Visit Colonial Williamsburg: 13 Tips & Tricks for a Revolutionary Trip

October 12, 2017

Are you longing to visit Colonial Williamsburg? Pack up the car and go! This historic city is a must-see for history buffs, children, and families alike.

Colonial Williamsburg immerses visitors into 18th-century life in Williamsburg, VA. From re-enactments of pivotal events in history to tours of restored buildings, there so much to see and learn in this iconic city. Throughout your day, you’ll discover more about the daily lives of citizens, run into notable politicians and figures, and hear the stories of Native Americans and African Americans during this time period. Don’t be surprised if you have a conversation with Thomas Jefferson or talk to Patrick Henry about the battle for our country’s independence!

It is easy to be overwhelmed when you first arrive at Colonial Williamsburg. However, with these 13 tips and tricks in your back pocket, you’ll be ready to visit Colonial Williamsburg like a pro.

man in costume driving horse drawn carriage through Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, USA

1. Plan Your Visit Ahead of Time

The non-profit organization that runs Colonial Williamsburg has expertly leveraged the area’s history, people, and events to create a one-of-a-kind experience for guests. As a result, it’s difficult to see it all without a plan.

Before your visit, check out Colonial Williamsburg’s website for tour times, landmark locations, and the schedule of events for the day. This will help you create a loose itinerary that you can follow throughout your day. Don’t try to over-schedule yourself or you’ll be worn out halfway through your visit!

Must-see landmarks and activities include:

  • The Governor's Mansion
  • Tavern Ghost Walk tour
  • DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum
  • Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum
  • The Capitol Building
  • Raleigh Tavern
  • The Courthouse
  • The College of William & Mary

Of course, these are only a handful of the things to do and places to see during your visit to Colonial Williamsburg.

2. Make Dinner Reservations in Advance

If you’re interested in dining in a tavern or at one of Colonial Williamsburg’s renowned dinner events, you’ll want to place your reservations as soon as possible. These particular events and historic taverns are a popular choice among visitors, and walk-in seating isn’t always available. For an authentic Colonial Williamsburg experience, a tavern meal is a must.

For those who would rather not plan their day around dinner reservations, Colonial Williamsburg also has a multitude of dining options including:

  • Museum Cafe
  • Raleigh Tavern Bakery
  • Traditions
  • Rockefeller Room
  • Huzzah’s Eatery
  • The Terrace & Goodwin Rooms

3. Study Williamsburg’s History Before You Go

Want to enhance your visit to Colonial Williamsburg? Study up on Williamsburg’s history before your trip. While you don’t have to go back to high school history class, just browse through a few articles or documentaries to familiarize yourself with the content. With this information in mind, you’ll be able to explore the city and understand the events that took place.

If you’re looking to visit Colonial Williamsburg with kids, a quick lesson in our nation’s history will improve their overall experience too. Colonial Williamsburg’s online resources make it easy for kids and adults to get a history lesson before, during, and after their visit.

4. Give Yourself Plenty of Time

Colonial Williamsburg is massive. On top of the sheer size of the city, there is so much to do and see in a single day. With this in mind, you’ll want to make sure your Williamsburg, VA vacation offers enough time to truly explore this historic area.

To see all that the area has to offer, you’ll want to split your visit up into two days. This allows you to thoroughly immerse yourself in the history and stories of Williamsburg without rushing through. Also, if you’re traveling with children, visiting Colonial Williamsburg over the course of two days is ideal.

Photo Credit: Mike Durkin / Flickr.
Arrive early to make the most of your Colonial Williamsburg visit.

5. Arrive Early

In the spirit of allowing yourself enough time to experience all of Colonial Williamsburg, you should arrive as early as possible. The majority of Colonial Williamsburg buildings, activities, and landmarks are open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Several evening programs also run late into the night.

Plus, if you arrive right at or before 9:00 am, you can take advantage of excellent parking spots at the Visitor Center. A shuttle will transport you from the Visitor Center to the city.

