Why read about American history when you can see it in person and put your hands on the real relics of the country’s past?
Williamsburg is a living history museum, but it’s not just for the history buffs; there are plenty of things to do for the little ones and the adventurous types, as well.
Most Williamsburg attractions have guides and reenactors in genuine 18th-century clothing to make the experience authentic.
See how colonials lived their daily lives while preparing to take on one of the mightiest monarchies in the world. In truth, King George never stood a chance against these pioneers.
Visitors should see as many attractions in Williamsburg as possible to experience the reality of rebellion. And enjoy a brew or two at one of the local taverns.
The sheer amount of places to see and things to do in Williamsburg will probably surprise most first-time visitors. Let this mini tourist guide help inspire you along your travels.
Here is an overview of the top attractions in Williamsburg, Virginia.
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No other destinations in Williamsburg are quite like Colonial Williamsburg. At one time, this was one of the richest colonies in America – before it became America.
Colonial Williamsburg gives visitors the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of those original inhabitants and see their homes and shops as they were originally built.
This is where the Revolution was planned, and a new nation was created. One of the critical buildings was the Governor's Palace and its formal gardens. The world-changing ideas of Thomas Jefferson came alive in the George Wythe House.
At the social center were Raleigh Tavern, King's Arms Tavern, and Christiana Cambell's Tavern. The ale flowed freely here – creating a nation is thirsty work. To repent, residents went to the Bruton Parish Church, which is still functional today.
All 18th-century trades are represented in Colonial Williamsburg, including blacksmith, weaver, gunsmith, carpenter, wigmaker, shoemaker, and more. Everything was hand-made by skilled craftspeople.
The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum showcases antique glass, paintings, firearms, and prints from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Visitors can also tour John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s house and experience how the genuine elite lived.
In addition to all the historical buildings and sights, Colonial Williams has plenty of places to eat and drink.
Address: 101 Visitor Center Dr, Williamsburg, VA 23185
The Governor's Palace is one of the best places to visit in Williamsburg.
It was the home of over a half dozen royal (British overlord) governors and two elected Virginia governors as it spanned the time between British rule and American independence.
Being initially established for snobbish royals, it was intended to impress with its elegance and grandness.
One key highlight is the gorgeous ballroom, with its gleaming chandeliers and exquisite frescoes adorning the ceiling. Other attractions include expansive gardens that offer a serene oasis filled with vibrant flowers and lush greenery.
There are tours from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Visitors can explore the palace on their own from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The palace is open Monday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Address: 300 Palace Green St, Williamsburg, VA 23185
George Wythe was one of our important forefathers who somehow got lost in history.
He mentored Thomas Jefferson, tutored the young, and was president of the College of William and Mary. Then, he was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
One of the Williamsburg attractions is the 1750s house named after him. This grand home is part of the original 88 structures that became Colonial Williamsburg.
Its colorful wallpaper, pictures covered in class, and mirrors were proof of 18th-century affluence.
The kitchen replicates the original cooking area, with food stored in ceramic jars and a baker baking bread in the Dutch oven.
Of course, in the 18th century, these jobs would have been performed by slaves who lived above the kitchen.
The Wythe House is available for weddings; guests can book private overnight rooms.
Address: Palace Green St, Williamsburg, VA 23185
The Shops at Colonial Williamsburg are one of the must-visit Williamsburg attractions. These stores are filled with souvenirs, historically-inspired products, collectibles, and more.
Anything can be found here, from furniture and art to food. For example, for fresh seafood, there is Uncle Russ' Dockside Seafood Market for the catch of the day. The Peanut Shop has a vast selection of peanuts and candy.
For delightfully unique Christmas decorations that will have people remembering their visit forever, the "Christmas Mouse" on 1991 Richmond Road has over 25,000 different holiday decorations.
For gifts or for your home, Danforth Pewter at 417 W Duke of Gloucester Street, Williamsburg, offers handcrafted items such as ornaments, keyrings, and more.
Spices can be found anywhere. But the extraordinary Spice and Tea Exchange of Williamsburg on 39 Prince George Street Williamsburg has 170 different kinds of spices, herbs, and specialty flavorings. Surprise friends and family with a one-of-a-kind culinary experience.
