Wanderlust {Colonial Williamsburg}

I mentioned earlier this month that we are headed to Washington DC as our big family trip for 2018!!!  Y’all have been so incredibly helpful with all of your input on what to do while we are there.  Thank you!!

The other part of our trip will have us in Colonial Williamsburg for two nights.

photo credit

We are staying at the Williamsburg Inn and should have most of our arrival day, another full day and then the morning of our departure day.

  • Where should we eat?
  • What do we see / do?
  • What should we skip?
  • What are your best tips?
  • What do I need to do or book in advance?

As y’all know, we love adventure, history, and a good meal!



35 thoughts on “Wanderlust {Colonial Williamsburg}

  1. If you love history you will LOVE the main street with all the shops (not to shop but to see what they did back then. They have the tinsmith, the cobbler, the pharmacy, etc., etc. They also have taverns to eat. We love Williamsburg! The Governor’s mansion is a great tour too. Have fun!!!

  2. We went to Colonial Williamsburg a few years back. We paid admission to get in but then noticed as we went further through the park that we could have walked in off the street over by William and Mary College (do not miss-beautiful!). To be completely honest, the only thing we really enjoyed was the House of Burgesses, simply for the fact that it was the original building and the architecture and decor were breathtaking. The park seemed to spend a lot of time rewriting history in order to be politically correct. As for the food, the sit down restaurants all open at 2 pm so we were unable to get a hot lunch. It was January and we ate cold sandwiches outside and received some of the rudest service I ever experienced. I hope your other readers don’t get offended as I am telling honestly as I would want a friend to tell me. It has been a few years, maybe it has changed. I even heard a jab about it on 30 Rock. As a family, we agreed that next time we were in the area, we would check out Jamestown. This is not meant to offend, just giving an honest review.

  3. We went to Williamsburg many years ago with our kids in the summer. They loved that a few of the houses actually had kids who were interpreters in them to interact with. There were a few in gardens and my daughters loved that a couple of them had historical toys they were playing with. I would look up some places that have kids so they can interact with someone their age.

  4. Oh how I love Williamsburg! I am in DC often and never tire of that wonderful city! Have fun! When in Williamsburg we usually eat in one of the Taverns and the downtown area has lots of great restaurants…I have never stayed at the Williamsburg Inn..on my list and I hear the restaurant is great there too!

    1. Williamsburg is my hometown and you beat me to it!! I was going to suggest the Cheese Shop and house dressing!!

  5. As a teacher of and really big fan of colonial history, Williamsburg is always a fun trip. I did the ticketed tour the first time and enjoyed the buildings that you can get into as well as the lectures and demonstrations. It is worth it to do for first timers. As someone mentioned, Jamestown is a great side trip that I think the boys will really enjoy. There may be combination tickets for these various locales. In peak season, the taverns in the historic area are fun to do for lunch or dinner. Go on their website and see what menus appeal. There are nighttime tours available and those offer a unique look at the area. You will enjoy just walking around and going in some of the lovely stores adjacent to the historic setting. I have only visited in spring and summer, but imagine the fall is a lovely time there.

  6. If you have time try to go by Charlottesville off of I 64. I know it has been in the news in horrible ways now but the University of Virginia is gorgeous and Monticello ( Jeffersons home) is my favorite tour. If Williamsburg visitor center still offers the film before you tour see it. The boys will love it. Enjoy!!!

  7. We were there 3 years ago for the first time and had a great experience. Bought the tickets to get into the houses/businesses as we wanted to see everything. Don’t know if I would do that if I went more than once. Wanted to eat Brunswick stew in one of the eating establishments so that narrowed our choices. Also went to Jamestown and Yorktown. Almost history overload. A good time though.

  8. Love Williamsburg! At the Visitors Center don’t miss the oldie but goodie film “Williamsburg: the Story of a Patriot” starring Jack Lord. You are probably too young but he was the star of the original “Hawaii 5-0” and we get a kick out of this film.

  9. Charlottesville is a must-see if you can add an extra day. The “grounds” of UVA, the downtown pedestrian mall, Michie Tavern, Ashlawn, Monticello, etc. The first time I went to historic Williamsburg was back in the day before they started charging for a ticket to get in. The second time (when we took the kids), we did the ticketed admission. Though a bit touristey, it was a great way to spend the day, lots of history, fun kids activities, etc. We drove from Atlanta to Charlottesville, then to Williamsburg, then straight to Mt Vernon (an absolute must-see), and then after the Mt Vernon tour we checked into our hotel inside the District where we could walk to all the Smithsonians, etc. If you have an extra day, check out the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. This is a trip your littles will still remember when they have kids of their own!

    1. Yes to all of that especially Charlottesville!! I don’t know what time of year you are going but outside of Charlottesville has apple picking at Carter’s mountain and the best homemade apple cider doughnuts EVER!! Enjoy your trip!

