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How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Williamsburg, Virginia

Williamsburg has charming inns, world-class museums, and one of T+L readers' favorite resorts in the South.

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Best time to visit, how to get there, neighborhoods to visit, how to get around.

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Depending on past experience, travelers may associate Williamsburg, Virginia, with a few different things. For many, school trips and family vacations brought them to the Historic Triangle: Jamestown, Yorktown, and Colonial Williamsburg , the 18th-century living history museum with sites, tours, and exhibitions up and down Duke of Gloucester Street (more affectionately known as DoG Street). Some know Williamsburg for its adventure parks, Busch Gardens and Great Wolf Lodge water park. Others recognize it as the home of William & Mary , the second-oldest college in the United States. 

No matter your familiarity, or lack thereof, with Williamsburg, one thing's for sure: There’s something for everyone. Leslie Shotwell, the guest loyalty and experience manager at Williamsburg Inn , Griffin Hotel , and Colonial Houses-Historic Lodging , notes that Williamsburg "provides experiences and fun for all ages," whether you’re interested in "leisure and relaxation" or the area’s "historical sites, world-class art museums, a variety of accommodation options … [or] beautiful arboretum gardens." It’s these factors — as well as the various culinary offerings and outdoor activities — that put Williamsburg on the list of Travel + Leisure readers’ favorite cities in the U.S. in the 2023 World’s Best Awards . 

While history is central to Williamsburg’s narrative and culture, the nearly 16,000-person city continues to grow and evolve. "I graduated from William & Mary in 2005 and returned full-time starting in 2014. During that time, and since then, there has been an absolute explosion in things to do, places to dine, and experiences to enjoy," says Robby Willey, co-founder of The Virginia Beer Co . "This is not just the Williamsburg you visited in elementary school." 

Read on to discover where to stay and what to do in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Top 5 Can’t Miss

  • Stay in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg at the luxurious, award-winning Williamsburg Inn.
  • Take the scenic route along the Colonial Parkway, a 23-mile drive connecting Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown.
  • Meander down the brick walkways and into the shops in Merchants Square.
  • Enjoy a sandwich from The Cheese Shop — and don't forget to ask for extra House Dressing.
  • Explore the neighborhoods outside of Colonial Williamsburg via the Williamsburg Tasting Trail.

Courtesy of The Williamsburg Inn

Williamsburg Inn

Voted by T+L readers as one of their favorite resorts in the South , the Williamsburg Inn is a stalwart character in the area. Its old-school elegance and history are complemented by its various amenities and activities — among them, a top-notch spa, a golf course, and several on-site restaurants. 

Williamsburg Manor Bed & Breakfast

"There are a number of amazing bed-and-breakfasts around Greater Williamsburg (don't sleep on The Inn at Eagles' Watch ), but the brewery has a long history with the Williamsburg Manor . We used to pour at charity tailgates there, hosted by the innkeepers, ahead of William & Mary football games (with Zable Stadium a mere block away)," says Willey. The six-room B&B conveniently sits right on Richmond Road, which takes you into Colonial Williamsburg. "When my wife and I were married in 2020, my entire family stayed here … The owners are generous, the trappings are wonderful, and that food in the morning! My father-in-law still talks about the shrimp and grits he enjoyed there at our post-wedding brunch the next day. And, as we know, to get a recurring compliment from any father-in-law is no easy feat," says Willey. 

Williamsburg Lodge, Autograph Collection

The decor of its rooms may be inspired by Colonial Williamsburg, but Williamsburg Lodge, Autograph Collection has all of the modern touches you’d want in a hotel. Plus, it’s located around the corner from its sibling property, the Williamsburg Inn, so guests also have access to the spa, golf courses, and fitness center.  

Kingsmill Resort

Travelers who want to experience downtown Williamsburg, but prefer something more remote and closer to the water, should consider the various accommodation options at Kingsmill Resort . Whether you’re booking a standard guest room as a solo traveler or couple, a multiroom condo as a family, or the 7,000-square-foot Estate at Kingsmill as a larger group, you’ll be able to enjoy the resort’s range of recreational activities along the James River. 

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Discover the Black history of Colonial Williamsburg.

It would be a mistake to visit Colonial Williamsburg and not make an effort to understand the role of Black and enslaved individuals in the area during the 18th century. Colonial Williamsburg provides a self-guided itinerary, titled The African American Experience , but visitors can also take the African American History in Williamsburg tour with Williamsburg Walking Tours . 

Drive along Colonial Parkway.

"There's some real natural beauty in this area, and the Colonial Parkway — a 23-mile historic roadway stretching from the York River at Yorktown to the James River at Jamestown — is a great showcase of much of it. It connects you to the historic areas, but also lets you experience a wide expanse of Williamsburg — and if you end up in Yorktown, a pint of Free Verse at the Yorktown Pub is the perfect end to a long journey," says Willey. Just be sure to check for any closures on the National Park Service website before embarking on your drive. 

Get a dose of collegiate nostalgia on William & Mary’s campus.

A crisp fall day is best spent wandering the grounds of William & Mary. The Old Campus, which neighbors Colonial Williamsburg, is especially beautiful. The brick paths connect the famed Wren Building, the President’s House, and several other impressive structures. If the weather permits, take a seat by one of the school’s most distinguishing features, the Sunken Garden. 

Spend a day exploring the Williamsburg Tasting Trail.

There are 12 total stops on the Williamsburg Tasting Trail , a 21-and-over experience highlighting the different breweries, wineries, distilleries, and meaderies in the area. Start with a game plan, assign your designated driver, and then begin your day at Alewerks Brewing Company, Silver Hand Meadery, The Virginia Beer Co., Williamsburg Winery Tasting Room and Wine Bar, or any other spots you want to try. 

Enjoy some family fun at Busch Gardens or the Great Wolf Lodge water park. 

Roller coasters and waterslides can entertain everyone for an entire weekend. Grab tickets for Busch Gardens or its water park, Water Country USA. Great Wolf Lodge water park also offers day passes for its collection of wave pools, lazy rivers, waterslides, and interactive water play areas.

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Best Shopping 

"Located adjacent to Colonial Williamsburg's historic area is Merchants Square ," says Shotwell. "The storefronts are diverse, as some doors take shoppers through an 18th-century experience with handmade gifts and local goods, while others are modern brands we all know and love."

The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg

Perusing The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg and sampling its complimentary confections is par for the course when shopping in Merchants Square. Start with the salted peanuts, move on to the chocolate-covered variety, and round out your visit with the nut brittle.  

Campus Shop

For all things William & Mary, including sweatshirts, T-shirts, and hats, pop into Campus Shop , a quaint storefront on Prince George Street. Even if you didn’t attend the College, you can still rep the green and gold with pride. 

The Shoe Attic

If you want to add to your wardrobe while in Williamsburg, drop by The Shoe Attic for fashionable footwear from brands like Jeffrey Campbell and Dolce Vita, and try on some new pieces from Crosby by Mollie Burch or Minkpink.

Wythe Candy & Gourmet Shop

A trip to Wythe Candy & Gourmet Shop has no age limit; the nostalgic sweet treat experience involves peering at the candied apples, picking out some homemade fudge, and taking home a few bags of gummies and chocolates.

Paul’s Deli, College Delly, and Green Leafe Cafe

"To experience real Williamsburg, as a student or a local does, you have to grab a beer and bite at one of the downtown delis," says Willey. " Paul's Deli , the College Delly , and the Green Leafe — just across from the historic William & Mary campus — are three community staples featuring comfort food, Greek and Italian specialties, and some solid local brews." And yes, the cheese fries at Paul’s are legendary. 

Blackbird Bakery

Chef David Everett has put his stamp on Williamsburg in many areas; Blue Talon Bistro , DoG Street Pub , La Piazza (housed in what was formerly The Trellis), and Blackbird Bakery all fall under his ownership. The latter is the perfect stop for a pick-me-up cup of Illy coffee, a loaf of freshly baked bread, a croissant, or a chocolate chip cookie. 

The Cheese Shop, Fat Canary, and Downstairs at Fat Canary

"Everyone in Williamsburg knows The Cheese Shop and their world-famous sandwiches with House Dressing," says Willey. "[But] not everyone knows that the family who runs The Cheese Shop also runs a fine-dining experience just next door, called the Fat Canary .” Fat Canary's seasonal menu changes on a regular basis, but expect crispy oysters, pan-seared sea scallops, braised beef short ribs, and the like. Willey also shares how, "almost every night," the wine cellar beneath The Cheese Shop transforms into Downstairs at Fat Canary, what he calls a "speakeasy-style find right in the midst of Colonial Williamsburg." No need to make a reservation — "you have to catch them when they're open."

Christiana Campbell’s Tavern, King’s Arms Tavern, or Shields Tavern

Cozying up at one of Colonial Williamsburg’s 18th-century taverns — Christiana Campbell’s Tavern , King’s Arms Tavern , or Shields Tavern — is an appropriate way to spend a few hours, particularly in the late fall or winter. Christiana Campbell’s Tavern, "known as one of George Washington’s favorite places to dine," according to Shotwell, serves up a historically inspired menu that includes hoe cakes, chowder, and fried chicken. She adds, "Candlelit rooms with the soft sounds of tavern music complete the dining experience."

"Each season brings exciting new programs and experiences for both guests and locals to enjoy," says Shotwell. But she and Willey agree that fall is decidedly the best time to visit Williamsburg. "The eastern Virginia heat is just beginning to taper off, the leaves are turning, the Festbier is fresh, and football is back," explains Willey. "The William & Mary community is a proud one, and enjoying a day of tailgating ahead of Tribe football is a memory maker. Don some green and gold gear, grab a pregame bite at one of the delis, raise a round at a local tailgate, then join us inside Zable Stadium to root on the student athletes," he adds. 

When planning a fall trip, though, travelers should make a note of William & Mary’s annual Homecoming Weekend in October. The school spirit Willey mentioned brings in alumni from across the world, and it can be harder to find accommodations or tables at the more popular restaurants.

