Planning a family vacation to Colonial Williamsburg? Here are some tips and tricks to make your trip memorable for everyone!
Colonial Williamsburg is an educational, living-history museum where visitors can immerse themselves in history and make lasting family memories. In 18th-century Virginia, Williamsburg was the political, cultural and educational epicenter of the original colonies.
As one of the first museums in the country to adopt living-history as a way to bring the past to the present, Colonial Williamsburg recreates history with costumed historians living and working as they would have in the 18th century. Taking time out to plan a Colonial Williamsburg vacation before you visit will ensure a fun, relatively stress-free family vacation that everyone will enjoy.
When to Visit Colonial Williamsburg and Where to Stay
While fall is an ideal time to visit Virginia based on cooler weather and peak foliage, traveling to Colonial Williamsburg in the spring is a treat! We are planning our spring break for 2020 here!
Nature lovers will appreciate the blooming Azaleas, dogwoods, mimosas and daffodils. Smaller crowds compared to summer offers visitors greater one-on-one access to the historical reenactors and interpreters.
A short drive from the epicenter of Colonial Williamsburg is the Historic Powhatan Resort. Colonial Williamsburg is an ideal multi-generational travel destination and Powhatan is great for both small and large families. With accommodations ranging from one to four bedrooms, Powhatan features a full-kitchen in all of its rooms.
Helpful and often crucial, an in-room washer and dryer comes in handy when traveling with kids. They also offer on-site activities, most notably the in-depth tour of the Manor House which dates back to 1735.
Family Friendly Dining at Colonial Williamsburg
If you’re looking for a sit-down dinner, be sure to make reservations in advance. The popular taverns fill up quickly so dining reservations are recommended.
Kings Arms Tavern is open for lunch and dinner and is a family favorite. Serving 18th century inspired meals as well as a kids selection called the Young Patriots Menu with standard kid-friendly fare for less adventurous eaters, there is something for everyone.
I remember going there as a child and feeling so fancy and important. We always make sure to dress up to make it extra special for everyone. Save room for dessert because the Southern Pecan Pie should not be missed.
Did you know that Southerners in the 18th century switched out almonds in the British Nut Pie recipe for readily available American pecans creating what we now call pecan pie?
If you or your kids like the idea of saying that you had dinner where George Washington ate, consider Christiana Campbell’s Tavern. It is only open for dinner, and while a bit more expensive, Christiana Campbell’s could be fun special event night out to celebrate a birthday or milestone. The tavern offers a Junior Menu for older kids which is a smaller portion of adult entrees like crab cakes, fried chicken and seafood. Christiana Campbell’s also offers chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese.
Hands-On History Opportunities For Kids at Colonial Williamsburg
One challenge parents may face when visiting national historic sites like Colonial Williamsburg with kids is trying to keep them engaged and involved. Prior to visiting, consider introducing younger kids to picture books that depict what they’ll be seeing and experiencing on the trip. A few favorites include D is for Drums: A Colonial Williamsburg Alphabet and If You Lived in Williamsburg in Colonial Days.
Being familiar with the sights and names they’ll encounter beforehand often helps keep up interest levels as they recognize what they’ve read. Opportunities for hands-on learning abound at Colonial Williamsburg.
Kids can line up in a “Bucket-Brigade” to help put out a small fire and in the brickyard, visitors are invited to take off their shoes and socks and stomp around to mix clay and help make bricks.
Additional Resources for Planning a Trip to Colonial Williamsburg
Whether you arrive at the ticket counter or purchase tickets in advance, you’ll have access to daily events, programs and activities. The Colonial Williamsburg website calendar is updated regularly and gives you a general idea of what you can do and see.
At the ticketing center a “This Week” sheet lists all the programs available for a particular week and offers information about some of the original 88 buildings within Williamsburg.
While you do not need a ticket to walk around the city, guests must purchase a ticket to enter buildings, participate in events, go on tours, and explore other areas of the historic grounds.
Listening to George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, watching tradespeople like the wig-maker, blacksmith and gunsmith work in their shops or visiting the Capitol all require a ticket. Visitors without tickets are invited to walk around the city without a ticket but can only enter retail shops and taverns and restaurants.
When planning a family vacation to Colonial Williamsburg, a little preparation goes a long way. The historic site is enormous and there’s so much to do, see and learn so it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the layout and offerings and compare that to your family’s interests and attention span.
The main areas to visit include the Capitol, the Marketplace and the Governor’s Palace but there’s a ton to see in between. When you arrive, consider taking a Family-Focused Orientation Tour. These tours run from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm daily and show you around the historic area. They can answer questions, offer advice on the best attractions and recommend demonstrations and activities best suited to your needs and interests.
Another helpful resource is Colonial Williamsburg Love Affair by Debra Bailey. The comprehensive book about is broken up into two parts. The first 21 chapters are a diary of sorts, chronicling Bailey’s visits to Williamsburg from age 10 through adulthood.
The second part of the book includes detailed travel tips when visiting Colonial Williamsburg. It includes you won’t find in a standard travel guide like places and times of day to stop off and relax when a child needs a break or a shady, unknown seating area or bench off the beaten path where a mom can breastfeed in peace. Colonial Williamsburg Love Affair is an invaluable resource for families.