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Old 05-09-2012, 02:38 PM
Location: Virginia
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As promised, here are some photos and notes after our recent “discovery tour” of Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Gloucester County.

First things first--none of my photos happen to show tourist areas. Soooooo..... if someone else wants to add a few that would be great. (And for that matter, more non-tourist photos would be great too. The more the merrier!)

Also, if I’ve gotten something wrong please step in and say so. I’m a visitor after all so I may have gotten a few wrong impressions.

So I guess the thing to do is start with residential areas. On this trip, we went to Kingsmill, Colonial Heritage, Gloucester Courthouse, Foxfield and also drove through some residential neighborhoods in Williamsburg and Yorktown.

Photos start on the next post.....
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Old 05-09-2012, 02:40 PM
Location: Virginia
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Kingsmill is a large HOA development/resort community that we really liked. In fact we liked it a lot more than we thought we would. It has it’s own marina , beach, even boat rentals for one of its lakes.

Looking back, I wish I had taken more shots of the Kingsmill neighborhoods, to show how very woodsy this community is and what the houses look like. I did get a shot of some townhomes (above) but not the ones we would be most likely to buy (which have a different design). Guess we'll have to go back and take more photos, LOL.

Also, as you can see, it’s nicely landscaped. It’s so spotless I‘ve heard it called Disney for Seniors, LOL. Works for me! I can handle the idea of living in a resort-like community--although I do wish more of the homes had gardens like you see in other parts of Williamsburg (see photos later in this thread).

-- One thing I really liked was how many people I saw out walking on the paths. It should be pointed out, though, that you can’t walk to a grocery store in this community. Walking is mostly for exercise here. We did see people walking to some of the amenities, however. There are amenities out the ying yang, including some cafes and coffee houses, as well as a private club. Note: most of the residents we talked to did not belong to the club. The community has pools and amenities that residents can use without needing to belong to the club and many choose this option.

-- Amusingly, we almost didn’t look at this community on this trip. Why? Because the HOA there is quite restrictive. I like HOAs, but normally don’t care much for the super restrictive ones. I’m still not sure if this would be a problem for us. Fortunately, curiosity got the best of us and we decided to take a look anyway. Also, since we have time to make this decision, we have time to visit again and talk to a few more residents and get a better feel for whether or not we could live with the rules. On a positive note, every single person we met who lived there liked it. So maybe the rules aren’t so irritating.

--I really did like how the townhouses were designed, and some are very reasonably priced. Some are also quite expensive.

--It’s so green and pretty here. No trash, no graffiti. There were songbirds singing up a storm. (In fact, we wondered if maybe the HOA was piping in a songbird CD at first. We even looked for hidden speakers, LOL. Then we heard the same amount of birds in other parts of Williamsburg so I guess there just happen to be a lot of birds there.) I could really get used to living in such a pretty place. I could definitely get used to having so many songbirds around.

--The property has it’s own beach (gotta love that!) It’s a dinky beach, and I mean really, really dinky--but hey, a dinky beach within walking distance is still a nice thing to have.

--John Hinckley's parents live here, so I guess that means this is where he comes when he gets his time out of jail. Not that I care, but I found it a little interesting, so thought I'd mention it. It's not like we'd ever see him walking around.

So we ended up liking this area more than we thought we would. This is why it pays to visit a place and not judge communities sight unseen.

Last edited by Caladium; 05-09-2012 at 03:20 PM..
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Old 05-09-2012, 02:42 PM
Location: Virginia
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I think this is a bus bench in Kingsmill, but I’m not 100% sure. Kingsmill does have city bus service but I’m not sure if the buses actually come onto the property, which is where this bench is.

The marina and part of the beach. The beach continues for a short distance south of the marina, and that part has a some picnic tables under shade trees. I’m sure that shady spot is appreciated on hot summer days, even if the beach is, well, dinky.

This is a new restaurant being built overlooking the marina.

This lake has boats and kayaks for rent. The homes around the lake also give a little hint of how woodsy this community is.

An indoor pool overlooking an outdoor pool, and also overlooking the James River. What a crack up!
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Old 05-09-2012, 02:48 PM
Location: Virginia
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Colonial Heritage:

We also decided to look at a new 55+ community that is about 75% completed.

