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It may be impossible to hop on a time machine and travel to the past, but visiting Colonial Williamsburg is the closest you can get without a DeLorean and a flux capacitor. My family recently spent two nights near Colonial Williamsburg, one of the three points of Virginia’s Historic Triangle. I had spent a few hours there briefly during a trip to Washington, D.C., as a child, but I’d never had a chance to really explore. As an adult, my appreciation of history has only increased, and I was so excited to spend some time here with my travel partners in crime–Jeff and Kristin.

We really only spent a day and a half in the area, and we decided to come and go into Colonial Williamsburg as we needed breaks. It’s really easy to go for a few hours, take a break, and then head back. We stayed in town at the Comfort Suites, and it was perfect for us. It had the indoor pool and hot breakfast that we look for, and the decor was really contemporary. When I was planning the trip, I wondered if we should stay closer to Colonial Williamsburg for the experience. It turned out to not be a big deal, and we probably saved a little money. Our drive to Colonial Williamsburg only took a few minutes.

It was cloudy on this part of our trip, and we had just come from some rainy weather at Virginia Beach two days before. The temperature was perfect, though, and even a little chilly at times for early June. It certainly wasn’t horribly hot like some of our summer adventures can be.

I’ll be honest here.  When I was planning this trip, it was difficult to understand what Colonial Williamsburg would be like and how everything worked. I’m a planner, but I had trouble visualizing this place as I read information. I hope this post can help someone like me, at least a little. When I looked online, I was undecided about which ticket would be best for our family. I knew I wanted my family to eat in one of the taverns, so I made sure to make a reservation for that. But beyond that, I had no idea. After we settled into our hotel room, we jumped in the car and set out for Colonial Williamsburg. To be helpful, I’ve made a list of tips of my best advice for experiencing this wonderful historic place.

1.  Park your car at the Colonial Williamsburg Regional Visitor Center and take the shuttle.

You could try to find parking near Colonial Williamsburg, but it really is so much easier to park here and take the shuttle.  The parking lot is huge, and the shuttle arrives and departs frequently.  We never waited for more than ten minutes, and most of the time it was much quicker.

Colonial Williamsburg Regional Visitor's Center

The visitor center has a place to buy tickets if you want access to select buildings.  It also has some gift shops that my family really enjoyed. You can also rent costumes here, so if you want to really immerse yourself in the experience, you can.  If you’ve read about some of our other adventures, you know that Kristin liked to dress the part, but sadly, I think she is over the costume part of our adventures.  They had costumes for all ages, sizes, and genders, so if you want to participate, check out their website here.  You can also read more about ticket prices and special events.

2. Explore Colonial Williamsburg a little before you decide on what ticket, if any, you should purchase.

The shuttle is free, so hop on and see what’s out there!  You may want to pick up a map at the visitor center, but you will also find maps in Colonial Williamsburg.

Shuttle at Colonial Williamsburg

I also recommend not getting off at the first stop unless you plan to tour the Governor’s Palace right away, for which you’ll need a ticket.  We left the visitor’s center without any tickets.  We were contemplating a sampler’s ticket that they offer, but we still weren’t sure what we wanted. Plus, we planned on coming back the next day.  You don’t need a ticket to walk around the area or to go in many of the shops.  There is signing to help you know which buildings require a ticket.  The sampler ticket allowed you to choose a few buildings to enter, but it did not include the ornate Governor’s Palace.  You would need to purchase a single-day, multi-day, or annual pass for that.  You could also buy a combo ticket that would give you admission to the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown and the Jamestown Settlement.

In the end, we didn’t buy a ticket at all.  I’m sure Colonial Williamsburg would be disappointed with us.  We had such a great time just exploring the free areas and events that we never felt the need to get tickets.  Since it was our first visit, we had so much that we hadn’t experienced.  If we ever go back, I would get a ticket so I could tour the Governor’s Palace.  But as a first-time visitor, you may not feel the need to buy tickets.  As I mentioned before, we did eat dinner in a tavern, so that was our special experience on this trip.  It was a little pricey for us, but I felt it was completely worth it. If you’d like to read more about our tavern experience, click here. You’ll just have to see what you want out of your experience.

3. When you first arrive, take some time to explore the area.

Colonial Williamsburg

From the moment we stepped off the shuttle, we were transported back in time.  You really feel like you are part of Colonial America.  When we arrived for the first time, we got off at the tavern stop and just started walking down the street.  I hadn’t realized that Colonial Williamsburg is just like a small town in that there are houses and businesses lining several blocks.    The streets are closed to modern vehicles, but it really is a little community that you can walk into from any point like any other town.  When you step out of the colonial part, you are in residential areas that do allow modern transportation.  I was expecting more seclusion, I suppose. But don’t take this to mean that I was disappointed in any way.  I absolutely loved Colonial Williamsburg!

