Richmonders are fortunate to have the largest living museum in the world, Colonial Williamsburg only about 1 hour and 20 minutes away. Offering a hands-on, educational experiences focusing on 18th-century life unlike any other, Colonial Williamsburg is a must-do for RVA families. Although our family has traveled to Williamsburg several times, we had never experienced all CW has to offer until our most recent visit, as it was our first time with tickets that allowed us access to all the historic sites, art museums, gardens, shows and more. This spring the new Intersections program displays the daily lives of ordinary people during extraordinary times. Also, visitors can now interact with expert archaeologists for an up-close look at some of our current excavations.
In the past, we had hesitated on tickets because we simply did not know if there would be enough attractions to hold the attention of our 3 and 7 year old. Our trip proved that there is more than enough for young children. So much so, that we truly could not fit it all in during our one day trip. Through April the Virginia Resident Pass makes it economical to return repeatedly so we can see the attraction all over the course of the year with a savings. For now, here is a detailed travelogue of our day in Colonial Williamsburg with a few helpful hints to make your journey in the 1700s go as smoothly as possible!
Our first stop was the Visitor’s Center to get our passes, a map and helpful info from the registration desk. Just entering the Visitor’s Center gets travelers geared up to travel back to colonial times. Yes, I totally embarrassed my family by purchasing and wearing a tri-cornered hat! Having a ticket for Colonial Williamsburg allows you to park for free at the Visitor’s Center and use the shuttle throughout the day. The shuttle takes ticket holders from the Visitor’s Center straight to Colonial Williamsburg, or patrons may choose to walk .3 miles. Before leaving, be sure to watch the short movie to set the tone for the day!
I am thankful we chose to walk because the beautiful bridge to the historic area started lots of meaningful conversations with our children about various times in history. This timeline works its way backward so upon arriving in Williamsburg, you’ve read about various significant moments in American history.
Upon arriving in the historic area, we were able to see two horses – one just a colt! A friendly volunteer explained that the horses were Cleveland Bay, a breed that began in the 17th century. Children are welcome to pet the horses. Neigh-less to say (see what I did there?!), the kids loved these sweet animals and all the others we encountered during our visit.
Up next was the Governor’s Palace, but the best part for our kids was actually behind it. A stunning hedge maze confused, entertained and challenged the kids while we cheered them on from up above the Ice Box. With a little encouragement and direction, they made it out. Adjacent to the hedge maze we picnicked in the shady area at the Governor’s Palace Stage.
With each turn and new place, we were greeted with a new garden to admire. Further down Duke of Gloucester, we took a tour of the Wythe House. Home of George Wythe, a teacher of Thomas Jefferson, this ornately decorated home is reminiscent of the Wilton House in Richmond. The guided tour, although brief, is informative and includes the backyard garden with chickens. We continued to be most impressed by the knowledgeable, patient and enthusiastic interpreters who answered every question of our young children.
By this time, we were astounded by how much time had passed. We truly were enjoying ourselves so much we nearly missed lunch. Fortunately, our kids were able to remind us! Heading straight down Duke of Gloucester we found ourselves at the Cheese Shop, a popular sandwich shop for both locals and tourists. Grabbing a table outside and placing our order online was a smooth, easy process. Three year old Gus highly recommends the cheese sandwich!
Next up was the Art Museums, both the Dewitt Decorative Arts Museum and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museums are kid friendly. Not only a great place to cool off in the air conditioning, the museums offer a scavenger hunt for kids with a prize upon completion. Our family also especially enjoyed the toys exhibit as well as the paintings and explanations of questions we had pondered for years.
A phenomenal part of Colonial Williamsburg for us was that the lives of many different types of people are shared. During our visit we visited the American Indian Encampment and learned about the religious heritage of Africans and their Virginian ancestors at the African American Religion Exhibit.
We were so tied up with the exhibits and tours, we missed our chance to see a performance at the Charlton Stage as we had originally intended. See, Colonial Williamsburg definitely requires more than one day! As we strolled back to the Visitor’s Center, we retraced our way through history with inspiring names like Rosa Parks, Louis Armstrong and John F. Kennedy. Closing out our trip is the last Nation Maker plaque that reads, “Your Name Here. What Difference Will you Make?”. A perfect way to conclude our historically inspiring day.
Colonial Williamsburg is located at 301 S. Nassau Street Williamsburg, VA 23185.
SPECIAL FOR VIRGINIA RESIDENTS: Through April 29, Colonial Williamsburg is offering all Virginia residents – including all active-duty military and dependents currently stationed in Virginia – the opportunity to pay the price of a multi-day ticket to receive free admission for the rest of 2022. The Virginia Resident Pass provides unlimited admission to the world’s largest living history museum. Residents can take advantage of unbounded access to the Historic Area sites, including Historic trade shops and gardens, regular programs, the world-class Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg and more.
Virginia Residents can also take advantage of exclusive staycation offers, including 10% off the best available room rate at all Colonial Williamsburg Resorts properties. When the Virginia Resident Rate is booked direct, residents will also receive two complimentary tickets and up to $350 in savings in resort outlets coupons.
The offer is based on the full price of a multi-day ticket price which retails at $56.00 per adult and $30.99 for children ages 6-12. This offer cannot be combined with other Colonial Williamsburg discounts. Unlimited admission is valid through Dec. 31, 2022.
The Virginia Resident Pass can be purchased online at colonialwilliamsburg.org/vares or onsite at any Colonial Williamsburg ticket location. All members of the party must be present to receive the promotion, while guests who purchase online must present their valid state-issued ID at a ticketing location to validate their residency and receive their pass.
— By Lindsay Garrison
Richmond on the Cheap contributor Lindsay Garrison is a Richmond, Virginia based mom to two young children. A graduate from Chesterfield Schools and Randolph-Macon College, Lindsay is proud to call Richmond home. In the years prior to planning activities and outings with her own children, she was a French teacher. During her tenure she earned accolades for her creative teaching style and ability to connect with her students. Lindsay now applies the skills she learned when she was planning student trips to France, to her own family adventures. She can’t wait to take her own children to France one day! Follow the Garrison’s family adventures on Instagram: @thegarrisonsrva
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