Say “Yes” to Colonial Williamsburg!

by D.J. Wilson – Historic Williamsburg is a one of a kind American experience, offering a memorable vacation in a colonial city. Considered a living history museum, this Virginia city is designed to preserve the early history of the United States and to celebrate our nation’s patriots. Since many of the buildings have been reconstructed over time, some critics question the authenticity of the city and debate if it’s possible to “truly step back in time” by visiting.  Perhaps these naysayers should consider the benefits of visiting Williamsburg, from cultural and educational perspectives.  It is an enriching experience to walk amongst the restored and re-created sites of Williamsburg, where buildings date from 1699 to 1780.  Consider that this is the closest we may come to experiencing the ideals of 18th century America.

What is there to do?                        

History buffs will enjoy strolling along Duke of Gloucester Street, once described as the “most historic avenue in America” by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  It was originally named in honor of his Highness William Duke of Gloucester, heir to the English throne.  It first began as a narrow Indian trail and developed into a horse path during the 17th century.  The street played a significant role in history. During the battle of Williamsburg, wagons carried wounded warriors along the street.  Governors would ride down “Main Street” in gilded carriages toward the capital.   Time brought change and neglect to the route.  Thankfully, it was reconstructed to its original colonial day glory.  Today, folks may walk along the nearly mile long street and pass reconstructed stores, taverns and special buildings.

Take a glimpse at what visitors may explore:

The Capitol:  Tour this centerpiece of Colonial Revival architecture to learn about the government of the colony of Virginia.  Destroyed by fire three times, the current building was reconstructed from 1931 to 1934 and is a main attraction in Williamsburg.

Wren Building:  The Sir Christopher Wren Building is part of the College of William and Mary and is the oldest continuously used academic building in the United States.  Destroyed by fire on three occasions, the building took on varying appearWren Buildingances.  It served as a military hospital during the Revolutionary and Civil War.

Governor’s Palace:  The palace served as home to seven royal governors and two elected governors.  The palace was designed to project British wealth and power.  The interior consists of elegant décor and a grand ballroom.  There is a large display of period swords.  On the exterior, there are tiered gardens which overlook a stream, an original icehouse and a boxwood maze.

Bruton Parish Church:  The current structure is the third of a series of houses of worship, its construction commencing in 1712.  The church had special seating, with parishioners sitting in boxed pews and with the sexes sitting apart.  The Governor was given a canopied chair on a platform opposite the raised pulpit and notables who died were buried beneath the church.  The church served as a hospital and storehouse during the Battle of Yorktown and as a hospital during the civil war.  This Episcopalian church remains an active house of worship to this day.       

Market Square:   This 18th century retail village features over 40 fabulous shops and restaurants.  Amidst the colonial atmosphere of Williamsburg, Market Square hosts many wonderful special events, such as live musical performances.  If you’re looking for products made in America by an American company, look no further than the Pewter Shop, which features two main collections.  In addition to wide array of specialty shops, choose from a variety of restaurants, from fine dining to pub and casual eateries.

Raleigh Tavern:  Established in 1717 and named for Sir Walter Raleigh, the Tavern was an important gathering and meeting place.  Balls were often held there, which a young love-stricken Thomas Jefferson once attended.  The tavern played a role in history after the dissolution of House of Burgesses.  In 1776, Phi Beta Kappa was founded at the tavern by a group of students from The College of William and Mary.   The structure was destroyed by fire in 1859 and was rebuilt and dedicated in 1932.

James Geddy House:  Located on the Palace Green near Bruton Parish Church, this two-story home is one of the original buildings in Williamsburg.  Unusual features, from its low roof to the balcony above the front porch, make it truly unique.  James Geddy Jr. owned the property through the Revolutionary era and built the house in 1762.  The home was used for foundry, gunsmith and silversmith businesses and is a beloved site in Williamsburg.

