Let’s Tour Colonial Williamsburg

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Colonial Williamsburg, formerly a colonial capital, has been restored in architecture as well as in spirit, making it the ideal “family field trip.”

I’m a West Coast girl. I’ve lived in Southern California for most of my life. When I’ve lived or traveled elsewhere, I haven’t ventured father east than the Mississippi, unless it was to hop all the way to Europe or journey south of the border to Honduras. While I’ve hiked in a rain forest or toured throughout the South of France, I just don’t know much about 3/4 of my own nation’s territory.

Instead, most of my life experience has been rooted in the West and, historically speaking, in the adventures of the Spanish Explorers or the pioneers. The kinds of field trips I took as a child and those that I now take with my kids involve Spanish missions, stagecoaches, cowboys, and the Wild West.

But, recently, I got a chance to go back in time and in space to Colonial Williamsburg, VA. Wanna go with? Let’s take a tour!

All photos by Heidi.

My sister and her family moved to Williamsburg last summer. My niece’s school borders the gardens of the Governor’s Palace. My guess is that she will have a different cultural experience in second grade than my sister and I did at her age. As one who has visited many of California’s missions, regularly drives streets named for famous Spanish explorers, and knows her maize from her pintos, I’m amazed at the vastness of our country as well as the richness and diversity of its history.

This is one of the things that struck me earlier this month when I had a chance to tour Colonial Williamsburg with Tsh,
Stephanie, Sarah, Mandi, and Heidi. We didn’t get to spend a lot of time roaming, but we were extremely grateful to the folks at Colonial Williamsburg to allow us complimentary passes to check out the place.

We even got to hear George Washington speak!

In case Colonial Williamsburg is as new to you as it was to me, let me explain. This “living village” is a restoration of the original Williamsburg, capital of Virginia during colonial times. It witnessed much of history first hand, including The War for Independence as well as The War Between The States.

“From 1699 to 1780, Williamsburg was the political, cultural, and educational center of what was then the largest, most populous, and most influential of the American colonies,” states the Colonial Williamsburg website. Considering that many of our nation’s founding fathers were also Virginians, it was most certainly a happening place to be.

Today it offers visitors a chance to step back in time. Not only are the buildings restored to the way they would have been 200 years ago (plus indoor plumbing and air conditioning in certain areas), but interpreters roam the streets, man the shops, and speak from platforms, giving you a real taste of 18th century life.

This woman worked in the dressmaker’s shop, sewing and explaining her craft to visitors. We took shelter from a rain storm in this shop that is kept impeccably clean. The dresses looked like they’d be so fun to wear. I knew my girls would have such fun here.

Since things are kept to period standards here in the Historic Area, there are no electric lights in the public areas. So, when rain clouds cover the sun and the afternoon slips into evening, it really does get dark in this shop. I can’t imagine sewing dresses by candlelight, let alone without a machine!

We probably don’t know how good we have it these days.

However, it was nice and soothing to dine by candlelight. One night we splurged at Chowning’s Tavern. And I do mean splurge. Probably one of the most expensive meals I’ve eaten in quite some time. But, it was all a part of the experience, which evidently, is NOT true to the 18th century in all ways. Hehe.

Their lunch menu is vastly different in price, so plan on lunch at the Tavern.

I’m a history geek, so I like to go authentic when I can. The tavern’s menu is reflective of what folks might have eaten at the time. The servers are knowledgeable to tell you about different aspects of colonial dining. We split a few orders of Welsh Rarebit which I’ve read about in books and cookbooks for years yet had never tasted. Very rich and good when piping hot.

During dinner we were treated to roaming minstrels, another aspect of a visit to Colonial Williamsburg.

Walking through the village of Williamsburg was extremely peaceful. The gardens are beautiful, the flowers were all in bloom, and the streets were tranquil. I imagine there are crowds galore on certain days, but we must have timed our visit perfectly. It felt like we had the place to ourselves. I could have sat under a tree and spent the day happily.

