Written byBarbara Radcliffe Rogers
Updated July 13, 2022
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Colonial Williamsburg, one of America's most well-known living historic cities, is not a reproduction or group of buildings collected from other locations. Thewas the capital of the Virginia colony(and later the state of Virginia) from 1705 to 1779 and today recreates those times in their original locations, often in the original buildings. Others are carefully remodeled or restored to their original locations.
But Williamsburg isn't just for history buffs, it's not about the colonial era and the revolution either. Attractions and activities include two excellent art museums, a large theme park and a water park.
Even if you don't come to Williamsburg for its history, you'll enjoy walking around the restored area, where you'll meet people in 18th-century attire and engage in everyday life more than two centuries ago.
Discover exciting things to do with our list of top Williamsburg attractions.
Also see:Where to stay in Williamsburg
1. Colonial Williamsburg: Revolutionary City
Set against a backdrop of more than 100 original and reconstructed 17th-century buildings, costumed performers recreate the excitement of the era leading up to and during the American Revolution in a thriving colonial capital.
In addition to the everyday life of artisans, shopkeepers and villagers, there are daily re-enactments of militia drills, trials, political gatherings and other activities, many of which take place outdoors. Others are beautifulmain building, which for 80 years was the political center of Virginia, one of England's largest and wealthiest colonies.
There are also candlelit tours, carriage rides, and tours for special interests like gardens (there are over 100 of these in Colonial Williamsburg). Be sure to check the daily schedule to find the activities and tours that interest you, as some are not often repeated.
As long as you can walkHerzog von Gloucester Streetthrough the center of the restored zone, eating at the taverns and visiting the shops, none of the historic buildings or gardens can be entered without a ticket, and even the street may be closed to ticket holders for one of the many costume parades and celebration-edicts.
Tourists can secure tickets atAdvance payment,Granted access to all Colonial Williamsburg museums, including historic sitesgovernor's palace, re-enactments and other attractions.
Adresse: 101 Visitor Center Drive, Williamsburg, Virginia
The original royal governor's house was completed in 1722 but burned to the ground and was replaced by a replica in 1934. The Governor's Palace was the social center of Williamsburg, host to gala dinners and balls, and was built to impress the places with authentic authority. After the Revolution, it was home to Virginia's first two governors.
Inside, along with the beautifully decorated rooms, you will see an exhibition of firearms and swords from the period. Outside, explore the formal terraced gardens, which include a maze of hedges, and a peek into the kitchen and scullery allows you to watch seasonal food being prepared.
The finest private residence in Williamsburg, the George Wythe House was built for a prominent lawyer in the mid-18th century. Today it is decorated and furnished with period pieces so you can see what life was like in 17th Century Williamsburg.
George Wythe was one of the most enlightened and influential men of the Revolutionary era, a mentor to Thomas Jefferson and other Virginia patriots and leaders. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. But the house's remarkable history doesn't end there.
It was General George Washington's headquarters before the British siege of Yorktown and French General Rochambeau's headquarters after the victory at Yorktown. In 1776, Thomas Jefferson and his family stayed here while he was a delegate to the Virginia General Assembly. Along with the house are outbuildings which include a kitchen, smokehouse, dovecote and stables and beautiful formal gardens.
4. Dine in colonial taverns
In colonial Virginia, taverns were places where locals and travelers would gather for news, food, and socializing. Some of these in Williamsburg are still active restaurants where you can get a glimpse of 18th-century social life and sample authentic dishes that Jefferson or Washington might have enjoyed here.
Tavern Raleighwas a popular social gathering place for members of the House of Commons, and was equally popularWetherburns Tavern, on the street. Balls and festivals were held in both taverns and around 200,000 artefacts were found on the Wetherburn site during the restoration.
Taverna King's Armswas opened in 1722 and provided the nobility with the finest furniture and services. Today it continues that pattern as the main dining room in the historic district with 18th-century musical entertainment.
Much more informalChownings Taverne, which first opened in 1766 and catered to a less noble clientele. Today, the restaurant maintains that spirit, serving traditional English food and hosting evening gambols with colonial games and music. George Washington's favorite wasChristiana Campbells Taverne, and you can still try Christiana's special fish dish here, like him.Paint Tavernserves a varied home-style menu in a casual atmosphere.
Some of the taverns are also considered centers of paranormal activity and feature in many of the city's ghost stories. Tourists looking for a spooky treat can grab onetwo-hour night ghost and witch tourWilliamsburg,which is led by a costumed guide who will share local legends and show you some of the city's most haunted spots.
