Things to Do in Colonial Williamsburg Virginia: Top Attractions and Activities

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Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, is a treasure trove of American history and cultural experiences. Colonial Williamsburg has been one of our family’s favorite vacation spots for years. There is not only historical significance, the area of the historic triangle (Jamestown, Yorktown, Colonial Williamsburg) is just peaceful and stunningly beautiful.

As you walk through this living museum, you will transported back to the 18th century, catching a glimpse of life in the early days of America’s founding. From engaging historical reenactments to beautiful gardens, there are plenty of activities in Colonial Williamsburg to suit all ages and interests.

Exploring this historic site, you will have the opportunity to meet craftsmen, tradespeople, and political figures from the past, all portrayed by skilled actors who bring the world of our ancestors to life. You can also enjoy authentic culinary experiences that evoke the spirit of the times and wander through exquisite colonial homes and government buildings so lovingly maintained.

By the end of your visit to Colonial Williamsburg, you will leave with a newfound appreciation for the incredible dedication, hard work, and vision of the people who shaped the foundation of our great nation.

Colonial Williamsburg Virginia

Visitor Center

The first thing we recommend upon arriving at Colonial Williamsburg is stopping by the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center. Located at 101 Visitor Center Dr, this hub provides essential information and services for guests.

Here, you can purchase tickets for various events and attractions, rent a wheelchair or electric scooter, or get assistance in personalizing your itinerary. Plus, the gift shop in the visitor center is the best throughout the historic triangle.

Additionally, the Visitor Center offers a complimentary shuttle service that transports guests to several destinations within the historic area.

Colonial Williamsburg Virginia

Travel Tip: Walking around the grounds of Colonial Williamsburg is free for anyone. However, if you want to join in any of the experiences or reenactments, by all means, purchase the tickets. The tickets include going into the historic buildings, watching the reenactments, etc.

Hours of Operation

Colonial Williamsburg has varying hours of operation depending on the season, so it is important to plan your visit accordingly. Generally, the historic area is open for exploration from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, with some sites and experiences extending their hours until 9:00 PM during the summer months.

The Visitor Center operates from 8:45 AM to 5:00 PM daily. For the most up-to-date information on hours, we recommend checking the official Colonial Williamsburg website before your visit.

Travel Tip: We arrived at Colonial Williamsburg at opening hours and it was crowded. We then came back later in the day around 3 pm and the crows had thinned out. The lighting from the sun for the photos was fantastic too.

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Map and Navigation

Colonial Williamsburg offers both digital and physical maps to assist visitors in navigating the historic area. You can download the Colonial Williamsburg Explorer app on your smartphone to access an interactive map, showtimes, and more. For those who prefer a traditional approach, printed maps are available at the Visitor Center.

To generally help you navigate the area, we’ve included a brief overview of significant locations within Colonial Williamsburg:

  • Governor’s Palace: The lavish residence of Virginia’s last royal governor
  • Capitol: The site of significant political debates and the birthplace of American independence
  • Historic Trades: Watch skilled artisans demonstrate 18th-century trades and techniques
  • Art Museums: Housing the largest collection of Southern decorative arts and two expansive folk art galleries

Travel Tip: Be sure to wear comfy clothes and shoes. The walkways and cobblestones are uneven and rocky so good footwear is a must.

Governor’s Palace

Governers Palace Colonial Williamsburg

One of the most impressive sites in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia is the Governor’s Palace. As you walk along the stunning Palace Green, you can admire the stunning Georgian-style building that has been carefully restored to showcase its orignal beauty.

Not only does the Palace offer a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle of Virginia’s royal governors, but it also features impressive gardens and a maze for a bit of extra fun.

Travel Tip: If you are traveling with kids to Williamsburg, the Governors Palace maze is really fun. Let’s be honest, it’s fun for adults too. My kids spent a bit of time going in and out of this hedge maze. There is a hill behind the maze you can climb to the top of and watch them from above.

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Capitol Building

Just a short walk along the cobblestone streets from the Governor’s Palace, you will find the imposing Capitol Building. This historic landmark is where the Virginia General Assembly met and played a vital role in the American Revolution.

While exploring the Capitol, you can learn about Virginia’s political history and the significant events that took place within its walls, such as Patrick Henry’s powerful speeches and the drafting of founding documents.

Peyton Randolph House

Another must-visit site is the Peyton Randolph House. The Peyton Randolph House in Colonial Williamsburg stands as a captivating relic of America’s colonial history.