Dress Shop Colonial Williamsburg

We walked around until the sun started to go down that first evening.  We decided to grab some dinner and swim before going to bed at a reasonable time so we could get an early start the next day.  Now we had a little bit more understanding about what we were doing.  You may notice from our pictures that there weren’t a lot of people around.  It was a little deserted on this evening.  We did see a school group and a few people here and there.  It was Thursday night, and area schools were still in session, so that contributed to our peaceful exploring.  But there were still little events going on, such as a militia that was recruiting some kids from a school trip.  Here the troops are receiving their orders about training the new recruits.  One soldier seems to be looking those kids over and making some judgments!

Militia at Colonial Williamsburg

4. Check the schedule for events your family may be interested in so you won’t miss anything.

There are events happening all day, but not everything happens multiple times a day.  You can catch a reading of the Declaration of Independence on the court house stairs, or you may see a musket demonstration.  Maybe you want to see the Fife and Drum Corps.  Also, inside buildings that require admission, there are demonstrations about colonial life.  It’s good to take a look to see what you want to do.  Of course, you may just stumble upon something really cool, too.  On our second day, we happened upon an archaeological dig for kids.  Kristin saw the dig, and she immediately wanted to be a part of it.  It was also absolutely free!

Dig at Colonial Williamsburg

We signed her up, and she was off!  First, the archeologists explained that they are still looking for artifacts in Colonial Williamsburg to learn more about the people who lived there.  They also explained that this particular site had been excavated a few decades before, but it had been filled in again to protect it.  Now it was being reexamined for artifacts while being a teaching tool for kids.  They showed the kids how to scrape the earth rather than dig or poke, and then they gave them gloves, a trowel, a dustpan, and a bucket and sent them digging.

Archaeological dig at Colonial Williamsburg

After the kids filled a bucket, they dumped the dirt through a screen.  When everyone was finished, they sifted through the dirt together to see what they could find.

Sifting through the dirt at Colonial Williamsburg

After this process, they grouped what they found and compared their findings to a book with pictures of the possible items.  They learned how to date items by their features.  For example, they could date dishes by whether they were pre-revolution imports made in England or if they were made of materials found in America.  The American dishes would’ve been legal after the revolution.  I learned a lot too as I watched the process!

5. Plan your day, but leave plenty of time to let the unexpected happen.

As I mentioned in the previous section, we just happened upon the archaeological dig.  It was an experience I’ll never forget.  And I won’t forget many of the other little things we just happened to see without any planning whatsoever.  We enjoyed exploring the city streets and the shops that lined them.

Wig Maker at Colonial Williamsburg

The marketplace is a fun area.

Hats at the marketplace

There are so many buildings that help you understand the past, like the courthouse.

Courthouse at Colonial Williamsburg

Step away from the main streets, and you’ll find homes with gardens.

Garden at Colonial Williamsburg

You could just spend the day looking at different homes and their gardens.

Garden at Colonial Williamsburg

It’s so peaceful to walk around and let these places capture your imagination.

Garden at Colonial Williamsburg

As you walk along, you may just happen to stroll by a little cottage that looks like it’s from a fairytale.

Cottage at Colonial Williamsburg

There are surprises around every turn.  It’s also fun to see all the buildings that make Colonial Williamsburg a community.

Church at Colonial Williamsburg

Later that evening, we walked past this church, and we discovered that there was an organ concert in progress.  We peeked in for a moment, but we didn’t want to disturb anyone.

Organ concert at Williamsburg

So we explored the churchyard instead.

Churchyard at Colonial Williamsburg

Near the historic district, there is a more modern shopping area with several restaurants.  We also saw live music here on our first night.  Be sure to make some time for this area.  You can even sit by Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson Williamsburg

Don’t forget to explore Colonial Williamsburg in the evening.  It is absolutely gorgeous at night.

Colonial Williamsburg at Night

There are some ghost tours available.  We considered one, but we had just done one at Gettysburg.  If we go again, I would probably do it. There are some other evening options, too, like chamber music, historic dancing, and witch or pirate trials.  We just walked the historic district.  It was magical.

Colonial Williamsburg at night

You can see the Governor’s Palace from across a grassy courtyard.  It was beautifully lit.

Governor's Palace at night

6.  Be sure to interact with the history all around you.

The citizens and costumed visitors are there to educate you about the history of Williamsburg and the colonies, so be sure to interact with them!  We met the publisher of the newspaper.

Newspaper man at Colonial Williamsburg

We found various people in various buildings.

Colonial Williamsburg

People were  just going about everyday life, just like in any other community.

