Colonial Williamsburg — Be part of the story

09/12/2011  | 

Imagine taking your family on a trip back in time. Not only to stroll past historic buildings, but to become immersed in history by engaging and interacting with real, live people portraying people of the past, and teaching history through the demonstrations, reenactments, and stories of our struggles to become Americans. Colonial Williamsburg offers visitors unique opportunities to discover 18th-century life in colonial Virginia. By visiting this beautifully restored 18th-century town, you have the opportunity to learn firsthand about the roots of American independence.

From 1699 to 1780, Williamsburg was the political, social and cultural capital of Great Britain’s largest, wealthiest, and most populous colony. The Hall of the House of Burgesses at the Capitol echoes with the voices of Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and other Virginia leaders who debated the issues of freedom and liberty for Virginians.

Stores, shops, and taverns along Duke of Gloucester Street bustle with activity. Stop in at the Pasteur and Galt Apothecary Shop and learn about the latest 18th-century healthcare techniques. At the Golden Ball Silversmith Shop, watch skilled craftspeople turn bars of silver into goblets, pitchers, and other exquisite objects. The silversmith is one of nearly two dozen trades that demonstrate the daily work of many 18th-century working Americans. At the Courthouse, you might be invited to be a witness, defendant, or judge in a re-creation of a court case from the 1700s. And while you are there, don’t forget to have your picture taken in the stocks or pillory!




There’s Something Here for Everyone

Whatever your age, whatever your interests, you’ll find something to see and do in the Historic Area, museums, restaurants, shops, and recreational facilities. Colonial Williamsburg has programs and activities for everyone in the family. The information in “Colonial Williamsburg This Week” helps you plan your visit to suit your entire family’s interests.

Evening Programs

Enjoy a concert in the candlelit Capitol. Learn to put your best foot forward during a dance at the Governor’s Palace. Decide the guilt or innocence of the “Virginia Witch.” Have a rollicking time at an 18th-century play. Or discover the ghosts that continue to haunt the Historic Area. Tickets sell out early, so stop by any ticket sales location, or call 1-800-447-8679 for details.

Treasures of History

Browse the galleries of The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg and discover the best of 17th-, 18th- and early 19th-century furniture, prints, ceramics, metalwork, and textiles as well as the nation’s premier collection of folk art.

Across the street is the Magazine, scene of the Gunpowder Incident of April 1775, in which British marines removed the colony’s powder under orders from Lord Dunmore. This incident galvanized the colonists and threatened to launch Virginia into war. Learn about the life of an 18th-century soldier. At the Magazine you may be enlisted to join Williamsburg’s independent company, given a “weapon” and drilled in the finer points of marching.

Find yourself fully in the colonial past as you learn an 18th-century dance, take part in a witch trial, or march with the Fifes and Drums. And, go behind the scenes with curators and gardeners.

Young visitors will especially enjoy the James Geddy House and Foundry, where they learn about 18th-century family life and household activities from costumed interpreters their own age. They may even be invited to try their hand at writing with a quill pen or playing a colonial game.

The Governor’s Palace, reconstructed in 1934 on its original foundation, is one of the most popular exhibition buildings in the Historic Area. Everything about the Palace, from its position at the head of Palace Green, to the furnishings of its rooms, makes a statement about its residents’ power and position in the colony. The Palace served as the home of seven royal governors and Virginia’s first two state governors: Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. Currently, it is presented as the home of Lord Dunmore, Virginia’s last royal governor.

After you have toured the Palace, be sure to examine the beautiful gardens that surround it, including the maze. On the grounds, stop by the Palace Kitchen, where Colonial Williamsburg’s food historians use Dutch ovens, a rotisserie, and other open-hearth cooking techniques from the 1700s to prepare food.

Be sure to take part in Revolutionary City®, a daily two-hour interactive presentation telling the story of the transformation of Americans — from subjects of a distant monarch to citizens of a self-governing nation. Woven throughout is the story of African Americans and their struggles to be free and independent. During the 18th century, over half of Williamsburg’s population was African American. Colonial Williamsburg is committed to telling the African American story through interpretation at sites such as Great Hopes Plantation, Peyton Randolph House, and throughout the Historic Area.

The story of conflicting loyalties during the 1770s is vividly illustrated at the Peyton Randolph House on Nicholson Street. Peyton Randolph was speaker of the House of Burgesses and president of the First and Second Continental Congresses. His brother John was a loyalist, who, along with his family, returned to England prior to the Revolution.

Completed in 2009, R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse is the most significant historical reconstruction on Duke of Gloucester Street in more than 50 years. The newest exhibition site in the Historic Area reflects the coffeehouse’s 18th-century role as a gathering place for the politically connected as well as for the socially ambitious.

The Gaol, one of Colonial Williamsburg’s original 18th-century buildings, housed prisoners until 1910. Criminals awaiting trial and debtors unable to settle their accounts were held here, as were pirates, Native Americans, and runaway slaves.

Be sure to walk through some of Colonial Williamsburg’s famed gardens. There are more than 90 acres of gardens and greens showing a range of 18th-century landscaping designs and a variety of uses, from purely decorative to strictly functional.

Fall in step as Colonial Williamsburg’s musical ambassadors, the Fifes and Drums, march down Duke of Gloucester Street. They perform during the weekends in the spring and fall.

Spend time in the Historic Area during the evening. Choose from walking tours, musical programs, and other 18th-century diversions. Dine in our historic taverns and enjoy a delicious meal and a culturally rich experience as balladeers entertain guests with stories and tunes. Programs and activities in the Historic Area vary seasonally. “Colonial Williamsburg This Week” is your guide to all the events being offered. It provides a list of building hours, programs, and other information, as well as a color-coded map of the Historic Area. It’s available at any Colonial Williamsburg ticket outlets and various other locations in town.

Buy your admission pass, get information, and make reservations for Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area taverns, hotels, and restaurants or evening programs at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center. There is plentiful free parking at the Visitor Center and ticket holders can ride the shuttle buses to and from the Historic Area. Information and tickets are also available at the Greenhow Lumber House or Merchants Square Ticket Booth, both located in the Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg.

Make the Most of Your Visit

Stay in one of Colonial Williamsburg’s official on-site hotels, and you’re only steps away from all the action — the Historic Area, restaurants, shopping, golf, and spa. Plus, you can get the best price on Length-of-Stay passes to the Historic Area. Plan your stay at, or call  1-800-361-7241.

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