Colonial Williamsburg is the nation’s largest and oldest outdoor living history museum. It portrays 18th-century Williamsburg in all its beauty and grandeur, just as it appeared on the eve of the American Revolution.WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA 7-Day Weather Forecast
Williamsburg is located in southeastern Virginia on a peninsula between the James and York Rivers, which run into Chesapeake Bay. Settled in 1632, it was Virginia’s capital from 1699 to 1779. After that time, the city unfortunately declined, and it was not until the 1920’s that people again took a real interest in Williamsburg. It was in 1926 that the idea of excavating and restoring the colonial site of Williamsburg took root. Williamsburg then underwent a complete transformation from an industrial town to what is now known as Colonial Williamsburg.
Colonial Williamsburg bridges Virginia’s past and present, with remnants of the past preserved amid the cultural and commercial bustle of the modern day. Throughout the city, an engaging mix of sights, sounds and activities helps visitors reconnect with America’s past and become active participants in 18th-century life. Not only can visitors enjoy the restored buildings, but also actors recreate the everyday lives of early settlers. On Colonial Williamsburg’s 173 acres, 88 original 18th- and early 19th-century structures, such as the courthouse, have been meticulously restored. The site curators are dedicated to maintaining the period’s integrity in every detail from pieces of furniture, pottery, china, glass, silver, pewter, textiles, tools, and carpeting, to landscaping.
All year round, visitors can observe hundreds of costumed interpreters wearing bonnets or three-cornered hats and speaking in character. Many residents of the settlement demonstrate their trades in venues open to the public. Historic trade demonstrations, dramatic vignettes, interactive programs and encounters with “People of the Past” take place in 28 exhibition sites and historic trade shops throughout the Historic Area. Visitors can enjoy 18th-century style dining in authentic colonial surroundings at any one of Colonial Williamsburg’s four operating taverns.
For a vacation with the grandchildren, for a holiday celebration with the family, or for a time of personal reflection: treat yourself to the opportunity to become part of our nation’s living history in Colonial Williamsburg!
Places to Go…
- Colonial Williamsburg is America’s largest outdoor living history museum. A fully operational 18th century city with tradesmen and tradeswomen working in their shops. The ticket prices vary depending on the length of your stay. Enjoy a step back in time and see how eighteenth century people of all social classes would have lived. Participate in a court proceeding, tour the Governor’s Palace, and see how the American Revolution affected the people of this historic town.
- The campus of The College of William & Mary is just at the end of Colonial Williamsburg’s Duke of Gloucester Street. “W&M” is the second oldest institution of higher education in the United States, founded in 1693 by King William III and Queen Mary. The Christopher Wren building, where Thomas Jefferson attended classes, is one of the college’s original academic buildings and is open to the public, with tours provided by a group of student volunteers. If you’re approaching campus from Colonial Williamsburg you will find the College’s Sunken Garden just on the other side of the Wren building. The Sunken Garden is a gorgeous place to walk, sunbathe, and play frisbee. It’s an impressive sight and a favorite haunt of students and local residents, as well as being a prime example of 20th century Colonial Revival architecture.
- The James River Plantations are a collection of historic sites located in and around the Williamsburg area.. Some such as Berkeley, Chippokes, Lee Hall, and Shirley are open for guided house tours on a daily basis. Others, such as Bacon’s Castle and Smith’s Fort are open for guided tours for certain months throughout the year. Edgewood, North Bend, Piney Grove, Sherwood Forest and Westover are open for self-guided grounds tours and for guided group house tours by appointment. The houses are non-goverment owned, with tours that walk visitors through their illustrious history. The plantations were established in the Virginia colony in 1607. Colonist John Rofle put the colony’s initial five-year period of struggle to an end by capitalizing on a sweet form of tobacco. Rofle’s discovery marked the plantations as a destination along the commerce highway in the 17th and 18th century.
- The Colonial Parkway runs between Jamestown and Yorktown, passing directly through Williamsburg along the way. Jamestown and Yorktown each feature both a national park site containing the actual historical site, and a privately run living history museum designed located near the historical site to amplify understanding. Visitors should be wary of the signs, which are designed draw attention to the more expensive living history museums rather than the true historic sites. National Park admission will get you to the actual sites of both the original Jamestown Fort and the Yorktown Battlefield. Free guided tours directed by park rangers run at posted intervals, typically last about 45 minutes, and are the best way to truly understand the historical context of the sites. During summer, Jamestown is an active archaeological dig site, with visitors allowed within feet of the edge of the excavations, and opportunity to talk with workers and ask questions about the dig. By contrast, the Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center are large, privately run living history museums which feature actors in period dress illustrating life in Colonial times. Like the national park sites, they offer a single entry fee providing admission to both locations.
