AAA Travel Tips / Colonial and Greater Williamsburg, Virginia 3 Ways

Colonial and Greater Williamsburg, Virginia 3 Ways
By Samantha Brown , Host of “Samantha Brown's Places to Love”
July 24, 2019
Learning by doing is way more fun than reading a book. That’s just one of the reasons why you should consider a trip to America’s Historic Triangle. The Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown settlements mark major events in the story of Colonial America… and they are so close to one another that you can really explore all three in one fell swoop.
While people may think of Colonial Williamsburg as more of a school field trip locale, complete with actors in traditional garb, it’s important to remember what happened here remains so relevant today. For example, 2019 marks 400 years since enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown, as well as the convening of the first General Assembly, which lay the foundation for a democratic, independent United States. There’s many incredible stories to be gleaned, even if you arrive skeptical, you’ll leave with a greater appreciation for the United States. Here are three ways to explore Williamsburg.

Good for Everyone to Know

It’s actually free to explore the streets of Colonial Williamsburg, the largest living museum in the world. However, if you want to go into most of the buildings, partake in tours, take a carriage ride or watch artisans hone their craft, you’ll need a ticket.
There’s a lot going on in Williamsburg—be sure to check out their weekly schedule prior to heading there. AAA also has a list of local events. Jia

History Buff

If you’re interested in American history, few places offer as much as Williamsburg. From the Governor's Palace to the second-oldest university in the USA, you aren’t going to run out of things to do.
Where to stay:
There are many fabulous accommodations in Williamsburg to choose from. For wallet-friendly lodging, check out the Best Western Historic Area Inn or the Westgate Historic Williamsburg Resort. Find even more options at
Where to eat:
Christiana Campbell's Tavern was one of George Washington’s favorite haunts, and it hasn’t changed much since the 18th century. The food is fine, but a meal here is really more about the experience. Please note it’s only open from 5-7:45pm Tuesday-Saturday and reservations are required.
For something more modern, visit the Amber Ox Public House. This place really doesn’t have anything to do with history, but if you want me to reframe the narrative, let’s say that if our founding fathers were alive today, this is where they’d hang out. Great food, delicious beer and the perfect place to solve all the world’s problems.
Where to shop:
When it comes to antiques, the East Coast can’t be beat. Williamsburg offers lots of cool vintage and antique shops—perfect for bringing home a one-of-a-kind souvenir.
What to do:
Behind-the-scenes Tour
Looking to do a deep dive in Colonial Williamsburg history? Sign up for the behind-the-scenes tour. You’ll gain exclusive access to areas of Williamsburg typically not open to the public. This tour operates often, but not daily, so visit their calendar to time your trip accordingly.
This 301-acre interactive living-history museum is like a trip to the 18th century, where costumed interpreters—tradespeople, housewives, slaves, freemen, governmental officials and soldiers—go about their daily lives. Between the more than 70 carefully preserved buildings and the all the people in period clothing, Colonial Williamsburg will make you feel like a time traveler.
See the remnants of Colonial life in historic Jamestowne. Learn all about the area’s history, from prehistoric times to the present. Additionally, over 1,000 artifacts from Virginia Indian, European and African cultures are on display. If you’re interested in archeology, check out their calendar to find a talk that piques your interest (or possibly watch a dig in action!).
Learn all about the nation’s founding, spanning the twilight of the Colonial period to the dawn of the Constitution and beyond. Galleries include artifacts, interactive exhibits (you can help with chores on a Revolution-era farm), and you can partake in “The Siege of Yorktown,” a film screened in 180-degrees, complete with surround-sound musket fire and smoke machines.
As the second-oldest college in the States, William & Mary is full of interesting history. Explore the people, places and events of this campus through a self-guiding walking tour.