American Airlines operates daily flights between Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF), the closest airport to downtown Williamsburg, and Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT). Travelers can also fly into Norfolk International Airport (ORF) or Richmond International Airport (RIC); both are about 45 minutes to an hour away. Amtrak also serves Williamsburg, with the Northeast Regional route stopping at the city’s brick depot station, a five-minute ride from Colonial Williamsburg. 

The Edge District

"There are some amazing communities with some amazing shopping and dining experiences that are not located in the traditional tourist areas," says Willey. The Edge District, home to The Virginia Beer Co., can be found between Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens. While there, take a distillery tour of Copper Fox or shop for antiques at The Velvet Shoestring . 

Billed as a "mixed-use 'New Urbanism' community," New Town is a quick, 10-minute drive from Colonial Williamsburg and caters to visitors looking for traditional retail stores, restaurants, and a good place to stretch their legs. Barnes and Noble Booksellers , Bonefish Grill , and Regal New Town Cinemas 12 are just a few of the businesses featured on the neighborhood’s extensive roster. 

Midtown Row and High Street

Richmond Road, the main thoroughfare in Williamsburg, can be broken down into a few areas. It ends or begins — depending on your point of view — at the edge of Colonial Williamsburg and continues northwest, navigating through High Street and Midtown Row, two neighborhoods made up of residences, retailers, and entertainment options. The former has a movie theater, Movie Tavern, as well as a coffee shop, Tipsy Beans Cafe , and several grab-and-go restaurants. Midtown Row is a bit closer to Colonial Williamsburg and William & Mary, and has a grocery store and several dining options, including  Sal’s by Victor , Amiraj , and Super Chix .

RYAN M. KELLY/AFP via Getty Images

Colonial Williamsburg itself is highly walkable, but a car is helpful if you plan to drive the Colonial Parkway or explore the Greater Williamsburg area. Local transportation is also provided by the iconic Williamsburg Trolleys. There are three red and green replica trolleys that make their way from Merchants Square to High Street and New Town every day. Round-trip tickets are just 50 cents. 

Travelers can also rent e-bikes through Williamsburg on Wheels , a local company that offers e-bike and Segway tours of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and the surrounding area. 

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17 Ways To Discover The Charm Of Williamsburg, Virginia

The colonial charmer is having a modern moment.

Marisa Spyker is the Senior Writer at Southern Living, where she enjoys dabbling in stories throughout the magazine, from gorgeous home features to profiles of the South's creatives. Prior to joining the team in 2019, Marisa was an editor at Coastal Living, coastalliving.com, and Luxe Interiors + Design. Her career spans nearly 15 years, much of which has been spent staring at photos of pretty homes and gleaning inspiration for her next beach vacation.

While born and raised in South Florida and a proud University of Florida alum (Go Gators!), she currently lives with her husband and two daughters in Santa Cruz, California. She can often be found schooling West Coasters on the joys of Southern charm and Key Lime Pie.

travel to williamsburg va

When you chat with the locals in the town of Williamsburg, Virginia, you'll often hear the phrase "fall in love." Meandering through its 18th-century epicenter, it's easy to see why. Here, horse-drawn carriages clip-clop down cobbled streets lined with mature oaks; verdant fields are laid out like red carpets leading toward stately brick buildings; and white picket fences guard flurries of daffodils and flocks of sheep.

But the small-town charm extends far beyond its many colonial treasures. Today, Williamsburg's appeal lies in its ability to perform a delicate dance between old and new, between honoring its past and embracing a more modern future. Here are the top things to do to enjoy this charming town.

Experience Community

Brittany Rolston owns The Shoe Attic , a boutique in the heart of town. After living outside Washington, D.C., for years, Rolston says she's found something special in Williamsburg: community. "One of the biggest draws is the people," she says. "Everyone is so nice and welcoming, and I think that's what ultimately makes visitors fall in love with it and want to stay."

Colonial Williamsburg  and  Busch Gardens are popular attractions that Williamsburg has come to be known for, but there's more to explore. "Williamsburg has grown so much in the past few years," says Rolston. "People aren't coming here just for the history or theme parks anymore. They're coming to enjoy the town."

Browse the Shops

That sea change is evident in the bustling Merchants Square , where nearly 100-year-old general stores share sidewalks with contemporary boutiques and trendy taprooms. Those who know Williamsburg well find comfort in familiar mainstays like The Cheese Shop , a local institution famous for its stuffed sandwiches slathered in an addictive secret-recipe house dressing.

Retailers in Merchants Square range from the cute to the fabulously funky. For a whimsical mix of fashionable must-haves and statement-making wild cards, browse Rolston's The Shoe Attic. At French Twist Boutique find breezy closet staples (like the perfect linen dress) at reasonable prices. And if you're looking for something everyone can enjoy, The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg shows off famous Virginia peanuts in a plethora of flavors.

Get Outside

Be sure to take advantage of the network of rambling scenic trails. Ambitious runners and bikers can hit the winding, paved 52-mile Virginia Capital Trail , which travels through postcard-worthy pastures all the way from Jamestown to Richmond. Freedom Park offers shorter trails for hiking and biking with a side of history: It was once home to one of the earliest free Black settlements in America.

Grab a Bite

Serving elevated riffs on classic bar fare (like their delicious oak-smoked chicken wings), Amber Ox Public House has a rustic vibe and a roster of regulars (so be sure to make a reservation). Another gem of the city's food scene, Casa Pearl Oysters & Tacos —helmed by a young chef and veteran of Charleston, South Carolina's The Ordinary —delivers the Chesapeake Bay's finest bounty in a casual gas station turned oyster and taco bar.

Hit the Tasting Trail

The burgeoning Williamsburg Tasting Trail , which includes craft breweries, distilleries, wineries, and even a meadery (a marriage, once again, of past and present), is transforming the historic town into a boozy getaway. A few standouts: Billsburg Brewery serves up frosty pints in a peaceful marina-front setting. Silver Hand Meadery , meanwhile, reimagines the ancient sipper with rare and locally sourced varietal honey.

Resident Chris Smith along with business partner Robby Willey attended college here at William & Mary before setting off to pursue big-city career opportunities. But they both soon felt the familiar pull of small-town living and, putting their degrees in business and economics to use, decided to follow their dream of opening their own brewery. Williamsburg was the obvious choice. "It felt like a very authentic story—we met each other here, and we ultimately came back to a community that we wanted to support," says Smith.

After years of researching and planning, their The Virginia Beer Co. opened and is now among the slew of burgeoning businesses along the Williamsburg Tasting Trail. Housed in an old auto body shop—a cue taken from brew scenes in large cities—The Virginia Beer Co. is now a go-to spot on sunny Saturday afternoons when locals gather around communal picnic tables to clink frothy pints with names like Liquid Escape.

The Precarious Beer Project is luring city dwellers from Richmond and D.C. for a weekend (or even a lifetime). The 10,000-square-foot brewery and music venue and its Southern-style dining counterpart, Amber Ox Public House, which has its own Beer Lab, are also helmed by a pair of young investors, Chris Cook and Andrew Voss. But unlike many other local entrepreneurs who are inevitably lured back to Williamsburg, Voss (a Michigan native) had no previous connection to the town before he was wooed by an initial visit and decided to invest in it.

"What we've grown to appreciate about this place is that it feels very much like a small community, but it has this really cool downtown vibe," Voss says. "When people who don't know Williamsburg come to visit, they are often blown away by just how much there is to see and do here."

That's the magic of Williamsburg. Whether you come here for the unmatched historic character or craft brews, the friendly neighbors, or the bucolic beauty, it's a place that reels you in and keeps calling you back for more.

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8 Best Things to Do in Williamsburg, VA

Updated July 20, 2021

For an American history lesson unlike any other, you've come to the right place. This town – like other best places to visit in Virginia – prides itself on its living history museums, which include Colonial Williamsburg and the cluster of sites

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Colonial Williamsburg Colonial Williamsburg

According to many, this site is like a Disney theme park for history fanatics. Plus, Colonial Williamsburg's appeal isn't just for kids but also for anyone who feels young at heart. Visitors to Colonial Williamsburg will be greeted with townspeople, shopkeepers, politicians, enslaved laborers and more who called the Revolutionary City home. More than 20 guided and self-guided tours are available on a daily basis, including ghost walks, garden tours, city itineraries and carriage rides. Travelers can also shop authentic wares and sample 18th-century-inspired meals.

Recent visitors praised Colonial Williamsburg, saying it offered an expertly recreated step back in time and helped them understand more about this period and our nation's history. This history-themed park also earns kudos for employing knowledgeable guides and maintaining pristine facilities throughout. However, travelers warn that the ticket prices to access Colonial Williamsburg are on the steep side.

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Jamestown Jamestown

You've probably heard the legends of the settlers that first arrived in the spring of 1607; of Captain John Smith's leadership; of Pocahontas' role in smoothing relations between the settlers and the Powhatan Confederacy. All these historical stories are on display in living museums, exhibits and monuments clustered around a parcel of land loosely known as "Jamestown."  Despite its colloquial associations, this area is technically made up of several historic areas. First up: Historic Jamestowne, the actual archeological site on Jamestown Island where the original 1607 settlers were based. Next door is the Jamestown Settlement, a re-enactment museum with replicas of the settlers' ships, plus life-size models of their homes and the villages of the area's American Indians. And adjacent to that: Yorktown Victory Center, another open-air living museum that chronicles the British troops surrender to the United States at the Yorktown Battlefield in 1781.

As a whole, the Jamestown area receives favorable reviews for offering three intriguing historical attractions within one space. Travelers call Jamestown and its historic sites "captivating," "interesting" and a place where "history comes alive." Many were also impressed with the engaging tour guides.

travel to williamsburg va

Water Country USA Water Country USA

If you can stand the large crowds, you should be more than pleased with Water Country USA, say several recent parkgoers. Some of Water Country's popular attractions include Surfer's Bay (a wave pool), Vanish Point (a 75-foot tower slide), the Jet Scream (an inner tube slide) and Big Daddy Falls (a whitewater rapids ride). There's also Cow-A-Bunga (a kiddie pool area) and lessons can be arranged for less-confident swimmers (these cost extra).  Visitors appreciate the variety of water attractions and say the wait times aren't unreasonable at rides, slides and concession  stands  despite all the people. 

