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A Local’s Guide to 15 Things to do in Williamsburg, Virginia

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A traditional third-grade class trip for students around the state (and the parents that chaperone them), the Historic Triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown is an excellent destination for families, couples, and solo travelers. Williamsburg has unique attractions, outdoor recreation, and fun activities for history buffs, nature enthusiasts, and thrill seekers.

Even foodies will find interest in Williamsburg with the variety of authentic taverns, bistros, and seafood restaurants. Once the capital of Virginia before Richmond took the title in 1780, Williamsburg offers a blend of Colonial Revival and Dutch Colonial Revival architecture to accompany battle sites, American folk art, recreated 18th-century scenes, and the historic York and James rivers.

Not to mention being where General Washington and his right-hand man (Alexander Hamilton) rendezvoused with Rochambeau and subsequently won the war.

Williamsburg is one of my favorite places in Virginia. It’s only about an hour from Richmond and Virginia Beach, which makes for a great day trip (even if you’re not chaperoning a class trip).

Look below at some of my suggestions for the best things to do in Williamsburg. And, yes, there may be a Hamilton reference or two.


Activity Description Price
Colonial Williamsburg (CW) Living history museum portraying Colonial life $28.99 – $59.99
Governor’s Palace Home to royal and post-war governors Part of CW ticket
George Wythe House Historic home of prominent lawyer Part of CW ticket
Merchant’s Square Shopping, dining, and entertainment Varies
Williamsburg Winery Vineyards, winery, and tastings $55.00 (tour and tasting)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg European-themed amusement park $79.99 (one-day ticket)
Art Museums Folk, decorative, and international art $14.99 +
Jamestown Settlement Recreated 17th-century village $18.00
Freedom Park Hiking, bicycling, nature Free
Williamsburg Botanical Garden Gardens, trails, native plants Free
Go Ape Adventure Park Ziplines, swings, obstacles $34.95 – $64.95
York River State Park Hiking trails, fishing, canoeing $5.00 per person
Colonial National Historic Parkway Scenic drive Free
American Revolution Museum Museum dedicated to the Revolutionary War $18.00
Ghost Tour Historic tour of the spooky side $30.00

Things to Do in Williamsburg, Virginia

1. Colonial Williamsburg

Williamsburg Colonial Jeweler
Sandy Allen / ViaTravelers

With more than 301 acres of original, renovated, and reconstructed historic buildings, Colonial Williamsburg is known as the world’s largest living history museum. Visit historic structures throughout the area.

You do need to purchase the Colonial Williamsburg ticket to enter the structures. This is where you’ll learn all about Colonial life and trades from costumed interpreters.

Historic apparel, metal, woodworking, and gardening trades include specialties like wig-making, bookbindery, apothecaries, shoemaking, weaving, gardening, engraving, and more. I’m especially fond of the Milliner and Mantua-Maker (seamstresses), the silversmith, and the wigmaker shops.

Williamsburg Colonial Seamstress
Sandy Allen / ViaTravelers

Historic pubs are another fun way for foodies and history buffs to enjoy their time in Colonial Williamsburg. Check out the spots where all the big guys hung out.

George Washington enjoyed Christiana Campbell’s Tavern, while Thomas Jefferson is said to have frequented King’s Arms. Other Colonial taverns include Chowning’s Tavern and Shields Tavern.

Dine on traditional 1700s fare like Brunswick stew, Welsh rarebit, peanut soup, pottage pie, and clam chowder. And, of course, have a pint or two and offer a toast to Mr. Washington.

The wait staff will be dressed in authentic colonial attire. You may be asked for your full name to be addressed properly as Mr., Mrs., or Ms.

2. Governor’s Palace

Williamsburg Governors Palace Exterior
Sandy Allen / ViaTravelers

Address: 300 Palace Green Street, Williamsburg, Virginia 23185

The Governor’s Palace was home to seven royal governors of the colony before the Revolution. It was also home to two of Virginia’s post-war elected governors (Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson) before the capital of Virginia moved to Richmond in 1780.

The original Governor’s Palace burned down in 1781. The current building was meticulously recreated in the same spot in the 1930s. Palace grounds feature 10 of boxwood mazes, Colonial-style gardens, and original features like terraces, an icehouse, and a canal.

Take a private tour to explore the luxurious interior filled with marble floors, exquisite draperies, intricate crown molding, majestic ballrooms, and fine antiques. Tours also go to the Capitol Building, the College of William & Mary (founded in 1693 and named after King William III and Queen Mary II of England), and the 5-star Williamsburg Inn, built around 1937 by John D. Rockefeller.

