Travel back in time to colonial America at Williamsburg, Virginia. With cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and colonial music, featuring fifes and drums, being performed in the street, you will experience a vacation like no other—and even learn a few things about our country’s history along the way. You can even tour historic buildings and colonial shops to see what life in early America was really like. On your next trip, here are 7 things you must do in colonial Williamsburg.
Colonial Williamsburg Regional Visitor Center
The Colonial Williamsburg Regional Visitor Center is a great place to start, especially if you aren’t familiar with the area. You can talk with knowledgeable professionals about all of the local attractions, bus schedules, and special events. You are also able to get tickets here for America’s Historic Triangle—Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown.
This is also a good starting point, especially if you don’t happen to be staying within walking distance of the historic district. You are able to park here for the day and take a shuttle bus to the historic district, find out about all events that are going on, get tickets for certain attractions, and even enjoy some shopping.
A stop here wouldn’t be complete without the kids trying on the colonial style tricorne hats…
The Historic District of Colonial Williamsburg
When you think of colonial America, all of the images that your imagination may conjure up can probably be found in the Historic District of Colonial Williamsburg—cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, colonial musicians, and plenty of townspeople in full colonial garb at each of the colonial shops. Your family can visit everything from a colonial candle-maker to a shoemaker, a weaver, or even a silversmith’s shop and see how things were made over 200 years ago.
Duke of Gloucester Street is the main street where you can find most of the tourist and historic sites, although there are more places to visit just north of Duke of Gloucester Street. What was really great about the Historic District is that everything is within walking distance—although you will be walking a few miles by the time you take in all the sights—so wear some comfortable shoes!
While you are in the historic district, you can even get a photo opportunity in the Pillory (a form of colonial punishment for criminals).
Williamsburg honors military service
While visiting the historic district, active duty military, veterans, retired military, and their families can visit the Liberty Lounge absolutely free. This air-conditioned lounge area features vintage military memorabilia and offers complimentary hot and cold beverages. Visitors can also access wireless internet and enjoy the children’s area.
I must say, on the hot, sultry day that we were there, the AC and cold water sure hit the spot!
Military families can also get discounts on single day and annual pass tickets—active duty military can get one complimentary ticket per year and up to three more for dependents; veterans and retired military can receive 50% off their tickets and for up to five dependents.
Eat a colonial meal
While you are in the historic district, eating a meal at one of the colonial-style restaurants is a must. We ate at the King’s Arms Tavern and the experience was wonderful.
Of course, the meal was enjoyed by candlelight and served on china and glassware (if you have small children, you won’t be getting a plastic cup with a lid or straw here!) You can even try some colonial-style food too, like this peanut soup:
Visit the Historic Venues
There are several buildings that are original historic sites—such as the Governor’s mansion and the Capitol. The beauty of the architecture can be enjoyed from the outside, but you can also get tickets to take tours of the inside as well.
Visit the College of William and Mary
Literally within walking distance of the historic district of Williamsburg, the college was established before Williamsburg ever existed.
Even though the plans for this college date back to 1618, the College of William and Mary actually is the second oldest college in America (Harvard is the oldest college, just in case you were wondering).
One of the most interesting parts of the college was the college camp. Students camped here with the college president Rev. James Madison to form a college company before the Battle of Yorktown.
Despite the plans for the college being delayed, the College of William and Mary has plenty of firsts to tout, but here are some of the highlights:
- Construction for the Wren building, named in honor of Sir Christopher Wren, started in 1695, making it the oldest college building still standing in America.
- First college in to have plans pre-dating Harvard, even though the college was established after Harvard became a college.
- First American college to receive its charter from the Crown under the Seal of the Privy Council in 1693, and appropriately named as their Majesties’ Royal College of William and Mary.
- First and only American college to receive a Coat of Arms from the College of Heralds in 1694.
- First college to have the elective system of study, 1779.
- First college to become a university, 1779
Enjoy shopping at Colonial Williamsburg’s Merchants Square
While there are over 40 shops and restaurants at Merchants Square, there is also live entertainment at various spots, to enjoy as you browse and window shop. If you parked at the Visitor Center, this is also a stop along the shuttle bus route, so you can easily go from the historic district to Merchants Square.
A fun trip can also be an educational trip. This trip back in time to colonial America gives adults and children an experience that you won’t find in a textbook. Williamsburg truly is a historic adventure for the whole family.
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