Williamsburg was formerly the capital of both the Colony and Commonwealth of Virginia, and is renowned for its significance in the early history of the United States. Thankfully, its eighteenth-century streets are still exceptionally well-preserved, with impressive old buildings and historic landmarks on display at every turn.
People can explore numerous old churches, universities, and colonial taverns, as a substantial portion of the center is conserved as part of the greatest living history museum in the world. It was here amidst the town’s bustling streets that famous figures such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson spent their time and planned for American independence.
While Colonial Williamsburg and all its immersive experiences understandably dominate visitors’ itineraries, there are also the fun theme parks Water Country USA and Busch Gardens to check out nearby. In addition to these attractions and activities to do in Williamsburg, there are a number of excellent art museums, so it’s no surprise that tourists flock here in droves.
17. George Wythe House
A interesting destination to see, the George Wythe House in the center of the city depicts how people used to live in 1700s Williamsburg. In addition to magnificent furnishings and period objects, there are numerous gardens and outbuildings to explore.
George Wythe, an eminent attorney and future signer of the Declaration of Independence, was the original owner of this Georgian mansion, which was constructed in 1754. He served as a guide to Thomas Jefferson and other Virginia patriots during the Revolutionary War.
While touring the gorgeous property, you’ll learn more about his achievements and observe how the wealthy lived during colonial times. The ancient old mansion also served as General George Washington’s headquarters before the Siege of Yorktown.
16. Whitley’s Peanut Factory
Since 1986, Whitley’s Peanut Factory has produced tasty treats that are renowned throughout Virginia for their robust flavor. At their upscale store on the northern outskirts of town, you can sample and purchase large bags of traditional salted peanuts as well as various uniquely flavored blends.
What began in the 1980s as a small family-run operation with a single batch roaster has since expanded to three locations and become one of the state’s finest gourmet products. The peanuts are still home-cooked and hand-dipped in the traditional manner, which contributes to their trademark crunchiness and freshness.
At the small shop, the hospitable staff will explain the vast array of available boiled, roasted, and caramelized concoctions and assist you in selecting the ideal peanut.
15. This is the Jamestown Glasshouse
One of the delights of any trip to Historic Jamestowne is witnessing professional glassblowers create vibrant and imaginative pieces of art right in front of your eyes. On the precise location of the settlement’s first furnace, you can today observe artists demonstrating the identical skills employed over four centuries ago.
Remarkably, the first glasshouse at Jamestown was constructed shortly after the arrival of the first settlers in 1608. A couple of decades later, the furnaces were abandoned due to adverse weather, starvation, and Indian massacres, despite the fact that the art was initially envisioned as a key economic driver.
Guests can now view the ruins before learning about the art and history of glassblowing at Jamestown from the expert artisans of the reconstructed workshop. After visiting the gift shop, you can explore the rest of the wonderful old English hamlet.
14. Williamsburg Winery
There is no better location to relax and unwind after exploring the colonial center of town than the award-winning Williamsburg Winery. In the midst of its enormous vineyards, you may partake in excellent excursions and tastings or dine at the prestigious Gabriel Archer Tavern.
Now the largest winery in all of Virginia, it was established in 1985 by Patrick and Margaret Duffeler who called the parcel of land ‘Wessex Hundred’. At the large estate, you’ll find farmed vines lying adjacent to picturesque wild landscapes and exquisite on-site dining establishments.
On tours, you will explore the winery’s cellars and vineyards and learn about the winemaking process before tasting some exceptional vintages from their collection. If all that wasn’t enough, you can always stay a day or two at its luxurious country-style hotel which has 28 custom-designed rooms to choose from.
13. Bassett Hall
Bassett Hall, located in the heart of the city, is yet another incredible historic home you must see. Its magnificent interior has been restored to its appearance in the 1930s and 1940s, with ornate furnishings, art, and period objects on display at every turn.
The charming farmhouse was formerly owned by the affluent financier and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his wife Abby Aldrich and was constructed between 1753 and 1766. It demonstrates how the family lived in the 1940s and sponsored the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg’s historical architecture.
After touring the house’s immaculate rooms and learning about the family from your knowledgeable guide, take a stroll through the Colonial Revival-style gardens.