Click here for more information about all of Colonial Williamsburg's specialty shops.
Address: 402 W Duke of Gloucester St, Williamsburg, VA 23185
One of the undisputed fun attractions in Williamsburg is Busch Gardens, an adventure park run by modern technology while retaining a 17th-century charm.
There are more than 50 rides and plenty of entertainment for everyone: the zoo, children's learning and playground areas, live entertainment and music, as well as plenty of rollercoasters, including the infamous Loch Ness Monster and Alpengeist rides.
The park has been voted the "World's Most Beautiful Amusement Park" annually since 1990.
The latest thrill ride is the Pantheon, which zooms 73 mph with a 95-degree drop. Are you brave enough to try it out?
Another fun aspect of Busch Gardens is its nine European villages. Each village represents a specific European country in architecture and food. You need to go no further than Busch Garden to enjoy a tour of Italy.
Busch Gardens has close to 10 different specialty tours. Click here for more information. It also has a wide variety of food and drink choices.
Address: 1 Busch Gardens Blvd, Williamsburg, VA 23185
Also Read: 25 Best Amusement Parks in the US
One of the best spots in Williamsburg to stay cool during the heat is Water Country USA, which is close to Busch Gardens and Virginia's largest water park.
Bring a bathing suit and splash in the wave pool, slides, and up to 30 watery rides.
Why not try the Aquazoid, which dives 850 feet at 20 feet per second through a darkened tunnel? It sounds like fun.
The entire family can enjoy rafting down the Big Daddy Falls with its soaking blasters. There are many more exciting rides, including rides geared explicitly for children, such as the Little Bopper kids' slide.
Of course, there is food and entertainment galore. Guests can opt for the VIP treatment by renting comfortable cabanas and loungers.
The hours to Water Country vary, so click here for more information. Water Country is open from May through September.
Address: 176 Water Country Pkwy, Williamsburg, VA 23185
Also Read: 25 Best Water Parks in the USA
One of the interesting things to do in Williamsburg is to visit the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Gallery.
Visitors need to enter through the lobby of the Public Hospital – the hospital itself is a permanent exhibit about the history of mental illness in the U.S.
A staircase will take you to the gallery, which is brightened by a skylight. The museum also features an outdoor sculpture garden and a pool.
The museum exhibits high-end items, such as the largest collection of furniture from the South and a huge collection of ceramics and other antiques from Great Britain, such as paintings and firearms from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.
The Café offers a light menu.
An adult ticket that includes the garden, the museum collection, and a performance in the Hennage Auditorium is $49.99. Children younger than 12 pay $28.99.
Address: 325 Francis St, Williamsburg, VA 23185
Also Read: 20 Best Art Museums in the USA
Back in the 18th century and today, taverns were and are a popular place to gather and enjoy great food and even better company.
The colonial taverns are one of the influential Williamsburg attractions. Some still serve classic 18th-century cuisine, while others have modernized their menu.
Running a tavern was hard work in the 18th century. Fires had to be lit first thing. Groceries had to be bought at the market by dawn.
A menu was then created and prepared to be served around 2:00 p.m. Any leftovers would be the following day's breakfast. Below is a list of just a few of the classic colonial taverns:
The King's Arms Tavern has stayed true to its colonial origins – from pewter candlesticks to costumed servers. The 21st-century cuisine has been strongly inspired by 18th-century guidelines.
For George Washington's favorite eatery, visit Christiana Campbell's Tavern. This was where he came to discuss revolutionary ideas and enjoy the local seafood.
The name Rockefeller has always been associated with money, and today's Rockefeller Room offers a modern five-course prix-fixe dinner with wine pairing.
The ingredients are the finest available from the local farmers and fishermen.
Opulent and extravagant, but a reflection of top-rated southern cooking. The five courses are $128, and the wine pairing is $58. At the Rockefeller Room, upscale dressing is recommended.
Address: 422 W Duke of Gloucester St, Williamsburg, VA 23185
One of the most exciting places in Williamsburg is the Jamestown Settlement, a museum that exhibits, examines, and tells the story of how our country began by using films, exhibits, and re-creations of ships, a town, and other elements that were a part of this nation's birth.