You can find Water Country USA in the same vicinity as Busch Gardens , southeast of Williamsburg.  It's open from late spring until Labor Day weekend. Each day begins at 10 a.m., but closing time ranges from 5 to 8 p.m., depending on the  day . Single-day tickets cost between $45 and $52, but there are also bundle passes to visit Water Country over several days or to visit the water park,  Colonial Williamsburg  and other nearby attractions for a set price.  Go to the official website for more information.

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Busch Gardens Busch Gardens

One of the real perks of this theme park, located southeast of Williamsburg, is that it truly does have something for all ages to enjoy. And that's not just a PR pitch: Toddlers will love the Sesame Street Forest of Fun and the chance to meet some of that show's most beloved characters. Bigger kids can enjoy rides and animal shows like Pet Shenanigans, which features trained dogs, birds and cats. Teens are the prime candidates to stand in line for thrilling coasters like the Alpengeist, the Griffon or the Loch Ness Monster. Finally, adults flock to the themed country lands, especially the Oktoberfest village and its beer gardens.

Recent parkgoers described the grounds as well maintained, though they do warn that you'll do a lot of walking so you should bring comfortable shoes. Travelers also say that while food here is priced like typical park food, the quality is much higher than what they've encountered at other theme parks.

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Jamestown Glasshouse Jamestown Glasshouse

According to the National Park Service, "one of the first English attempts at industrialization and manufacturing in America was glassblowing." This replica of a colonial glasshouse allows visitors to get a feel for how artisans produced glass centuries ago. The original structure was built in 1608, when settlers first arrived at the colony. Travelers can get a close look at what's left of the original furnaces and see modern-day glassblowers create everything from candleholders and vases to wine bottles and other useful glass products. What's more, visitors can purchase some glass goods at the on-site gift shop.

Recent visitors were impressed with the glasshouse and said they enjoyed watching the glassblowing demonstrations. Many said the glassblowers were eager to share their knowledge of the craft and explain the process. Travelers also said you should bring some extra cash as you'll probably want to purchase something from the gift shop.

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Williamsburg Premium Outlets Williamsburg Premium Outlets

When you need a break from the history lessons in Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown , head to these outlets for some modern-day shopping. Housing stores like Nike, Banana Republic, Coach, Gap, J. Crew, Polo Ralph Lauren and more, the Williamsburg Premium Outlets offer steep discounts on brand-name clothes and gear. Recent travelers were particularly impressed with the selection of shops and the deals available, though some lamented encountering parking challenges and suggested arriving early to beat the crowds.

The outlets are situated about 5 miles north of Williamsburg; stores are open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. For additional information, visit the Williamsburg Premium Outlets website .

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Williamsburg Winery Williamsburg Winery

Though this winery is only 4 miles south of central Williamsburg, travelers describe it as a decent daytrip and a break from the numerous historical sites in town. The 320-acre winery features Old World- and New World-style wines and grows plenty of grape varietals, including merlot, cabernet franc, malbec, vidal blanc and viognier. The winery offers basic tours and tastings, in addition to more elaborate experiences; there's also an on-site retail shop for those interested in taking home some vino as well.

Recent visitors said the atmosphere makes for an enjoyable outing and many said they loved the varied wines in the tastings (and how affordable a standard tasting is). However, wine connoisseurs were a little disappointed with the quality of the wine and some mentioned the bottles in the retail shop were overpriced.

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Yorktown Battlefield Yorktown Battlefield

With so many spots devoted to Colonial and Revolutionary history in the Williamsburg area, what makes Yorktown Battlefield so special? For starters, it's the site of the 1781 siege and surrender of British troops to General George Washington in the Revolutionary War. And second, it completes the "Historic Triangle" of southeastern Virginia's colonial sites, which also include Jamestown and Williamsburg.

But before you visit, a word to the wise, thanks to a healthy majority of recent tourists: If you're looking for a brief overview of Yorktown, just visit the Yorktown Victory Center at Jamestown. There you can witness a re-enactment of this monumental war and surrender. However, if you want to actually tread the paths of Revolutionary soldiers, then you should visit the cannons and still-dug trenches of the battleground. Just know that Yorktown is about 15 miles southeast of the central Williamsburg area; Jamestown is only about 8 miles away.

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Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary: The Ultimate Guide for Travelers

This article may contain referral links. Read our DISCLOSURE

Do you include history in your travels? If so, this Colonial Williamsburg itinerary is a must-do for history lovers visiting Virginia . This itinerary helps you plan before you go, identifies the best historical buildings in Williamsburg to see, along with tips for the best places to dine and stay plus other things to do while you are in the area.

Colonial Williamsburg is a meticulously researched look at life in early America. Debi Lander ( ByLanderSea ), who has visited many times over the years, has written a Colonial Williamsburg travel guide that’s perfect for boomer travelers. Enjoy!

Colonial Williamsburg, America’s oldest and largest living history experience, remains near and dear to my heart. At times, I have felt like I lived and walked along Duke of Gloucester Street when Williamsburg was Virginia’s 18th-century capital.

A mile-long stretch runs from the 1693 Wren Building of the College of William and Mary to the reconstructed Capitol. “The Revolutionary City” covers 301-acres with 88 original buildings, 500 reconstructed houses, shops, public buildings, gardens, working craftsmen, and costumed interpreters.

While visiting Williamsburg, folks stroll along car-free cobblestone paths or take carriage rides, stopping to see artisans at work and merchants behind shop counters. They hear stories about the patriots from actor-interpreters called Nation Builders.

Man in colonial garb speaks to a group of visitors at Colonial Williamsburg.

These individuals portray actual historical figures, male and female, black and white, free and enslaved—who made significant contributions in Williamsburg. In some cases, Nation Builders have made it their life’s work to study and deeply understand the character they portray.

Ask them a question, and they will respond in their persona, occasionally with exact quotes.

The opportunity to understand our nation’s past, the struggles to break away from British rule and gain freedom makes a powerful reason to visit. Equally compelling stories come from the enslaved for whom a nearer power than Great Britain held them in a greater form of bondage.

While history usually whispers, it speaks loud and clear in Colonial Williamsburg ( official website ).

However, the destination offers much more than history; it’s the kind of getaway most Boomers prefer. You’ll find a city with fine dining, world-class museums, resort-like lodging, heritage gardens, championship golf, spa, antiques, and for those who wish – lots of walking.

Williamsburg, Virginia is also ideal for taking the grandkids or the extended family. It’s a surefire winner when you add nearby Jamestown, Yorktown, and modern attractions like Busch Gardens ( purchase tickets here ).

Table of Contents

Before you go: Planning your Colonial Williamsburg itinerary

An elaborate red brick colonial building surrounded by blooming yellow and red tulips in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.

Before your trip, go online at colonialwilliamsburg.org and visitwilliamsburg.com . These sites will help you make plans.

  • Be sure to check out any special events happening during your visit—they abound most seasons.
  • Save time by purchasing your tickets and making dining reservations online. Also, Viator offers a wide assortment of tours and experiences. Purchase them here .
  • Plan for a minimum of two days for a Williamsburg visit.

While roads circle the historic district, the streets inside the tourist area are closed to traffic. Begin at the Visitor Information Center, where parking is plentiful and free. You can use the hop-on/hop-off shuttle buses to traverse the perimeter of the historic city, offering multiple stops.

Teens and adults should not miss the introductory movie, Story of a Patriot . Yes, it was filmed in 1957 but restored recently.

Where else can you catch a view of Jack Lord before his Hawaii Five-O days? You can also watch it on YouTube .

Guide to Colonial Williamsburg: the must-see historical buildings

While there is no right or wrong way to visit Williamsburg, the Capitol building offers an ideal starting point for your Colonial Williamsburg walking tour. What happened within its walls shall we say, brewed discussions leading to discontent, the Revolutionary War, and the eventual formation of the independent United States .

Capitol building

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The original Capitol , completed in 1705, functioned as a two-story H-shaped structure, connecting two buildings by an arcade. Each wing served one of the two houses of the Virginia legislature, the Council and the House of Burgesses.

The building burned in January 1747, and a second built on the same site suffered the same fate. 

Today’s replica Capitol, on the same foundations and per the same plans, became one of the first sites to open in February 1934. Guided tours start in the General Courtroom, the highest judicial court in the colony.

The bay features stunning woodwork and round windows. In the House of Burgesses, you can see the original 1735 Speaker’s chair. Council and Conference Rooms occupy the second floor.

Governor’s Palace

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Before gaining independence, British royal rule in Virginia came locally– a royal governor. A grand brick structure, irreverently nicknamed “the Palace” by colonial subjects, was built in 1714.

The overall design sought to impress visitors with a display of authority and wealth, and it does indeed. The Palace became the home to seven royal governors until the last one fled.

Following the Revolutionary War, the structure acted as the executive mansion for the first two elected governors in Virginia— Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. In 1780, the capital of Virginia moved to Richmond .

The main building succumbed to fire in 1781 while in use as a hospital for the American wounded at the Siege of Yorktown.

travel to williamsburg va

A tour of the Palace, reconstructed in the early 1930s, takes you through the front door into an entrance hall. You’ll find it lined with an ornate display of swords and muskets. (Many European castles and mansions feature similar presentations.)

The first floor also includes a parlor, dining room, and an office. A grand supper room and ballroom were added to the rear. Their bright blue and vibrant green paint surprise many visitors. According to Kim Ivey, a CW curator, “Every single item  installed was done so for a well-documented reason.”

The tour exits into the lavish formal gardens that invite leisurely strolls. The plots incorporate clipped hedges, rectangular parterres, and garden species used in the early eighteenth century.

travel to williamsburg va

Stunningly beautiful tulips fill the gardens in the springtime. Other highlights include a tree-shrouded tunnel walkway and boxwood maze that kids (and I) adore.

Some 90-acres and 25 smaller gardens remain open to the public around town.

Bruton Parish Church and Graveyard

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The steepled Bruton Parish Church was designed by Royal Governor Spotswood and completed in 1715. In 1907, this original building became the first structure to undergo restoration.

