Williamsburg, Va. is home to America’s history — the small city dates back to the 1600s and has significant ties to the American Revolution and the Civil War. Today, the Colonial town, along with nearby cities Yorktown and Jamestown, form the Historic Triangle, attracting more than four million visitors every year. If you’re looking for a unique getaway steeped in American history, combined with quality culinary options and picturesque scenes, look no further than Williamsburg.
What To Do
Spend a day roaming up and down Duke of Gloucester Street, also lovingly known as “DoG Street.” Wander in the shops and talk with the colonial actors that spend weeks learning about the character they play. In many cases, the weeks of training actually mean learning their character’s trade, be it glassblowing, cobbler, dressmaker, etc. So go in the shops and hear about what they do and soak it all in. There are plenty of tours you can take as well, such a tour of the Governor’s Palace, or if you’re more into the supernatural, you can always take in a candlelit ghost tour. You can also take a short drive out of town to visit one of the historical plantations. The Berkeley Plantation even claims to be the real site of the first Thanksgiving.
If you’re the outdoors type, take some time to explore the many hiking trails in the area, or if you prefer water sports, Lake Matoka is a gorgeous place to spend a day paddle boarding, kayaking, or just laying out by the edge of the water. In addition to Lake Matoka, there is also the James River, where you can rent a boat for the day or spend a day floating down in a tube.
For the thrill seekers, Busch Gardens is only a 20-mintue drive outside of the city. It’s definitely a good, fun break from all the history.
Where To Eat
Colonial Williamsburg offers several options for immersive dining: Chowning’s Tavern, King’s Arms Tavern, Shields Tavern and Christiana Campbell’s Tavern. Each are at a similar price point, and you can expect to dine on traditional Colonial fare such as Hunter’s Game Pye, a lemon or berry shrub (a kind of colonial cocktail) and crowd favorite, peanut soup. At each you can expect to be serenaded by a lute, mandolin, or flute with songs of the era.
For brunch, don’t miss the Chickahominy House. Family-owned and ran for 40 years, this place is a hidden jewel. All of the recipes are old, family, soul food recipes passed down through generations. Pro Tip: make sure you save room for pie at the end of your meal. You won’t regret it. Other must-try culinary stops in Williamsburg include Seasons Steak House (the mashed potatoes will change your life), Food 101, and DoG Street Pub (three words: Sticky. Toffee. Pudding.)
Keep in mind Williamsburg is part tourist town, but also part college town, so if a bar scene is what you’re looking for, you have options. College of William & Mary students spend their weekends bar-hopping between The Green Leaf, College Deli, and Paul’s. You can also spend a day at the Williamsburg Winery taking a tour of the vineyard followed by a wine tasting or if wine isn’t your thing, then try the various breweries in town: Brass Cannon Brewing, Alewerks Brewing Company and the Virginia Beer Company. If your tastes are somewhere in between wine and beer, stop by the brand new Copper Fox Distillery.
Where To Stay
Because Williamsburg is a tourist town, naturally there are many options for hotels. The Williamsburg Inn is consistently rated among the top hotels in the nation, but if you are looking for something a little less pricey, the Fife and Drum Inn is a less expensive alternative that still offers the colonial charm with its four poster beds and warm heavy carpets. You also have many of the conventional options such as Marriott, Holliday Inn, Hampton Inn, etc. If you want to be completely immersed in the historic feeling, you can also rent one of the old Colonial homes as a vacation rental.