Visiting Colonial Williamsburg is like stepping back in time. This living-history museum and private foundation is part of the historic district of Williamsburg, Virginia, and it is dedicated to bringing the history of Williamsburg to life. While visiting Colonial Williamsburg, we stopped at several of its major draws to take a trip way down memory lane, learning about the area’s history and getting in some shopping, as well.
Colonial Williamsburg is 301 acres comprised of several hundred restored or recreated buildings from the 18th century when Williamsburg was the capital of Colonial Virginia, 17th-century, 19th-century, and Colonial Revival Structures, and more. You’ll find an interpretation of a colonial American city, as well, in addition to so much more, and it all chronicles the history of the city’s colonial heritage.
The History of Colonial Williamsburg
Williamsburg was the center of government, education, and culture in the Colony of Virginia for eighty-one years during the 18th century. There, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, James Monroe, James Madison, and other notable American historical figures further forms of the British government in the Commonwealth of Virginia, later adapting some of it to the needs of the new United States. In 1780, Governor Thomas Jefferson moved the government to Richmond in order to be more accessible from western counties and farther from potential British attacks.
This move marked a long, slow period of stagnation and general decay of Williamsburg’s business. Its isolation lead to maintaining much of its 18th-century feel. In 1862, the city was captured and garrisoned by the Union for the duration of the Civil War. The town was mostly unscathed, with only the college burned and some private homes looted. By the early 20th century, many of its older structures were in poor condition, unused, or occupied by squatters.
Beginning in 1927, the Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin and the Rockefeller’s began to buy up property in Williamsburg in order to begin an eventual restoration of the area. During the restoration, 720 buildings from the late 18th century and onward were demolished. After demolition, the reverend and the Rockefellers began their restoration in earnest.
The foundation, headed by the reverend and the Rockefellers reconstructed the Capitol and Governor’s palace on their 18th-century foundations, in addition to rebuilding the William & Wary’s Wren Building. By the 1930s, retail shops were grouped into the “Merchant’s Square”. As time went on, more and more buildings were restored or replicated in the area.
Today, Colonial Williamsburg boasts about 500 reconstructed or restored buildings, 88 of which are labeled original. It’s become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the entire state of Virginia, with visitors flocking to see a huge slice of living history in action.
Visiting Colonial Williamsburg
On our trip, we immersed ourselves in this living, breathing historical district, taking in the sights, history, and ambiance of this lovely area of the city. From the Governor’s Palace to shopping and local eateries, our visit to Colonial Williamsburg was bursting with fun, education, and good times.
The Governor’s Palace
The Governor’s Palace was the official residence of the Royal Governors of the Colony of Virginia and home to Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, two of Virginia’s post-colonial governors. Today, you can explore the first floor yourself or participate in a guided tour. The guides dress in historically-accurate attire, adding to the fun and immersion of the tour.
Don’t you love the colors used?
Be sure to notice the details in the molding and trim.
A collection of weapons.
Although it was very hot, some time had to be spent in the manicured gardens.
George Wythe House
Located on the Palace Green, the George Wythe House, built in the 1750s, was the home of George Wythe, father of American jurisprudence as well as a signer of the declaration of independence. We took a self-guided tour, exploring the home and standing in the very spots where many of our founding fathers made plans for the Revolution and laid the groundwork for our country today.
Don’t you want this wallpaper?
I admit I’m not a big history buff, but I did know about a town named Wytheville. Touring these homes for even the architecture is a treat.
Colonial Williamsburg Regional Visitors Center
The Colonial Williamsburg Regional Visitors Center is a great stop when visiting Colonial Williamsburg. The center features an orientation video, helping you make the most of your visit. You’ll also find tickets available for purchase, be able to redeem online tickets, and find information on current events and activities. They even have a free shuttle service.
LOVE is a big thing in Virginia – you’ve heard the phrase “Virginia is For Lovers”. You will find LOVE signs and sculptures around many places in Virginia.
Carriage and Wagon Rides
Colonial Williamsburg carriage and wagon rides are a wonderful way to experience this historic area. This is one of the newest available for your rides.
Take in the sights and sounds of this unique area on a horse-drawn carriage or wagon, losing yourself in the history and beauty of the area.
We were joined by Jim & Linda from A Bushel and A Pickle for part of the weekend.
As you are walking around, be on the lookout for re-enactments and those dressed in Colonial dress.
You might even see George Washington himself.
Colonial Williamsburg is home to several lovely shops that capture the feel of the district. You’ll find a variety of historic shops, shops dedicated to Williamsburg, and gift shops, as well. We enjoy browsing the historic shops and choosing some keepsakes from those and the other shops. The highlight for me, however, was the Christmas Shop.
While visiting Colonial Williamsburg, be sure to stop into any of its historic restaurants and taverns for unique dining experiences. You’ll enjoy delicious meals like seafood gumbo, vegetable wraps, BLTs, and more. While you’re there, be sure to head to the King’s Arms Tavern, where you’ll be treated to colonial dishes like peanut soup, Virginia ham, and colonial game pie – all served by staff in period clothing.
The dinner at King’s Arms Tavern was the favorite of the trip. You eat by candlelight so the pictures are a bit dark.
From the soup, to the bread with toppings and Prime Rib, it was truly an experience and wonderful meal.
It ended with coffee being served from the cutest individual pots.
Lunch at Blue Talon Bistro
While shopping it was time for lunch and the Blue Talon Bistro was highly recommended, and it had a short wait time.
Loved the burger while enjoying the colorful decor.
A visit wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Historic and Famous Williamsburg Inn. The evening we visited we enjoyed watching the photos of two wedding parties.
The lobby and inside is decorated in nothing less than grander for the time period.
Many famous celebrities, politicians, and royalty have visited and stayed while visiting the United States, including Queen Elizabeth.
Visiting Colonial Williamsburg is a Truly Unique Experience
Visiting Colonial Williamsburg is stepping into a living, breathing piece of history. From guides and staff in period clothing to the iconic buildings, sites, and sounds of the area, visiting Colonial Williamsburg is a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else. I highly encourage everyone to experience this amazing area at least once.
With only two days to enjoy Colonial Williamsburg, we will have to go back to enjoy more of the historic district along with the Triangle which includes Jamestown and Yorktown.
CHARLOTTESVILLE VIRGINIA is another great area to explore.
Check for hours and openings. I highly recommend this more than ever, but exploring a website, or even calling ahead can make your trip go smoother. And ease any disappointment with closings. Many places are requiring online reservations.