History lovers will enjoy experiencing the spirit of the 18th century in beautiful Williamsburg.  It’s impossible to squeeze volumes of historical information and places to visit into one short article, thus a trip to colonial Williamsburg is essential.  Excitement ensues as visitors are treated to historical interpreters and recreations of life on the eve of the Revolutionary War.   For touring and lodging information, please visit:

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9 years ago

My husband and I visited Colonial Williamsburg many years ago on the 4th of July. We walked onto to green in front of the governors palace and were delighted to hear a fife and drum corps playing Yankee Doodle. It was a trip to remember, and one I would like to repeat. There is so much to see and learn.

9 years ago

My husband and I had the fortune of visiting Williamsburg 3 times in the late 70’s – early 80’s. We just fell in love with it. We have become big US History fans and have learned so much by visiting there. It is beautiful and one can actually feel like they’ve truly taken a step back in time. Everyone there is extremely knowledgable and very infomative. We used to live in Md., then moved to Vt., making the trip to visit there alittle more difficult. We hope to some day visit Williamsburg again. We hope it never goes away. Everyone should visit Williamsburg!!

9 years ago

My wife and I went with another couple and thoroughly enjoyed Williamsburg. We wished that we had more time to explore Jamestown and Yorktown as well! We certainly will on our next trip to the area. What rich history!!

9 years ago

If you want to appreciate your country, you must go to Colonial Williamsburg and get engaged. The engagement part, and the learning that comes with it is when you attend the “Public Audience with a Nation Builder” to hear Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Washington, Martha Washington, George Wythe or the Marquis de Lafayette give their oratory, then invite you to participate by asking questions. But that’s not all. You can watch history come to life with their Revolutionary City street drama about the struggles of the common people involved with the war. A treat for the kids is Rev Quest, a fun mystery or spy game that requires them to use texting in order to find the clues that will help them solve the mystery. Carriage tours, craftsmen, the slave plantation, the Coffee House, the Courthouse when you can participate in a trial, the taverns, the museum and ghost tours or concerts in the evening are just a few of the other attractions in the historic area. But if you’re going to go and give yourself enough time, only 15 minutes away you can visit Yorktown and Jamestown as well. Plan your time there for several days. You can’t possibly do it all in one. And no, this is not an ad for Colonial Williamsburg. It’s a testimony from my husband and I who have been going there now for well over 10 years.

To Tom, best time to visit is spring or fall. It can get very hot in July and August. Christmas time is also a delightful time to go. See the Grand Illumination first weekend in December and enjoy their colonial Christmas decorations.

9 years ago

Colonial Williamsburg is a great place to visit and it will give your kids and grandkids an new appreciation for the history of this great nation. And, while here, you can visit Jamestown, the first settlement in the US; Yorktown, where George Washington played a huge part in establishing this country as an independent nation; Fort Monroe, est. in 1607 as the first fortress in the US, and later a key fort where Abraham Lincoln stayed during the Civil War and Jefferson Davis was held following the war (it is now our newest national park). Finally, you can visit Langley Air Force Base, the home of the 1st Fighter Wing with the F-22 aircraft and take a harbor cruise of Fort Wool and the Norfolk Naval Base. This is a great place to live and for a family vacation!

9 years ago

When are the best times to visit?

Chuck Guinn
9 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Dear Tom,

We have only visited Colonial Williamsburg once and we think it was at the perfect time; Christmas. You can’t imagine the all natural decorations. As soon as our grandson is old enough to appreciate it we will be going back again at Christmas.


9 years ago

I love Colonial Williamsburg! It’s the best place to visit! So much to see and do, and you can become part of the history with their Revolutionary City! There are outdoor markets and I even saw an outdoor auction when I was their last November! Shops are fabulous too, as well as the Taverns with their great food! I simply love the feeling I have when I’m walking down DOG street. So much history…if you’ve forgotten your history, you’ll come away knowing what American is all about! Please, do yourself….GO! You won’t regret it….it’s a true American Experience.

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