5. Play at Busch Gardens
Whether you're a parent, a thrill seeker, or just looking for a carefree day, there's something for you at this vibrant combination of adventure park, zoo, playground, and entertainment stage. Meet the Muppets, cruise the Rhine, clap to Bavarian brass bands, ride a teacup or hop on the historic Loch Ness Monster roller coaster.
The rides have German and European themes - a water ride through the ruins of Pompeii, the Verbolten and the hair-raising 195-foot Alpengeist, one of the world's tallest and fastest roller coasters, with inversions at speeds of up to 67 miles per hour. Less adrenaline-pumping visitors can watch border collies herding sheep at Highland Stables, meet Clydesdales, interact with colorful exotic birds in a free-flight aviary, and learn about wolves and other predators at Wolf Haven.
Kids will love Land of the Dragons and Sesame Street Forest of Fun. To save time, tourists canBuy mobile tickets atAdvance paymentto ensure your family gets the most out of their day at the park.
Adresse: One Busch Gardens Boulevard, Williamsburg, Virginia
6. Historic Jamestowne
The Historic Jamestowne Visitor Center houses an exhibit of over 1,000 artifacts discovered at the site since excavation began, as well as exhibits that trace the history of the site since prehistoric times. The largest collection, however, is in the Archaearium, an archeology museum that houses over 4,000 artifacts.
The exhibits include descriptions of the development of the recovery process and explain what the objects tell us about the daily life of the region's indigenous people and their first European settlers. Tourists can also explore the active archaeological site, which has 33 separate dig sites including remains of terraced houses, barracks, a blacksmith shop, bakery, churches and wells.
A highlight of a visit to historic Jamestowne is theHerd. One of the first attempts at manufacturing in America was glassblowing in Jamestown, but despite access to all raw materials, the effort failed due to a lack of skilled glassblowers. Remains of the glass furnaces were discovered and today glassblowing is demonstrated in a reconstructed glassworks producing glassware as it was made in the early 17th century.
Admission includes a free walking tour led by an archaeologist or scholar. In addition to the regular tours, special tours are offered that provide an up-close, behind-the-scenes look at the discoveries and techniques used.
Adresse: 1368 Colonial Parkway, Jamestown, Virginia
7. Jamestown Agreement
Adjacent to historic Jamestowne on Jamestown Island, the Jamestown Settlement recreates portions of the first successful English settlement on mainland North America. Designed to bring to life the artifacts and remains found in nearby site digs, the Jamestown Settlement is a living history museum.
Attractions include a replica of the original James Fort, a Powhatan Indian village, and authentic replica colonist ships.Susan Constant, Godspeed, zdiscovery. These replicas make it easier to relate archaeological finds to the lives of the people who settled here.
Costumed interpreters demonstrate the skills needed for everyday life as a settler, and in the replica town of Paspahegh you can see how the Powhatan prepared food and made tools and clothing. The historical recreation is based on archaeological evidence, artifacts and descriptions left by the colonizers themselves.
Interpreter demonstrations and a range of interactive displays make the Jamestown development a particularly good place for families with children.
Adresse: 2110 Jamestown Road, Williamsburg, Virginia
8. DeWitt Wallace Gallery of Decorative Arts und Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Museum of Folk Art
Two excellent art museums share a building connected to Colonial Williamsburg but not part of the Revolutionary City historic district. The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Gallery features American and British decorative arts from the 17th to 19th centuries.
Specialties include the world's largest collection of Southern United States furniture, one of the largest collections of English china outside of Britain, and an important collection of English silver.
The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum contains one of the most complete collections of American folk art, which includes sculpture, paintings, toys, wood carvings, embroidery, quilts, and decorative items created by untrained artists.
The fresh designs, bright colors and creative ideas that are expressed in these works show an exuberance and spontaneity that make them particularly appealing. Combo museums require a separate Revolutionary City Sights ticket.
Adresse: 325 Francis Street, Williamsburg, Virginia
9. Bruton Parish Church
The parish of Bruton dates back to 1715 when it replaced an earlier smaller building. At this time, the Church of England was the established church in the American colonies, and the General Assembly paid the benches of the governor, council, and citizens. The transept cruciform design, the first in Virginia, was designed by Royal Governor Alexander Spotswood.
