Colonial Williamsburg for History Lovers
101 S Henry St, Williamsburg, VA
Insider tips and recommendations from fellow history lovers as well as current and former employees and volunteers.
Planning your visit
- Colonial Williamsburg offers one of the most authentic American history experience you can get.
- Go to the Colonial Williamsburg website to get up to date information about purchasing tickets online, events, sales, and special offers.
- Download the Colonial Williamsburg Explorer App to help you customize your trip according to your interests. Included in the app are existing trip itineraries that you can use for inspiration.
- To see all that the area has to offer, you’ll want to split your visit up into two days. This allows you to thoroughly immerse yourself in the history and stories of Williamsburg without rushing through.
- Pack for the season because of the walking and fun outside tours. A drink is great to carry all seasons but make sure it can be sealed and put away for the historic buildings. (Ava Eder)
- It can be scorching hot in the summer, and the rain can fall by the bucket. So check the forecast and bring sunscreen, an umbrella, and whatever else you might need. You can always pick up a straw hat or cocked hat in one of the shops. Apply sunscreen and stay hydrated on a hot day.
- I recommend comfortable shoes as you will walk a lot but it’s well worth it. (Grace McDaniel Dempsey)
- Be aware of the closing times and the importance of scheduling. A MUST for first-time visitors. (Marcie Smith)
When to visit
- Colonial Williamsburg is great to visit any time of the year.
- Off season is between January and March. While there are fewer crowds, several buildings and taverns are closed for maintenance and living history and several entertainment programs are more limited.
- When visiting during off season, all staff that is working has a lot of time to spend with visitors and answer questions. There’s no wait to get tours and into attractions.
- The busiest time is during summer when schools are on break and around Christmas.
- Best time is Christmas, where you can catch the decorations and special events. (Ruth Ann Edmunds and Ava Eder)
- Spring or fall are great times when the weather is better as it does get very hot in Virginia during the summer. (Larissa Moran Chancellor)
Selecting the tour or tours to take
- You can walk around the whole town at no cost. Unfortunately, if you don't pay the admission, all you cannot have access to the buildings with flags in front of them and other important history displays.
- You can purchase a Sampler Ticket. These are wonderful for history lovers who only have a few hours to visit or if you're on a budget. The sampler ticket grants you access to a combination of four of the trade shops, city sites, or family homes and gardens.
- You can also explore Colonial Williamsburg's interest-based itineraries to start planning your adventure.
- The witch trial at night is fun, you become the jury! Ghost tours are lots of fun year round and the Christmas tide tour is fun around the holidays. (Ava Eder)
- There is so much to do along the street. Just walk in and out of shops, and various costume people walking around. Take the time to tour the College of William and Mary. It’s a beautiful campus you can cross the bridge that T. Jefferson would use and it’s a highlight on campus. It’s worth seeing for sure. (Larissa Moran Chancellor)
- Take advantage of being so close to Jamestown and Yorktown, and visit there too. (Kimberleigh Lloyd Taylor)
- The Native American community is incredibly knowledgeable and engaging. I feel they’re under-attended because they don’t have a stationary building for people to identify as a stopping point. (Marcie Smith)
- Some history lovers highly recommend any of the "Behind the Scenes" tours at Bruton Heights.
When you visit
- Start your visit at the Visitor Center to purchase tickets, redeem online tickets, to find information on current activities and events, and to pick up a free copy of the "Colonial Williamsburg Map & Program Guide" and "Today's Programs."
- The Visitor Center will help orient you for your experience in the Revolutionary City as well as give you a glimpse into all that Williamsburg has to offer.
- Walk the streets, tour the buildings and grounds, drink it all in! Like walking back in time. My favorite places are the gun magazine, the Governor's mansion, the General Assembly building, the Raleigh Tavern, and the Wythe House. But all the places are special - the bread and bakery; the printing press; the pewter and cooper smith shop; the gunsmith. The kitchen and gardens - including a maze! - outside the Governor's Mansion. Just so much to see and do! (Marie Culbreth)
- Don’t miss out on the opportunity to have a conversation with an interpreter. You can ask them any question you may have about the time period, their life, or the city. These interpreters have extensive knowledge of life in Colonial Williamsburg and about the particular individual they represent.
- The lawn in front of Governors Residence is where many meetings occurred between the British and the Shawnee tribe. (Ara Carbonneau)
- Eat at one of the taverns, drink hot chocolate at Charlton's, and eat at The Cheese Shoppe! (Kimberleigh Lloyd Taylor and Larisa Moran Chancellor)
- Visit the Raleigh Tavern Bakery everyday between 10-12 only to watch the gingercakes get baked - and enjoy a hot one right out of the oven! (Laurel LaClair Housden)
- Thanksgiving is a nice time to have a celebratory meal in one of the Taverns - either at The Kings Arms, Christiana Campbells or Chownings Taverns. You need to make your reservations early, some people book them a year in advance.
Especially for kids
- If traveling with kids, you might want to try the Family Fun Trek itinerary. Activities include a children's tour of the palace, a kid friendly ghost walk tour and other hands-on activities that immerse children in 18th century life.
- Take a carriage ride.
- Do the children's dress-up and tour/scavenger hunt with them.
- See all the dramatic reenactments, chat with the docents and historic characters including Patrick Henry, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and many others. (Marie Culbreth)
- Tour Great Hopes Plantation
- Play colonial games
- Try the infantry training
Do you have tips and recommendations to add? What else should a history lover visit when they are in the area? Please add them in the comments below.
Introduction to Colonial Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg is a living-history museum depicting life in the 18th century featuring exhibits of dozens of restored or re-created buildings related to its colonial and American Revolutionary War history. It is the world's largest living history museum, boasting over forty sites and trades, four historic taverns, and two world-class art museums.
Updated August 20, 2018