Here is some insider information on getting the most out of your trip to Colonial Williamsburg and the Historic Triangle of Virginia, one of America’s top family destinations and the largest living history museum in the world. These basic trip-planning tips will help you make your stay a better and better value vacation.
1. Best Time to Visit Williamsburg
The least crowded period is January through March but the weather can be cold and damp. The worst crowds are during the school holidays from June through August, and in December, when the historic area is decorated for the Christmas holidays.
The best weather in this part of Virginia, where flowers bloom and leaves turn color, occurs in Spring and Fall, and value hotel rooms make a visit worthwhile if you can get away then.
2. Best Way to Get Around Williamsburg
This is a large but compact area with something to see everywhere you turn. One of the best ways to tour the Historic Area with kids is by bicycle. Try Bikes Unlimited. Not good on two wheels? A free shuttle bus from parking lots is included in the price of a Historic Area admission ticket. For an extra fee, you can ride around in a period horse and carriage. Several areas in the Historic Triangle have the option to take a Segway tour.
3. Best Family Itinerary in Williamsburg
Allow at least two days to visit the Colonial Williamsburg living history museum, and two more if your history buffs want to see Yorktown and Jamestown as well. Two days will also give you enough time to experience both parts of “Revolutionary City,” a dramatic, walk-through living history show. Must-see sites in the colonial village include Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, Burton Parish Church, the College of William and Mary, and the Governor’s Palace. Of the smaller shops and homes, the R. Charlton Coffeehouse, where samples of colonial coffee, tea and hot chocolate are served, is one of the most interesting experiences.
If you have time and a little extra money to spend on your experience, enroll the kids (ages 4-12) in the Colonial Williamsburg Apprentice program, which allows them to visit three trade shops, see demonstrations, collect mementos, and “choose” a future trade. Like their special programs about archeology, it’s only given at certain times of year, so plan ahead.
Give yourselves another few days to lighten the lessons in summer with a day of splashes at the Water Country USA water park, and a fun outing to the Pirates’ Cove Minigolf. An alternative theme park is the wonderful Busch Gardens which boasts the world’s tallest inverted roller coaster. Open seasonally.
4. Best Admission Ticket Options
Williamsburg Ticket Plans vary according to length of stay and privileges, and we recommend the Historic Triangle offer, because it includes entrance to the National Park Service Colonial Parks at Jamestowne and Yorktown, as well as the museums and recreation areas of Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum. If you stay at official Colonial Williamsburg hotels, ask about the variety of ticket packages, as many special events and evening programs may require additional fees.
The Annual Pass provides unlimited access for one year. This pass includes all general admissions, local museums, daily programs and a discount on evening shows.
5. Best Celebratory Family Event in Williamsburg
In order to be sure to sample an historic tavern meal with the whole family, book ahead as each restaurant is open seasonally and hours vary. Call 888/965-7254 to make a reservation at King’s Arms (a reproduction of the 1772 chophouse, still serving meats and grill) or Christiana Campbell’s, only open dinnertime. (Note that Christiana Campbell’s seafood was a favorite of George Washington and her crabcakes are very popular.)
Lunch crowds can be daunting, especially over the school holidays. Shields Tavern has a more international menu, plus a beer and wine list. Another popular and more casual tavern is Chowning’s, a reconstructed 18th century alehouse with a kids menu, an outdoor garden and evening entertainment. Just adjacent to the colonial area, the Marketplace is packed with shops, restaurants, little cafes, coffee bars, ice cream parlors and more options.
If you’re traveling with adult family members, try the Williamsburg region’s budding foodie scene. On the pretty Yorktown riverfront, the Riverwalk Restaurant and Water Street Grill are two favorites. The Yorktown Pub is a local favorite bar, and the Virginia Beer Company serves microbrews on tap, inside and out. The Williamsburg Tasting Trail has many suggestions for local wineries and distilleries.
6. Best Williamsburg Experience with Teens
Ghost tours are especially popular with school-age children and teens. Contact the Original Williamsburg Candlelight Ghost Tour or go to nearby Yorktown for a haunted walking tour.
7. Best Williamsburg Information Sources
Some handy phone numbers to keep in mind are the Williamsburg Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (800/368-6511), the Colonial Williamsburg Information office (888/965-7254) and the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation (888/593-4682).
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.