12. Williamsburg Premium Outlets
If instead of sightseeing you choose to shop until you drop, Williamsburg Premium Outlets is where you should go. Nestled on the northern outskirts of the city, it has over 120 stores to hit up with plenty of cafes and restaurants also being on offer.
The vast outdoor mall debuted in 1988 and has since seen numerous additions and restorations, becoming one of the state’s best shopping destinations. Next to well-known brands such as Banana Republic, Nike, and Ralph Lauren, there are stores selling jewelry, cosmetics, and other products.
In between scanning all of its great discounts, you can stop at any of its cafes for coffee, ice cream, a snack, or a sit-down meal.
11. Water Nation USA
Water Country USA is a family favorite with dozens of crazy and wet attractions for guests to enjoy. Located on the eastern edge of town, not all too far from Busch Gardens, its entertaining wave pools and water coasters make it the perfect place to splash around on warm summer days.
The 1960s surf-themed resort is currently the largest water park in the Mid-Atlantic, with more than forty rapid slides, rides, and attractions to try out. While the thrilling Colossal Curl gigantic raft slide is sure to appeal to some, there are numerous sunbathing spaces and concession stands if you want a more peaceful experience.
The Cutback Water Coaster, which is 850 feet long and uses water jets to propel you uphill at various points, is a must-ride.
10. The William and Mary College
The College of William and Mary is the second-oldest university in the United States, and its colonial-style campus is replete with historic buildings. In close proximity to the Governor’s Palace, its historic buildings and beautiful grounds are fascinating to visit.
Four of the first ten presidents of the United States are among the college’s influential alumnae. The college, which was founded in 1693, has historically been a small institution. In addition to retracing the steps of Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, visitors can explore the city’s central sunken garden and the magnificent Muscarelle Museum of Art.
The highlight must be the well-preserved Wren Building, which dates back to 1695 and features exquisite architecture. Student-led tours will also teach you more about the college’s centuries-old history and customs.
9. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum
The exceptional Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is located just east of the campus. In addition to displays of household items and musical instruments, you can peruse rooms filled with fascinating folk art.
Since being established in 1957 around a collection donated by socialite Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, the museum’s holdings have grown and grown. Its approximately 7,000 paintings, fabrics, and sculptures are now housed in a beautiful Federal Revival structure alongside the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.
As you browse around its well-executed exhibits and galleries, you’ll encounter a variety of one-of-a-kind artworks created by skilled, self-taught artists and artisans. Their creative designs and use of brilliant colors, basic shapes and unexpected topic themes provide for wonderful shots and viewing.
8. York River State Park
Home to spectacular vistas, scenery and environment, York River State Park lies about ten minutes drive north of Williamsburg. Sprawling along the river’s western bank, its gorgeous saltwater marshes and green woods feature a plethora of fantastic outdoor activities for nature enthusiasts to enjoy.
A very tranquil and peaceful place to spend some time, its undisturbed and unspoiled wilderness protects an abundance of native marine and plant species. More than thirty miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding meander either along the coast or through the forests.
From its boat ramp, you may fish and revel in magnificent views of the river while playgrounds and picnic spots are dotted here and there. Its tourist center also features exhibits on the pristine environment’s animals and flora as well as the park’s archaeological discoveries.
7. Bruton Parish Episcopal Church
Back in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg, the Bruton Parish Episcopal Church is another another of the city’s incredibly significant historic sites. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry, among other notable Virginians, attended its services during its heyday as the city’s focal point.
Now listed as a National Historic Landmark, the current church was erected in 1715 over a previous, smaller one. It is a remarkable example of colonial religious architecture, with its cruciform nave and transepts rising above its bell tower.
As it was restored to its colonial form, it features historic wooden box pews with names like James Madison and John Tyler, as well as a magnificent 1755 organ. Impressively enough, its bell is still the same one that rang out at the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
6. Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Due to its thrilling rides and attractions, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is one of the most popular amusement parks in the United States. As it has a European theme, you can be exploring France and Germany one minute before popping up in Italy, Ireland or England the next.
