Colonial Williamsburg

Step back in time and explore the world’s largest living history museum while helping decide the fate of a nation.

It’s the early 1770s in Williamsburg, the capital of Virginia. The air is thick with tension as Loyalists and Patriots both reside in the bustling town. The faint sound of whispers can be heard at every corner as the rumors of revolution swirl in the air.

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While time travel contradicts everything we know about reality, Colonial Williamsburg has found a way to successfully transport visitors back to the 18th century. With historic buildings, gardens, restaurants, museums and shops as the stage, live actors bring the streets of Colonial Williamsburg to life with the story of the birth of a nation.

Operated by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the Revolutionary City combines the luxuries of today with the history of the 18th century to create a unique experience unlike any other. Opportunities for adventure and discovery abound, but how you choose to spend your time is up to you so let’s take a look at some of the best Colonial Williamsburg has to offer.

137528905 webColonial Sites

Begin your Williamsburg excursion with the 30 minute Orientation Walk that meets outside the Lumber House multiple times throughout the day. The brief walk is hosted by a tour guide who will fill you in on what exhibits are open that day and also highlight all the points of interest around town.

After getting familiar with the layout of the Revolutionary City head over to the most recognizable landmark in town, the Governor’s Palace. Home to seven royal governors and the first two elected governors of Virginia, the Palace was built to impress. From the elaborate grand ballroom to the collection of period swords and guns the interior is a marvel of 18th-century design.

For a moment of peace and quiet explore the tiered gardens in the back of the Palace or let the children have fun as they get lost in the boxwood maze. A brief stroll down the Palace Green toward Duke of Gloucester Street provides a moment to capture a memorable picture of the famous Palace facade as you pass more points of interest like the Everand House, Wythe House and Bruton Parish Church.

Turn east on Duke of Gloucester Street and stop by the Shoemaker for a pair of hand-crafted leather shoes or swing in and visit  the Mary Dickinson Store  for the finest ladies apparel as you make your way to the Capitol.

Located at the end of Duke of Gloucester Street, the Capitol was the political center of Virginia for 80 years. Tour the building and learn about the founding principles of our government and see where laws were written and administered. Become a part of the history and participate of Courage and Cowardice, a reenactment of an actual court inquiry from 1779.

Held each night at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Courage and Cowardice examines the case of a Virginia officer who took his men and abandoned his station in Portsmouth which was attacked by the British. Sit in the courtroom and hear the heated debate about whether or not the officer was a coward, or even worse a traitor, and help decide his fate.

After visiting the Capitol continue your Colonial adventure and see the city from a different point of view with a carriage ride and tour or kick your shoes off and relax with a pint of ale at the local hot spot for all the latest gossip, the Raleigh Tavern.

Colonial Museums

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The Colonial Williamsburg experience is not complete without exploring the vast world-renowned art collections at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum.

Located on the western side of Colonial Williamsburg, the two museums are housed under one roof and feature an astounding 100,000 square feet  of exhibits and galleries that can take up to a half day to explore.

Featuring one of the largest collections of British and American antiques from 1660 to 1830 the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum opened in 1985 and is one of the few museums in the country that exhibits antiques from both countries as well as the North and South. The 15 galleries include some of the finest examples of 17th, 18th, and 19th century furniture assembled, from intricately designed dressers from Vermont to simple hand crafted chairs made in the South.

More than just antique furniture, the museum also includes a massive array of silver, glass, paintings, firearms and ceramics that are on display in ongoing exhibits.

Equally as impressive, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is the oldest museum in the country exclusively devoted to folk art. Widely considered one of the most extensive folk art collections in the world, the museum features multiple exhibits that highlight the paintings, carvings and needlework of the artists and craftsmen that capture the essence of their culture.

Begin your tour by examining the unique Tramp Art exhibit where six distinct pieces are on display. An intriguing art form, Tramp Art is where small penknives are used to carve elaborate designs into wood. The carefully carved wood chunks that are removed from the pieces are then painstakingly used to create three-dimensional designs by stacking, gluing and nailing the wood back onto the table, cabinet or cigar box.

Stop by the Shoemaker on Duke of Gloucester Street and watch as cobblers hand-craft the same leather shoes our forefathers wore.

121720894 webColonial Taverns

Strolling through the expansive art museums and touring all the historic buildings in Colonial Williamsburg can make one quite hungry. Luckily there are four taverns in town to quench the appetite of the hungriest patriots.

A provider of lodging, meals, conversation and entertainment, taverns served a crucial role in the development of the colonies. Today the taverns of Colonial Williamsburg re-create the lively atmosphere with song and conversations while delving out savory meals that sustained the forefathers.

Dine on Virginia’s finest seafood at George Washington’s favorite spot for a meal, Christiana Cambell’s Tavern. Tavern favorites such as sweet potato muffins and spoon bread are taken from colonial cookbooks and prepared in the same manner as they were more than 200 years ago, generating a meal experience that is hard to find.

If seafood does not tickle your fancy stop in at Chowning’s Tavern for a hearty meal and some live music. The sound of a fiddler fills that air as the smell of dishes like Welsh Rarebit (warm ale and mustard-spiced cheddar cheese over sippets with shaved salty Virginia ham) permeate the air.

For a more genteel environment visit the King’s Arms Tavern, where 18th-century recipes are prepared with a 21st-century twist. Opened in 1772, the tavern is eloquently designed with Queen Anne-style tables, brass candlesticks, hand-woven English linens and colorful reproduction prints and paintings.

Just as impressive as the décor, the menu boasts house favorites like A Chop of Choat (maple and whiskey-brined pork chop with grain-mustard glaze, herb-roasted potatoes and red cabbage with Applewood bacon) and Colonial Game Pye (venison, rabbit and duck braised in Port wine sauce with mushrooms, vegetables and bacon and topped with a flaky crust).

A more laid back atmosphere awaits those who visit the charming Shields Tavern. Serving hearty Southern favorites like Carolina barbecue, fried chicken and pot roast, the tavern is the perfect place to kick back and relax while enjoying a Mr. Shields Home Brew Ale, brewed on site of course. After polishing off dinner step outside and take the official Colonial Williamsburg ghost tour which meets at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. at the tavern.

Join the Revolution

Colonial Williamsburg is bustling with life as actors in costume roam the streets. Be sure to stop and talk to everyone, you never know who you will run in to or what story you will hear. In fact the storyline varies depending on when you visit, so be sure to purchase a multi-day pass for the full experience.

Day 1: The Old Order Collapses
(Tues., Thurs., Fri.)
Feel the tension build as citizens decide whether to fight for equality or stay loyal to the crown.
Day 2: Building a New Nation
(Mon., Wed., Fri., Sun.)
See the effects of war as traitors are turned in and citizens begin to develop a republican government.



Buses will shuttle you around Colonial Williamsburg, making multiple stops at key points of interest such as the Governor’s Palace, museums and Merchant Square. On hot days the air conditioned shuttles are a great way to rest your feet and cool down.

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Play a major role in deciding the fate of the revolution with Colonial Williamsburg’s interactive spy game.

Grab your smart phone and prepare to help decide the nation’s fate as you play the role of a spy. To get started visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Spy Central online where you will receive a code name, background information and a set of instructions. Once you’re ready head to Duke of Gloucester Street and begin cracking codes, solving clues and avoiding detection as you navigate through the Revolutionary City. Be safe, trust no one and be sure to succeed as freedom hangs in the balance.

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