Flag at Colonial Williamsburg

You never know who you may meet as you walk along.

Colonial Williamsburg

Carriage rides are also available.  This would be another great way to immerse yourself in Colonial Williamsburg.

Carriage at Colonial Williamsburg

Things are happening all around you, really. People are just doing what they do every day, and we were able to see pieces of everyday history happening.

Soldiers at Colonial Williamsburg

My best piece of advice for families is this–be sure you are making memories with your family.  Even goofy ones!

Colonial Williamsburg

We had a wonderful trip to Colonial Williamsburg.  We did take an afternoon break on our second day, as we often do, to eat a late lunch and take some down time at the hotel.  Then we were refreshed for our tavern dinner and evening exploring.  We use this strategy on trips a lot, actually.  Not only is Kristin rested, but Jeff and I are, too!  I really hope we can return someday and explore even more.  I’d love to go at Christmas time.  If you are considering a trip to Colonial Williamsburg with your family, I would certainly say to give it a go.  You can’t go wrong with history and family fun!

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  1. I am taken away by the beauty of the buildings and grounds. Your pictures make me want to visit! I especially want to do the archeology dig, how fun is that?!

    • Stacey Reply

      It is a really fun place. The archeology dig was pretty cool. It’s amazing what they can figure out about a place based on the clues left behind.

  2. Followingtherivera Reply

    Colonial Williamsburg really does look like stepping back in time. I love how the town has kept all these features of colonial America, if only for its visitors. The old courthouse is very impressive, and I think I would do the ghost tours – your photo by night looks creepy already!

    • Stacey Reply

      We really enjoy checking out ghost tours in the cities we visit. We look for ones that have something historical to experience, too, like a home. I love being able to visit places with a ghostly spin!

  3. Fun post! I visited Colonial Williamsburg once during an 8th grade field trip. While I don’t remember too many particulars about the visit, I remember being in awe and it help spawned my love of history and subsequent studies towards a degree. I would love to walk around again, this time talking to more folks around the town. I love the idea of checking out all of the houses and gardens. I love that you were able to peek into the organ recital! So awesome!

    • Stacey Reply

      That’s cool! My parents used to take me to historic places, and I love history, too! I know I appreciated so much more of Williamsburg as an adult. I hope you get to visit soon!

  4. I can;t believe how wonderfully preserved this town is! great that there is so much to do and they have shows and entertainment through out the day. really cool

    • Stacey Reply

      They really do have a lot to offer! We had a wonderful time!

  5. Colonial Williamsburg looks like a wonderful trip! Rich in history and beautiful, yet classic, architecture. I love when there’s a chance to truly immerse into others culture! Great read. Safe travels. – Mariella

  6. Ahhh I love visiting historical places like this!! And love that they really embraced their history too. Definitely bookmarking this for when we can make this trip! I bet it would be gorgeous in the fall!

    • Stacey Reply

      I think it would be! It looks like they are doing a lot of things specific for fall around there.

  7. All the houses are so pretty! It should be nice to wander around. But I didn’t get it, is it a real village or is it just a touristy place? A ghost tour sounds kind of scary… what did you see in your other tour?

    • Stacey Reply

      It’s the old historic part of the city of Williamsburg. It was preserved/restored, so it’s like going back in time. I guess you could say it’s a little touristy too.

  8. I would love to spend a couple of days exploring Colonial Williamsburg. It’s a great place to re-live the bygone era. I would love to take a Carriage ride there as it really fascinates me 🙂

  9. Reading your article on Colonial Williamsburg took me back to my recent visit to Huntsville, Alabama where I did a similar heritage walk. Just like your time in Williamsburg, it felt like stepping back in time. Colonial America is really wonderful to experience.

    • Stacey Reply

      I’ll keep Huntsville, Alabama, on my list of That sounds like my kind of place.

  10. I wish we had historical things to do like this in Las Vegas. Looks like so much fun. And great pics!!

    • Stacey Reply

      I hope to go to Las Vegas someday! It’s on my list!

  11. We love Colonial Williamsburg!! We walked through it when we were visiting Busch Gardens. My husband enjoys eating lunch at the Cheese Shop and we like the character of the buildings. The campus of College of William & Mary is peaceful to walk around too!

    • Stacey Reply

      Maybe someday we will go see Busch Gardens. My youngest just isn’t a “ride” person right now, so we skipped it. I’ll have to try lunch at the cheese shop next time!

  12. Aww! I wish I went to Colonial Williamsburg while I was in Richmond. Time just didn’t permit. I love your pictures. I will have to visit one day.

    • Stacey Reply

      Thank you! Yes, I think everyone should visit. It is hard to find enough time to see everything!