There are plaques on the pews with the names of the dignitaries honored there: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, James Madison and others. The original 1761 bell is still in use, the same one that rang in 1776 at the signing of the Declaration of Independence and in 1783 at the signing of the treaty that ended the American Revolution.
Bruton Parish is an active Episcopal church with regular services but is open to visitors at other times with volunteers to point out historical details. Check out the schedule of nightly candlelight shows; like admission to the church, concerts are free.
Adresse: 201 W Duke of Gloucester Street, Williamsburg, Virginia
10. Craft Shops
Some of the most fascinating spots in Williamsburg are the many craft shops, where costumed artisans practice and demonstrate the skills required in any thriving 18th-century town. Step inside to see authentic tools, clothing, and utensils being handcrafted, and chat with artisans.
Among the most interesting are the Blacksmith Shop, the Geddy Foundry and Jewelery Shop, the Harness and Saddlemaker's Workshop, the Shoemaker's, the Gunsmith's Workshop, the Cartwright's and the Carpenter's Workshop. You can see fashion hats made in the milliner's shop; see human, goat and horse hair wigs at Wigmaker's Shop; and watch the cooper at work with casks and buckets in his shop at the Ludwell-Paradise Stable.
At Boticário you will learn how pharmacists acted as doctors, treating patients and performing surgeries.
Berkeley, the most historic of all the plantations along the James River, has received multiple National Historic Landmark status. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated here in 1619, and Taps was composed here in 1862 when it served as Union General McClellan's headquarters during the Civil War.
Berkeley was the hometown of President William Henry Harrison. But today's tourists will remember it mostly for its beautiful Georgian architecture and rooms furnished with priceless antiques. Be sure to visit the restored boxwood terraced gardens overlooking the James River.
Endereço: 12602 Harrison Landing Road (off Rt. 5), Charles City, Virginia
12. Plantation of High Hopes
Along the restored housesHerzog von Gloucester StreetThey were the homes of the wealthiest leaders, but most Williamsburg residents didn't live like that in the 18th century. Most lived and worked on small plantations owned by non-wealthy farmers. They lived in small houses or huts; many were slaves. Great Hopes Plantation is a more recent addition meant to represent the lifestyle on one of these small family farms.
As well as replicas of their buildings, you can see rare breeds of livestock that would have known them, tour their gardens, and see demonstrations of their cooking. The interpreters are busy with everyday tasks - tending plants, caring for animals, making tools, cooking and housework - and are happy to tell about the life of the smallholders and their work.
13. College of William and Mary
The College of William and Mary was founded in 1693 and is the second oldest college in the United States after Harvard. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and John Tyler all took courses here. OWren buildingIt is the oldest active educational building in the United States, originally built in 1695 and rebuilt after a fire in 1732.
The first floor of the Wren building is open, and student-led tours of the campus are filled with history and stories about the college. You can tour the building where British General Cornwallis resided and watch free organ concerts in the chapel. OMuscarelle Art MuseumStage-visiting exhibitions, and sculptures can be seen throughout campus.
Adresse: 200 Stadium Drive, Williamsburg, Virginia
14. Bassett Hall und Casa Brush-Everard
The 18th century home of John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller was built by a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. The house has been restored to how it looked in the 1930s and 1940s. A 15-minute film sets the scene, and a tour of the Rockefeller home provides insight into the family that made Colonial Williamsburg possible. Be sure to visit the extensive flower gardens.
Another fine example of one of the oldest homes in Williamsburg is thisBrush-Everard-Haus,restored to 1773 condition and authentically furnished to illustrate the life of Thomas Everard, an apprentice turned farmer and community leader. The house is particularly noted for its beautifully crafted staircase with carved stair brackets and turned balustrades. You can also see the original kitchen and smokehouse.
Adresse: 522 East Francis Street, Williamsburg, Virginia
15. Immerse yourself in Water Country USA
When the kids have had enough of restored colonial homes and antiques and the summer afternoon heat hits the adults, everyone will enjoy a visit to nearby Water Country, a water park with pirate rides and miniature golf filled with water hazards.
Visitors can cruise the Hubba Hubba Highway, which isn't quite the calm river it seems, and get wet on one of the water slides or in the wave pool. This park is affiliated with the Megaparkbush gardens, and families who want to visit both parks can use combo tickets.
