What to Know Before You Visit Williamsburg

Updated July 21, 2020.

It’s Throwback Thursday, and this week we are throwing it way back to Colonial America! You may have already figured out I love history, but I know some people aren’t so sure about history. So in an effort to help you feel more prepared and comfortable about your journey into the past, here are a few things you will want to know before your trip to Colonial Williamsburg, VA!

Money Saving Tips

You Can Walk Around for Free

It’s true! You won’t be able to go into most of the buildings (except restaurants and shops of course), but you can definitely walk around town and get a feel of Virginia’s Colonial Capital! So if you’re thinking of skipping Colonial Williamsburg altogether because you’re only passing through or think you don’t have enough time to get your money’s worth, think again!

The streets are FREE!
More here: FREE Things to Do in Williamsburg

Parking is Free at the Visitor Center

Coming from the Washington, D.C., area, free parking is like finding GOLD! There is plenty of parking onsite, so take advantage of it!

You Could Get Free Admission

It’s true! If you are a educator, museum employee, or in Colonial costume, you can get an unrestricted three-day pass for FREE! Just tell the person working there that you are an educator or museum employee and show proof like your employee ID or previous pay stub (or show up in costume), and you’re in!

Cheaper Eats are at Raleigh Tavern Bake Shop

The other restaurants are authentic and the food is good, but if you’re looking for something less expensive and quick, you’ll find it at the Bake Shop.

Plenty to choose from!

Staying at a Colonial Williamsburg Property?

You’ll get discounts on Colonial Williamsburg admission tickets, nightly programs, and on carriage rides! You will also have free reserved parking at or near your accommodations.

I got to stay at the Brick House Tavern last time I was in Colonial Williamsburg!
More here: Staying at the Brick House Tavern

Getting Around

Wear Your Walking Shoes

Colonial Williamsburg is very walkable, which is great! That’s how the Colonial citizens got around after all. So wear a sturdy pair of walking shoes and get going Colonial style!

Look Out for Poop

The only negative result of the true Colonial experience you’ll get walking around Williamsburg is the animal poop you’ll undoubtedly encounter. They clean the area regularly, but when a horse has to go, a horse has to go!

DoG Street

Keep seeing references to “DoG” Street? That’s Duke of Gloucester Street, which is the main drag through downtown Colonial Williamsburg!

The view down DoG Street!

There is Plenty to See Off of Duke of Gloucester Street

Don’t keep exclusively to DoG Street! The Governor’s Palace, Public Gaol (Jail), the Brick Yard, Cabinet Maker, and more are all off Duke of Gloucester Street, so don’t be afraid to venture off!

Venture just a little off the beaten path to find the gaol (jail)!

Throughout the Day

Carriage Rides

Please don’t feed the horses! Or other animals. Feel free to pet them, but they are already on healthy diets. If you’d like to pet the horses, you can, but make sure you stay where they can see you. Their blinders help keep them on track, but they might get spooked if they can’t see who or what is touching them!

Also, the carriage rides are fun and a great way to see this historic city the way the early Americans would have seen it, but don’t be disappointed that it’s not a guided tour with commentary. It’s worth the trip!

Pro Tip: My friend Amanda is the best carriage driver! 
More favorites here: 10 Reasons to Visit Colonial Williamsburg

Stay Healthy

Colonial Williamsburg is largely an outdoor experience, so be sure to stay hydrated year-round, dress warmly in the winter, and take breaks while you’re out walking around if you need.

Use the Barrels

Where are the trash cans, you ask? They’re in the barrels on the sidewalks! Please use them. They even have barrels for recycling!

Look for the barrels!

You will Bump into Historical Figures

Don’t be shocked when you meet George Wythe, George Washington, and carriage drivers from the past! Ask them questions, take pictures with them, and most importantly: listen to them. They have done more research for these roles than you can possible know!

My favorite carriage driver, Amanda!


Put Your Name In or Make a Reservation

If you do want to eat an authentic meal at one of the taverns in town (Shields Tavern, King’s Arms Tavern, Chowning’s, or Christiana Campbell’s Tavern), you will want to call a day or two in advance–or more in the spring and around the holidays–and make a reservation. If you’re already in town, stop over at your tavern of choice and put your name in early with the person taking names at the front. It’s not such a struggle in the heat of summer or the coldest months in winter, but it’s always a good idea.

It’s Pronounced “Chew-ning’s”

It’s spelled like Chowning’s, but that’s not how you say it! You won’t be tarred and feathered if you mispronounce it, but you will sound more like you know what you’re talking about if you remember to “chew.”

Chow down and Chowning’s!

The Chocolate is Not What You Might Expect

The Colonial chocolate is absolutely worth trying, but if you’re expecting something super sweet and melt-in-your-mouth gooey, you will be disappointed. Sugar was an exceptionally expensive commodity in Colonial America, so sweet chocolate would’ve been an oddity. Instead, expect something almost spicy and somewhat bitter. You can get some at the general store, so give it a go!

You Can Try Drinking Chocolate at R. Charlton’s

I prefer the drinking chocolate instead of the solid form, but I urge you to try both! You can get the drinking chocolate as it should be made at R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse! I highly recommend it. If you really don’t prefer to try the drinking chocolate, you can have coffee instead.

Cup of Chocolate, anyone?

Do you feel ready to take on your own trip to Colonial Williamsburg? Tell me below! And while you’re at it, check out my United States Page!

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