Visitors can take a few steps into the past as costumed lecturers bring colonial Jamestown to life.
The three ships that brought the initial settlers to Jamestown in 1607 were called Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery.
Imagine what those first settlers must have felt in this strange land. Visitors can board one of the decks and learn about 17th-century navigation.
The land around Jamestown was inhabited by the Paspahegh tribe. The re-creation of Paspahegh Town, made possible through archaeological discoveries of old artifacts, helps people understand their way of life.
Again, costumed speakers discuss the indigenous peoples' daily routine, pottery making, weaving, fishing, and preparing food.
The difference in clothes made from woven linen or those made from leather will be explained as a 17th-century status issue – shopping at Walmart vs. Gucci.
The price of tickets varies, so click here for more information.
Address: 2110 Jamestown Rd, Williamsburg, VA 23185
William and Mary is the country's second oldest university, dating back to its charter in 1693. Four U.S. presidents graduated from W&M – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Tyler, and James Monroe.
It went coed in 1918 and was restored to its colonial appearance by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in 1928.
W&M also established America's first law school. It has 30 graduate and professional programs and 15 certificate programs.
Its academics are considered one of the finest in the country. It was voted number 1 for Best Schools for Internships, number 1 for Most Trusted Public University, and number 13 as Best Public University.
W&M not only improves the mind; it offers more than 50 fitness classes to encourage a healthy body. There are more than 500 student-athletes.
High school students can take pre-college classes, which will greatly enhance their college application. Seniors can take classes during the summer for full credit.
W&M also works closely with gifted middle school and elementary students. Clearly, W&M is one of the destinations in Williamsburg that draws students of all ages.
Address: Sadler Center, 200 Stadium Dr, Williamsburg, VA 23185
The Bruton Parish Church has served the same parish for three hundred years, although it has been built and rebuilt three times and is one of the historically important attractions in Williamsburg.
The original church could only accommodate about 100 people. In 1710, it was restructured to include far more, financed by a tax on liquor and, sadly, a tax on slaves.
Equality was not a concept the original colonists faithfully practiced, if at all, and the new design included a large, canopied chair on top of a platform for the governor, who undoubtedly expected special treatment – even in the eyes of God.
At the same time, women and men were seated apart from each other. According to a proclamation, it is "Ordered that the Men sit on the North side of the church, and the women on the left."
In 1718, students from William and Mary College were provided with their own gallery.
A special English organ was installed in 1768 and used until 1835. The current organ was given to the church by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1954.
Address: 201 W Duke of Gloucester Street, Williamsburg
Also Read: Most Beautiful Churches in America
One of the top Williamsburg tourist attractions includes private walking tours for up to eight people. Tours can be two or three hours long; the three-hour tour is recommended for families with children.
The tour provides facts about life during the colonial period and the people who lived through it and had to prepare for the Revolutionary War.
Included in the tour is Williamsburg's oldest building (built in 1698) and the school attended by three U.S. presidents.
Guests will walk the same cobbled-stoned paths as did James Madison, George Washington, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson and see the colonial tradesmen practice their
Take note that admission to historic buildings is not included in the tour price, which is $180 for two to eight people for two hours or $270 for three hours. The tour can be customized to the visitor's interests.
Address: Colonial Williamsburg
This is one of those places to visit in Williamsburg where you will shop till you drop.
Take a day off from all the history that this town offers and visit the Williamsburg Premium Outlets and its 100 stores for great deals on J. Crew, Coach, Nike, Banana Republic, and many others. Our forefathers would approve of a good deal!
The outlet is popular, and parking can fill up quickly, so it's best to shop midweek, Tuesday through Thursday and go early or after dinner.
The stores here are open from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. but close at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Address: 5715 Richmond Rd. Williamsburg
Many historical Williamsburg attractions have been restored to their original glory, and the two-story 18the-century Basset Hall is one of them as John D. Rockefeller turned it into his own comfortable home.
The extensive gardens bloom each spring and fall with trails for exploration.
Rockefeller was inspired by the restoration of the Bruton Church and specifically moved to Williamsburg to see the restoration of many of the colonial buildings, almost 88 in all.