Adresse: 176 Water Country Pkwy, Williamsburg, Virginia
Where to stay in Williamsburg for sightseeing
We recommend these convenient Williamsburg hotels near major historical attractions:
- WilliamsburgInn: This luxury hotel reflects colonial Williamsburg in its decor and spacious rooms, which are furnished with beautiful historical reproductions. After sightseeing, unwind in the spa, fitness center or indoor and outdoor pools. Bike rental is available.
- Woodlands Hotel & Suites - Colonial styleWilliamsburgLocation: Traditionally furnished rooms are in the middle price segment and the hotel offers mini golf, table tennis and an outdoor pool.
- Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites, Williamsburg-HistorischTor: This 3-star hotel features modern decor, an indoor pool and free parking.
- Comfort Inn WilliamsburgTor: Budget rates include breakfast and there's an outdoor pool.
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Historic Virginia:History buffs have much to explore in this part of Virginia, and two great historic centers are within an hour's drive of Williamsburg. CoastalNorfolk, known for its naval base and military history, is packed with related attractions including the BattleshipWisconsin. Inner,the vibrant city of RichmondFirst a large colonial city with strong ties to the independence movement, it was later torn apart by war as the Confederacy tried to keep it out of Union hands for over five years during the Civil War.
Virginia's Neighbors:The District of Columbia sits right on the border between the states of Virginia and Maryland.Washington, D.CIt is home to some of the country's most well-known American landmarks and popular tourist attractions, from the Lincoln Memorial to the vast collections of the Smithsonian Institution. A bit further,Baltimore, MarylandIt's home to even more museums, from art to cryptology, as well as many family attractions like the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center.
Romantic Getaways:One of Virginia's top travel destinations for younger couples isVirginia Beach, popular for its festive atmosphere and countless activities. Those looking for a different vacation experience might want to look further south to findRomantic getaways in North Carolina.
How can I spend a day in Williamsburg VA? ›
- Brunch at Sunday in Brooklyn. Pancake from Sunday in Brooklyn. ...
- Grab a Pour Over at Devoción. ...
- Play Mini Golf at Putting Green Brooklyn. ...
- Admire the Manhattan Skyline From Domino Park. ...
- Grab a Craft Beer at Other Half Brewing. ...
- Watch the Sunset from the William Vale Rooftop.
- Jamestown-Scotland Ferry. 718. Ferries. ...
- Bruton Parish Episcopal Church. 1,184. Churches & Cathedrals. ...
- The College of William and Mary. 791. Educational sites. ...
- Jamestown Glasshouse. 686. Points of Interest & Landmarks. ...
- Merchants Square. 292. ...
- Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center. 384. ...
- Wren Building. 199. ...
- Williamsburg Antique Mall. 188.
Today, Williamsburg is known internationally as the premier center for the preservation and interpretation of American colonial history: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation; and as the home of one of the nation's premier public universities: The College of William & Mary.What can you see for free at Colonial Williamsburg without a ticket? ›
You do not need a pass to go to the Colonial area. You can go and walk the area, and even eat in Chownings or King's Arms Tavern. You can also visit the market square area, and shop stores in both places. The historic buildings and tours are the history you'll miss by not having the pass.How much is a carriage ride in Colonial Williamsburg? ›
Carriage Ride in Colonial Williamsburg
$12.50 with admission pass, $20.00 without pass. When in Williamsburg, do as the colonists would do and take a carriage ride through the Historic District. Carriage rides last approximately 15 minutes and give you an overview of the area.
How long does it take to walk through Colonial Williamsburg? Typically it will take about 2 days to fully experience Colonial Williamsburg. However, you can still walk through the city in only a day if you're okay with skipping a few attractions.Can you walk around Historic Williamsburg for free? ›
While you do not need a ticket to walk around the city, guests must purchase a ticket to enter buildings, participate in events, go on tours, and explore other areas of the historic Williamsburg grounds.Can you walk around Historic Jamestown for free? ›
There are entrance fees for this historical site (check the National Park Service site for the most up-to-date information). However, if you have an Annual or Interagency National Park Service pass, you can get in free, along with 3 guests. What is this? Otherwise, adults age 16 and older have a $15 admission fee.Is the shuttle free at Colonial Williamsburg? ›
Your ticket gets you free unlimited use of our shuttle, which runs from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Shuttle routes begin at the Visitor Center and run throughout the Historic Area.What is there to do in Williamsburg? ›
- Colonial Williamsburg. 12,628. ...
- Historic Jamestowne. 5,488. ...
- Jamestown Settlement. 4,378. ...
- Governor's Palace. 2,535. ...
- Busch Gardens Williamsburg. 9,070. ...
