Williamsburg is a revolutionary city known as a place where history comes to life. But don't worry, if history isn't your passion, there are many other things to see and do here. The area is obviously an enriching stop for history buffs, but there are attractions in Williamsburg that will please just about anyone. If you like eating, antiquing, or exciting relics and oddities, you'll find something to love in Williamsburg.
Colonial Williamsburg is what the city is probably best known for, and it's a place where history truly comes alive. Costumed actors walk and work among more than 100 original and reconstructed buildings, showing you what it was like to live in the 1700s. You can take a horse-drawn carriage ride, learn how to prepare colonial dishes, or visit tradespeople like the blacksmith, cabinet maker, and engraver, to name a few. There are also special events, including reenactments, parades, and candlelight tours.
While in Colonial Williamsburg, be sure to stop in one (or all) of the colonial taverns to get a feel for the social lives of colonists back in the 18th century. There are a few taverns to choose from, each with its own flair. The King's Arms Tavern is the premier dining room in Colonial Williamsburg, and you can dine on authentic dishes the Founding Fathers once enjoyed. Or, stop in a favorite of George Washington's, Christiana Campbell's Tavern, for a memorable seafood dish. Looking for something a little more relaxed? Head to Chowning's Tavern, which opened for business in 1766, for colonial music and games.
If you prefer roller coasters and thrill rides, plan to visit Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, a European-themed amusement park that covers over 130 acres and has over 50 attractions and rides to enjoy. Take a spin on the Alpengiest, one of the fastest and tallest coasters in the world, or the Pantheon, the world's fastest multi-launch coaster. There are also live musical performances and shows throughout the park and a zoo with plenty of animals to see, including Clydesdales, Scottish Highland cattle, and red foxes.
Williamsburg's rich history continues with the Jamestown Settlement, which recreates parts of the first successful English settlement on the North American mainland. It's a living history museum that features multiple attractions, including a Powhatan Native American village, a recreation of the original fort, and replicas of the settler's ships. Costumed actors show you how the people in Jamestown and the Powhatan lived day-to-day, making this a truly interactive experience.
The Williamsburg Antique Mall is the local shopping destination for collectibles and antiques, and it is no ordinary antique store. It covers 45,000 square feet and is home to more than 300 vendors selling everything from antique furniture to vintage jewelry to quilts to coins. Take a break while you're there and stop in the Veranda Eats and Sweets Cafe, where you can nosh on a hot dog, nachos, grilled cheese, and pizza, or indulge your sweet tooth with a piece of cake and a coffee.
Historic Jamestowne is a cultural heritage site about a 20-minute drive southwest of Williamsburg. The site was the home of the James Fort in 1607 and became Jamestown in the 17th century. It's an amazing place where you can get hands-on with history. Stop and watch archaeologists excavate parts of the island, head to the Archaearium to look at more than 4,000 artifacts discovered on the site, and take a break at the Dale House Cafe for a quick bite to eat. You'll learn about the everyday lives of the earliest settlers and see the remains of their row houses, barracks, churches, and glassworks.
The Berkeley Plantation is a National Historic Landmark with a rich and extensive history. Not only was it the site of the first Thanksgiving dinner in 1619, but it also served as the headquarters of General McClellan during the Civil War. It was the birthplace of Benjamin Harrison V, who signed the Declaration of Independence, and William Henry Harrison, America's ninth president. Visit today, and you'll meet guides dressed in period costumes, walk the elegant boxwood and flowering gardens, and see the plantation's collection of artifacts and antiques.
Bruton Parish Church dates back to 1715 and has played a small but significant role in American history. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry worshipped here when the legislature was in session, and the church served as a hospital for confederate soldiers after the Battle of Williamsburg during the Civil War. One church reverend, Thomas Ambler, even joined the Confederate army to serve as the chaplain. The church is active and hosts regular services, but it is open to visitors at any other time. Volunteers can point out the interesting historical details, like the name plates of the dignitaries who worshipped here, and there are candlelight evening concerts throughout the year.
Yorktown Sailing Charters is just down the road from Williamsburg and a fascinating way to take in the area's history on the water. Board Alliance, the Yorktown schooner, and steer the ship or relax and look for dolphins as you sail along the shore, past the very spot where the Battle of Yorktown took place.
York River State Park is one of Williamsburg's best ways to experience the great outdoors. It is home to the Croaker Landing archaeological site, where a tobacco warehouse once stood in the 17th and 18th centuries. Farmers in the area would store their tobacco here until it was shipped to England. One of the coolest things about this park is that it is home to a unique habitat called an estuarine environment, where saltwater and freshwater meet. This feature creates a rich environment for a wide range of plant and animal life, which you can see by hiking, horseback riding, biking, or boating.