Despite what the official Colonial Williamsburg website says, you can in fact visit this historical site in a day and see almost everything you want to see. A short 2 hour drive from DC, Colonial Williamsburg is the perfect day trip whether you live in or are just visiting the nation’s capital. When entering the colonial city, you are instantly transported back to the 18th century. It all starts on the path from the visitor’s center to the Revolutionary City, a short half mile paved walkway that is lined with bits of history along the way.
When you get to the end of the path, you’ll be looking right at the magnificent Governor’s Palace. Tours of the Governor’s Palace are set in the 1700s and guides speak of the governor and his family in present-day terms. It was weird at first, but by the end of the day we did truly feel like we had been transported in time. We visited on a cool winter day when entrance fees were cheaper and the crowds were low. While the gardens and trees weren’t covered in green, there was an eerie beauty about being there in winter.
Throughout your visit you can explore eat colonial-era inspired foods, explore different artisan shops, and learn about the political history of the city. Our favorite shop was the Bindery where we could see how books were made in the 1700s.
There are special events happening constantly in the historic area. When we went in February, they were celebrating Black History Month – tours of the Governor’s Palace highlighted the role that slaves and serfs played as well as their position within the new colony. Exploring the beautiful grounds is as much fun as the history. We were surprised to see so many locals running on the paths that wind through the historic area, but it was easy to see why. The paths are wide and well maintained and all outside areas are pet friendly.
My favorite tour was the Courthouse, which was filled with interesting history and information about the justice system in colonial times. When you’re done with the tour, head down to the local jail and learn about the job of the jailer – one of the more prestigious jobs in colonial times (who would have thought?!).
Colonial Williamsburg is the perfect level of cheesy and is a great way to spend a day in Virginia. Plan on visiting? Here are some of our tips:
Best Time to Visit: That depends on your goal. To avoid the crowds, visit in February. Spring and Fall are sure to offer even more beautiful scenery. Experience the magic of the Christmas season in December.
Best Tour: Courthouse, hands down. Our tour guide was amazing and the history of our early justice system had some interesting lessons that could be applied today.
Don’t Miss: Merchant Square is outside of the historical area but offers a break for present-day shopping and eating.
Biggest Mistake People Make: Not wearing comfortable shoes. Many paths are gravel or dirt and there is a lot of walking involved in your visit. We heard a lot of kiddos complaining about sore feet.
Biggest Opportunity to Splurge: Want to really immerse yourself in the 1700s? Take the opportunity to rent a colonial-era costume to wear when visiting the Revolutionary City. Find out more at the official Colonial Williamsburg website.