3. George Wythe House

Monument in Williamsburg George Wythe House
Sandy Allen / ViaTravelers

Address: 101 Palace Green Street, Williamsburg, Virginia 23185

Located beside Bruton Parish in the Colonial Quarter, and around the corner from the Cooper Workshop, the George Wythe House was the 1750 home of a prominent lawyer back in the day. Wythe was also a Declaration of Independence signer.

The red brick house is a National Historic Landmark. Architecture enthusiasts will want to check out the beveled water table, the modillion cornices, the Flemish bond walls, and the transom windows.

The property’s Outdoor areas include a smokehouse, a lumber house, a stable, a dovecoat (a house for doves), and gardens with brick paths, hedge mazes, and ornamental fences. The house sits along the tree-lined Palace Green Street, which leads to the Governor’s Palace.

Sandy Allen / ViaTravelers

It’s a lovely area to relax and watch horse-drawn carriages clip-clopping down the road. Purchase tickets for carriage rides at Colonial Williamsburg ticket locations on the day you intend to ride.

Insider tip: Rides sell out quickly, so arrive early to reserve a seat. Take a Colonial History Guided Walking Tour to learn more about this historic structure and life in the 18th century.

4. Merchant’s Square

Sandy Allen / ViaTravelers

Address: 134 N. Henry Street, Williamsburg, Virginia 23185

Colonial Williamsburg’s Merchant Square is a fun shopping, dining, and entertainment area beside Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area. I enjoy grabbing a bench for people and dog watch (mostly dogs if you must know).

Shop for Scottish wool, English silver, Virginia peanuts, and a wide array of specialty items, apparel, and jewelry. You’ll also find the Williamsburg Farmers Market and the College of William & Mary campus store here.

My favorite dining spot is DoG Street Pub. Still, you could try Berret’s Seafood, La Piazza, Blue Talon Bistro, the Precarious Beer Project brewery, or the Cheese Shop (which is reported to serve amazing sandwiches). Then, of course, there’s the Wythe Candy & Gourmet Shoppe.

North Boundary Street, Francis Street, and Lafayette Street bound Merchant’s Square. Henry, South England, and Duke of Gloucester streets run through the area. Duke of Gloucester Street (or simply DoG Street) is closed to vehicular traffic, which makes for a safe and leisurely walk from Merchant’s Square to the Capitol Building.

5. Williamsburg Winery

Williamsburg Winery Wine bottles
Williamsburg Winery / Facebook

Address: 5800 Wessex Hundred, Williamsburg, Virginia 23185

Located on a 400-acre farm, Williamsburg Winery sits along the James River near the Kingsmill Resort. Gardens, vineyards, and forests provide a beautiful backdrop for winery tours and flight tastings.

Learn about red, white, and rosé wine-making. Be sure to pick up a bottle of award-winning chardonnay, cabernet, viognier, merlot, or Riesling before you go.

The property also has a hotel. Wedmore Place offers an intimate 28-room European-style setting, a wonderful wedding or romantic getaway choice.

The Gabriel Archer Tavern is a European-style restaurant with impeccable farm-table dining. If you can’t make it to the winery grounds, there’s a tasting room at Merchants Square in Colonial Williamsburg.

6. Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Big Ben Clock Tower in Busch Gardens Clocktower, Williamsburg
Sandy Allen / ViaTravelers

Address: 1 Busch Gardens Boulevard, Williamsburg, Virginia 23185

Check the Colonial history at the door and head straight to the thrills of high-flying roller coasters (which might make your heart go boom). One of the best Williamsburg attractions, the theme park has won the World’s Most Beautiful Theme Park for 28 consecutive years. Even if you’re not into heart-pounding roller coasters, you can enjoy strolling around beautiful gardens, colorful flowers, and native animal habitats.

Griffon roller coaster ride in Gusch Gardens Williamsburg
Sandy Allen / ViaTravelers

With a European theme, Busch Gardens offers villages portraying Italy, France, Germany, Scotland, and England. Catch a traditional Celtic dance show, learn about Virginia’s gray wolves, feed lorikeets, dine on French and German food (the pretzels are my favorite), or hop on one of those roller coasters we mentioned earlier. Some well-known ones (10 in all) include Alpengeist, Griffon, the Loch Ness Monster, Verbolten, Apollo’s Chariot, and Pantheon.

