Colonial Williamsburg takes visitors all the way back to the 18th Century when familiar names like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were beginning to carve out their respective places in history. Williamsburg was once Virginia’s Capitol city and part of what’s now considered the “historic triangle”. While visiting, your eyes are opened to the early struggles of people longing for independence from Great Britain and a peek into the daily routine of someone living in the late 1700s. Perhaps most important, you’ll see how brilliant ideas that started here would help shape American government and give life to the world’s first permanent Constitution.
My Home Away From Home
My journey began in an authentic Colonial House built in the 1700s that literally put me right in the middle of all the action. One step out the front door and I could hear the demonstration of an antique musket being fired or the sound of a horse drawn carriage making its way down one of the brick lined streets. Colonial Williamsburg Resorts offers a handful of these houses – many of them have been reconstructed to look exactly how they appeared in the 18th Century. While there are other lodging options available, you’d be hard pressed to find anything comparable in terms of overall experience.
The Colonial Houses are equipped with everything you’d need to travel on your own, as a couple, or with a small family. My house came with a small kitchen that included a sink, stove, dishwasher, and refrigerator. The cabinets had a fair amount of dishes and cooking utensils as well. The house was updated with heating and cooling and two separate bathrooms. There were two bedrooms upstairs – one with a queen size bed and another down the hall with two full size beds. The furnishings were from all from the time period.
In my opinion, the best part of staying in a Colonial House is being with a short walk from all of the Colonial Williamsburg museums and attractions. You can skip the shuttle buses and fooling around with parking. You can walk back to the house if you want to grab lunch or just take a break from the weather. While I didn’t eat any meals at the The Williamsburg Inn – it’s just a quick walk away should you choose to do so.
On a personal note – I found the staff to be incredibly kind. They were super nice – from the front desk to the crew that helped get the house ready for my stay. They even have a concierge that will sit down with you and walk you through all of the day’s events and point out must-see spots on a map of the area. This is where you can also buy tickets to extra experiences like ghost tours or carriage rides.
The Colonial Williamsburg Experience
It’s commonly referred to as a “living history museum” but I feel like that minimizes the grand design of it all. Colonial Williamsburg is huge – situated on 300 acres and spread out between various buildings housing demonstrations of life in the 18th Century. As a ticketed guest, you can walk into trade shops and see everything from silversmiths to book binding. An updated calendar gives you a rundown as to which shops are open and when.
There are also live performances with actors in character – portraying figures like Thomas Jefferson or George Washington. You might even enjoy some live music in the very spot of the first live theater in the country. The docents seem to really enjoy their role in sharing stories and the history surrounding Williamsburg. They also welcome questions about anything you want to learn more about. They all seemed to be very well versed in the trades they were representing.
I really enjoyed learning some of the simple fun facts about how certain words or phrases came to be. For example, I had no idea that when lawyers have to “pass the bar” – it literally meant at the time that only a lawyer could pass by a set of bars in the courtroom. Every venue in Colonial Williamsburg from the Capitol to the Governor’s Palace provides some really good insight into how to the institutions we recognize today first began.
Bring comfortable shoes because you will walk a lot during your visit. It can also be hot and humid in Virginia – especially if you’re coming in the summer. Even though my visit was in the fall, I still needed a hat to protect my bald head from getting burnt from the scorching sun. That’s not to say it’s completely miserable – you will spend a good chunk of your time inside the various buildings and out of the heat. Just be prepared. You might also keep in mind that the popular attractions may have long lines during the middle of the day. I noticed that later in the day, or first thing in the morning, the lines are down to almost nothing.
If you want to plan for a break from the heat – Colonial Williamsburg has a really great art museum and a small cafe inside. You’ll need tickets to get in but admission may be included with your package if you stay at a Colonial Williamsburg Resort property. Across from the art museum is a nice shopping area with specialty shops and dining. All of this is within walking distance from the historic attractions.
Planning A Visit To Colonial Williamsburg
All great trips start with great planning. The Colonial Houses can book up fast – especially on weekends. Consider booking a weekday visit instead. Make a plan of things you’re most interested in experiencing and go from there. Do not feel overwhelmed by it all because it can be quite confusing when you first start to explore. After an hour or so you’ll figure out the routine and you’ll know the area like the back of your hand.
Colonial Williamsburg is a wonderful experience that would be amazing for families – especially with school age kids that are eager to learn about history. It’s so much more meaningful to see these things in person than simply reading out of a book.