Near the site of the original colony, Jamestown Settlement tells the story of 17th-century Virginia, from the…
Virginia: Colonial Williamsburg
The State of Virginia, or more correctly the Commonwealth of Virginia has had a major role in the course of US history. It is here that Jamestown, the first permanent settlement in the original Thirteen Colonies, was established. So, in our journeys through the state, it would have been remiss of us not to spend a goodly amount of time exploring the historical heritage of Virginia.
One of the finest places to experience the past in a very interactive, hands-on way is to visit Colonial Williamsburg, a historic area with hundreds of restored or reconstructed buildings including homes, government buildings, trade shops, and museums. There are over 80 families still residing in buildings that are not currently open to the public. If you don’t believe me it says it on the sign at the entrance.
If you only wish to stroll the streets of Colonial Williamsburg to enjoy the atmosphere and get some exercise, a ticket purchase is not required. However, to enjoy the additional attractions, live events, art museums tours, entrance to some of the buildings, and shuttle service from the Visitor Center, you’ll need to purchase a single or multi-day pass. Colonial Williamsburg is open 365 days a year. Most historic trades and sites are open from 9 am to 5 pm with evening programs running well into the night. The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are open daily from 10 am to 7 pm.
There is a lot to see so it is worth planning ahead, especially if you have limited time. There is a lot of information on the website and I would recommend looking at the week’s event calendar on the “plan” section of the website, that way you’ll be sure not to miss out on anything you really want to see.
Of course, you’ll also want to leave yourself some time just to wander around and explore. We spent our first few hours in town doing just that, and it was a great way to get a sense of how big the area was and what things might interest us later. Thirty-minute orientation tours also run regularly between 9 and 1 every day, including a special tour aimed at families at 10:30 and 11:30. The historical area is quite larges and you will end up doing a lot of walking, and in the summer, as with most of the Eastern seaboard of the United States, it can be very hot and sticky. So, drink lots of water and take your time strolling around!
As I said there are lots of buildings and sites to see, with each building being a museum in its own right. Some of them include a guided tour, and these tended to take at least half an hour. And since you’ll continually stumble across really engaging performances or interpreters, getting from point A to point B is likely to take you longer than you might think as well.
Unlike most of the country, there are no Star-Spangled banners on display in accordance with the Colonial times. But, there were plenty of Union Jacks on prominent display. Being a family of Brits this did give us a momentary burst of national pride before we returned to our normal level of British nationalistic indifference. It is worth noting that the British have a different relationship with the national banner, which is only really displayed in moments of national glory such as a Royal wedding and national sadness, such as getting knocked out of the football (not soccer) World Cup.
You can’t miss the museum staff at Colonial Williamsburg – all of them are in costume, and many actually assume a character as well. I’ve never visited a museum where the staff were better informed or more inclined to interact with the people visiting. Take advantage of this by asking lots of questions. In many of the shops, you can handle the tools or even try your hand at a trade.
If you get tired of walking around the streets of the historic area and are looking for an escape from the hot sun then head to one of the excellent museums that are found close to the main streets of Colonial Williamsburg. Entry to these museums is included in the single and multi-day passes.
ABBY ALDRICH ROCKEFELLAR FOLK ART MUSEUM
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum displays 19th-century folk art objects, such as toys, kitchenware, furniture, paintings and more. Featured exhibits showcase a wide variety of mediums, including paintings and portraits, African-American quilts and folk art.
Ongoing displays include folk musical instruments, German toys in America, an exhibition on decorative but useful forged iron objects and outdoor folk art, such as storefront figures and carousel animals.
DEWITT WALLACE DECORATIVE ARTS MUSEUM
You will enter DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum through the Public Hospital of 1773, which features a three-part exhibit on mental illness and the treatment methods used at that time. Once inside, you can see some of the fineries enjoyed by people of wealth and influence in the earliest days of America. The museum holds one of the largest collections of British ceramic pottery to exist outside of England. The decorative arts museum also contains the world’s largest group of furniture from this part of the world.
DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum offers a wide variety of furniture, paintings, prints, ceramics, metals, glass, firearms and textiles used in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The galleries also provide a glimpse of the breathtaking English silver tea sets and other amenities enjoyed by those with wealth and influence.