Rev. Goodwin used this example to convince John D Rockefeller, Jr. to commit funds to bring back the historical city. The big dreams of these two men helped spark the restoration movement around the world.

The Bruton Parish Church and graveyard both invite explorations. Two of Martha Washington’s children rest there.

If possible, attend one of the evening candlelight harpsichord and organ concerts in the sanctuary. It’s hard to describe the lost-in-time feeling that period instruments, candlelight, old pews (maybe a seat George once occupied) create.

Raleigh Tavern

The Raleigh is open for tours , not like several others serving today’s guests with period dining, drinking, and music. Learn how the building functioned as an important social meeting place and a tavern for drinking, debate, and lodging.

One room contains a billiard table dating to 1738. Outback lies a large kitchen.

In the summer of 1956, I was a young girl visiting Colonial Williamsburg with my family for the first time. We finished a tour in the Raleigh Tavern when the clouds burst open. We scurried into the rear kitchen building, cramming in with many others.

A delightful aroma of gingerbread baking in the beehive oven surrounded us. The scent became irresistibly enticing, and everyone bought cookies handed over in brown paper sacks.

My cookie was so yummy the memory and smell still linger in my brain. Make sure to buy one!

Duke of Gloucester Street

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You will walk back and forth along the lengthy street packed with homes, taverns, craftsmen, and merchant shops. Look for colorful signs hanging outside that denote the type of craft.

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Stop into the 1770 Courthouse and the Powder Magazine, where the town’s artillery was stored. Peruse the outdoor Market Square, perhaps buying a tri-corner hat or sunbonnet.

You may be lucky enough to see a musket or cannon firing or the fife and drum corps. Be sure to make a reservation and take a carriage ride.

Turn off the main route onto the Palace Green lined with catalpa trees. It remains one of my favorite places to sit, rest, and contemplate the people who lived here in the past. 

travel to williamsburg va

If time permits and your legs aren’t too weary, join a guided tour inside the nearby Peyton Randolph House or the brick home of lawyer George Wythe.

A nighttime stroll becomes one of the loveliest ways to absorb the atmosphere along Duke of Gloucester. Lanterns light the way while candlelight glow seeps from house and tavern windows.

If you’re an early riser, meander Duke of Gloucester before it comes alive for the day. The setting evokes a marvelous sleepy feel, especially when foggy. Or consider joining the college students and fitness enthusiasts jogging the mile-long stretch.

The Wren Building at the College of William & Mary

Most first-time visitors don’t get around to touring the Wren Building on the campus of William & Mary. It ranks as the oldest college building in the United States, built between 1695 and 1699, even before Williamsburg’s founding. The college itself was chartered in February 1693 by King William III and Queen Mary II.

At least take a sightseeing drive around the beautiful 1,200-acre campus. The grounds incorporate ponds, bridges, and sunken formal gardens, especially enchanting in spring.

The college’s modern Muscarelle Museum of Art, with 4,000 works, might also be of interest. 

Craft Houses/Demonstrations

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The craftsmen working their trades fascinate all visitors, young and old. They use 18th-century tools and techniques to apprentice in — and eventually master —woodworking, gunsmithing, or basket weaving, to name a few.

These world-renowned experts make goods for sale or for use by other institutions around the world. They welcome questions.

Children are drawn to the blacksmith, shoemaker, milliner (hat maker), and brickyard. When possible, kids can even create a brick. Did you know the bricks and nails used for Williamsburg reconstructions were handmade there, just like the originals?

Most tourists don’t understand the research behind the authenticity of this destination, rarely found elsewhere. Colonial Williamsburg presents the accurate location and design of homes and buildings where our forefathers lived and worked.

Leave the Wiliamsburg museums for a second day, but explore the newly expanded joint venture: the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. See colorful and whimsical collections of toys, portraits, weathervanes, and much more in the Folk Art Museum.

Take time to appreciate the beautifully crafted furniture, musical instruments, home goods, textiles, and artworks in the DeWitt Wallace. Don’t miss the famous Charles Wilson Peale portrait of George Washington. The site includes a fantastic gift shop and convenient café.

Dining in Colonial Wiliamsburg

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Although the food served in the taverns traces back to similar fare cooked by colonists, the preparation takes place in modern kitchens. The servers, however, are dressed in period clothing.

The dishes, flatware, and goblets are authentic reproductions of 18th-century items. Minstrels frequently provide musical entertainment. Look forward to tasting Peanut Soup, Sally Lunn bread, Brunswick Stew, or a syllabub.

  • Christina Campbell’s Tavern : 101 South Waller St (behind the Capitol)
  • Josiah Chowning’s Tavern : 109 East Duke of Gloucester St (temporarily closed)
  • King’s Arms Tavern : 416 East Duke of Gloucester St
  • Shields Tavern : 422 East Duke of Gloucester St

Where to stay in Colonial Williamsburg

To get the true feel for this historic city, I suggest you overnight in one of the Colonial Homes . I’ve done this three times, and each experience felt different and fun.

You choose between stand-alone colonial houses or a private room within a larger colonial home, known as a Tavern Room. Meticulously reproduced spaces resemble the period but with modern amenities. Rentals usually come with an admission pass. 

My favorite lodging experience was spent in the Robert Carter Kitchen, tucked behind the house next to the Palace. I stayed there with my two daughters, and our little room was enchanting.

travel to williamsburg va

We could overlook grazing sheep, and the Palace illuminated at night. I reserved the last carriage ride of the day, and the driver dropped us off in front of “our” house! Talk about a memory.

Those looking for five-star and AAA Five-Diamond luxury should choose the iconic Williamsburg Inn ( book here ). Many presidents and even the Queen of England have slept there.

No worries, if you can’t afford the rates, drop in and tour the property. Consider indulging with an extraordinary breakfast in the elegant Rockefeller Room or lunch in the Terrace Room overlooking the golf course.

The Williamsburg Lodge (now part of the Marriott Autograph Collection) offers a relaxing retreat, just steps away from all the action. Book here .

Williamsburg Woodlands ( make a reservation ) becomes an excellent choice for a family. It conveniently rests next to the Visitor Center.

Nature surrounds the newest lodge, the Griffin Hotel ( book your room here ), but it sits out of the historic district.

Other options not managed by Colonial Williamsburg include the sprawling Kingsmill Resort ( reserve here ) or the family-friendly Great Wolf Lodge ( make a booking ).

More things to do in the Williamsburg area

Treat both your mind and body to a rejuvenating experience at The Spa ( official website ). Arrive early for your treatments and linger afterward to enjoy steam rooms, showers, and whirlpools, as well as the relaxation lounges.

Take your pick of 45-walkable holes over three courses at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club ( official website ) designed by Robert Trent Jones and his son Rees Jones.

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I never miss browsing the goods in Prentis, Greenhow, and Tarpley’s,  my favorite shops within the historic district. The Prentis Store showcases wares constructed using 18th-century techniques. Choose between handcrafted leather goods, iron hardware, tools, pottery, writing instruments, papers, ink, and seals.

The J. Greenhow General Store sells gifts, books, candy, historical items, toys, and trinkets. Their selection includes items imported from England for the colonists, like the delicate creamware dishes.

Tarpley’s, Thompson & Company, another fine shop, offers clothing, hats, and many of the above items.

Merchant’s Square

You will undoubtedly run into the area between the college and the historic car-free zone known as Merchants Square ( official website ). Hard to resist this retail village with over 40 modern-day shops and some fabulous restaurants, like the Blue Talon Bistro .

Be sure to check out the college bookstore or other stores selling souvenirs.

Christmas and the Grand Illumination

In the 18th century, illuminations — the firing of guns and lighting of fireworks — celebrated major events such as the birthday of a reigning sovereign, military victories, or a new colonial governor.

Williamsburg’s Grand Illumination began in 1935 with holiday candles in windows and fireworks. In the years that followed, the Grand Illumination became such a popular event that it expanded to three weekends.

Friday evenings introduced a new event, the Yule Log procession. It includes music from the Fifes and Drums, musket fire from Continental Army reenactors, and a visit from Father Christmas.

During a torch-lit march, the Yule Log progresses by wagon from the Capitol to Market Square. It then burns in a bonfire where guests gather to throw greenery sprigs into the fire and make a wish.

A grand display of fireworks is set off simultaneously rising above the Governor’s Palace and the Capitol on Saturday evenings.

Wreaths made from natural greenery with intricate designs of fruits, nuts, and pinecones decorate doorways and balconies. The homeowners and merchants go all out, hoping to win the annual local contest.

Having grown up in Northern Virginia, I am always excited to return to Williamsburg, one of my favorite places in the world. I look forward to dining in a colonial restaurant, shopping for handcrafted items, sitting in colorful gardens, and just soaking in the 18th-century ambiance.

Yes, Virginia is for lovers, and I do love Williamsburg. 

How to get to Williamsburg, Virginia

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Williamsburg lies 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., midway between Richmond and Virginia Beach on Interstate 64. Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown make up the three corners of Virginia’s Historic Triangle. A 23-mile Colonial Parkway connects the sites.

Three airports serve Williamsburg within a 50-minute drive. Start your search for flights here .

  • Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF) – a 20-minute drive.
  • Norfolk International Airport (ORF) – a 50-minute drive.
  • Richmond International Airport (RIC) – a 50-minute drive.

City of Williamsburg Transportation Center, located in downtown Williamsburg, offers Amtrak, Greyhound Bus, rental car, and taxi services. 

Visit more Virginia history

Make a Virginia history road trip by including these destinations:

  • Visit historical Fredericksburg (83 miles from Williamsburg)
  • Tour Abingdon and the Crooked Road on a Southwest Virginia road trip (360 miles from Williamsburg)

Scratch those itchy travel feet!