- Jamestown-Scotland Ferry. 718. ...
- Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. 678. ...
- Bruton Parish Episcopal Church. 1,184.
Is there a lot of walking at Colonial Williamsburg? ›
Colonial Williamsburg tips
Even though there is a shuttle service that operates between the Visitor's Center and a number of stops around the perimeter of the historic area, you will still do a lot of walking and standing.
Autumn and spring are great times to visit, not only because the days are cooler, but between the gorgeous fall foliage and lush gardens in March and April, visitors have the best of all worlds.Is there a senior discount at Colonial Williamsburg? ›
There is not a Senior discount; however, there are discounts for 50+ year olds going on right now. AAA has discounts, too as well as online sites.How long does it take to see everything at Colonial Williamsburg? ›
Plan for at Least Four Days To See It All. With its rich colonial history, William and Mary's scenic campus, beautiful waterways, cultural events throughout the year, and a culinary scene just outside our door, plan to stay at least a few nights with us to see some of what Williamsburg has to offer.What does Williamsburg ticket include? ›
This ticket grants you access to five historic sites—including all of Colonial Williamsburg's historic sites, trade shops, and museums—for seven consecutive days from first date of use. Your ticket does not include walking tours, evening programs, or special events for which separate tickets are required.How often does the Williamsburg shuttle run? ›
Shuttles pass each stop approximately every 15 minutes between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.How long is the walk around Colonial Williamsburg? ›
Colonial Williamsburg is a 2.6 mile (6,000-step) route located near Williamsburg, Virginia, USA. This route has an elevation gain of about 82 ft and is rated as easy.How long does it take to tour Jamestown settlement? ›
We recommend you plan at least two hours for your visit, but many visitors end up staying longer when they see how much history is actually here. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes as the Historic site is about three-quarters of a mile long.Can you do Jamestown and Yorktown in one day? ›
Let me start by saying that one day is not really enough time to visit Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, and Yorktown. You do need at least two days to get the full experience, but three are recommended. As you make your plan, consider the driving time between sites, which can be up to 40 minutes.How long does it take to go through historic Williamsburg? ›
To fully experience all that Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia has to offer, you should plan on spending at least two to three days in the area. With two to three days, you can visit all the shops, city sights, and historic homes.
Do you need advance tickets for Williamsburg? ›
Tickets can be purchased upon arrival.Is there free parking at Williamsburg? ›
Free parking is available at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, indicated in green on the map above. Paid parking lots, indicated in peach on the map above, require use of the free Passport app but also offer free two-hour parking in most cases (a Passport app $0.35 convenience fee may apply).Is there free parking in Williamsburg? ›
City Square Parking Terrace, located at 401 N. Boundary St., has 125 spaces of short-term free parking located across the street from the Stryker Center and Williamsburg Library.Do you have to pay for Historic Jamestowne? ›
*An additional fee of $15 is required to access Preservation Virginia resources at Historic Jamestowne, James Fort Site, Archaearium and the jointly managed New Towne portion of Jamestown.Is it free to walk around Williamsburg? ›
While you do not need a ticket to walk around the city, guests must purchase a ticket to enter buildings, participate in events, go on tours, and explore other areas of the historic Williamsburg grounds.Can I visit Colonial Williamsburg for free? ›
The Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area is open to the public for free, but you do need a ticket to get into any of the historical sites or trade shops. Open sites have a flag posted out in front. Make sure to refer to your map and schedule to help you plan your day.Is Williamsburg VA a walkable city? ›
Williamsburg is a very walkable city. Great City Walks (PDF) shows walking tours of varying degree of difficulty and distance throughout the city — including the College of William and Mary campus and Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Area.Can you do Jamestown and Williamsburg in one day? ›
Let me start by saying that one day is not really enough time to visit Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, and Yorktown. You do need at least two days to get the full experience, but three are recommended. As you make your plan, consider the driving time between sites, which can be up to 40 minutes.How long does it take to walk over the Williamsburg Bridge? ›
The walk across the Williamsburg Bridge is shortly over a mile long and it can range from 30 minutes to an hour depending on how much you stop to take pictures along your Williamsburg Bridge walk. Just like the other bridges, it has views of the Manhattan skyline and East River.Is the Williamsburg Bridge free? ›
Opened in 1903, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time. Currently the bridge transports about 140,000 motorists, 92,000 transit riders, 600 bikers and 500 pedestrians between the two boroughs. The bridge is toll free.