  13. I have wanted to go here for years but somehow still haven’t made it! What an amazing experience. I think my daughter would love it! We are homeschooling and this would fit right in with some history curriculum.

    • Stacey Reply

      Oh yes, you should go. If you went on a school day, it probably wouldn’t be very busy at all!

  14. Amanda Tran Reply

    Wait, this is in DC?? What?!! I’m so mad at myself because I was there last year and had NO IDEA about it. Ahhh your photos and article are great and make me want to go… now! So disappointed but I am glad I got to vicariously enjoy it through you. Sounds like you had an incredible time.

    • Stacey Reply

      It’s near DC; it’s just a few hours away. We are hoping to go back when we do a true Washington D.C., trip.

  15. I love history & l would absolutely enjoy visiting Colonial Williamsburg for the day. l love it when people dress up and you, like you said its like you have stepped back on time. I’m based in London but definitely adding to my USA list

    • Stacey Reply

      I love places like this, too. If you are going to be in the DC/Virginia area, you have to make a day for this!

    • Stacey Reply

      Thanks for stopping by! It’s a beautiful place to explore!

    • Stacey Reply

      Great! If she loves history, she will love Colonial Williamsburg!

  16. We haven’t been to America as a family but I would love to bring the kids to experience history in such a hands-on way like this! USA colonial houses are the cutest and it’s so cool seeing the actors in their character dress! Looks like a super fun history lesson and day out in one!

    • Stacey Reply

      It is a fun way to experience history, for sure. I also love how hands-on it is!

  17. I love the old historic buildings! What a cool trip! I am sure your kids will remember it forever 🙂

    • Stacey Reply

      I hope so! I hope we are instilling in her a love of exploring the world around her!

    • Stacey Reply

      There really is something for everyone! It’s a great place to visit!

    • Stacey Reply

      It really was a great trip! I love learning about the past!

  18. I could read this post over and over again. I love the emphasis on the fact that we must leave some time aside for the unplanned, as well as explore the locals’ ways of living. That’s really important. The local costume looks interesting and I would love to take a shuttle and attend some family events when I plan my trip there. Cheers!!

    • Stacey Reply

      Yes! Sometimes the things we don’t plan turn out to be the most memorable!

  19. What an absolutely fabulous experience! I love everything about it – love the old colonial houses and grounds. And how cool about the archaeological dig! What a fun time for all ages. Although I probably wouldn’t do the ghost tour! I’m such a wuss. It’s great places like this are preserved for future generations to see.

    • Stacey Reply

      I agree! It’s great that this place exists for us to learn from!

  20. I visited Colonial Williamsburg wham I was in high school. I think we were only there for an afternoon. It is one place that I have always wanted to go back to!

    • Stacey Reply

      I want to go back, too! I think you would find something new every time you go back.

  21. Colonial Williamsburg has a beautiful, historic and classic architecture. Seeing places through Shuttle bus must be easier to cover all the buildings. You have provided valuable information on tickets like multi day pass or other options. Will add this to my US visit.

    • Stacey Reply

      You should! It is a wonderful area to explore, and you can see a lot of it for free.

  22. What a great trip idea. Your pictures are really amazing. Makes me really want to go. We are planning a little road trip on October.. maybe I could add this to the list. We love historic sites and it looks like there would be a lot for my 9 year old to do here. Thanks

    • Stacey Reply

      You really should add it to your trip if you can. We had such a great time, and we hope to go back someday!

  23. Exploring the colonial Williamsburg sounds like a perfect way to know more about America’s rich history. The archaeological dig site is pretty amazing and it’s great that they have activities that involve kids. Loved going through your photo tour, the costumes and all the vintage scene sure does seem like a great tour.

    • Stacey Reply

      Thanks! We loved Colonial Williamsburg, and I loved including our pictures. I’m a really visual person, so I always include pictures because I love to see other people’s pictures. I’m the girl who does want to see the slide show of your trip!

    • Stacey Reply

      You should! It is such a fun place. We had a wonderful time!

  24. Williamsburg looks like a fascinating and historical place to visit! i hadn’t really heard or read much about it before, but after seeing your gorgeous pics and reading this, I definitely need to book a trip. Thanks for sharing!

    • Stacey Reply

      It really is a beautiful place to take the family. We had a wonderful time!

    • Stacey Reply

      We had a really great time in Williamsburg. I hope we can go again soon!

  25. It sounds like you and your family had fun! I took my family there and we all had a wonderful time. We skipped the Governors Mansion as well. I think I would do that if I ever return. Just in case you return, we did a night ghost tour… it was amazing!

    • Stacey Reply

      We did consider the ghost tour, and we almost did one. But we had just done one a few nights before at Gettysburg, so we decided not to after all. I wish we had done it anyway, but hopefully, we’ll make it back again soon!

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