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History Travel + Local Experiences

August 27, 2022 By Lyndsay

Your Guide to 5 Days of Things to do in Williamsburg, VA

  • 1 How to Get to Williamsburg, VA
  • 2 Is Williamsburg, VA worth visiting?
  • 3.1 Map for this guide
  • 4 Where to Stay in Williamsburg, VA
  • 5 Where to Eat in Williamsburg, VA
  • 6 Tips for What to do in Williamsburg, VA
  • 7.1 Spend a day exploring Colonial Williamsburg
  • 7.2 Take a tour of the College of William & Mary
  • 7.3 Explore the Yankee Candle Village
  • 7.4 Go antique shopping at the Williamsburg Antique Mall
  • 7.5 Check out the wineries and breweries along the Williamsburg Tasting Trail
  • 7.6 Spend a day playing at the amusement parks in Williamsburg, VA
  • 7.7 Learn about one of the first free Black settlements in the United States at Freedom Park
  • 7.8 Spend some leisure time outside enjoying Williamsburg’s parks
  • 8.1 Historic Triangle of Virginia
  • 8.2 Lounge on the beaches near Williamsburg, VA
  • 8.3 Head north to visit Winchester, Virginia
  • 9.4 Day 4 & 5

This post may contain affiliate links! I will receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you purchase something recommended here.


Williamsburg, situated just inland of the coast of Virginia, is a beautiful city, well known for its role in Colonial-era history and its modern charm. Named in honor of King William III of England, Williamsburg served as one of the capitals of the Colony of Virginia, and then the first capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia. 

Along with its neighbors of Jamestown and Yorktown, it’s part of the Historic Triangle of Virginia, filled with Colonial history. Today, the city is well known for showcasing its rich history with Colonial Williamsburg, as well as other major attractions like Busch Gardens and the second-oldest college in the United States, the College of William & Mary.

If you love immersing yourself in history, while also having the opportunity to explore, you’ll never run out of things to do in Williamsburg, Virginia.

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How to Get to Williamsburg, VA

When you’re planning a trip to Williamsburg VA, it’s helpful to know that the city is well-connected for both public and private transportation. It’s right off the I-64 highway, making it a great stop to add to a road trip.

We drove to Williamsburg from Maryland , and the drive was an easy 3 hours and 30 minutes. It’s also easy to reach after driving over from the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry.

It’s also accessible by train and bus. Amtrak has a station in Williamsburg that can be accessed “ from anywhere in the Northeast Corridor or points south ,” Bus companies like  Ourbus  and  Greyhound  have stations here as well.

Is Williamsburg, VA worth visiting?

Yes; if you love exploring United States colonial-era history, Williamsburg, Virginia is definitely worth visiting. The historic city is home to the largest living-history museum in the United States, as well as several amusement parks and landmarks from when the city was the capital of the colony, and then of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

How many days do you need in Williamsburg, VA?

You need to schedule a minimum of three days when you’re planning a trip to Williamsburg, Virginia. Depending on your interests and how quickly you like to explore, three days should give you enough time to cover Colonial Williamsburg, spend a full day in one of the amusement parks, and visit the Historic Triangle of Virginia. However, more time will allow you to explore the area more leisurely and enjoy a day trip from Williamsburg, VA.

Map for this guide

Here is a made-for-you map of all of the things to do in Williamsburg listed in this guide.

  • Light Green: Where to Stay
  • Orange: Where to Eat – Restaurants
  • Light Orange: Where to Eat – Desserts
  • Purple: Things to Do
  • Green: Historic Triangle of Virginia
  • Blue: Beaches

Where to Stay in Williamsburg, VA

If you’re looking to stay within walking distance to the major things to do in Williamsburg, one of my favorites is located within the historic district. The Williamsburg Inn ( Hotels | Booking ) is just steps away from the heart of Colonial Williamsburg and offers an indoor pool, an outdoor terrace and tennis courts, a full-service spa, and three on-site restaurants.

For a great budget option, Hampton Inn and Suites ( Hotels | Booking ) is a hotel property located in a more residential area of the city. It’s about halfway between Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens Williamsburg. If you plan to visit both locations, it’s worth checking out.

This area has plenty of resorts and timeshares, in addition to hotels. Since I went during the off-season, a few of these exclusive properties were offering stays for reduced rates. Let me just say, when I picked the hotel and saw the luxe locations for lower prices than the average 2- or 3- star hotels, it certainly made for an even better experience!

Looking for a historic United States city to visit this year? Filled with Colonial history, you'll find many things to do in Williamsburg, Virginia!

We stayed at The Historic Powhatan Resort by Diamond Resorts ( Hotels | Booking ). While it’s outside of walking distance to Colonial Williamsburg, it was an excellent option for our trip.  Our suite was equipped with a full kitchenette, a washer/dryer unit, and a pull-out couch, and two bathrooms.

Not to mention the property’s amenities–an indoor pool, a small miniature golf course, a historic house to explore, and a schedule of daily activities. If you’re looking for a space that’s all your own, or you want to be able to cook your own meals while away, this is the best hotel choice for your vacation.

Fair warning to you – since they usually operate as a type of timeshare, they will kindly encourage you to attend one of their informational sessions. If you want to learn more about what a timeshare is , take a look at this guide!

However, after a two-hour informational session spent learning about their brand, we walked away with a sizeable gift card! They convince you to attend and stick around by giving discounts on restaurants, gift cards, or even a free admission ticket or two to one of the thrilling theme parks.

A phenomenal, reasonably-priced luxury option is Wedmore Place ( Hotels | Booking ) at the Williamsburg Winery. Most rooms come with their own fireplace, complimentary continental breakfast, amenities include a spa and an outdoor seasonal pool, and of course, you’re on the property of one of Virginia’s finest wineries. 

For a family getaway, I recommend the hotel at the  Great Wolf Lodge , especially if you were already planning to take advantage of their water park. There are several room and suite options to suit your family’s needs, five different restaurants, and free on-site parking.

Where to Eat in Williamsburg, VA

If you love breakfast food, Williamsburg is well-known for its pancake houses. Local favorites include Capital Pancakes, Smokey Griddle, and Astronomical Pancake House.

Looking for a historic United States city to visit this year? Filled with Colonial history, you'll find many things to do in Williamsburg, Virginia!

In Colonial Williamsburg, you’ll find a selection of fantastic restaurants to choose from. Check out Blue Talon, Dog St. Pub, The Cheese Shop, Fat Canary, Mello Mushroom Pizza, and Barrett’s Seafood Restaurant.

If you’re outside Colonial Williamsburg, you still have some great options! Second St Bistro, Oceans & Ale, La Casona Mexican BBQ & Grille, Baker’s Crust, Chanello’s Pizza, and Paul’s Deli should all be high on your list. Special mention for delicious, all-you-can-eat sushi found at Ichiban.

If you’re looking for a night out, favorite bars in the area are Precarious Beer Project, Green Leafe Cafe, and Amber Ox.

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Last but not least, we can’t forget about sweets. Aroma’s is a great coffee shop loved by locals, and Wythe Candy & Gourmet Shop, Jamestown Pie Co., Duck Donuts, and Kilwin’s are all favorites for different desserts.

Interested in trying several of these restaurants? Sample a night out on a Williamsburg culinary tour with tastings .

Tips for What to do in Williamsburg, VA

  • Can you walk around Colonial Williamsburg for free? Yes, walking around Colonial Williamsburg is totally free; however, you need to purchase tickets to enter several historic Williamsburg buildings .
  • Break up your days based on what major attraction you plan to spend your day exploring.
  • You can tell the difference between free spots and structures that require a paid separate ticket by whether or not there is a flag in front.
  • Parking at Colonial Williamsburg is free!

Things to do in Williamsburg, VA

Looking for a historic United States city to visit this year? Filled with Colonial history, you'll find many things to do in Williamsburg, Virginia!

Spend a day exploring Colonial Williamsburg

To start off our Williamsburg travel guide, we’re heading into Colonial Williamsburg!

Known as the largest outdoor living history museum, Colonial Williamsburg is more like a giant, historic neighborhood that has come to life.

The reconstruction began with the 1907 restoration of Williamsburg’s Bruton Parish Church, led by the Reverend Dr. W. A. R. Goodwin. Although his initial intention was to restore the church, he later expanded the project when he realized that many other historic Williamsburg buildings were decaying. Standard Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller Jr., the same man behind  Rockefeller Center in New York City ,  financed Goodwin’s project, and together they developed Colonial Williamsburg.

Today, the site contains hundreds of restored or rebuilt buildings from the city’s Colonial-era history, situated on more than 300 acres of land. Many of these buildings are open for visitors to walk through and observe historic reenactors bustling around, carrying out everyday tasks from years gone by. You’re welcome to ask them questions and learn about what life was really like in the Colonial age.

Colonial Williamsburg offers many different walking tours, focusing on various aspects of the site, bringing history to life throughout the day. Besides, with all of this Colonial history, it’s easy to imagine that there are some eerie undertones. They offer ghost tours of its haunted past , and a Ghost Walk Junior meant for the whole family.

The living museum also offers several smaller museums on-site. Check out the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum for one of the largest exhibitions in the world of American Southern furniture and of British ceramics. And at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum , guests will find some of the most interesting pieces and pictures in American folk art.

While it’s free to wander around the ground of Colonial Williamsburg, you’ll need to purchase tickets to enter most of the historic buildings . If you only plan to spend one day exploring Colonial Williamsburg, single-day passes are available. However, if you want to take your time walking through all of the different shops and museums, consecutive three-day passes are what you need. You can explore the daily schedule of events on their events calendar .

Take a tour of the College of William & Mary

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Established in 1693 and named to honor Great Britain’s monarchs at the time, the College of William & Mary is the second-oldest collegiate institution in the United States. Three United States presidents attended the College, and the elite academic honors society Phi Beta Kappa was founded on its campus in 1776.

Roam through the campus using the College’s  self-guided tour instructions  or request an informal, student-led tour from the campus’s Spotswood Society Tours when classes are in session for more things to do in Williamsburg.

History buffs can also visit the campus’s  Muscarelle Museum of Art , a learning laboratory with an encyclopedic collection of more than 5,000 artworks and artifacts spanning the pre-Columbian to post-modern age.

Explore the Yankee Candle Village

Only 10 minutes up the road from Colonial Williamsburg, the Yankee Candle Villages is one of the best-kept secrets in Williamsburg, Virginia. One of the world’s largest candle stores, it’s home to more than 200,000 candles in hundreds of fragrances.

