A Day in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
Updated: Jul 25
Colonial Williamsburg is one of our favorite day trips: it's about an hour away, there's lots of open space to run around, and lots of things to see.
Colonial Williamsburg is part of the Historic Triangle of Virginia with Jamestown and Yorktown. It's a 301 acre living-history museum with restored and recreated colonial buildings from when Williamsburg was the capital of Virginia in the 18th century. With special events like the ice skating rink in December and January to the every day events like the military activity & carriage rides, Colonial Williamsburg is a fun place to explore with your family.
Growing up in Richmond, we were able to see and do many of the special events in Williamsburg - they are great learning experiences for older children. Now, with 2 children under 3, I like to keep it simple by exploring the free spaces. I've been taking H there since he was 12 months old just to give us a chance of scenery for walks, to explore the gardens, and to see animals.
We usually leave in the morning by 9, so that we arrive by 10. We park at Merchants Square, and we grab lunch at The Cheese Shop before we start exploring. For this trip, Gigi came with us and kept the kids on the outdoor seating area while I picked up lunch.
Lunch Tip: The Cheese Shop offers online ordering and call ahead ordering. This is a popular lunch spot, especially for William and Mary students.
We walked from The Cheese Shop to the Palace Lawn, the huge lawn in front of the Governor's Palace. There are so many things to see from this place, our favorite being the horses! People run, walk dogs, ride bikes and stroll down Duke of Gloucester Street, the main road in Colonial Williamsburg. While most of the lawn is full sun, we were able to get a shady spot under some trees for our picnic. We watched carriage rides during our lunch, played on the lawn and then explored the garden next to us (Geddy House).
We had a great time wandering through the streets, checking out gardens and following horses. We watched the military activity, but it was very loud - we stayed at a distance. We played in a garden near the William Pitt store for 45 minutes (we have books & toys with us at all times, too). By the time we walked down to the Capitol, H was in the stroller and I was carrying G. We decided to head to the car since both children had fallen asleep.
If you have older children, I recommend checking out Colonial Williamsburg's calendar and website, so you can schedule your visit around the events you would like to see. For those who have students going virtual this fall, it would be fun to visit during the Homeschool Days as a field trip. Tickets are $10 for children and $12.50 for adults. There are also learning activities available to prepare children for their visit and to practice what they learned during their visit: Pre-visit & Post-visit Activities.
Here are some sample itineraries.
Tips: We always park at Colonial Williamsburg's Merchants Square. I put "William and Mary Bookstore" in my GPS to get there. I always bring a stroller, and both kids usually want to be carried or pushed by the end of our visit. If sandwiches aren't your thing, Mellow Mushroom is on South Henry Street and you can order online & pick it up.
Things to Know: The historic area is a mile long and a half-mile wide, and it's perfect for strollers, bikes & scooters, and walking. While most of the road is full sun, there are plenty of side streets and gardens with shade.
Bathrooms: There are bathrooms in Merchants Square, The Cheese Shop, off North England Street by the Governor's Palace, by William Pitt Store, by the Market Square Bus Stop, and by the Capitol.
Extending Your Stay:
1. Sweet Haven Lavender: Located 12 miles (about 24 minutes) from historic Williamsburg, . The farm is currently open by reservation only. They are open every weekend in August for you-pick Zinnia. It's a beautiful place to picnic and to explore. Click here to see how our visit went.
2. Williamsburg Prime Outlets are 4 miles away (about 10 minutes). This is an outdoor outlet mall with lots of clothing shops, a Build a Bear Workshop, and dining options.
3. We usually love walking around William and Mary, but due to Covid the campus is currently closed to the public. Located at the end of historic Williamsburg, the campus is a fun place the explore. The campus is beautiful and all of the pathways are stroller friendly.