  10. I was there this summer with my daughter’s 5th grade class and the highlight for us was being schooled as colonial soldiers in the “In Defense of Our Liberties” evening program. We were treated as new soldiers would be and taught how to march and wheel…the kids all really got into it! A must-do in my opinion for anyone with school-aged kids (the adults got into it as well!). Jamestown Settlement is also a great spot to explore nearby.

  11. Colonial Williamsburg! I haven’t been since I was a child, so I’m no help (per usual) but I can’t wait to read everyone’s tips!

  12. You will love it. Have been there many times and my boys just loved it. If breakfast is included at the Williamsburg Inn, I would definitely eat there. The Kings Arms and Christiana Campbell’s are good choices in the restoration area. I would skip Josiah Chownings. The historical area is fabulous, but not all houses are open everyday so definitely check that out. The Abby Aldrige Rockfeller museum is so much fun but the boys might not enjoy it too much.

  13. We ate at a cute dutch restaurant for breakfast called Mama Steve’s and it was delicious. Also we love the Wythe chocolate shop at the Shops at Williamsburg Marketplace, the peanut shop, and Laura Ashley. We haven’t done one of the tours in a really long time, but I think it would be a good idea to do a one day tour. The trees are just beautiful as you drive through town. There are two places I have been where trees stand out to me and that’s Williamsburg and Savannah.

  14. We go to Williamsburg every year the day after Christmas. We absolutely love it. We stay at the inn and the lodge. Depending on when you go the taverns have a different schedule. We always like to eat at Chownings for lunch its first come first serve do you need to put your name on a list. Christiana Campbell’s is our favorite. Sweet potatoe muffins are delicious! We love all the taverns! Don’t forget Raleigh tavern bakery for a yummy snack.
    I would suggest making reservations for any restaurant and if you want to do the carriage ride as soon as you know your dates. Think disney? Some of the buildings are free others require a ticket, staying at the Inn you get a discount I think your family will love it. Spring and Christmas are the best time to visit. ImO.

  15. We love Williamsburg and have taken our boys there many times. Our favorite tavern for dinner is Christiana Campbell’s. The governors palace is a must see but go early in the day so you are not lining up in the heat of the day. As others have mentioned, there are colonial “shops” that demo candle- making, blacksmith, etc. there are always things going on and the houses are adorable (you’ll appreciate them, the boys not so much!). Also, if you have time, check out the Williamsburg Inn. In the evening, we have also done the ghost tour. Not scary at all and interesting stories about the area.

  16. Amanda,
    My hubby grew up in Williamsburg so he knows the area very well. As a kid, he use to ride bikes all around Colonial Williamsburg. He said this is what his game plan would be:

    Since you are staying at the Williamsburg Inn once you head out after breakfast jump on the Williamsburg bus and head to the visitor center first. From there, get back on the bus and ride over to the Governors Palace. Once you have toured the Governors Palace, head to Duke of Gloucester Street (Closed to traffic) which is approx. a mile long. Here you will see all the Colonial shops, stores, houses and taverns. Make sure you go into the wigmakers shop, the pewter shop and the candle shop. Once you get to the end of Duke of Gloucester you will see the Capital building and behind it is the stockade.

    You can also check with your hotel to see if the Williamsburg Fife & Drums will be performing during the time you are there. If I had my choice I would rather do dinner at Christiana Campbell’s than lunch at Raleigh or Shields. The Cheese shop is very good for speciality sandwiches for lunch. For a special dessert treat and drink I would go to the Trellis Restaurant and have the Death by Chocolate that they are noted for.

    The second day I would really recommend doing Jamestown rather than a second day in Williamsburg as I think your boys would really enjoy the ships and seeing the settlement. This is where our country was founded so I wouldn’t miss it. Hope this helps!

  17. Long time admirer of your blog! I live in Williamsburg. Your boys are a great age to enjoy Williamsburg! I would recommend one of the taverns for dinner just for the experience. Reservations are a must. Christina Campbell’s is our favorite- specializes in seafood, the waiters dress in Colonial attire – a fun experience.
    Duke of Gloucester St (DOG St) is the Main Street through colonial Wmsbg. You can pretty much see most everything in a day. When in the colonial area, you must eat lunch at The Cheese Shoppe on DoG St. They have the BEST sandwiches on French bread and house dressing! Definitely take a look around William and Mary.
    Jamestown is a great place too. It’s maybe 10 minutes from the colonia area. If your boys like history, they would like Jamestown. Depending on what time of the year and the weather-Busch Gardens and Water Country are fun too.
    Old Chickahominy House on Jamestown Rd is good for breakfast or lunch. They are known for their Brunswick stew and ham biscuits. The Fat Canary is also one of our favorite restaurants for dinner. So excited y’all will be in Williamsburg! You will love the Inn! They have a nice dinner and brunch as well. Message me if you have any questions! Have fun!!

    1. Forgot to mention you will need reservations at Fat Canary, Berrett’s (good crab cakes) and The Trellis is you decide to go to one of the these restaurants on DoG St.