In addition to the thousands of candles that line the walls, there are several other family-friendly areas. Tour the candle factory, watch a candle-making demonstration, and purchase candles, scented oils, and other candle-making supplies.

And no matter what time of year you visit, children can wander through the Holiday Park, which has a Santa’s workshop, ornaments, and other exhibits and surprises for the holidays year-round.

But the Yankee Candle Village is more than just a place to shop and take a tour–it’s also a place to satisfy your sweet tooth. Popcornopolis is their gourmet popcorn shop, Yankee Candy shop offers 125 different candy varieties, Hershey’s Ice Cream is available, and they even make their own flavors of homemade fudge on-site.

Go antique shopping at the Williamsburg Antique Mall

With thousands of items on display and over 40,000 square feet of floor space, the  Williamsburg Antique Mall  is an antique shopping dream destination. The climate-controlled facility is a great place to go if you’re looking for something special to decorate your home. 

The variety of antiques available ranges from antique furniture, pottery, and paintings, to rare collectibles, sports memorabilia, and vintage clothing and jewelry, with more than 300 shops showcasing their valuables. It’s been in business since the early 1990s, and the staff is passionate and very knowledgeable–many of the employees are also antique dealers.

The mall is open every day, there’s plenty of parking and they even have a cafe. They also now have the option to  shop online , which means you can find gems even after you’ve returned home from your vacation.

Check out the wineries and breweries along the Williamsburg Tasting Trail

When you’re looking at what to do in Williamsburg, the town has some remarkable vineyards, breweries, distilleries, and even a meadery within its bounds. A selection of twelve was chosen as part of the  Williamsburg Tasting Trail . You can take a day and do a self-guided tour through the twelve taprooms on your own time, or you can let a tour take care of the driving and attend an abbreviated journey through four craft breweries .

If you’re only interested in visiting the wineries, there’s also a dedicated vineyards tour with tastings included.  

Or if you’re interested in a truly luxurious drinking experience, book a tasting at the Williamsburg Winery . With more than 50 acres of land, the grounds are inspired by stunning estates and impressive palaces in Europe . As one of the top wineries in the state, they offer a wide variety of wine tastings and guided tours of the facilities.

Enjoy the scenery, taste the wines, shop for souvenirs, or grab a meal at one of their restaurants. If you’re even interested in staying on the vineyard’s property, Wedmore Place ( Hotels | Booking ) has a fireplace in almost every room, as well as a seasonal outdoor pools, complimentary continental breakfast and a spa on-site.

Spend a day playing at the amusement parks in Williamsburg, VA

Looking for some family-friendly things to do in Williamsburg? Do you love amusement parks? Williamsburg has three!

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Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Busch Gardens Williamsburg is located outside the city center, and it a ton of fun for all ages. During the summer, you can travel around the park to various sections designated by international countries, where you can see performances inspired by that country’s culture. Halloween’s Howl-O-Scream and Christmas Town transforms the park for its holiday season. 

Be sure to check out Celtic Fyre in the Irish Pavilion for some incredible Irish dancing performances, and thrill rides like Apollo’s Chariot, or the Griffon.

Water Country USA

Just under four miles away from Busch Gardens is Water Country USA. Virginia’s largest water park is packed with 17 different water rides, play areas, a lazy river, a children’s area, swimming pools, and aquatic performances. And the 1950s/60s beach theme is a fun throwback touch.

If you’re planning to visit both Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA, look into tickets that combine both parks with a bit of a discount.

Great Wolf Lodge

The last amusement park in Williamsburg, Virginia, is the Great Wolf Lodge. While this indoor water park has many water rides, it also offers a ton of different activities for anyone who needs a break from the pool. A bowling alley, a ropes course, an arcade, a live-action scavenger hunt, a kid’s spa, and a 3-D movie theatre are all available for the entire family, as well as the fitness center and spa catering for their adult crowd.

The Great Wolf Lodge also has a hotel on the property. With suites and dining options, you might never run out of options for things to do in Williamsburg on your family vacation!

Learn about one of the first free Black settlements in the United States at Freedom Park

Dating back to the 1680s, Freedom Park is another outdoor living history museum located in Williamsburg, Virginia that tells the story of one of the first free Black communities in the USA. 

From 1803 to 1850, the free Black settlement thrived here, and the park tells the story of its success, ingenuity, and perseverance. The three cabins on the grounds are recreations that have been furnished with historic accuracy to show how residents lived. 

Freedom Park is also home to the  Williamsburg Botanical Garden ,  GoApe Treetop Adventure Course and Treetop Junior Course  with zip lines, swings, and ropes courses, and the Freedom Park Interpretive Center which showcases artifacts recovered from the park’s grounds.

Spend some leisure time outside enjoying Williamsburg’s parks

Originally part of the Powhatan Indian Confederacy and used for survival and transportation, the biodiverse Powhatan Creek Park and Blueway is a beautiful place to spend a few hours enjoying nature. The urban park and trail system in the heart of the city provides an excellent physical and mental escape.

The creek connects the James River to Jamestown Island, and the park has a scenic view of Historic Jamestown. This is a great spot for fishing and for birdwatchers to observe the many species of birds found in this environment.

York River State Park is located on the York River. Freshwater and saltwater meet here, which creates a rich and diverse habitat for animal and plant life. 

Hikers can challenge themselves with elevation changes and gorgeous views of the surrounding area from Taskinas Creek Trail, or check out the prehistoric fossils at Fossil Beach on the Mattaponi Trail. Canoes, kayaks, and boats are available to rent from the visitor’s center from April through October. Otherwise, you can walk, bike, fish, or simply relax and enjoy the park’s natural beauty and scenery. 

Chickahominy Riverfront Park has a huge fishing pier at its catch-and-release pond, available all day and features access to the Virginia Capital Trail, sand volleyball and basketball courts, and green space along the waterfront. The park also has more than 120 campsites to accommodate groups of any size.

Waller Mill Park is a great place to get a little exercise, enjoy being outside and even catch a glimpse of some wildlife. The park sits next to a 360-acre lake and is packed with activities. Make the most of your time in the great outdoors by taking advantage of their hiking, fishing boating rentals, fishing, picnicking and playgrounds.

Day Trips from Williamsburg

If you’re interested, I have a whole guide on great day trip ideas from Williamsburg, VA ! These are a few of my favorites.

Historic Triangle of Virginia

The other two towns making the Historic Triangle of Virginia, Yorktown, and Jamestown have their own unique Colonial history.

travel to williamsburg va

Established in 1607 as James Fort, the settlement in Jamestown, Virginia, is considered the first successful settlement by English colonizers in the United States. Today, you can visit Historic Jamestowne and Jamestown Settlement. Re-creations of many of the original buildings still stand on the grounds, as well as a museum, replicas of the original ships in Jamestown’s pier, and a recreated Native American Powhatan historic village.

The Battle of Yorktown was a defining instance in the American Revolutionary War. British General Charles Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington in 1781. Although the war officially continued for another year, this moment is noted as essentially the end of the war. This city was also a battleground during the American Civil War. Visit The American Revolution Center at Yorktown, walk through the Yorktown Battlefields, and spend a day strolling along the river’s edge.

If you’re thinking about visiting either of these historic areas, you can purchase a combined ticket for Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown to visit as often as you want for 7 consecutive days.

For a different perspective of the historic site, take a boat tour with Yorktown Sailing Charters . These authentic sailboats will cruise along the York River past Victory Monument, the Yorktown Battlefields, and you might even catch a glimpse of some dolphins or osprey while out on the water.

Lounge on the beaches near Williamsburg, VA

Both Jamestown and Yorktown have public beaches accessible by car to add to your Williamsburg itinerary. However, if you’re willing to drive about an hour away, you’ll find tons of things to do in Virginia Beach , best known for its boardwalk, aquarium, and gorgeous coastline. 

Head north to visit Winchester, Virginia

The Best Day Trips in Virginia - Winchester Historic District

Located in the Shenandoah Valley along the Potomac River, Winchester, Vir has respected and protected its rich heritage in the state’s northern region. The city has many unique, significant locations to visit as well as interesting museums housed within its historic buildings.

Winchester is known for historic sites such as George Washington’s Office Museum, the Patsy Cline Historic House, and the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. And, spend some time strolling through the Winchester Historic District, a lovely neighborhood with over 1,100 protected buildings from the 1700s to the mid-1900s in the Late Victorian and Italianate styles.

If you’re interested in learning more about all of the incredible things to do in Winchester , take a look at my guide.

Sample 5 Day Williamsburg Itinerary

When I went, we only had three days to explore Williamsburg and the surrounding area. I definitely think we could’ve used an extra day or two to really feel like we visited every historic site we wanted to see and experienced all of the different things to do in Williamsburg.

First and foremost – breakfast at one of the local pancake houses. Then, straight to spend the day at Colonial Williamsburg ! Wander around the College of William & Mary campus, and learn about the life and culture of Colonial Williamsburg from the historical reenactors. Take an opportunity to try out a couple of the restaurants in the area, and end your day with a treat from Kilwin’s.

Next up on your Williamsburg itinerary, if you feel like you fully explored Colonial Williamsburg, visit the rest of the Historic Triangle of Virginia – Jamestown and Yorktown ! Once you’ve spent the day traversing through the other two Triangle towns, head back towards Williamsburg for dinner outside the Colonial center. Perhaps even experiencing the Williamsburg Tasting Trail ?

When you have so many to choose from, today is for the day trip. Start your day at Duck Donuts and then head to the parks! Busch Gardens and Water Country US A , and the Great Wolf Lodge are all amusement parks within easy driving distance from the center of the city.

Or, if you’re interested in going a little farther, you can spend your day on the beach. Stay close to Williamsburg with either Jamestown or Yorktown beaches, or drive an hour out to Virginia Beach.

Day 4 & 5

These days are for overflow. If you decided to take your time through Colonial Williamsburg, spend today exploring all of the other shops and buildings you didn’t get to see on your first day.