One of the highlights of visiting the Historic Area was our tour of the Governor’s Palace. Since this was once a capital of the Virginia Colony, the building, reconstructed from original plans, is full of history. I loved hearing the stories our guide had to tell about different rooms, different household items, and the different customs of the time.

If you live within a stone’s throw of Williamsburg, or have plans to travel that way, it definitely is a fun and educational stop to make. There’s so much to see and do, you could easily spend several days exploring. And if your kids are studying the 18th century or American history, it’s definitely a must-see.

Have you been to Colonial Williamsburg?

Disclosure: I received a complimentary pass to visit Colonial Williamsburg, but I am not under any obligation to post about my visit. All opinions are my own.

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  1. I had family who lived near there when I was a child, so I got to visit more than once. I loved it, and want to take my kids someday.

  2. We spent April school vacation there this year, probably just a few weeks before you were there. I love it! I will be going back as there is a lot we did not get to see, even after spending three days on the grounds.

  3. These pics make me so nostalgic! I went to school in Williamsburg but haven’t been back in nearly ten years. Now my daughters want to go visit because of their American Girl dolls. We’re headed that way for a wedding this year and we’re thinking about it. We’ll see what happens 🙂

  4. We visited over President’s Day weekend. It was homeschooler’s weekend and the ticket prices were really low. We did go to Chowning Tavern for lunch. Did you love the chocolate at the coffee house?

  5. We live about 4 hours away in Virginia and go there as much as we can. Not only is it a great place to learn but it is also a safe place that our kids can walk around and look/listen/smell history. Cars are not allowed inside the historical area so although we keep a tight watch on our children, we don’t have to watch for vehicles….other than the carriages. The woodworking shop is our favorite!

  6. When my son was studying colonial times, we watched several you tube videos from Williamsburg showing a printing press, blacksmith shop etc. Not the same as being there, but fun to watch.

  7. We went to Colonial Williamsburg about 8 years ago. On the same trip we visited Jamestown and Yorktown. I LOVED it, it was so interesting. I too am a West Coast kid (born and raised in Seattle WA and now living in Phoenix) so Williamsburg was something really new. I can’t wait to take my sons there in a few years. I really enjoyed learning about how kids did apprenticeships at a very young age and the brick yard was surprisingly interesting.

  8. Williamsburg is very cool. I grew up with history buff/major parents on the east coast, so we went to a ton of historical reenactment towns like this. Williamsburg is probably the best…at least the biggest. 🙂 Another great one was Sturbridge Village in Connecticut.

  9. Many times! I grew up 45 minutes away and now live an hour away (just in a different direction) and we took many school field trips there. Most of the time now though I just go to Williamsburg for the outlet shopping and to take my kids to the amusement park (Busch Gardens). When they are older I am sure we will go do the historic stuff.

  10. We love Williamsburg! My husband and I
    even went without the kids for our tenth anniversary. The area seems to have a plethora of time share condos that rent to regular folks. Online discount hotel websites like Expedia can get you great deals on them. It’s been a couple years, but we took the kids in April, and got a gorgeous 2 bedroom condo at a golf resort for $60 a night.

  11. I am glad you had such a great time. We live in Maryland, so not too far from there. We have been there twice and now I want to go again!

  12. I live in WA now, but grew up an hour from Williamsburg. We visited all the time. It really hurts my soul that my boys will grow up here and barely get to scratch the surface of Williamsburg someday when we get a chance to visit.

  13. We live just a little over an hour from Williamsburg and just love it there. We will be down that way in the next week or so and are considering going for the day. Glad to hear you enjoyed Chowning’s, it is expensive, but a nice treat ~ I love how it truly feels like you have stepped back in time.
    We live in Fredericksburg and feel so blessed to live in an area so rich in our country’s history with Civil War battlefields all around us and Williamsburg so close. It is funny how our historical experiences/knowledge are so dependent on the regions we live in…if only we could trade houses for a while!

  14. We love Williamsburg!- we live only 20 min away! That along with Jamestown & Yorktown make this area very rich in history! 🙂