We are a bit infatuated with Colonial Williamsburg. Since spending our honeymoon there, we have followed their programs, bought Williamsburg Christmas ornaments every year, and checked their job postings just in case. Gordon would love nothing more than to take an apprenticeship in Williamsburg and spend eight hours a day pretending he really was born 300 years ago.
Visiting from Utah takes some planning, so we haven’t gone as often as we’d like. But when we found cheap plane tickets for this fall, we talked Gordon’s parents into coming with us to our favorite place.
Our obsession makes us feel entitled to offer advice, so here are the the things you really should see and do if you’re Williamsburg:
Colonial Williamsburg Proper
#1 – Historic Trade Workshops
Take every chance you can to do hands-on classes. This year, the foundation added a class where weavers set up looms for us to practice weaving. We made and took home our own tea towels, which I will never use because getting them dirty would make me sad. The two-hour class was held in the weavers’ shop, which meant visitors would periodically stand in the doorway to watch us work. It made me feel like I was part of the colonial spirit. I can’t recommend this class enough.
We also took a drop spindle class in the visitors center. The class fee covered a drop spindle and roving from the historic breed Leicester Longwool Sheep that live in the Colonial city. Gordon spent the class proving that he is a way better spinner than I am, and fun was had by all.
#2 – Resolved: An American Experiment
Williamsburg always has a program celebrating the city’s involvement in the Revolution. The first time we went, the redcoats marched into town behind Benedict Arnold, rounded us up in front of the capital building, and explained why the revolution was a terrible idea. This year, the program focuses on Virginia’s decision to declare independence from Great Britain. You will be part of the Virginia Congress as they discuss what they should do and take you through history.
Also, Gordon reminded us all of a very important practice: whenever they ask for volunteers, do it. By not hesitating to raise his hand, Gordon got to play Patrick Henry. This meant he spent the program wearing a frilly colonial shirt and shouting things.
#3 – Concerts
There are several kinds of concerts that happen every week, and you should go to all of them. For ambience, go to the evening concerts in the Governor’s Palace to hear 18th-century music on period-correct instruments by candlelight. If you want to learn more about the music and instruments, attend the events in the art museums.
This year, we really enjoyed the concerts with the Waterman family. The first was an afternoon concert in the Raleigh Tavern where they sang period songs and played a variety of instruments. The next day, they did a sing-along at the Playbooth Theater and taught us the choruses and verses of several colonial songs. Both were great.
Finally, don’t miss the fife and drum marches. They happen every day.
#4 – Dining, Snacks, and Drinks
You’ll need to eat at one of the taverns for at least one meal. They each offer different fare, so read the descriptions and pick one you like. We suggest ordering the most colonial-sounding thing on the menu.
If you’re hungry enough for a snack but not a full meal, go to the Raleigh Tavern Bakery and get a ginger cake or whatever has just come out of the big colonial oven.
And there is no better way to address your thirst than with a souvenir mug, which gets you unlimited $1 refills of soda or cold apple cider at several places in the colonial area.
#5 – Visits with Nation Builders
You’ll have several opportunities to interact with the interpreters who portray historic figures from the Revolution, and you should take advantage of them. If you are a donor at the Capitol Society level or above, you’ll also have special access to the St. George Tucker House, which has a different interpreter come in each morning to talk to guests both in and out of character.
We attended discussions with young Thomas Jefferson and James Armistead Lafayette (an enslaved African American who spied for the Americans), took a walk with James Madison, chatted with George and Martha Washington in the street, and watched the Marquis de Lafayette give a guest his cloak in a torrential downpour while telling us about his part in the Revolution.
#6 – And the Rest
Get a pass, visit every historical area, tour the Governor’s Palace, explore every garden, eat all the food they have, and go to every evening and day program you can.
Do you have a favorite part of Colonial Williamsburg? Let us know!