It’s nearly impossible to see all that Williamsburg has to offer in one day. The ideas for the American Revolution formed in this city, so the least one can do is spend a weekend exploring the area that gave birth to our freedom. But, if you decide to be stubborn and just take a daytrip, it is possible to take in some of the city’s rich history in a few hours.
One of the best spots to go first is Colonial Williamsburg’s historic area, and tour guide Harry Taylor would be the first to tell you that, since he commutes over 100 miles each day to get there. He feels privileged to work in a place where he gets paid to learn and to teach visitors on a daily basis.
Taylor’s job is to provide visitors with snippets of Williamsburg’s history and to direct them on how to best use their time while in the area. Many of the places that visitors can explore require a ticket, which are available for purchase at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor’s Center or online on the official Colonial Williamsburg website, with prices ranging from $28 to $58 for adults, depending on the season and if you would like a day or annual pass.
If you spent most of your money on the gas to get to Williamsburg, it’s fun just to walk around and soak up the scenery-from the Governor’s Palace on the Palace Green to the wigmaker’s shop on Duke of Gloucester Street. Taylor explained that out of the 300 buildings that were reconstructed in Colonial Williamsburg, 88 of those are original buildings, which were revitalized in the 1920s thanks to private donors such as John D. Rockefeller. Before the area was transformed into a tourist destination, it’s hard to believe that U.S. Route 60 ran right between these buildings so rich with our nation’s history.
According to Taylor, some sites are free to tour or suggest a $1 donation. One of those sites is the almost 300-year old Bruton Parish Church, which is the third church that has been built on the site since 1683. The church, which has a lot of history within its walls, still continues to hold services several times a week and concerts are held quarterly.
Jean Van Tol, a friendly tour guide at the church, said Bruton Parish was considered the official state church of the colony from 1699-1780, built to meet the needs of the government. Leaders, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, attended services there, which, according to Van Tol, were very “structured” and “everyone knew their place.” The wealthy and more prominent citizens in society would sit in the front and the less affluent citizens towards the back.
Van Tol described Bruton Parish Hall as the “stabilizing force” between the “government-centered” Capitol building and the “education-minded” College of William and Mary. The Colonial Parkway will take you by all three of these, since it is a 23-mile roadway that connects Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown. A website devoted to the three cities, otherwise known as the Historic Triangle, states that they are the “birthplace of American Democracy.” Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in North America, Williamsburg was the gathering place of intellectuals who had the ideas for the revolution and American independence was won in Yorktown.
Another great resource, aside from the many tour guides that can assist travelers while exploring the area, is the Colonial Williamsburg website. It has a wealth of information listed, such as daily and evening programs that are currently available, museums you can visit and history about the area, including Yorktown and Jamestown.
If you’re not that into history, there are many other forms of entertainment in Williamsburg, such as shopping. Only a short stroll from Colonial Williamsburg is Merchant’s Square, a shopping area designed with the look and feel of the historic colonial buildings. Among the many attractions to keep one occupied for quite some time are the Wythe Candy & Gourmet Shop, Closet Envy clothing store and The Toymaker of Williamsburg.
Some additional big shopping destinations are the Prime Outlets and the Williamsburg Outlet Mall, which have a vast number of stores, ranging from Totes to Ann Taylor, and both of their websites list many more retail businesses. In addition, the Williamsburg Pottery Factory is a short ten minute drive from Colonial Williamsburg, and it is another aspect of the city that makes it unique.
There is also the Williamsburg Winery, Busch Gardens Amusement Park, The Great Wolf Lodge fully equipped with a water park and more, and of course, it’s hard to resist one of the south’s favorite foods-barbecue. Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que has been a family favorite in Williamsburg for almost 40 years, and waiting through the long line is worth it. The pork barbecue is delicious.
Virginians are lucky to have the great, historic city of Williamsburg so close by, but it also draws travelers from all over the country. Richard Ransom, who was recently visiting from Ohio with his wife Sherry, put it quite simply when he said, “more people need to realize its here. It’s part of our roots, and an important part of our education.”