Constructed in the mid-18th century, this elegant Georgian-style residence served as the home to the prominent Virginian Peyton Randolph family, and 27 enslaved people. Learn about the households that enslaved peoples and their calls for freedom during the American Revolution.

Meticulously preserved, the house offers visitors a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the colonial elite. Its period-specific furnishings, lush gardens, and well-preserved architecture transport guests back to a pivotal era, providing a tangible connection to America’s formative years.

Bruton Parish Church

Bruton Parish Church, across the street from the Peyton Randolph House, stands as a testament to Virginia’s colonial past.

Established in 1674, this Anglican parish has witnessed centuries of American history. The church’s timeless architecture, with its iconic red brick façade white steeple, and cemetery exudes a sense of colonial charm.

Bruton Parish Church Cemetary
Bruton Parish Church Cemetery

Stepping inside, visitors are enveloped in an atmosphere of reverence, surrounded by historic pews and stained glass windows.

Bruton Parish Church stands as a living artifact, preserving the spiritual essence of America’s colonial era.

Travel Tip: We have been to Colonial Williamsburg in the Spring and in the Fall. We often travel to Washington DC and Maryland. Summer in this part of the US is hot and humid, almost unbearable. On our last trip, we went at the beginning of November and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. It was sunny and a perfect 70 degrees. It gets cool in the morning and evening. We had however just missed peak fall. The leaves were still yellows and organies and had fallen. In spring, Virginia is a wonderful time and it just smells fresh with flowers blooming.

Raleigh Tavern Williamsburg

Raleigh Tavern Williamsburg

No trip to Colonial Williamsburg would be complete without a stop at the famous Raleigh Tavern.

Raleigh Tavern, a pivotal hub in Colonial Williamsburg’s historic landscape, it provided a gathering place for food, and drinks, and a place to stay. It was a vibrant social and political center during the 18th century.

Established in 1717, it hosted gatherings that fueled revolutionary sentiments, making it a focal point for discussions leading up to the American Revolution.

The tavern’s reconstructed facade and interiors offer a vivid portrayal of the bygone era. Patrons can experience the ambiance of the past, envisioning the discussions and decisions that shaped early American history within its authentically restored walls.

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The Courthouse

Another important landmark within the Historic Area is The Courthouse. This colonial-style building played a crucial role in the lives of early Virginians, serving as the stage for trials, public auctions, and community announcements. As we explore the Courthouse, we can gain an understanding of the legal system and daily life in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.

Art Museums

In Colonial Williamsburg, one can indulge in the rich art heritage of the region. The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum showcase a wide range of 18th-century decorative arts and folk art, respectively.

With these two art museums, we can explore the talents of past artists, craftsmen, and artisans who have contributed to the cultural fabric of Colonial Williamsburg.

Living History Museums

Living History Museum. Colonial Williamsburg. Photo Backyard Productions

At the heart of Colonial Williamsburg is the Living History Museum, which transports you back in time to experience life in 18th-century America.

Engaging and informative, you can find ourselves immersed in colonial life through:

  • Daily programs and events: Demonstrations, workshops, and reenactments take place throughout the day, offering us unique glimpses into the lives of our ancestors.
  • Historic trades: Witnessing skilled artisans and craftsmen practicing their crafts using the same methods and materials as their 18th-century counterparts.
  • Tours: Knowledgeable interpreters guide through iconic sites, including the Governor’s Palace, the Capitol, and the Courthouse.

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Theatrical Performances

In addition to these historical experiences, theatrical performances offer a deeper understanding of Colonial culture:

  1. Evening performances: Witness dramatic reenactments of key moments during the Revolutionary era.
  2. Character performances: Engage with historical figures, including Martha Washington and her contemporaries, as they share their stories and experiences.
  3. Immersive theater: Participate in interactive plays, blending history and entertainment for an unforgettable experience.

Gardens and Preservation

Another captivating aspect of Colonial Williamsburg is its commitment to gardens and preservation:

Garden/Preservation SiteDescription
Custis SquareAn ongoing archaeological research site showcasing the preserved garden of John Custis IV.
Martha Washington’s Flower GardenA beautiful replication of the first First Lady’s private garden, featuring a variety of 18th-century plants.

These gardens and archaeological sites allow us to appreciate the efforts in preserving the historic landscapes, giving present-day visitors a chance to connect with our past in a living-history manner.

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Historic Jamestown

Historic Jamestown

At Historic Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the United States, we can take a step back in time and explore the beginnings of our nation. This site allows us to learn about the lives and experiences of early settlers like Captain John Smith, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry, as well as the Native Americans they encountered upon arrival.

Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities such as guided tours, archaeological digs, costumed re-enactments, and fascinating exhibits detailing the history and artifacts discovered in the area. Some highlights include:

  • The Archaearium: An award-winning archaeological museum showcasing over 2,000 artifacts discovered at the site. Exhibits reveal stories of life in the 17th-century colony and the interactions between the settlers and the indigenous inhabitants.
  • Excavation Sites: Witness ongoing excavations, as well as the Jamestown Rediscovery project, which aims to uncover the fort’s original structures and better understand life in 1607.
  • Historical Reenactments: Interact with costumed interpreters portraying important figures such as Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, who bring to life the sights, sounds, and daily routines of 17th-century Virginia.

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Jamestown Settlement

At Jamestown Settlement, you can continue your American history journey by exploring a beautiful recreation of the colony as it looked in the early 17th century.

Featuring living history exhibits, hands-on activities, and engaging presentations, this venue helps better understand and appreciate the challenges that the early settlers faced during their first years in the New World.

Some of the exciting activities and exhibits you can experience here include:

  1. Recreated James Fort: A reconstruction of the original palisade fort that once housed settlers, complete with workshops, living quarters, and blacksmith demonstrations.
  2. Native American Village: An exhibit highlighting the life of the Powhatan Indians, who inhabited the region long before the English arrived. Visitors can learn about tribal customs, culture, and interactions with the European newcomers.
  3. Reproductions of Historic Ships: Climb aboard replicas of the three ships that brought the first settlers to Jamestown from England – the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery.
  4. Marquis de Lafayette and 18th-Century Life: Through period reenactments, presentations, and hands-on experiences, you can explore the relationship between America and France in 18th-century life and the crucial role that the Marquis de Lafayette played in the American Revolution.

Both Historic Jamestown and Jamestown Settlement offer an excellent opportunity to expand your knowledge and understanding of early American history.

By immersing in these rich and interactive exhibits, one can gain a deeper appreciation for the challenges, triumphs, and enduring legacy of our nation’s first settlers.

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Trades and Craftsmanship

In Colonial Williamsburg, we can experience first-hand the various trades and craftsmanship of the 18th century. One of the most important trades in this time was the blacksmith. The skilled blacksmiths would create tools, hardware, and other essential items for daily life in the colonial capital.

As you walk through the historical district, we appreciate the complex craftsmanship that went into creating these items.

Here’s a list of some other trades that were prominent in 18th-century Colonial Williamsburg:

  • Cabinetmaking
  • Printing
  • Gunsmithing
  • Tailoring

These trades contributed greatly to the future economy of the colonial capital, allowing community to thrive and grow.

Agriculture and Livestock

Photo Backyard Productions
Photo Backyard Productions

At the Great Hopes Plantation, one can dive into the agricultural aspect of life in Colonial Williamsburg. Agriculture and livestock played a significant role in the livelihood of the colonists, and we can see this by observing the various crops grown and animals raised at the plantation:


Skilled farmers would plant the crops in rotation to maintain the fertility of the soil. The tobacco crop held great importance as it was one of the main sources of revenue for the colonists.

The Great Oak Tree, a prominent feature in the landscape, sheltered the crops from severe weather conditions.

Livestock at Colonial Williamsburg play a crucial role in recreating the agricultural atmosphere of the 18th century. Authentic breeds such as Leicester Longwool sheep, Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs, and heritage chickens (one of which bit my finger lol) roam the historic grounds. These animals contribute to educational programs, showcasing the vital role they played in sustaining colonial life and economy.

Caring for animals such as horses and sheep was a vital part of life in Colonial Williamsburg. Horses were necessary for transportation and farming tasks while sheep provided wool for the production of various textiles.

Taverns and Dining

In Colonial Williamsburg, we know that food and drink are essential for a fantastic travel experience. Our historic taverns offer a unique dining experience that will transport you back in time to the 18th century. The taverns feature authentic recipes, costumes, and atmosphere.

Some of our favorite taverns include:

  • Chowning’s Tavern: Enjoy delicious Colonial-style dishes with a menu inspired by traditional flavors and ingredients.
  • King’s Arms Tavern: This fine dining establishment offers an array of exquisite dishes in an elegant setting.
  • Christiania Campbell’s Tavern: Known for its seafood specialties, this tavern is perfect for those who enjoy fresh-caught delights.