There’s also a wide variety of attractions and areas designed specifically for the little ones, such as Land of the Dragons and Sesame Street Forest of Fun. Are you in the mood for water slides and splashing fun? Busch Gardens’ sister location, Water Country USA, is within three miles of the park.

7. Day at the Art Museums

Dewitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum in Williamsburg, Virginia
Smash the Iron Cage/ Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Along with historic sites, Colonial Williamsburg is home to several great art museums. The Dewitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum features American and British decorative and fine arts from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Check out antique furniture, pottery, textiles, English silver, and the largest collection of English porcelain outside of Britain. The museum has the world’s largest collection of American South-made furniture.

Located within the Dewitt Wallace Museum, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum opened in 1957 and features a collection donated by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, wife of John D. Rockefeller.

It holds one of the nation’s largest and oldest collections of American folk art. Peruse the array of colorful sculptures, paintings, furniture, and other handmade items.

The Muscarelle Museum of Art, affiliated with the College of William & Mary, offers events, lectures, and exhibits such as the architecture of Michaelangelo, the history of books, Italian Renaissance architecture, African American art, Japanese prints, and German expressionist paintings. The museum dates to 1983, but the art collection began with a portrait of physicist Rober Boyle in 1732.

8. Jamestown Settlement

Jamestown Settlement House in Williamsburg
Sandy Allen / ViaTravelers

Address: 2110 Jamestown Road, Williamsburg, Virginia 23185

Another favorite for school trips and family vacations, the historic Jamestowne Settlement is a fun and informative foray into 17th-century life in Virginia. The settlement, named after King James I, was founded in 1607 as America’s first permanent English colony.

Colonists came to America on the Susan Constant, the Discovery, and the Godspeed. The location met their needs for deep water (ships could be docked there) but was far inland (for defense against Spanish attacks).

Recreations of the ships sit on the nearby James River and serve as museums. They are all sea-worthy, but the Godspeed is the one most often used for traveling excursions.

The park was created in 1957 (as Jamestown Festival Park) to recreate the original James Fort. Stroll along interactive outdoor exhibits depicting early living structures, blacksmiths, glass furnaces, and brick buildings. The kids will enjoy the daily black powder rifle firings and canoe-making demonstrations.

Sandy Allen / ViaTravelers

There’s also an indoor museum where you can check out artifacts from the settlement and exhibits on slavery in Virginia and the journey from Africa to Virginia.

Jamestown Settlement is part of the Colonial National Historical Park, which includes Historic Jamestown, Yorktown Battlefield, and the Colonial Parkway as well as Green Spring Plantation and the Cape Henry Memorial, which is the site where Captain Christopher Newport and the colonists landed in 1607 in Virginia Beach.

See Related: The Ultimate Travel Guide for Virginia

9. Freedom Park

Freedom Park in Williamsburg, Virginia
ki0ki / TripAdvisor

Address: 5537 Centreville Road, Williamsburg, Virginia 23188

The 600-acre Freedom Park is a forested area that dates back to the 1650s. It’s within easy access to downtown Williamsburg.

There are bicycling and hiking trails (including an ADA-accessible paved trail), a playground, restrooms, and picnic areas. If you time it right, you can join a Full Moon Hike through the park.

Historically, the scenic park grounds are the site of the 1781 Revolutionary War Battle of Spencer’s Ordinary during the Revolutionary War and an 18th-century cemetery. It was also home to one of America’s earliest Free Black Settlements (1803-1850).

Check out the recreated cabins located throughout the park. Another area park to check out for family fun is Chickahominy Riverfront Park, which offers camping, a fishing pier, and a boat ramp into the Chickahominy River.

10. Williamsburg Botanical Garden

Williamsburg Botanical Garden and Freedom Park Arboretum in Williamsburg, Virginia
Williamsburg Botanical Garden and Freedom Park Arboretum / Facebook

Address: 5337 Centreville Road, Williamsburg, Virginia 23188

In Freedom Park, Williamsburg Botanical Garden is the perfect place for nature lovers. The garden features hundreds of varieties of native plants and trees that support pollinators, wildlife, and other plants.

The garden has a butterfly garden, pine forest ferns, perennials, Southern magnolias, Virginia sweetspire, bulb gardens, and herb gardens. Heirloom flower varieties include lilacs, lily of the valley, and roses. There’s a therapy garden with a pergola, vegetable gardens, a butterfly garden, and raised beds for educational programs.