If you purchased a two-day pass, make sure you choose consecutive days; otherwise, you’ll be able to head into any building that does not have a flag out front.

If you want to spend additional days at the beach, explore a few of the surrounding parks or shops, or visit more than one of the theme parks, these days would be your opportunity to explore the rest of the things to do in Williamsburg!

The next time you have a chance to enjoy a few days in a historic center – from the largest living-history museums to amusement parks – Williamsburg, Virginia, is a great choice, filled with fantastic activities. If you’re looking for a city filled with American history, add Williamsburg to your next East Coast road trip!

What are your favorite things to do in Williamsburg, Virginia? Do you have any recommendations for a Williamsburg itinerary?

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Frequently asked questions

  • Get your trip off to the best start possible by being well prepared. Pack your passport or ID, travel documents and medications first. After that, think about downloading some new movies on your tablet for a binge session sans guilt. Or, bring that bestseller you’ve been wanting to read. Lastly, a snack or two and a blow-up neck pillow will go a long way to making your trip as comfortable as possible.
  • There’s a lengthy list of items you should not pack in your carry-on too. Explosives, sharps and flammables are strictly prohibited in the cabin — they often include aerosol cans, flares, box cutters and razor blades. Some sporting equipment, such as baseball bats and martial arts weapons like nunchucks, also generally can’t go in your hand luggage. Your airline’s website will have a full list of what you can and can’t take on board.
  • The aisles of a plane aren’t suitable for a fashion show. Layer up in comfy, loose-fitting clothing and bring a sweater since it can get cool in the cabin on long-haul flights. Sneakers or other closed-toe shoes are the best type of footwear for longer journeys.
  • The condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a risk on long-distance flights. It’s the result of blood clotting due to poor circulation and inactivity. Walking up and down the aisle and doing foot and leg stretches while seated can prevent it developing. Wearing compression tights or socks also helps to lower your risk.

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Things to Do in Virginia from a local mom and blogger family of 4.


Best things to do with kids in Williamsburg VA for a weekend getaway

Historic, But Exciting Williamsburg

Colonial williamsburg, va has a list of must do’s such as:.

  • 2021 four time winner – FORBES TRAVEL GUIDE AWARD Williamsburg Inn
  • Colonial Williamsburg – USA Today Best Virginia Attraction
  • Busch Gardens Williamsburg – 2019 World’s Most Beautiful Theme Park—29 Years Running
  • Kingsmill Resort – Best Vacations for Kids: Parents’ Travel Awards 2021

Things to do in Williamsburg, Virginia

48 hours– here’s what we did with the kids in williamsburg va.

Downtown Colonial Williamsburg things to do- kids playing on the Palace Green

Day 1. Wander Williamsburg

Donuts at emily’s donuts, walk historic colonial williamsburg, schedule a children’s tour of the governor’s palace.

  • Lunch at Carrot Tree Kitchens

Dinner at Sals

Things to do In Williamsburg, VA- Best Donuts in Williamsburg - Emilys Donuts smores donuts

Before you head downtown to Colonial Williamsburg (CW), you’ll want to try out one of our favorite local bakeries, Emily’s Donuts .

Emily’s Donuts is a cute cafe situated on Merrimac Trail, right down the street from WaWa. You better get there early because the best of the best sell out fast.

Luckily, if you are planning your trip in advance or plan to be here tomorrow, give them a call or place an order online for tomorrow for pickup to ensure you get your favorites.

The kids will love the assortment of brightly colored and m&m filled donuts. There are donut holes, pastries like bear claws and apple fritters (THE BEST), as well as coffee.

Grab a hot or iced coffee while you’re there and make your morning complete.

Emily’s Donuts | Menu | Facebook Page | 757-221-6676

travel to williamsburg va

It’s time to head downtown to Colonial Williamsburg. You don’t have to be a planner or spend a ton to enjoy CW.

If you’re a history buff, it can be enjoyable to plan the trip and do one of the scheduled tours of shops and attractions.

Here’s the low down on admission. You are welcome to walk around Colonial Williamsburg free off charge. There’s plenty to see.

From Duke of Gloucester Street shopping and dining to walking around the Palace Green (lawn) and through the gardens, outside of the homes and buildings.

However, if you want to enter the buildings to see how candles are made or what a historical blacksmith did, you’ll want to get tickets.

If you are a local Williamsburg or James City County resident, you can purchase the Good Neighbor pass which includes discounts all over the city to local attractions and vendors.

Below are the ticketing options, plus add ons.

Colonial Williamsburg Ticket Pricing (Sept 2021) | TICKETS |

101 Visitor Center Drive, Williamsburg, VA 23185

There are add ons that you can also schedule, but you must purchase a CW ticket in order to do those activities.

Lastly, make sure you check the CW website because they run specials, have discounts for groups, and have discounts for teachers, military, medicaid and lodging.

If you have time in your itinerary to go to Jamestown or Yorktown, do the Historic Triangle pass because you’ll save some dough. (Jamestown is REALLY cool).

By far the coolest thing we have ever done in Colonial Williamsburg was go on a Governor’s Palace tour with the kids. (It’s free with the daily ticket or Good Neighbor locals pass).

In fact, I would do this over and over again. You start out in the kitchen and servant’s wing of the property and work your way through the marble entryway, parlors, bedrooms of First Lady and children.

You’ll make your way to the ballroom and the entertaining spaces before heading out the East Wing into the Governor’s Palace gardens, which includes a boxwood maze. If you were wondering, I got lost, ha!

travel to williamsburg va

Note to self: do the tour before it’s blazing hot- ideally early fall so that you don’t get stuck in a maze of bushes with young kids who are hungry and tired in the blazing sun.

One of the entertaining spaces in the Colonial Williamsburg Governor's Palace mansion. The green paint is a historically accurate representation of the style at the time of it's use.

The architecture and design details of the Governor’s Palace are phenomenal. I wish I could take longer to walk through the spaces and comb over ever little detail.

It is definitely worth the guided tour and something you won’t want to miss.

An ice rink is set up in Colonial Williamsburg in the winter which is a delightful thing to do in Williamsburg, VA

Taking the Free Road

If you are looking for fun cheap or free, you can still have a great time downtown without spending a ton. While I suggest budgeting a bit for lunch or drinks as it’s a lot of walking, you don’t need to do guided tours to enjoy the exterior of the homes, window shopping or looking at the landscape.

The area if partly shaded and partly in full sun, so dress appropriately for hot days (75 – 100 degrees) and bring a jacket or coat on cooler days (75 and cooler).

You can walk the property from Duke of Gloucester Street and Price George Street to the Palace Green, down to the Capital. Follow behind the Capital and loop back around to Nicholson street and head back towards the start.

You can then cross the street and see the Art Museum and Galleries on the corner of Francis Street & Henry Street.

Looking at the map on the Colonial Williamsburg website will clear these directions up for you!

Aroma's Cafe in Williamsburg Virginia on

Lunch at Aromas World Cafe

Another local Williamsburg favorite is Aromas. Whether you’re grabbing a coffee or lunch, you will find something you love.

Aromas World | Menu | Facebook Page | 757-221-6676

Local Aromas cafe coffee shop in Williamsburg VA

What to Expect at Aromas

Aromas is a narrow brick bistro, reminiscent of a french cafe, with dark wood paneling, black painted ceilings and a sponged ochre colored wall (that’s yellowish). The tables show signs of many cups of coffee had while enjoying the company of a friend.

The walls are lined with local artwork. And the tables are close together, you’ll likely have to push your way through with excuse me’s and pardon.

But it is worth every second of waiting in line for a coffee and a specialty pastry from the cabinet or one of our favorite meals from below for lunch.

On Saturday mornings you’ll catch them with a pop up shop at the Farmer’s market a few streets over. You’ll know its’ Aromas because the line will be snaked around other vendors. It’s a local favorite. You can still pop into the store on Sat. mornings if you prefer.

My favorite foods from Aromas in Williamsburg are the House Salad and the Nachos.

Fan Food Favorites

  • Nachos (the kids’ favorite)
  • Grilled Cheese + goldfish (kids)
  • Portobello burger
  • Aromas Club (husband’s favorite)
  • House Salad (my favorite)
  • Nachos (after 3PM- this is an adult portion)

Don’t forget to check the bakery counter for delicious muffins, cupcakes, scones and pie. You’ll even find tasty quiches.

Sals by Victor for dinner in Williamsburg VA while on vacation

Hands down the best Italian restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia is Sals by Victor- it is phenomenal. While we have our favorites, there’s nothing not to love at Sals.

You’ll find carefully curated specials and a wine cellar to match your taste. The restaurant is HUGE so we hardly ever have to wait, even when it’s packed they manage to find a way.

Sals by Victor | Menu | Facebook Page | (757) 220-2641

travel to williamsburg va

  • We love the Seafood Thermadore
  • cheese pizza or gluten free cheese pizza for the win
  • the kids love kids spaghetti + meatballs
  • italian sub is delish
  • chocolate cheesecake for dessert

Williamsburg Farmer's Market

Day 2. Outdoor Adventures

On Day 2 of our mini Williamsburg, VA vacation itinerary we’ll focus on fun things to do outdoors with the kids. Back to Colonial Williamsburg to start off the day, but this time at the Market.

Williamsburg Farmer’s Market (Saturday Mornings)

Eat lunch at carrot tree kitchens, spend the afternoon at jamestown beach, grab dinner at the food truck, get ice cream at kilwins, haunted williamsburg official ghost tour.

fresh produce at the Williamsburg farmers market

Over 30 local vendors offer a variety of products, among which are fresh seasonal produce, free-range chicken, beef, pork, fish, seafood (crabs!), fresh cut flowers, baked goods, confections, honey, goat cheese, mushrooms, kombucha, handmade soaps, and more.

Website | Facebook Page | P: 757-259-3768

There’s something for everyone to enjoy at the Farmers Market. We usually start off with a coffee from the Aromas tent and then grab a breakfast pastry.

Next we head straight for the goat cheese which comes in a variety of flavors from chives to bacon and pumpkin to chocolate. It’s truly a delight.