Family Fun Vacation

Who said an educational vacation has to be boring? With lots of immersive historical experiences aimed at kids (not to mention a big amusement park and a water park nearby), Williamsburg has something for everyone in your family.
Where to stay:
I used to spend way too much time researching interesting stylish, boutique hotels. Now that I’m a parent, I’m all about the convenience. Is it clean? Can I get a grilled cheese for the kids in a snap? Is there a pool? If you’re like me, check out the Kingsmill Resort. There’s an indoor and outdoor pool; marina with access to pontoon, kayak, paddleboard rentals and more; a spa; golf; and lots of food options. Staying here makes life easier.
Where to eat:
Who doesn’t love barbecue? Check out Old City Barbeque for a gourmet twist on smoked meats and southern favorites.
It’s not a vacation without a daily sugar rush. Visit Shoofly Dairy Bar for soft-serve ice cream, snow cones, homemade whoopie pies and their namesake treat, shoofly pies (a molasses crumb cake). Why not try them all? No one ever goes on vacation to lose weight.
What to do:
Short and sweet tours
It’s so much more fun to explore a place with a knowledgeable guide. That said, good luck surviving a two-hour historical tour with kids in tow. The Governor’s Palace kids tour focuses on the governor’s family and their time at the Palace; and the Children’s Tour of The Capitol teaches all about seats of power in this government building. The best part? Both tours run about 25 minutes—perfect for elementary school kids.
Older kids will love learning about Haunted Williamsburg. From authentic 18th-century Colonial ghost stories to creepy modern-day tales, this candlelit experience is fun and a wee bit unnerving. It’s for ages 8 and older; if you’re with littler kids, check out the Ghost Walk Junior tour.
Colonial times meet modern innovation
These days, your teenager probably doesn’t think of you as “cool.” Book a Segway tour of historic Yorktown and change that for an hour. This informative tour is so much fun, you won’t even realize you’re learning. Please note, the minimum age for the Segway tour is 14.
Touristy Splurge
Horse-drawn carriages are to Williamsburg what double-decker buses are to London: Super-touristy but way fun. Close your eyes and listen to the horse hooves clopping down the street, wind rustling through the trees. You’ll find yourself transported to 18th-century America… until you get a text notification on your phone.
Fresh air alert:
If you have kids, finding a great park is key to vacation success. Those ankle biters need to burn off some steam. Kidsburg is the kind of park that will make a lasting impression on your little ones. This 30,000 square-foot lighted playground is housed within a public park—yep, that means it’s not only fun, but free! There are areas for both little kids and older ones, plus a zipline and swing areas.
AAA/Inspector 55

Relaxing Romantic Getaway

Rarely does one find “popular school field trip” and “romantic getaway” used to describe the same place. But it’s true in Williamsburg. From delicious wine to one-of-a-kind spa experiences, it’s a great spot for two.
Where to stay:
For a real treat, drop your bags at the luxurious Williamsburg Inn and surround yourself with all the amenities this establishment offers. If you’re looking for a place to stay that’s more budget friendly, visit to explore more options.
Where to eat:
Located in Merchant Square, Fat Canary serves food that’s decidedly more modern than what you’ll find in the old school Colonial taverns. Think seared ahi tuna, Caprese salad and braised short ribs. Yummy cocktails and a nice wine list round out the experience. If it’s nice, grab a seat on the patio.
What to do:
Hit the spa like it’s 1699
Who doesn’t love partaking in a little self-care? For something a little out of the ordinary, check out the offerings at the Spa of Colonial Williamsburg. This spa draws inspiration from treatments stretching as far as 400 years back (don’t worry, no leeches involved!). From a detoxifying herbal wrap and hot stone massage influenced by 17th-century healing rituals, to a traditional African bath, dry brush exfoliation and strengthening massage, it’s the most relaxing way to learn about the past that I’ve ever heard of.
Drink to your health!
It’s said that early American settlers believed drinking healed the body and boosted energy for the weak and elderly. Hmmm, not sure if that’s true, but why not see if you’re feeling extra strong after exploring Williamsburg Tasting Trail. Learn about the numerous wineries, breweries and distilleries around Williamsburg here. Tick a few off your list, but please note that Ubers, Lyfts and transportation services are plentiful, so do the right thing and let a pro do the driving.
Get out on the Water
Whenever I’m near a body of water, I want to get on it. Check into a three-hour tour (cue “Gilligan’s Island” theme song!) on the York River from Williamsburg Charter Sails. Bring your own wine, beer and snacks to enjoy as the wind whips through your hair.

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