Mrs. Rockefeller used early American art and antiques to furnish Bassett Hall, providing publicity for previously unknown craftsmen.
The garden perfectly complements the house.
Bassett Hall can be visited on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Address: 522 East Francis Street, Williamsburg
Few people consider the importance of the American Revolution. There is no historical precedence for a group of people overthrowing the shackles of a monarchical dictatorship.
The American Revolution Museum examines the colonial period through the concepts of freedom and the Constitution. It's an epic tale, and visiting the museum is one of the things to do in Williamsburg.
It displays 500 artifacts and short films to tell the story. There is a living theatre that engages guests in historical moments. This is more than just learning about the past; it is merging with the past.
Hands-on exhibits allow visitors to make a personal connection with the Revolution, and the gallery displays a copy of the Declaration of Independence and an actual 1776 printing of the Virginia Declaration of Rights.
It also contains a portrait of one of the earliest slaves – some of our forefathers had the crazy idea that the concept of freedom applied to all men.
The museum's farm lets visitors help with 18th-century-style cooking and games. Another area is a replica of a soldiers’ camp and the daily life of an average soldier.
Address: 200 Water St, Yorktown
One of the best places to go in Williamsburg for a juicy steak is Opus 9 Steakhouse.
Let's face it; our colonial forefathers were better advocates for freedom than they were for vegetarianism. They loved a mouth-watering piece of meat.
Opus is a perfect night-out restaurant for steak and a Chocolate Concerto for dessert. It also has rooms for larger, private get-togethers.
The Beethoven Room is available for up to 40 people, while the Mozart Room is cozier with seating for only 15.
Opus will work with all parties and their budget regarding the menu. Assigned waiters will ensure that private dinners run smoothly and effortlessly.
Address: 5143 Main St, Williamsburg
Also Read: The Best Steakhouses in the USA
Shopping for antiques is always a treasure hunt. Who knows what gems are lurking in bins and aisles? The Williamsburg Antique Mall is not a thrift shop but has some excellent bargains.
This 45,000 square feet mall houses over 300 dealers and is handicapped accessible.
Visiting here is one of the things to do in Williamsburg for shrewd shoppers looking for exquisite old jewelry or fine antique furniture. The surprising finds alone are worth a trip to Williamsburg.
The mall's café is open Thursday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and from noon to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday. There is outside seating during days with excellent weather.
The mall is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Address: 500 Lightfoot Rd, Williamsburg
The innocent-looking Raleigh Tavern is one of the Williamsburg attractions hiding a somewhat tumultuous past.
If you visit the tavern, you will enjoy delectable baked goods and light lunches with a nice cider, coffee, or pale ale. It's where you would bring the children.
Back in 1770, however, the Raleigh Tavern was a major meeting hub for revolutionaries, led by Patrick Henry himself as he defiantly advocated that Virginia and other colonies must resist the British governor.
The tavern is named after the famed Englishman Sir Walter Raleigh and was a venue for balls and banquets before becoming a political hothouse.
Address: 410 E Duke of Gloucester Street
Leave history behind for a while and get back to nature. York River State Park is located north of Williamsburg and comprises 3,000 acres of trails, recreational facilities, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.
The park is filled with picnic areas, some with grills and playgrounds.
There are several trails. The Taskinas Creek Trail is an easy two-mile loop with opportunities for seeing local wildlife.
However, the best way to see the park is by boating down the York River. Canoes and kayaks are available for rental.
The park is one of the places to visit in Williamsburg to get away from Williamsburg for a few hours and enjoy nature.
A day pass into the park is $4.00 per car, open from 8:00 a.m. until sunset. The gift shop and visitor’s center close at 3:30 p.m.
Address: 801 York River Park Rd, Williamsburg
Also Read: 25 Best State Parks to Visit in the US
The Rockefeller family was intensely involved in the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg as a monument to US history.
One of the things to do in Williamsburg that involved the Rockefellers is visiting the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum ("AARFAM"), which is the oldest museum for exhibiting American folk art.
Expanding her collection of folk art to 7,000 items, some of which date back from the 1720s, Abby Rockefeller created the largest folk art collection anywhere.