Things to Do…
Two places which are off the beaten track but well worth a visit are the Williamsburg Winery and Presidents Park. Both of these attractions are located just off of route 199.
- Williamsburg Winery, 5800 Wessex Hundred. The Williamsburg Winery offers tastings in their cellar and they have a charming restaurant with dishes that complement the wine. With wines that are reasonably priced, the Williamsburg Winery is a great place for wine fans to go and is Virginia’s largest winery. Be sure to stop at “The Gabriel Archer Tavern.” They serve a French Country Platter with assorted patés, meats, cheeses and freshly baked bread or sandwiches served with a baby green salad with dried cherries, sugared pecans and topped with raspberry merlot vinaigrette.
- Busch Gardens, 1 Busch Gardens Blvd. At Busch Gardens, experience thrilling rides such as “The Griffon” that brings riders up 205 feet in the air and drops them at a 90 degree angle. This 70mph roller coaster is worth making the trip alone and is one of the main attractions in Busch Gardens. This is in the French village of the park. Another amazing roller coaster that is a big attraction to Busch Gardens is the “Alpengeist”. This is a 67mph coaster that rises as high as 194 feet and had a drop of 170 feet. For those that would rather stay on land, Busch Gardens offers a wide variety of animal exhibits and shows.
- Water Country USA, 176 Water Country Parkway. Water Country USA entertains visitors with eleven water rides and a dive show. One of the biggest attractions at Water Country USA is the “Big Daddy Falls” water slide. This is a 670 foot water slide that takes you and three other people for a twisty wet ride.
- Greensprings Interpretive Trail, 3751 John Tyler Highway. The Greensprings Interpretive Trail is a 3.5 mile nature trail that loops through a landscape of beaver ponds, wetlands and forests. The trail includes sections of wooden boardwalk as well as interpretative signs about the environment, historical events of the early colonists and American Indians and area wildlife. The trail is on wetlands adjacent to Mainland Farm, the oldest continuously cultivated farm in America.
Places to Shop…
Williamsburg offers a good mix of shops and malls, selling arts and crafts, fashion boutiques, as well as upscale outlet malls.
- A Touch of Earth, The Gallery Shops, 6580 Richmond Road. Craft gallery featuring a fine selection of jewelry, pottery and crafts.
- Carolina Furniture, 5425 Richmond Road – The Shops at Carolina Furniture. Great bargains to be had at this furniture store, carrying lines from Ralph Lauren, Hickory Chair, Henredon Century and Baker.
- Prime Outlets at Williamsburg, 5715 Richmond Road. One of the top 10 outlet malls in America, Prime Outlets feature 120 stores offering 25-65% off brand name merchandise.
Places to Eat…
There are many places to eat in Williamsburg, mostly located in two areas: Merchants Square and a small stretch of Richmond Road. Richmond Road contains many of the chain restaurants found all over the east coast. In Merchants Square you will find The Trellis, The Blue Talon, The Cheese Shop, The Fat Canary, Lenny’s, and Aromas, among others. The Trellis and Blue Talon are popular places for more expensive gourmet cuisine. The Cheese Shop, Lenny’s and Aromas are best for lunch and they are also well worth visiting. The Gazebo, on Bypass Road, is a great place for breakfast. Colonial Williamsburg has a few taverns where historically costumed staff serve colonial fare. They are good places to eat and a must-visit for any Williamsburg tourist. Most restaurants and shops close at 8PM.
- The Blue Talon, 420 Prince George Street. Specializing in “serious comfort food”, the Blue Talon has a wide selection of homey favorites. $17-27 mains.
- The Daily Grind, Gooch Drive. Easily the best Coffee in Williamsburg. Located in the college and only open when class is on, the Grind also has a variety of cheap and tasty sandwiches and baked goods. Tends to be vegan/vegetarian friendly and to use organic ingredients.
- Wine and Cheese Shop, 1915 Pocohantas Trail – Village Shops at Kingsmill. Varied selection of international wine and cheeses, go for a sandwich made with freshly baked bread.
- National Pancake House, 7105 Pocahontas Trail. Serving more than pancakes, this family run restaurant offers a wide selection for breakfast and lunch served in generous portions.
- Aromas, 431 Prince George Street. Order at the counter and take out or eat in. Good coffee, sandwiches, breakfast, a few entres, and more. Usually pretty crowded during lunch time. There’s some tables to sit at outside, and they always have water in a dog bowl for the pups.
- Berret’s Seafood Restaurant and Taphouse Grill, 199 S Boundary St (Merchants Square). Their seafood is excellent, and the crabcakes in particular are outstanding. Large wine list, beer on tap and they are open late. Run by the same folks who operate Nick’s Riverwalk Restaurant in nearby Yorktown. If seafood takes your fancy, visit either or both of these restaurants.
