Menu
Virginia

Top Things To Do In Colonial Williamsburg

Before I jump into this list of things to do in Colonial Williamsburg, I’m going to paint a picture for you. It’s the mid-1700s and slightly humid outside. Red brick buildings and white paneled homes flank the streets.

There is a perpetual silence, save the sound of snares and chimes of the old clock tower. The women are donned in gowns sprinkled with a generous dose of flowers. Men are clad in bright red coats and breeches with knee high boots.

This is a charming world, where there is a sense of connection between the people. We would have to go to the shoemaker for our leather soles and the dress shop to get fitted, a forced dependent relationship with others that unfortunately doesn’t exist as much today. But there still remains a tension that fringes the town. Unsaid thoughts about independence and taxes are an invisible dark cloud that treads across each hamlet.

This is 18th century America and this world is brought to life through Colonial Williamsburg, where every step is a journey back in time. Colonial Williamsburg is a living history museum. You don’t stand behind glass displays and fathom the past, you feel as though you are part of the past.

Disclosure: Heads up, this post contains some affiliate links, which means I may get a commission if you make a purchase. Don’t feel pressured to buy anything. I still love that you’re here, reading my content (side note: I’d probably suggest getting a coffee or tea first though because my blog posts tend to be long). To find out more, you can read our full affiliate disclosure right here.

Colonial Williamsburg Travel Guide

A man, in full revolutionary period costume attire, riding a horse-drawn carriage in Colonial Williamsburg.

Colonial Williamsburg, located in a small historic town of the same name, is a museum that mixes history and street performance.

It’s an educational Disneyland. You get to meet-and-greet all the characters in Virginia history textbooks while learning about the time period.

In between the shouts of the sudden mobs, the cast of actors flitting around town in period costumes, and the scents of fresh food, you’ll be drawn into a production that feels – well, revolutionary.

Read More: 8 Historic Small Towns In Virginia You Need To Visit

5 Things To Do In Colonial Williamsburg

Governor's Palace crest in Colonial Williamsburg.

There are plenty of things to do in Colonial Williamsburg. You could easily spend a whole weekend here, exploring all the side streets, buildings, and museums.

Visit The Capitol Building

We are going to start by walking toward the Capitol Building. This is a large stately building with a three-arched entrance and small circular windows. Inside is a dimly lit courtroom.

Here, we have the opportunity to become part of a reenacted political drama. There are a variety of shows, rich with the tension of the revolutionary era, performed on several different dates each month.

Stop By Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop & Armory

Shoe tradesman in Colonial Williamsburg dressed in colonial attire with several hand-made shoes hanging over his had.
There are plenty of tradesmen you can visit around town…

Next stop, Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop and Armory.

The red-hot inferno of heat from the forge brushes against us. There are coals scattered across the tile. A man dressed in heavy cloth reaches out for an iron and starts to hammer out tools.

This is another wonderful aspect of Colonial Williamsburg. The museum doesn’t just recreate the large historic characters that are in every history textbook (like Benedict Arnold).

Williamsburg also focuses on the smaller characters, like Anderson, and gives them equal importance. Every individual person makes up the past and plays a role, small or big.

Head To The Governor’s Palace

Governor's Palace in Colonial Williamsburg from the front entrance where the hedge maze starts.

Speaking of big, while some were preparing to fight, others were lounging in wealth and luxury. Just a short walk away is the Governor’s Palace. This is a large building with a massive, intricate, golden crest.

Outside are rows of tulips and manicured hedges that box around into a maze. The decor is polished, from ornate chandeliers to elegantly furnished rooms. There is an obvious disparity in the wealth here and for the first time, we truly understand the reason for the revolutionary turmoil.

Check Out A Live Cooking Demonstration

A full spread of food in Colonial Williamsburg. There's desert pie and meat and raw veggies that still need to be prepared and plenty of drinks.

But we are just scratching the surface of history. Williamsburg is all about interactivity. There are live cooking demonstrations and a gorgeous church to be seen.

In Williamsburg, you get a taste of how the upper class, gentry, middle, and lower-class prepared food.

If you’re feeling hungry, hit up the tavern to get a sense of 18th century meets modern cuisine.

Shelves of plates and pans and cooking utensils line this building in Colonial Williamsburg.
inside Colonial Williamsburg…

Interact With The Colonials

a woman, dressed in period clothing, smiles in front of a full feast of food at one of the cooking demonstrations in Colonial Williamsburg. She's wearing a bonnet and there's a fire in the back heating up food.

Demonstrations in Colonial Williamsburg are the equivalent of placards in a traditional museum. Don’t be afraid to interact with all the colonials. They’re actors who really get into their roles. And they love answering questions.

People you can interact with:

  • Wigmaker
  • Gunsmith
  • Cabinet Maker
  • Martha Washington
  • Apothecary Tradesman
  • Tailor
  • Silversmith

Bonus List Of Things To Do In Colonial Williamsburg

William and Mary University in Colonial Williamsburg. The building is covered by tall trees and there's a wide walkway to the entrance.
  • Visit William & Mary. Founded in 1693, William & Mary is the second oldest university in the United States and it’s downright gorgeous.
  • Noon Day Canons: The firing of the noonday canon is a smoky spectacle in sync with history.
  • Bucket Brigade: In the 18th century, during a fire, water was passed on by hand in the form of a bucket brigade. You can help operate a fire engine (great for kids).
  • Shop At Merchants Square: Merchants Square is full of shops in Colonial Williamsburg. Think candy stores. Home-furnishings. Everything. Anything.

Recommended Colonial Williamsburg Tours

Did you enjoy this list of things to do in Colonial Williamsburg? Have you ever been? Let me know in the comments below!

8 Comments

  • Avatar
    The Traveling Gals
    February 13, 2016 at 2:07 AM

    I would love this!! I hope to travel to Williamsburg someday. Looks so nice. I love historical stuff too 🙂

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anshula
      February 13, 2016 at 2:12 AM

      Yes! Williamsburg is an amazing place, especially if you love history! The whole time I was there, I felt like I was literally walking through the past!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Roxanne
    February 13, 2016 at 2:37 AM

    Great post! I have never been but it is on my list to do with the kids one day.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anshula
      February 13, 2016 at 2:20 PM

      Thank you so much! Colonial Williamsburg is definitely a family bucket list item!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Jenn @ HomebyJenn
    February 13, 2016 at 4:49 AM

    I loved Williamsburg. My grandparents took me there as a child (around 12) and I learned so much there. That place has a way of wanting you to learn about our country’s history. I like how you described this as the historic Disneyland! Having all of the people in character and them make the food the old way. They really bring you back! I am wanting to take my daughter there so she can have the same experience I did as a child. Thank you for this post, awesome!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anshula
      February 13, 2016 at 2:23 PM

      The one thing I love about Williamsburg is that it hasn’t changed since I was a little girl. I went every two years since I was 9 until I started high school. I recently went again, and it had the same charm as the first time I went!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    BannedBrooke
    February 13, 2016 at 9:42 PM

    My hubby studied at William and Mary. When we go back for weddings or vacation, I’m always struck by how easy it is to get caught up in the world they create in Colonial Williamsburg. It’s a refreshing change of pace!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anshula
      February 13, 2016 at 10:05 PM

      Oooh! I love William and Mary! I went to the campus when I was in Williamsburg and it was so beautiful. I definitely agree that it is very hard not to get caught up in the world Colonial Williamsburg has branded!

      Reply

Leave a Reply