  18. We just went there a few weeks ago. We really enjoyed Williamsburg! Someone above said you could get by without paying and that is NOT the case. There were many houses where they asked to see our pass. We thoroughly enjoyed each of the shops and hearing about how they made all of the things. There is a haunted evening tour that we thought about, but passed on, that would be neat to do. I love history and enjoyed every minute of it. My kids are 11, 8 and 4; they seemed to enjoy it too. Lots of walking and bring water. Waters were quite pricey there ($3.75 or something). I wish we had brought our own.

    We also ate at Chowning’s Tavern, the closest to the Courthouse. It was really good and opened for lunch (noon). We ate in the attic, which was neat. Make sure you don’t miss the canon at noon! It is right by there so we watched that and then headed over to the tavern.

    While in Williamsburg, we also went to Busch Gardens. As a Disney lover myself, this park is similar to Epcot but has some bigger roller coasters like Cedar Point or Six Flags. We really enjoyed the park. Word to the wise though, don’t buy the fast passes (whatever they are called there) until you go inside to gauge the crowd. We bought them in advance and found it was a big waste of money. Almost all of the big roller coasters had 5 minute or less wait times. The newest rolle rcoaster had the longest, but the fast passes were not even able to be used for that one. We enjoyed the park a lot and your kids are the perfect age for it.

    We ate at Captain George’s Seafood buffet. It was pretty good if you like crab legs/seafood. Other than that, we actually had a restaurant at our Doubletree we stayed at that had excellent food that was pretty cheap. Nothing else to rave about. Have fun! I can’t wait to read about your DC stay. We plan to go there sometime in the future when our littlest is a bit older.

    On a side note, if I wanted to talk to you about DVC, how best is it to contact you? I love Disney planning so that is the only reason I haven’t gone through you for that, but I really need some input on DVC. We LOVE Disney and I am not sure if this is a good option for us or not. Thanks!!

  19. I went to college at W&M, so I love that town! Lunch at the Cheese Shop and dinner at the Fat Canary (right next door) are my favorites. I’m hesitant to say so, but my 3 kids (under 12) prefer Jamestown to CW. There is plenty to see in CW without buying the passes, though if your boys are particularly interested in history, it might be worth it. Definitely tour Jamestown while you are in the area–it’s so well done.

  20. It has been many years since I’ve visited Williamsburg, but one of the most memorable things we did was take the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry. You just pick up VA-40 of of I-95 N. It’s a pretty drive and a fun experience. You would pick up the ferry in Scotland, which is in Surry County VA. The ferries cross the James River into Jamestown Settlement. They are free and run 24/7. My kids thought it was cool to drive the car right on to the ferry. Your boys would love it!

    I also remember stopping at a little restaurant on the Scotland side. It is close to where you catch the ferry. There is NOTHING around, so you would not have trouble finding it. Anyway, they had some of the BEST pie I’ve ever put in my mouth!!

    Do a quick google search of the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry (16289 Rolfe Hwy, Surry, VA 23883). It’s really a great experience. :)

  21. If you visit during the summer months, you must try Sno-to-go for a wonderful frozen treat. It is located on Rt 60 across from the Yankee Candle Village. Also agree with Christianna Campbell’s for dinner, the Cheese Shop or Paul’s Deli for sandwiches, and The Trellis for it’s famous Death by Chocolate dessert.

  22. We’ve been to colonial Williamsburg twice and to be totally honest, it wasn’t our favorite. Walking down the main starred and having dinner at the tavern is cute for a couple of hours, but I just can’t imagine any more than half a day. Busch Gardens Williamsburg on the other hand was an absolute blast. As a Disney fan, you’d probably love it. Very well themed with lots of great rides and shows. Have fun!

  23. Manassas National Battlefield is also along the drive from Charlottesville to DC, if you have an interest in Civil War history. Wouldn’t be too far from Udvar-Hazy, if that’s in your itinerary.

  24. If time permits, I would recommend driving on the Colonial Parkway from Williamsburg to Yorktown…the views of the York River alone are worth the trip. Once there, you can check out the new American Revolution Museum and tour the battlefields. Lastly, a trip to Yorktown isn’t complete without lunch at the Yorktown Pub or Water Street Grille.

  25. I went with my daughter on her 5th grade double-overnight field trip to CW and Jamestown one spring. We really enjoyed two different “soldier” experiences, an evening lantern tour, and a ghost tour among many other things. We had already been as a family to Plimoth (not a spelling error!) Plantation so my daughter felt that Jamestown was not as authentic (in her opinion), but it is very similar! It is well worth it to eat in the restaurants/taverns; the food, staff clothing, and even live music all are themed to the time period.
    We returned with my husband and two sons in early December a few years ago. There were not as many interactive experiences offered, but the holiday decorations and special activities were impressive. I think I took a picture of every single door wreath I saw! They were slaughtering pigs at the governor’s mansion the day we visited. It was both disgusting and fascinating! If you ever have a chance to return at the holidays I would do it; it was quite a different experience than our spring trip, but I am so glad to g=have done both. (PS Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town was really fun, too!)

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