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Williamsburg, Virginia (A Visitor's Guide)

Exploring Colonial Williamsburg and the Historic Triangle of Virginia

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Williamsburg, Virginia (A Visitor's Guide)

Character Interpreters at Colonial Williamsburg

Photo © The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, VA

Williamsburg, Virginia, also known as Colonial Williamsburg, is America’s largest interactive history museum, located just a few hours south of Washington, DC. The 301-acre restored 18th-century capital city of Virginia transports visitors back in time to the period of the American Revolution. Beating drums, trilling fifes, firework displays, theatrical programs and interpretive characters are just a few of the entertainment elements that are designed to spark your interest in 18th-century Virginia.

Getting to Willamsburg

From Washington DC: Take I-95 South toward Richmond, Take exit 84A on the left to merge onto I-295 South toward Rocky Mt NC/Richmond International, Take exit 28A to merge onto I-64 E toward Norfolk/VA Beach, Take exit 238 for VA-143 toward US-60. Follow signs to Williamsburg. See a map.

History and Restoration

From 1699 to 1780, Williamsburg was the capital of England’s wealthiest and largest colony. In 1780, Thomas Jefferson moved Virginia’s government to Richmond and Williamsburg became a quiet country town. In 1926, John D. Rockefeller Jr. supported and financed the town's restoration and continued to do so until his death in 1960. Today, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, a private, not-for-profit educational institution preserves and interprets the Historic Area.

Historic Area

The Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg includes 88 original 18th-century structures and hundreds of houses, shops and public outbuildings that have been reconstructed on their original foundations.

Important Sites:
  • Governor's Palace - the symbol of British authority in the colony
  • Capitol - the seat of colonial power and site of Virginia's vote for independence May 15, 1776
  • Peyton Randolph site - where historic trades carpenters are reconstructing Randolph's "urban plantation"
  • Raleigh Tavern - where Virginia patriots met to discuss independence in open defiance of the Crown
  • George Wythe House - home of Thomas Jefferson's teacher and friend
  • James Geddy House and Foundry - site of an up-and-coming family business
Indoor Museums:
  • Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum - 18 galleries are filled with paintings, embroideries, whirligigs, weathervanes, toys, dating from the 1720s to the present.
  • DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum - collection of English and American antiques, including, furniture, silver, textiles, ceramics and more.
See Photos of Colonial Williamsburg

Historic Trades and Demonstrations

Visitors can watch historic trade demonstrations and dramatic vignettes and participate in interactive programs with “People of the Past.” Tradesmen and women are professional, full-time artisans dedicated to specific trades, such as brickmaking, culinary, carpentry, apothecary, gunsmith and saddlery. Homes, public buildings and shops in the Historic Area are furnished with objects from an extensive collection of English and American antiques and reproductions made by Colonial Williamsburg tradespeople.

Walking Tours and Special Programs

Tours, evening programs and special events change daily. To truly experience the Historic Area, plan to take a themed walking tour or participate in live comedy, theatre, and musical performances. See the calendar of events. Some programs are an additional charge and require advance reservations. The holiday season offers wonderful programs for the whole family. See a guide to Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg.

Historic Area Operating Hours

Hours are generally 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but vary by season. The buildings and grounds are open seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Tickets

Tickets are required to enter the historic buildings and attend special programs. Single-day and multiple-day passes are available. You may wander the streets of the historic district, eat in the taverns and visit the shops without a ticket. For reservations, call (800) HISTORY or visit www.colonialwilliamsburg.com.

Visiting Tips

  • Plan to spend at least a full day in Colonial Williamsburg. Add additional days to visit Busch Gardens, Water Country USA, Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center.
     
  • Upon arrival, stop at the Visitor Center to purchase tickets, gather information and watch the 30-minute orientation film. Leave your car in the Visitor Center Parking Lot and use the free shuttle to get around the Historic Area
     
  • Make reservations prior to arrival for evening programs and dinners in the Colonial Taverns.
     
  • Be sure to bring and wear comfortable shoes. Cars are not allowed in the Historic Area, so expect to do a lot of walking.
     
See Page 2 for a guide to Major Attractions, Hotels, Dining and Shopping in the Williamsburg Area.

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