Then we grab a pie from Jamestown Pie Company, sometimes a quiche and other times a strawberry rhubarb mini pie.

MUST LOVE DOGS. That’s right, it’s a pet lovers dream- pups everywhere, walking CW with their families.

Amy's garden organic produce at Williamsburg Farmers Market

After you are done walking around the Market and enjoying the fresh air, you’ll have a little bit of time to walk around the Colonial Williamsburg area before heading off to lunch.

Make sure to stop into the shops on Duke of Gloucester street for clothing, candles, housewares, souvenirs, and unique finds.

Have lunch at Carrot Tree Kitchens in Williamsburg VA

It’s time to grab lunch at Carrot Tree on your way to the beach. The bakery case contains the most delicious cupcakes (chocolate peanut butter) and lemon bars.

But, you’ll want to sit down for lunch and enjoy something from the seasonal menu which rotates during the year.

Web | Facebook Page | (757) 229-0957


  • Quiche of the day
  • Virginia Ham biscuits
  • Hummus plate with veggies

travel to williamsburg va

Jamestown Beach has been recently renovated and has sandy spots along the James River and grassy areas to eat lunch at picnic tables and grill out.

We particularly love it because it is technically not on the ocean and on the James River. This makes for much calmer waters, which makes it easier for young children.

After all, we are vacationing with kids in Williamsburg!

You’ll park in the lot as directed by the attendant ($7 per vehicle) and walk down to the beach to grab a spot. Stake your claim and enjoy the day at the beach.

If the sun makes your kids hungry for a snack (I know it does for me) there is a concessions building with chips, icecream/popcicles and cold drinks.

When it’s time for dinner, head over to the food truck down near the pier.

The great thing about Jamestown beach is that food trucks are lined up all season long- there’s barbecue, seafood and sandwiches to be had.

Kilwins Original Recipe Ice Cream in Williamsburg VA- Things to Do in Williamsburg VA

Oh Kilwins, how you derail my diet every time. THE BEST ICECREAM in Williamsburg VA is Kilwins in Colonial Williamsburg.

So after an afternoon playing at the beach, pack up the kids and head back to Colonial Williamsburg for icecream.

We love the chocolate peanut butter, lemon, superman (the kids’ favorite, yikes) and pistachio.

Haunted tour of Colonial Williamsburg

Back to Colonial Williamsburg for a haunting tour of the ghastly places in colonial Williamsburg throughout history to end the night in fright.

Family sitting at the Palace Green Play State during October haunting

Where to Stay in Williamsburg

  • Williamsburg Inn
  • Hotel Kingsmill
  • Marriott’s Manor Club at Ford’s Colony

Getting to Williamsburg

By Car Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Historic Triangle, which includes Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. We are halfway between Richmond and Virginia Beach, and 150 miles south of Washington, DC.

You’ll travel along Interstate 95 to Route 64. Take Exit 238 to VA-132 South towards Colonial Williamsburg. Follow specific directions from this point.

By Plane There are 3 airports within a short distance to fly into and travel to Williamsburg, VA:

  • Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF) (20 minutes)
  • Norfolk International Airport (ORF) (45 minutes)
  • Richmond International Airport (RIC) (45 minutes)

Amtrak offers train service from Washington D.C. to the Williamsburg Transportation Center. For information call 1-800-USA-RAIL.

Downtown Colonial Williamsburg things to do- kids playing on the Palace Green

Best Places to Eat in Williamsburg

While there are a ton of choices for dinner in this touristy town, I’m going to stick to local places that aren’t chain restaurants.

  • Emilys Donuts
  • Aroma’s Cafe
  • The Corner Pocket
  • Sportsmans Grill
  • Food for Thought
  • Charley’s Airport Restaurant
  • Pierce’s BBQ
  • Old City Barbecue


  • Blue Talon Bistro
  • Cochon on Second
  • A Chef’s Kitchen
  • Aberdeen Barn

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Best Things to Do in Williamsburg VA

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Virginia gazette news, virginia gazette news | gourmet coffee shop, new burger joint and more business news in williamsburg area.

Gourmet coffee shop Eleva recently opened a location in downtown Williamsburg. Brandy Centolanza/freelance

The gourmet coffee shop Eleva, first founded in 2018 by Emilio Baltodano, recently opened a location in downtown Williamsburg, with another storefront set to open later this year in New Town.

The first Williamsburg coffee shop, located at 111 S. Boundary St. in Merchants Square, is currently holding a soft opening with a grand opening slated for mid-May. The business is operated by Amr and Sue Hassan.

“My husband and I love to travel and our favorite thing to do while traveling is to have a coffee after dinner, relax and talk about our experiences, about life,” Sue Hassan said. “We were introduced to Eleva about a year and a half ago and fell in love with the brand and the company’s mission.”

The Merchants Square location features a craft espresso bar, specialty drinks made with coffee, matcha, chai and teas as well as “unique food offerings including tapas and fresh baked pastries,” Hassan said.

“Our lounge is a haven of relaxation, and a place where you can savor both your coffee and the moment,” she said. “Eleva means to uplift in Spanish, which captures the mission of Eleva: taking the experience of drinking coffee to new heights, and raising the quality of life for coffee growing communities.”

The Hassans plan to offer evening hours as well to cater to William & Mary students who want to enjoy coffee and food, socialize and have fun. There will be entertainment, including trivia nights and karaoke nights and other events.

The first Eleva opened in Brooklyn, New York, in 2020. A second location opened a year later in Charlottesville near the University of Virginia but has since closed to focus exclusively on the new coffee lounges in Williamsburg, Hassan said.

“Eleva is the product of five generations of coffee heritage,” she said. “The Eleva team has a deep knowledge and appreciation for where coffee is produced, and a passionate attention to detail for each step in the process of blending, roasting and crafting our drinks.”

Baltodano will operate the other Eleva storefront in New Town. That shop will be located at 4808 Courthouse St. and is expected to open this summer.

For more information on Eleva, visit elevacoffee.com .

Aunt Carol’s Sauce now available at Williamsburg-area Food Lions

Hampton native Tahjere Lewis, a young entrepreneur who first started selling his product Aunt Carol’s Sauce out of his dorm room at Virginia Tech a few years ago, is basking in the success of his business. His sauce is now available at more than 70 Food Lion locations across the region, including four stores in Greater Williamsburg.

Aunt Carol's Sauce at Food Lion. (Markus Taft)

Growing up, Lewis loved his aunt’s sauce, a common condiment for seafood dishes at family gatherings. The two talked about selling the sauce. When his aunt passed away in 2018, Lewis decided to fulfill a promise to his aunt to introduce the sauce to a wider audience. He worked on replicating the recipe while he was a student and began selling the sauce out of his dorm and eventually the dining hall, as well as at local food festivals.

Today, Aunt Carol’s Sauce has two distribution facilities, one in Hampton Roads and one in North Carolina. The sauce, which comes in two flavors, mild and spicy, is an accompaniment to seafood, meats and vegetables. It is sold at smaller businesses and restaurants throughout the area, as well as in Florida and New York. Last year, Lewis and his mother approached their local Food Lion about the possibility of carrying the product in the store. The manager passed the idea onto the grocer’s corporate office, who loved it. Aunt Carol’s sauce officially hit store shelves earlier this spring.

“This is an amazing opportunity,” Lewis said. “It still feels so surreal. I am so grateful to Food Lion.”

In Williamsburg, Aunt Carol’s Sauce can be found at the Food Lion locations at 1234 Richmond Road, 5251 John Tyler Highway, 5601 Richmond Road and 701-A Merrimac Trail.

“I hope to continue to increase awareness of my sauce and the importance of embracing legacy,” Lewis said. “I hope my sauce brings family together. It’s about enjoying food with the people you love and finding the time to make that connection with your family.”

For more information on Aunt Carol’s Sauce, visit auntcarolssauce.com .

Cook’s Burger Bar opens in Midtown Row

Cook’s Burger Bar opened last weekend in the former Matchsticks BBQ space in Midtown Row. It’s operated by Against the Grain Restaurants, which owns Precarious Beer Project, Amber Ox Public House and The Bake Shop in downtown.

The retro-inspired restaurant has a diner-style menu featuring burgers and fries as well as snacks and small plates such as tinned fish, pickled eggs and chicken liver pâté. The extensive bar menu includes ready-to-drink canned beverages (beer, wines and cocktails), draft options by Precarious Beer and four rotating draft cocktails.

Cook's Burger Bar opened on Saturday in Williamsburg. (Courtesy of Cook's Burger Bar)

The 85-seat burger bar at 1246 Richmond Road is “an homage to classic mid-century Midwestern restaurants and hospitality with a whimsical menu and aesthetic guaranteed to transport you back to Grandma’s house,” Andrew Voss, co-founder of ATG, said in a news release.

Visit cooksburger.com for more information.

Dots and Dashes

  • South of the Border Mexican Restaurant is set to reopen at the end of this month. The restaurant, which is located at 322 Second St. in the Edge District, has been temporarily closed for a remodel following damage from a fire last November. The reopening coincides with the restaurant’s 20th anniversary.
  • S.L. Nusbaum Realty recently announced two new retail leases: Couture Med Spa has leased 3,750 square feet of retail space in the Monticello Marketplace shopping center, while Technology Zone has leased 1,200 square feet of retail space in the James-York Plaza shopping center in the Edge District.
  • The third annual Next Level Talent, Next Level City spring regional job fair is scheduled for May 1 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hampton Roads Convention Center. Numerous regional organizations are collaborating on the event, including Williamsburg’s Economic Development office. Job opportunities will focus on maritime, offshore wind and defense jobs, in addition to other trades. Attendance is free. To register, visit eventbrite.com .
  • Williamsburg-James City County Schools will host a job fair from 3-6 p.m. on May 2 at the School Board & Central Office at 117 Ironbound Road. On-site interviews will be conducted, and conditional job offers could be made to qualified candidates. Career switchers interested in teaching positions should bring college transcripts for review. Openings can be viewed on the school division’s website at wjccschools.org/careers .

Staff writer Rekaya Gibson contributed to this story.

Brandy Centolanza, [email protected]

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