In summary …
The historic area of Colonial Williamsburg is expansive and there is so much to see, and because this is a living museum things are always changing. This means that every time you visit things will be different and fresh. It is worth checking the website to see what’s happening to plan your visit most efficiently. You can easily spend a couple of days at Colonial Williamsburg but be prepared to do some walking, which in the summer can be hot and sticky work.
Planning your visit to Colonial Williamsburg
|Address:||101 Visitor Center Dr, Williamsburg|
Colonial Williamsburg is open 365 days a year. Most Historic Trades and Sites are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Youth (6-12) $16.99
Best time to visit Williamsburg
Williamsburg enjoys a moderate climate that experiences a gentle version of all four seasons. It’s not unusual to see golfers out on Christmas Day. Summers do get hot and humid, but the first use of air conditioning in a hotel in the United States was at the Williamsburg Inn, so there’s a long history here of making visitors comfortable. 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
Other places to visit around Williamsburg
1. JAMESTOWN SETTLEMENT
Jamestown is the site of the first permanent English colony in America.
Located near the site of the original colony, Jamestown Settlement tells the story of 17th-century Virginia, from the arrival of English colonists in Jamestown in 1607 to the cultural encounters and events that planted the seeds of a new nation.
2. YORKTOWN BATTLEFIELD
Discover what it took for the United States to be independent as you explore the site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. At Yorktown, in the fall of 1781, General George Washington, with allied American and French forces, besieged General Charles Lord Cornwallis’s British army. On October 19, Cornwallis surrendered, effectively ending the war and ensuring independence.
3. NAUTICUS & BATTLESHIP WISCONSIN
Nauticus is a maritime discovery centre located along the waterfront in downtown, Norfolk offering a unique form of experiential learning for all ages. Through interactive exhibits and STEM to STERN programming, Nauticus uses the museum, Battleship Wisconsin, sailing centre, and Schooner Virginia to tell the story of the maritime environment, industry, and the military.
Where to stay near Williamsburg
1. WILLIAMSBURG INN (5-STAR)
Located in Williamsburg, an 18-minute walk from Fourth of July at Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg Inn – A Colonial Williamsburg Hotel provides accommodations with a restaurant, free private parking, a seasonal outdoor swimming pool and a fitness centre. Among the various facilities are a bar, a garden, as well as a tennis court. The property has a 24-hour front desk, a shuttle service, room service and free WiFi.
The hotel will provide guests with air-conditioned rooms with a desk, a coffee machine, a minibar, a safety deposit box, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with a shower. At Williamsburg Inn, all rooms come with bed linen and towels.
The accommodation has a terrace.
Williamsburg Inn – A Colonial Williamsburg Hotel features amenities such as an on-site business centre, indoor pool and hot tub.
2. NEWPORT HOUSE BED & BREAKFAST
Located in Williamsburg, within a 13-minute walk of Fourth of July at Colonial Williamsburg and 0.9 miles of Jamestown Settlement, Newport House Bed & Breakfast offers accommodations with free WiFi, air conditioning, a garden and a terrace. The property is 1.5 miles from Visitor Center Colonial Williamsburg and 1.5 miles from Colonial Williamsburg.
This bed and breakfast will provide guests with a satellite flat-screen TV, a seating area and a CD player.
Guests at the bed and breakfast can enjoy a Full English/Irish breakfast.
3. CEDARS OF WILLIAMSBURG B&B
Housed in a historic Georgian brick building, this Williamsburg B&B is located across the street from the College of William & Mary and is just a 10-minute walk from Colonial Williamsburg. A daily gourmet breakfast is provided, often served by candlelight on the tavern porch.
Each room at the Cedars of Williamsburg Bed and Breakfast is decked with unique furnishings and décor, including antiques and colonial flourishes. Private bathrooms are provided as well.
Guests at the Cedars of Williamsburg can relax in the on-site gardens, which include fountains and a charming gazebo. A library with a fireplace and a game room are provided as well.
Merchant Square, just over half a mile away, provides plenty of dining options for hungry travellers. The Fat Canary serves New American cuisine in an elegant setting, and Blue Talon Bistro provides a French Brasserie atmosphere.
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