11. Soar Through the Trees at Go Ape Zipline and Adventure Park

Go Ape Zipline and Adventure Park in Williamsburg, Virginia
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 5537 Centreville Road, Williamsburg, Virginia 23188

Looking for a thrilling adventure and outdoor activities for a family trip or group outing? Also found within Freedom Park, Go Ape is a fun zip-line course for the whole family. You’ll find high-flying swings, ziplines, and obstacles within the forests of Williamsburg.

The Treetop Adventure has a 600-foot zipline and a 42-foot-high platform. The Treetop Journey has a 20-foot-high platform and a 100-foot zipline. Either offer the adrenaline rush of zipping through Virginia’s native pine, poplar, and cedar forests.

Don’t forego this fun adventure by worrying about the little ones. Go Ape has plenty of kid-friendly courses for youth as young as six.

12. York River State Park

York River State Park in Williamsburg
York River State Park / Facebook

Address: 9801 York River Park Road, Williamsburg, Virginia 23188

York River State Park spans 2,954 acres along the York River, formed by the Pamunkey River and Mattaponi River meetings. There’s a visitor center, a gift shop, the 1818 Henderson House, and a 2.3-mile hiking trail with a wooden boardwalk, a fishing pod, and playgrounds.

Take a coastal hike along the Mattaponi Trail and the Woodstock Pond Trail. Both are family-friendly with easy terrain.

There are 40 more miles of trails, ranging from easy to difficult, for walking, running, or horseback riding. You can also go kayaking and canoeing.

At Fossil Beach, you may find shark’s teeth or Chesapecten Middlesex, a type of scallop. This isn’t a swimming beach, but you can take away one fossil per person. The park is near Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg, which is an excellent choice for a family vacation or couples getaway.

13. Colonial National Historical Parkway

Colonial Parkway in Williamsburg, Virginia
Sandy Allen / ViaTravelers

I love a good scenic drive. The 23-mile Colonial Parkway is an excellent place to enjoy the landscape of marshes and James and York River views. It winds through James City County, York County, and the city of Williamsburg while linking the Historic Triangle of Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown.

Along the way, you’ll drive through historic brick tunnels. There are areas where you can pull over to walk around, enjoy the scenery, or have a picnic. You may catch sight of herons and other water-wading birds as you drive or take a bike ride.

The parkway ends at Yorktown. Check out the Water Street Grille or the Yorktown Pub for a bite with waterfront views. Spend the day at Yorktown Beach by the Coleman Memorial Bridge.

14. American Revolution Museum

American Revolution Museum in Yorktown, Virginia
Jamestown Settlement & American Revolution Museum at Yorktown / Facebook

Address: 200 Water Street, Yorktown, Virginia 23690

Opened in 1976 (known as the Yorktown Victory Center), the American Revolution Museum features galleries, including exhibits and artifacts on the Revolutionary War and the Seven Years War.

Get your history geek on by viewing a coronation portrait of King George III (da-da-da), a 1776 silver sword, a 19th-century life-size statue of George Washington, and a 1776 printing of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was one the inspiring papers for the more famous Declaration.

Watch the 180-degree film “The Siege of Yorktown” or head outside to view a recreated Continental Army encampment and a Revolution-era farm. Watch demonstrations on medical treatment, flintlock musket firings, and garden chores.

Sandy Allen/Via Travelers

Check out the nearby Yorktown Battlefield or the Waterman’s Museum, where you can take a boat-building class. Take a group photo or selfie at the Yorktown Victory Monument commemorating Yorktown, 1781.

Last Hamilton reference. You can trust me. Book an exclusive tour of the Yorktown Museum, battlefields, and the historic area to get a personalized and in-depth tour of the area. 

See Related: East Coast Vacation Ideas

15. Go Ghost Hunting

Williamsburg Palmer House Ghost Tour Spot
US Ghost Adventures / GetYourGuide

Now that you’ve heard a chunk of the history behind Colonial Williamsburg consider taking ghost tours to get a feel for the spectral side of the area’s history. Book a 1.5-hour Colonial Ghost Tours excursion to look at the spectral side of town.

This walking tour takes you to historically haunted spots like the Peyton Randolph House, the Palmer House, and the Governor’s Palace. Try to catch a glimpse of ghosts while listening to tales of poisonings, sadistic surgeons, and more. Tours meet in Merchant’s Square.

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