with its own character.

Play nine-hole disc golf at Waller Mill Park, and while there, boat around the park's 286-acre lake. James City County Marina rents stand-up paddleboards, as well as bikes, kayaks and canoes. Freedom Park houses the GoApe ziplining adventure course but, closer to the ground, bikers can explore more than 20 miles of mountain bike trails and the Williamsburg Botanical Garden is at the park. You can participate or just enjoy Karaoke in Chickahominy Riverfront Park from 7-9 p.m. on Sept. 3.

Visit parks and recreation websites for the City of Williamsburg, James City and York Counties for the full list of parks.

-Ryan McKinnon

Take a winery tour

With four options for tastings and tours, the Williamsburg Winery should be on everyone's end of summer to-do list.

The winery's extensive tour and reserve wine tasting allows people to see the vineyard up close. Michael Kimball, the winery's vice president of marketing, said the end of summer is an ideal time to visit because harvest time is right around the corner.

"Right now all the grapes are still on the vine, they just changed color so the red grapes are now very red and the white wine grapes just turned green," Kimball said. "It's a great time to visit because the grapes are close to peak of ripeness."

Harvest will come mid-September, Kimball said, which is also a fun time to watch the work being done.

The fine wine tasting offers a variety of wines while the reserve tasting gets into the reserve and premium wines the vineyard has to offer. Both of the tastings can be combined with a tour.

The fine wine tasting costs $9 while the reserve is $15. The fine wine tasting paired with a tour is $12 and the extensive tour and reserve tasting pair together is $40 and requires reservations in advance.

-Amanda Williams

Seek out some history

If you're looking for a different look at Colonial Virginia history, consider a trip out to Rosewell, a ruined mansion in Gloucester County.

Located near the York River, the three-story manor was built in the early 1700's and destroyed by a fire in 1916. Once the home of the economic and political powerhouse Page family, the mansion's massive chimneys and brick walls are a reminder of Virginia's past.

"It's a testament to Virginia's legacy," said Katrina Brown, operations officer.

John Page, a Virginia governor and one of the home's occupants over its centuries-long history, hosted his friend Thomas Jefferson during their William and Mary days, Brown said. The two men explored the stars with the a telescope during Jefferson's visits and engaged in debates about politics that would inform Jefferson's own political writings, Brown said. The house also sat among tobacco fields where slaves toiled, making Rosewell a witness to every high and low of Colonial Virginia.

The grounds include a visitors center with artifacts, including clothing and pottery, and a gift shop. The space can be booked for events such as weddings and family reunions.

General admission is $4. Rosewell is open Monday through Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday 1-4 p.m. Rosewell is closed every Friday and remains closed Nov. 1 to March 31. It is located at 5113 Old Rosewell Lane, Gloucester. For more information contact 804-693-2585.

-Jack Jacobs

Cool off in, or near, the water

Summer often equates with trips to the pool or the beach.

Williamsburg is home to Water Country USA, a sprawling waterpark with 11 water slides and rides, lazy rivers, a wave pool and other options for relaxing or cooling off.

Try the Aquazoid, a nine-foot wide enclosed flume that is 863 feet long, or race others down the Nitro Racer on a bodysurfing mat.

Water Country is open from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily through Sept. 5, as well as the weekend of Sept. 10 and 11. Tickets are $45-$52, available online at watercountryusa.com.

Other outdoor pools to check out before Labor Day's end include two at Upper County Park and Chickahominy Riverfront Park.

For a more natural ambience, head to Jamestown Beach Event Park, with views of the James River, or Yorktown Beach, sandwiched between the York River and Historic Yorktown.

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

Copyright © 2017, The Virginia Gazette