6. Wear Comfortable Attire and Footwear

Did you know that Colonial Williamsburg is one mile long and a half-mile wide? With this in mind, it is in your best interest to wear comfortable walking shoes. Unless attending a formal event at Colonial Williamsburg, leave the high heels and fancy loafers at home.

Don’t forget to check the weather forecast, too! Wearing weather-appropriate clothing will help make your visit a pleasant one. It is advised that guests wear layers or bring a light jacket.

7. Grab a Map

It’s easy to get lost in Colonial Williamsburg! Before you begin your day of exploration, be sure to grab a map. Or, you can download the Colonial Williamsburg mobile app for directions and an interactive map. You can also use this app as a resource when planning out your visit the day before.

8. Don’t Miss the Orientation Tour

To help get you acquainted with the city, orientation tours run daily from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm. These tours show you around the historic area and offer advice on activities, demonstrations, food stops, and more. Special family-focused tours are available as well.

If you did not have a chance to plan your day at Colonial Williamsburg in advance, this tour is a great way to help form an itinerary on the spot.

9. Feel Free to Wander

While planning ahead of time can be advantageous, sometimes the most memorable vacations don’t have a set itinerary. If you are only able to visit Colonial Williamsburg for a short amount of time, feel free to wander around the city! Even if you do not enter the historic buildings or participate in a tour, you can still discover so much about the area, the history, and the people of Williamsburg just by walking around.

Cast Members at Colonial Williamsburg - Williamsburg, Virginia, USA

10. Talk to the Interpreters

During your visit, you’ll find expert interpreters scattered throughout the area. These interpreters represent iconic Williamsburg figures such as:

  • Thomas Jefferson
  • George Washington
  • Martha Washington
  • The Randolph Family
  • Patrick Henry
  • Benedict Arnold
  • Richard Henry Lee
  • Marquis de Lafayette
  • James Monroe

You’ll also be able to meet and talk with townspeople, businessmen, farmers, and more. Each person has a story to tell!

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to have a conversation with an interpreter. You can ask them any question you may have about the time period, their life, or the city. These interpreters have extensive knowledge of life in Colonial Williamsburg and about the particular individual they represent.

11. Know Which Buildings are Open to the Public

Did you know that the actors, interpreters, and other Colonial Williamsburg employees can live in the city’s restored buildings and homes? With this in mind, Colonial Williamsburg has a clever way of indicating which buildings are open to the public and which are private residences or offices.

Aside from the door marker clearly stating that a building is a private residence, look for the Grand Union flag flying outside a building. If you see this flag, you are free to enter the building at your leisure (assuming you have purchased Colonial Williamsburg tickets).

Photo Credit: Colonial Williamsburg / Facebook

12. Take Advantage of Kid-Friendly Activities

Convincing a kid that a trip back in time to the 18th-century will be fun may be a challenge for some parents. Fortunately, Colonial Williamsburg is filled with kid-friendly activities, tours, and attractions. While you visit Colonial Williamsburg, your children can:

  • Rent a Colonial Costume
  • Tour Great Hopes Plantation
  • Ride in a Carriage
  • Embark on the Tavern Ghost Walk
  • Speak with Interpreters
  • Play Colonial Games

Your kids will have so much fun, they’ll completely forget this is an educational experience! After their first visit, you won’t need to convince them to go a second time.

13. Buy Your Colonial Williamsburg Tickets from Reserve Williamsburg and Save

While you do not need a ticket to walk around the city, guests must purchase a ticket to enter buildings, participate in events, go on tours, and explore other areas of the historic grounds. To save money on your Williamsburg, VA trip, take advantage of Bundle it! from Tripster.

Bundle it! allows you to combine your already discounted Colonial Williamsburg tickets with a hotel room for additional savings. Simply choose the number of tickets you need, find the hotel that suits your travel preferences, and save. It’s really that easy.

Plus, who doesn’t want to visit Colonial Williamsburg and save money at the same time?

With our tips, you’re fully prepared to visit Colonial Williamsburg!

Are You Ready to Visit Colonial Williamsburg?

With these tips and tricks in hand, you’re on your way to a revolutionary time at Colonial Williamsburg. Get your tickets and immerse yourself in our nation’s past!

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