The museum is open Monday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Address: 301 S Nassau St, Williamsburg
Few things are as tasty as a home-roasted batch of peanuts. Whitley's Peanut Factory is one of the best places to go in Williamsburg for a peanut treat and more.
The shop began in 1986 with a small roaster and quickly grew due to high demand.
These peanuts are carefully chosen and still cooked by hand to perfection. They are available in all types of sizes and containers.
The great news is that access to these delicious peanut snacks is not limited to a visit to Williamsburg.
Whitley’s offers a Variety Club Plan that sends out monthly tins of different varieties of peanuts during the first week of the month. As a personal indulgence or as a gift, this is perfect.
The store is open Sunday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Address: 1351 Richmond Rd, Williamsburg
The colonists brought their love of a good ale with them from England.
For 18the century Virginia, the morning started with beer; there was beer for lunch and then more for dinner. Eight to ten glasses of beer daily was the norm, and children drank it, too.
This explains the popularity of Ale Alewerks as one of the major Virginia breweries and attractions in Williamsburg.
Their Bitter Valentine Double was called one of the 10 best Valentine's beers by Paste Magazine.
Another favorite is the Café Royale Milk Stout. People love the latest ale du jour with a pretzel and cheese dipping sauce.
Check with Alewerks regarding their tours, tastings, and latest ale.
Address: 189 Ewell Road Williamsburg
Also Read: Best Brewery Tours in the USA
Among the best places to go in Williamsburg for some family fun include Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf, where miniature golf takes on a pirate theme with buccaneers, ships, footbridges, caves, and fun waterfalls.
There may be cannon fire from an irate pirate or two. It’s like no miniature golf visitors have ever played.
There are several different adventures. The Captain’s Course and the Blackbeard’s Challenge are $12.50 for adults and $10.50 for children.
Playing all 36 holes is $19.50 for adults and $17.95 for children. After playing, the children receive a pirate-themed goodie bag.
Pirate’s Cove opens every day at 10:00 a.m. and closes at 10:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday at 11:00 on weekends.
Address: 2001 Mooretown Rd, Williamsburg
Also Read: Best Golf Courses in The US
With all its important history, it is not surprising that Williamsburg has had its share of ghost sightings.
Whether people believe in ghosts or not, ghost tours are a fun way of touring and getting to know a city and one of the entertaining and educational things to do in Williamsburg.
Colonial Ghosts has been ranked among America's top ten ghost tours. A guide leads the tour on a nightly walk through the city’s historical sectors, with a special tour including the College of William and Mary.
The Original Ghost Tour is Virginia’s oldest ghost tour. Visitors can take an hour and a half of walking tour through Colonial Williamsburg and learn many of its secrets.
The tour begins at 8:00 p.m. and is $19.00 per person. Visitors can include a pub crawl to meet both ghosts and great pubs. The cost for the pub crawl is $46.00.
Address: The Original Ghost Tour begins at 345 W Duke of Gloucester St.
Also Read: Most Haunted Places in America
Williamsburg is most famous for preserving colonial history that visitors can experience first-hand. It is also the site of one of America's major institutions of higher learning, the College of William & Mary.
Williamsburg has a gentle climate all year round, which allows golfers to enjoy a putt or two, even on Christmas Day. However, the very best time to visit is in the fall, when the foliage turns into a colorful painting, and in April when the lush greenery blooms all around.
Colonial Williamsburg itself is a time capsule of our past that led to the American Revolution and where James Madison, George Washington, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson came to lead a nation.
Another huge attraction is the Governor's Palace which was very much influenced by the British royalty against which the U.S. was about to rise. Remember that the original colonists were actual British citizens. A second example of lavish living is the George Wythe House with its original art and furniture.
Whether or not visitors believe in ghosts, Williamsburg's ghost tours are both fun and educational and can bring the entire Williamsburg experience to life.
When visiting Williamsburg, you'll be stepping into another era. Things to do in Williamsburg include traveling back to the original Jamestown and learning colonial survival skills. But there is more here than learning.
Visitors can shop for colonial items and artifacts at Williamsburg Premium Outlets, enjoy a refreshing splash at Water Country USA, and take a ghost tour around Williamsburg that may reveal surprising facts.
A visit to Williamsburg is fun, exciting, and educational. It's the best family getaway.