-- The community buildings have been completed and had lots of active residents bustling around. The woodshop in particular was impressive and loaded with nice equipment that anyone can use after taking a course in how to use them properly. Nice. Of course, all these amenities come with nice HOA fees. Actually, not so nice. Yes indeedy you'll pay $$$ to live here. But, if you use all the amenities I think it might be a good deal.

--We talked with several residents there and, as with Kingsmill they all seem to think quite highly of this community. So many of them made glowing remarks that we went back later that night so we could talk to people without our salesperson in tow (in case that made a difference). Well guess what, even without the salesperson we heard yet more positive reviews and had a nice dinner to boot. So we ended up getting a very positive vibe from this place, even if it wasn't quite our taste.

--This property is a bit of a drive from the central part of Williamsburg. On the positive side, it's close to the outlets, the Pottery Factory, and a hospital. There are a good number of stores in nearby shopping plazas. You can't walk to the grocery store if you live in Colonial Heritage, however.

--We had dinner at a restaurant there, and it was a very pleasant evening with mahi mahi that was very nicely prepared for a very reasonable price ($10.50 for dinner). At dinner, they had a mellow jazz band playing. A very enjoyable meal and when the weather‘s nice you can eat and listen to the music out on "The Verandah" which has a nice view. It was about to rain that night, however, so we were inside. The inside dining area is very nice, too.

--It’s a pretty property but there are too few trees for our taste.

--I could see renting a place here for 6 months if we decide to do a long visit while looking for a place to buy. But, to be honest, I don’t think we would buy there. The homes are too big and too pricey, and we don’t like the lack of trees.

A completed house in Colonial Heritage. This design runs for about $340,000 I believe. It's bigger than it looks (the homes all seemed to be about 3000-3500 sf, more or less). In this particular neighborhood the homes all have walk-out basements which is a very nice feature--be sure to ask for this because not all the homes have them.

This street is half completed and already has several residents. I’m not sure I’d want to move into a house before the construction on the rest of my street was finished.

This library/computer room is in the main clubhouse along with pool, gyms, game room, meeting rooms, restaurants, and The Verandah. It seemed like a fairly good collection of books and a nice place to hang out on a rainy day.

A “neighborhood” card game. Apparently these ladies live on a street that has activities just for the people on the street. They get together for barbecues, to go to events, to go out to eat, and to play cards. I got the impression this was not a formally organized group, just a bunch of neighbors. As with everyone I stopped to talk with here, they were very friendly and seemed to really enjoy talking about life there. I’ve never seen a town where people were so willing to chat to a stranger.

The golf course winds between the neighborhoods.

A little “parkette”.

Jazz band at dinner. Dinner was very reasonably priced and the food was better than I would have expected. I’ve eaten at a lot of dining rooms for 55+ communities and this was definitely better than what you usually get, and not a bad price. I'm not sure if people who live outside the property are allowed to eat there but it seemed like a public place--if it is, I'd recommend it as a place to get dinner even if you don't live there.

The driving range has stacks of balls out at all times, which was a pleasant surprise. No need to stand in line to buy a bucket of balls? Cool! So if you come home after a long day and want to get in a few swings before the sun sets you can easily do so.

Well folks, that’s enough for today. Tomorrow I’ll post more photos, including shots around the town and in Yorktown and Gloucester. I’m also going to discuss transportation, hospitals, shopping, you name it--so even though today we started with the residential communities, trust me there's more to come.

Last edited by Caladium; 05-09-2012 at 03:24 PM..
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Old 05-10-2012, 11:43 AM
Location: Virginia
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No comments? Hmmm.... maybe it was a mistake to begin with the residential neighborhoods. No problem, we can switch gear for a few days to discuss my impressions on the area in general, then switch back to specific neighborhoods.

Transportation Issues:

I must say that even though the roads are a bit congested, the transportation options in this part of Virginia get a from me.

The trolleys are cute and run fairly often. They mostly service the central and touristy areas. We also thought the bus system was pretty good.

I like the fact that if we lived there we could easily hop a train to DC or NY. Or to Richmond, for that matter. Williamsburg has a colonial-ish looking Amtrak station that's walking distances to the campus and the central part of town.

The Newport News/Williamsburg Airport has direct flights to NY (La Guardia) as well as to about 7-8 other cities. Otherwise, you use Richmond International or the airport in Norfolk. A friends of mine says that the Norfolk Airport is the more pleasant one to fly out of--any opinions on this?