Travel Tip: Our favorite place to eat in Colonial Williamsburg is the Cheese Shop for sandwiches. We grab a few sandwiches and freshly baked cookies and head to the middle of the tree-lined field in front of the Governor’s Palace, be sure to bring a small picnic blanket. The fresh air and the horse-drawn carriages going by is a dreamy experience.

Carriage Rides and Tours

Discover the charm of Colonial Williamsburg on a horse-drawn carriage ride. As you explore the historic area, our informative guide shares stories and insights about life in 18th-century Williamsburg.

Carriage rides and tours are available in a variety of styles and durations to suit your preferences. Options include:

Type of TourDurationDescription
Classic Carriage Tour15 minutesA lovely ride around the Revolutionary City.
Extended Carriage Tour30 minutesA more in-depth exploration of Colonial Williamsburg, with additional historical information.

Spa of Colonial Williamsburg

For a moment of relaxation during your visit, we invite you to indulge in the Spa of Colonial Williamsburg. Experience luxury services inspired by the 18th century, including massages, facials, manicures, and more.

Our signature treatments incorporate centuries-old American Indian healing traditions, such as the Colonial Herbal Wrap and the Revolutionary Mud Wrap.

At the Spa of Colonial Williamsburg, prioritizes your well-being, offering a sanctuary to rest and rejuvenate during your historical adventure.

Seasonal Festivities At Colonial Williamsburg

In Colonial Williamsburg, there various seasonal festivities to entertain and educate our visitors.

During the holiday season, Grand Illumination takes place in the historic area, featuring musical performances, fireworks, and the lighting of candles in windows lining the Duke of Gloucester Street. Visitors can stroll through the holiday decorated streets and enjoy the warm atmosphere.

In the summer months, attend the Liberty Celebration at the Governor’s Palace. This event commemorates the birth of America with outdoor festivities, exhibits, and reenactments of historic moments.

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Haunted Tours

If you’re interested in exploring the eerie side of Colonial Williamsburg, take a Haunted Tour for thrill-seekers.

One of the popular attractions on these tours is the Haunted House, where you will hear spine-chilling tales of ghostly encounters from the past.

On these tours, knowledgeable guides take you through darkened streets and haunted buildings while sharing chilling stories of supernatural occurrences in historic Williamsburg.

Generally, our Haunted Tours include:

  1. Colonial Ghosts Ultimate Dead of Night Tour
  2. Haunted Ghosts, Witches and Pirates Tour
  3. Colonial Williamsburg Haunted Ghost Tour

Tour participants often share their personal experiences and stories of ghost sightings on this spooky walk, so don’t be shy to contribute.

Join a Haunted Tours for a thrilling exploration of Colonial Williamsburg’s mysterious past.

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Crafts and Artisan Goods

In Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, we highly recommend experiencing and supporting the local artisans. Luckily, this historic destination is teeming with talented craftsmen who continue the time-honored traditions of the early settlers.

One excellent choice is the A Market House, where you’ll find a variety of handcrafted items, including beautiful pottery, fragrant candles, and traditional textiles. Don’t forget to strike up a conversation with the shopkeepers here, as they’re often knowledgeable about the history and techniques of their craft.

Here’s a brief list of some popular artisan establishments to explore:

  • The Blacksmith Shop: For meticulously crafted metalwork
  • The Shoemaker: For authentic leather shoes and clogs
  • The Weavers: For intricately woven baskets and textiles

Colonial Merchandise

As you explore Colonial Williamsburg, visiting the various historical landmarks, you’ll also come across authentic colonial merchandise that will help you remember your time in this enchanting destination.

Our favorite, The General Store, which feels like stepping back in time. In addition to local artisan goods, you’ll also discover an array of 18th-century reproductions, such as pottery, glassware, and kitchen utensils.

Moreover, many of the historic sites and museums have gift shops where you can purchase fascinating books on early American history, colonial clothing, and even reproduction colonial currency.

It’s well worth the time to browse, learn, and perhaps take home a token of your visit.


In conclusion, Colonial Williamsburg offers a captivating blend of history, culture, and entertainment that is sure to enchant visitors of all ages.

Not only that, the area and the state of Virginia is absoultly beautiful. It is one of our favorite spots in America,

From immersive living history experiences to world-class dining and shopping, there is no shortage of enriching activities to explore in this meticulously preserved colonial town.

Whether strolling along the cobblestone streets, admiring the meticulously restored buildings, or engaging with costumed interpreters, a visit to Colonial Williamsburg promises to transport travelers back in time to a bygone era.

With its timeless charm and wealth of engaging attractions, it’s no wonder that Colonial Williamsburg remains a wonderful American experience.

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