First opened to the public in 1975, the amusement park’s seemingly endless grounds lie southeast of the city and today boasts nine great themed zones to amble around. Each has its own country-specific style, feel and food as England’s double-decker bus and vintage phone booths lie next to Germany’s mountain village and Oktoberfest beer hall.
Thanks to the park’s varied architecture and beautiful, verdant grounds, it’s a great location for capturing memorable vacation photographs. In addition to its Broadway-style performances, be sure to ride the thrilling Loch Ness Monster and Pantheon rollercoasters.
5. Jamestown Settlement
Visit the Jamestown Settlement if you are interested in learning more about the early history of the United States. You can explore recreations of the first permanent English settlement in the Americas and a Native American village at the large living history museum.
Alongside Historic Jamestowne, which maintains the actual settlement site, the park was established in 1957 to commemorate the colony’s 350th anniversary. In addition to entering numerous old houses and boarding reproductions of the ships used by the initial settlers, you can also observe interpreters in costume making equipment, clothing, and food.
Short video clips and modest exhibits also provide more information about the life and times of the early settlers and their struggle for survival. Prior to or after your visit, you must stop at the Historic Jamestowne next door.
4. Colonial Jamestowne
As Historic Jamestowne is an active archaeological site, incredible ancient artifacts are still being unearthed and placed in its on-site museum. At the first permanent English settlement in the Americas, where only the foundations of a few demolished buildings remain, you can certainly feel the weight of history.
The Virginia Company of London sailed up the James River on May 13, 1607, and constructed Fort James on the river’s northeast bank. In the decades that followed, colonists struggled to survive due to sickness, famine, and Indian raids. Huge flames finally destroyed much of the town in the late 1600s and the capital of the colony was shifted to nearby Williamsburg.
Today, tourists can stroll around the outlines of historic buildings, barracks, and a blacksmith shop while viewing 4,000 relics at the museum. Engaging ranger talks teach you all about the site which also encompasses memorial statues of John Smith and Pocahontas.
3. Colonial Alehouses
No visit to Williamsburg is complete without dining in style at one of its fascinating old Colonial Taverns. There are numerous old restaurants throughout the city that provide delicious, genuine cuisine and offer a look into eighteenth-century social life.
The King’s Arms Tavern and Chowning’s Tavern are two of the most popular. While the first restaurant dates back to 1722 and still offers guests the opportunity to dine in a lavish setting with musical entertainment, the second restaurant is less formal and serves traditional English cuisine. Colonial games and music take place on certain evenings at the restaurant.
The Raleigh Tavern and Wetherburn’s across the street, which previously hosted banquets and balls for members of the House of Burgesses, are also worth visiting. One is a bakery selling cookies, ciders, and light lunch fare, while the other offers tours of its antique-filled interior.
2. Governor’s Palace
The magnificent Governor’s Palace is located in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg and is one of the city’s most significant and impressive structures. On tours of the lovely mansion, you’ll view fantastic old furnishings and historical pieces gracing its regal chambers before strolling about its lovingly planted gardens.
While the original 1706 structure regrettably burnt down later that same century, an almost accurate copy was erected in 1934 atop its foundations using other surviving pieces of evidence. As a result, its elegant ballroom and halls adorned with fine artworks and furniture resemble those of the colonial period.
Besides being the official seat of the Colony of Virginia’s royal governors, it was also home to the state’s first two elected governors Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. Outside, there is a hedge labyrinth and historic outbuildings to explore after learning about the area’s population and history.
1. Historic Williamsburg
The largest living history museum in the world, Colonial Williamsburg actually transports you back in time to what life in eighteenth-century America was like. As you stroll through its picturesque streets, you will see innumerable historical reenactors dressed in period garb.
Home to hundreds of both original old brick buildings and well-done reconstructions, it acted as the capital of the Colony of Virginia from 1699 until 1776. Few places have played such a crucial role in the history of the United States and its creation as Philadelphia, where George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others planned for American independence.
Nowadays, you may follow in their footsteps and explore major locations like the Governor’s Palace and Bruton Parish Episcopal Church where history was made. Along the trip, historical re-enactors provide information on the common people, landed gentry, and destitute slaves and peasants.