If it’s a return trip to Williamsburg, but you still want to stick around the Historic Area, here are a few suggestions:
One thing that a lot of visitors to Williamsburg miss is the seeing the college building built in 1690s at William and Mary. The Sir Christopher Wren Building is the oldest college building in the U.S. and includes the Wren Chapel. The building is right across the road from Merchant’s Square . There are several interesting features of the building, including the memorial plaques in the hall commemorating local soldiers from all of the American wars, and of course, a cannon on the front steps!
You also don’t want to miss the cellars at the Governor’s Palace in Colonial Williamsburg…although you will have to duck! The original foundations of the palace still exist and this is an oft-missed part of the tour. The cellars are where the libations and food were stored prior to the grand all-night balls held at the palace. So make sure you get an “under the scenes” look.
The James Geddy House and Foundry is one of the coolest places to see colonial tradesmen in action. The smiths’ will be working with liquid pewter to make spoons…and working with spoons to make pewter. They hammered and cast brass and pewter to make the fine things for the elite of Williamsburg. Stop by and see this combination of art and science.
Another nearby attraction is Bassett Hall – the home of Rockefeller’s while they were restoring Colonial Williamsburg. The18th century farmhouse has a lot of history beyond the famous Rockefellers, including that it was built by a member of the House of Burgesses. It was restored in 2002 and is open to the public with a CW Visitor’s Pass. Make sure to visit the rear of the property and learn about the history of a Live Oak that was thought to have been present during the Revolution.
And, on your travels, don’t forget to eat. There are several places to take a break as you go through the Historic area that are a bit off the average tourist radar. Shields Tavern is near the Capital building and serves coffee and pastries as well as sandwiches. The Bake Shop is located behind the Raleigh Tavern and you can buy some bread mixes as well as their famous gingerbread cakes. Near the Palace Green, there’s an Apothecary shop that will quench your thirst with a colonial “shrub” (a cool raspberry lemonade drink) and you can cool off in the shade of the covered porch next door.
If you’ve been to the major sights of Williamsburg and want to get off the beaten path and away from the Historic Area, I’ve got some insider suggestions for you, too.
The Williamsburg Winery , which is tucked back behind the tiny Williamsburg airport, has a great selection of locally grown wine, a tour of their facilities and the beautiful Gabriel Archer café. I recommend getting wine and cheese and bread and enjoying the view of the vineyards from the veranda. This could be a day trip or a quick stop, and now that they’ve added a European-style hotel, Wedmore Place, it could be your launching pad to Williamsburg.
Nearby is Waller Mill Park, set on a scenic reservoir. The park has a paved path, some trails, and picnic areas. There’s also a boat launch with rowboats, kayaks and canoes. You can even rent a paddle boat! This is a great way to enjoy some of Virginia’s beautiful nature scenes and relax. Even watching the dogs in the dog park is fun.
Enjoy a scenic drive by taking the Colonial Parkway to Yorktown and enjoy the Riverwalk. It’s a new area along the York River with a beach, shops, restaurants and boat tours. It’s within walking distance of the Yorktown battlefields where the British surrendered at the end of the Revolutionary War. There are some other quaint antique shops, the Carrot Tree restaurant and Thomas Nelson’s house, where you can still see a cannonball stuck in the bricks from a battle. This could be another great day trip, and you can also stop by the Yorktown Victory Center for more historical interpretation.
Written by Natalie Miller-Moore