There’s also a free ferry across the James River. If you like cycling, we saw many people out on bikes (especially on Colonial Parkway). For a small town, there are a surprising number of transportation options.

The roads seem to be in good condition, but many are narrow and at times twisty due to the many rivers and hills, which means traffic is at times congested. Plus there's that confusing area where the bypass juts away from Richmond Road. So ditch the car and hop on the trolley. Such a deal, and fun.

These cyclists were riding on the Colonial Parkway. This 22-23 mile long stretch of road attracts a lot of cyclists. They also periodically close it for cycling events.

I was wondering if anyone had an opinion on how the surface of this road is for cycling?
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Old 05-10-2012, 11:52 AM
Location: Virginia
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Senior Activities:

I took a photo of the Senior Center, but it seems to have disappeared. Rats, because as I recall it was a good photo. Did I delete it? Oh well, moving on…. It seemed like quite an active place, and I was quite happy to see a tai chi class going on. They have a wide variety of trips, as well as the usual bridge clubs, book club, choir, etc. The teacher said the center serves about 700 people right now. One program I really like provides non-emergency medical transportation to seniors. They’ll get you to any location in the area.

I also like the Rain Barrel program through the Senior Center. Williamsburg is surprisingly into ecological issues. I didn’t think green issues would be so big here, but they are.

In addition to the county services, there’s also an interfaith group that holds an annual “Aging in Place Symposium“ with workshops on wills and other legal issues, remodeling homes so you can live in them as you age, resources for caregivers, etc.

We saw a lot of seniors out and about. I didn’t set out to shoot photos of seniors, but when looking through the photos I was struck how many shots like this one had seniors in them.

Speaking about seniors, one person told me that a popular activities for the local seniors is to "walk the D.O.G." This involves meeting for coffee or breakfast and then walking Duke of Gloucester Street, a one-mile pedestrian street in the colonial village. I could see enjoying that quite a bit.

By the way, that’s the York River at the bottom of the hill. As most of you know, this photo was taken in Yorktown. Later in this thread I'll have more photos of Yorktown.

I initially took this photo just because the car was cute. The gentleman came up to see why we were taking a photo of his car, and he turned out to be quite interesting.

He told us he had retired to the area about ten years before, and then filled us in quite a bit about social clubs in the area. When they moved there, they joined a group for classic cars and that’s how they got hooked into a social network. Like everyone else we met, he was very friendly and he even invited us to meet up with his friends if we were going to a car show later that day (we had other plans but we were tempted to go just because he was so friendly).

An interesting side note: This man lived in Kingsmill, and it was interesting to talk with him about his experiences with that development (very positive) as well as to hear his tone of voice when he talked about it.

He said "I live in Kingsmill" like it was the greatest place in the world. If I hadn’t known better I would have sworn he had been hired by the chamber of commerce. It‘s nice when residents feel that way about their community, especially after several years.

Virginia Gazette

Since we're on the topic of seniors, I like how the local paper has an entire section for seniors. I've never seen that before. But what I really really like in the VA Gazette is the Last Word! Especially in the online version, where you can read every curmudgeonly spout off, as well as words of wisdom, handy tips, and even a few intriguing questions from people who need advice. The Last Word is a hoot!
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Old 05-10-2012, 11:54 AM
Location: Virginia
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OK, now that we've covered a few more general topics I hope I get some comments. If not, that's cool too. Tomorrow we'll get into my impressions of the hospitals, shopping, and whatever else I can think of. Oh, and kayaking photos, of course. And the rest of the neighborhoods we saw.
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Old 05-10-2012, 01:09 PM
Location: Sneads Ferry, NC
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Originally Posted by Caladium View Post
OK, now that we've covered a few more general topics I hope I get some comments. If not, that's cool too.
Your pictures and comments are extremely helpful to me, even "fantastic". I just wish we had considered Williamburg more seriously before we moved.
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Old 05-10-2012, 01:33 PM
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Default Enjoyed your photos and write-ups

Thanks for posting this. We hope to get back to Williamsburg (to retire) one of these days!
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Old 05-10-2012, 03:44 PM
Location: Williamsburg
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homes in colonial heritage range in size from 1400 square feet to 5000 + square feet
The medium size is around 2400 square feet.
currently town homes start at under 200,000 in colonial heritage.
great post!
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