- Peking Mongolian & Japanese Restaurant, Bypass Road – Kingsgate Shopping Center. Voted #1 “Best of Williamsburg” for 16 years in a row, Peking is famous for their buffet, which includes a made-to-order Mongolian grill, Chinese and Japanese hibachi bars, and a full appetizer bar, vegetarian bar, salad and dessert bar.
- Red Hot and Blue, 1622 Richmond Road. Enjoy the best of the south with this feel good Southern restaurant serving St. Louis-cut hickory smoked ribs, BBQ platters with pulled pork, beef brisket or chicken, Mississippi Delta catfish, southern chicken, sandwiches, salads and more.
- Chowning’s Tavern, 109 East Duke of Gloucester Street. A family oriented resturant with a menu that “aims to please” while including more unusual meals, such as Welsh rarebit.
- Christiana Campbell’s 101 South Waller Street. 18th century style tavern in menu and aesthetics.
- Fat Canary, 410 W Duke Of Gloucester St. Food and wine are uniformly excellent, be sure to try the lamb. Staff are friendly and attentive.
- The Trellis, Merchants Sq., 403 Duke of Gloucester St.. Fine dining restaurant that has received mixed reviews of late regarding the quality of food.
- Regency Room, 136 East Francis Street. Elegant dining courses and environment within the Williamsburg Inn.
- Traditions, 310 South England Street. Using farm fresh ingredients, Traditions’ menu changes seasonally in keeping with long-standing Williamsburg “traditions.”
Places to Stay…
- Governor’s Inn, 506 North Henry St. With over 200 rooms, this simple but comfortable hotel has an outdoor pool and a continental breakfast is included in room rate.
- Parkside Resort, 1821 Merrimac Trail. One, two, three and four bedroom accommodations adjacent to the Williamsburg Country Club and viewing distance to Busch Gardens, Parkside provides convenience to all of the area attractions.
- Courtyard Williamsburg Busch Gardens Area, 470 McLaws Circle. Located one mile from Busch Gardens Amusement Park and Water Country USA.
- Colonial Houses. Check-in is at Williamsburg Inn, 136 E. Francis St. Twenty six guest houses are located throughout the historic district. Restored houses have period furnishings as well as modern amenities like running water, cable TV, air conditioning and central heating.
- Quality Suites, 1406 Richmond Road. Offers guests free hot breakfast and an indoor heated pool.
- Springhill Suites Williamsburg, 1644 Richmond Road. Non-smoking, complimentary hot breakfast buffet, and an indoor swimming pool.
- Westgate Historic Williamsburg, 1324 Richmond Road. A family Virginia resort near historical Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens. One and two bedroom suites with fully equipped kitchens and full baths.
- Williamsburg Sampler Bed and Breakfast Inn, 922 Jamestown Rd. The inn has an exercise room plus sauna and a billiards room. The rooms as spacious and cozy, with a very comfortable bed and TV.
- Woodlands Hotel & Suites, 105 Visitor Center Dr. Located a short walk from the Colonial Williamsburg visitor center. Stunning grounds on site and there is always hot chocolate available in the breakfast room.
- Piney Grove at Southall’s Plantation, 1790, Route 5. Historic landmark accommodations located in Williamsburg’s James River Plantation Country. Three rooms and two suites, complete with comfortable antiques The James River Plantation Progressive tour and Candlelight Dinner is offered on many Saturday evenings.
- Williamsburg Inn, 136 E. Francis St. Fit for a Rockefeller, and in fact many have stayed here. Has a pool, clay tennis courts, and golf courses.
Williamsburg is easily accessed by car with Interstate-64 running northeast to Richmond and southwest to Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
For a more scenic view, VA State Route 5 from Richmond runs along the James River past many of the fabled James River Plantations. US Route 60 and VA State Route 143 parallel I-64 for much of its length east and west of Williamsburg and are alternative routes into the city.
The intersection of Richmond Road, Boundary Street, Jamestown Road, and Duke of Gloucester Street (non-vehicular, but with many pedestrians) near Colonial Williamsburg and the historic district is the most notorious feature of Williamsburg driving. Dubbed by locals as Confusion Corner, right-of-way confusion can result in accidents or close calls. For tourists in this area, traffic heading west on Jamestown Road and east on Richmond Road toward Boundary Street and have right of way; all other traffic must stop or yield. This intersection is at the corner of the College of William and Mary’s campus, so be alert for pedestrians in this area.
Free parking in the restored area is difficult to find, and is generally limited to two hours. Colonial Williamsburg offers hourly and daily parking in numerous short-term lots near the restored district. Parking at other shopping areas is generally free, though it can get crowded at peak seasons.