November 27, 2020

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Top 10 Things To Do In Williamsburg, Virginia

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A horse drawn carriage along the street in Williamsburg in the Fall. getty Unfolding from...

Unfolding from the Chesapeake Bay, a diverse marine-life estuary, to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia, shaped by Native American, African, and European history, is quite the destination to explore. One of the original 13 colonies, with English settlement history dating back to the early 17th Century, nature, culture, and history draw visitors to this part of the country and to the historic triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown in particular. If you only have a weekend to explore Greater Williamsburg, below are suggestions to make the most of the time you have available.

Explore on Two Wheels

Wake up early, and enjoy a healthy breakfast at Spoke & Art Provisions Co. where afterwards, you’ll be able to rent bicycles and explore the nearby Virginia Capital Trail, which connects Virginia’s colonial capital of Williamsburg to the present-day capital of Richmond. Ride on a short section or complete the entire 51.7-mile fully-paved trail, which runs through the City of Richmond, Henrico County, Charles City County, and James City County, with numerous attractions and points of interest along the way. You’ll bike through forests, corn fields, near beaver ponds, and past wetlands.

Another way to get around Virginia’s historic triangle is The Colonial Parkway, a 23-mile picturesque roadway completed in the late 50’s by the National Park Service, connecting Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown.

You’ll be able to pull over at a few spots along the way to read a historical marker, enjoy a viewpoint, or to let faster cars pass.

Step Back in Time

Explore Colonial Williamsburg, the original capital of Virginia and the world’s largest outdoor living history museum with 88 original buildings dotted over 301 acres. Visit the Palace Green, Capitol, Courthouse, Governor’s Palace, and Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg where you’ll find Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.

A fun way to explore the historic district is by taking a horse-drawn carriage or wagon ride. And, for nighttime fun, go on a ghost tour with Colonial Ghosts, where you’ll meet in front the historic Kimball Theater in colonial Williamsburg’s Merchant’s Square. You’ll stop at a few buildings that are rumored to have ghost sightings, including the Peyton Randolph House.

Learn Your History

Explore 17th-century Colonial Virginia at Jamestown Settlement, America’s first permanent English colony, and learn about the Powhatan Indian, English, and west-central African cultures that once converged here. Gallery exhibits feature rare art and artifacts, a well-produced film on Bacon’s Rebellion is shown in a new experiential theater with 4-D special effects, and the outdoor grounds host living history performers.

See three tall ships—Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, replicas of the ones that once were occupied by English settlers on their way to America. Discover how Captain John Smith became president of the Virginia Council, establishing rules among the people and creating maps and diaries along the way. Learn how Pocahontas lived in the Powhatan Indian Village.

Immerse Yourself in the American Revolution

The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown engrosses visitors into the history of our nation, from the colonial era to the Revolutionary period. See the film, Liberty Fever, wander through the permanent exhibition galleries, and visit the outdoor re-created Continental Army Encampment where historical performers portray the day-to-day life of American soldiers. See the Revolution-era farm and help tend crops and play period games.

Delve Into Collegiate History

Founded in 1693, The College of William & Mary, named after the British co-monarchs, is the second oldest institution of higher learning in America (Harvard University is the oldest) and three Presidents studied there: Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler. The campus is right next to Colonial Williamsburg so it’s possible to explore both during the same visit. Must-see sites on campus include the Sir Christopher Wren Building, President’s House, and Muscarelle Museum of Art.

Sail in Yorktown

Did you know that you can see dolphins in Virginia? The York River watershed is home to marine mammals, including bottlenose dolphins, in the warmer months. The best way to see these playful creatures is on a sailboat cruise through Yorktown Sailing Charters. Step aboard the Yorktown Schooner Alliance where you’ll not only see marine life, but also, you’ll get the chance to set sail and take the helm. Cruise past the Victory Monument and Yorktown Battlefield where America won its independence at the last major battle of the Revolutionary War.

Other adventures in Yorktown include visits to Colonial National Historical Park, Watermen’s Museum, Yorktown Freight Shed, York County Historical Museum, Nelson House, Cornwallis’ Cave, and Moore House. Be sure to stroll down the mile-long Riverwalk and enjoy views from the beach. Visit the On the Hill Gallery, Gallery at York Hall, and Black Dog Gallery.

Explore the Tasting Trail

Sip local beer, wine, mead, and spirits along a tasting trail in Williamsburg: Aleworks Brewing Company, Amber Ox Public House, Billsburg Brewery, Silvery Hand Meadery, Virginia Beer Company, Eight Shires Coloniale Distillery, and five wineries and vineyards along the Colonial Virginia Wine Trail.  Drink Williamsburg offers afternoon and evening tours should you want to leave the logistics up to someone else.

Shop until you Drop

From the Historic Yorktown Shops to Merchants Square in Colonial Williamsburg to museum shops and galleries, there’s much to explore in the Historic Triangle. Christmas Mouse is where you’ll find year-round holiday delights and decorations. Williamsburg Craft House at Merchants Square is where you’ll find craft art, jewelry, and collectibles. The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg sells hand-cooked artesian Virginia peanuts. And, if you visit the area during the Williamsburg Farmers Market or Yorktown Market Days, you can find unique seasonal items.

Eat Your Way Through Town

One of the best ways to learn about a new destination is through food. Blue Talon Bistro has a wonderful outdoor seating area, The James Landing Grille has views of the James River where you can hear seabirds squawk in the distance, Casa Pearl is where to go for tacos and oysters, LOKAL Café has wholesome grab-and-go eats and they make their own oat milk, and the Social Terrace at Williamsburg Inn is a lovely place to don posher garb and enjoy a nightcap and small bites while listening to live piano music.

Finally, Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters & Petite Café, located in the historic Cole Digges House (circa 1720) on Main Street in Yorktown, is one of the most charming brasseries in the entire historic area. “Everything creaks in the right places,” says owner, Celeste Gucanac.  

Silver tea pots sit in all of the windowsills in the upstairs bedrooms, which have been converted into dining spaces with tables covered in black and white gingham. “The tea pots were my father’s idea,” says Gucanac. “Everybody just loves them.”

Rest Your Head

Relax and stay at the lovely Kingsmill Resort, the only AAA Four Diamond Condominium Resort in historic Williamsburg. The private, spacious, and well-appointed riverfront accommodations are near on-property restaurants, an outdoor swimming pool, and the Kingsmill Spa, which overlooks the James River. Comely plants, flowering trees, winding pathways, and lush landscaping complete the pretty picture.

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