Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg is a "living-history museum" located in a historic district in Williamsburg, Virginia. Encompassing 301 acres, Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Area re-creates 18th-century Williamsburg as it appeared preceding and during the American Revolution. Throughout the city, sights, sounds, and activities help guests reconnect with America's past and become active participants in 18th-century life. The Historic Area is protected from modern intrusions by a 2,800-acre greenbelt.


The streets of Colonial Williamsburg are populated by "re-enactors" who tell the stories of colonists from the 18th-century

From 1699 to 1780, Williamsburg was the capital of England's oldest, richest and most populous mainland North American colony and the seat of power in the new nation's most influential state. Named in honor of William III, King of England, and designed by Royal Gov. Francis Nicholson, Williamsburg is one of the country's oldest planned communities.

In the late 1920s a project was started to recreate the town as it would have existed in the 18th century, led in part by John D. Rockefeller. In 1928 public land was transferred for the project, and thereafter 720 buildings that postdated 1790 were demolished. Reconstructions of colonial buildings were built on the original foundations using period illustrations, written descriptions, early photographs, and informed guesswork. In total, 500 buildings were reconstructed or restored, with 88 being labeled as original colonial structures.

Today the area is owned and operated by the non-profit Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, a foundation initially endowed by the Rockefellers. Visitation peaked in 1985 with 1.1 million visitors but declined thereafter, but has grown somewhat since bottoming out in 2004.

Get in

See Williamsburg#Get in for details on getting to the city. While it is free to walk through the historic district, to experience all of the sights within the historic district requires purchasing a ticket from the visitor center. Once you purchase your admission pass, you can either take the shuttle bus or walk to the Historic Area. The historic district is open 365 days a year.

Get around

No cars are allowed in the Historic Area. Sites within the area are easily walkable. The Duke of Gloucester Street is one mile long, so wear comfortable shoes.

The Historic Triangle Shuttle provides transportation from the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center to nearby Jamestown and Yorktown.


Some of the sites in Colonial Williamsburg are reconstructions or were built after colonial times. Buildings that are original colonial structures are denoted below as "an original colonial building".

Note: Many buildings are closed on certain days of the week, with hours varying seasonally, so be sure to check in advance that a desired destination is open.

Trade shops

The trade shops are staffed with individuals who wear costumes from colonial times and carry out the tasks that the shop owner of the time would have performed.

Community places

The Capitol

Family homes and gardens

Even the restroom signs maintain the illusion of a return to colonial times

Art museums


Historic Re-enactments

Historic re-enactments occur daily and present dramatic presentations of historic events. The "Storming of the Palace" re-enactment recreates the historic event in which colonials marched on the governor's residence to demand that powder removed from the town magazine be restored. The "Order in the Court" re-enactment allows visitors to participate in a trial in the courthouse. During re-enactments staff members in period costumes assume historic roles, and visitors are often encouraged to participate. Check the daily calendar for times and locations of re-enactments as schedules vary. Tickets may be required for visitors to be present when re-enactments are taking place.

Evening programs take place every night, including ghost walks and witch trials. Separate tickets are required, and many of these events are not recommended for children due to the subject matter and sometimes intense emotion.


Tours are offered for everything from orientation to Colonial Williamsburg to guided walks through residences or other areas in the historic district. In the evenings there are ghost walks and similar tours. The daily calendar includes a list of some of the available tours.


Special events are held throughout the year and are listed on the special events web page.

Other activities

Guests at Colonial Williamsburg's hotels also can enjoy swimming pools, tennis courts, lawn bowling greens, lawn croquet, shuffleboard, bicycling, and miniature golf.


Recognized as one of the first planned shopping malls in the United States, Merchants Square is home to more than 40 shops and restaurants, including local and national specialty stores and a selection of restaurants.

The Williamsburg brand offers fresh, spirited designs in all categories of furniture and accessories for the way people live today. The WILLIAMSBURG products program includes 60 licensees producing more than 7,000 products in home furnishings, collectibles, and gifts. It operates 26 retail stores, a mail-order catalog, and an e-commerce site. Sales of products support the preservation, research, and educational programs of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the not-for-profit organization that oversees the restored colonial capital.


Colonial food items

Additional dining options can be found outside of the historic district in the town of Williamsburg.

Historic dining taverns

Colonial Williamsburg's historic dining taverns feature food and drink of the 18th-century as well as period entertainment meant to provide guests with a sense of what dining in Williambsurg more than 200 years ago would have been like.

Contemporary cuisine


The following lodging is operated by Colonial Williamsburg and can be found within or adjacent to the historic district. Other lodging can be found in the city of Williamsburg.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, September 23, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.