Jamestown and Yorktown I knew, but I was fairly uninformed about the third of the “Historic Triangle.” Colonial Williamsburg became a vacation destination via my boyfriend Marc’s family who offered us a trip. So, I had relatively little background about what this vacation would look like. It became a unique trip and I wish we had more time there!
Colonial Ghost Tours—You’ll Be Glad You Went!
I started my journey exploring Colonial Williamsburg with a ghost tour through Colonial Ghosts. They are the best! Marc and I opted for their extended tour of haunted William and Mary College, and his family only stayed for the regular tour. It’s an extra $5 for the extended tour and well worth the added price. Choose the extended tour! 🙂 The stories were great and our tour guide Minna was an excellent storyteller. The tour starts at dusk and gives some beautiful sunset settings before turning to dark and upping the dark, haunted vibe. The ghost tour lasted about two hours and, while we would stop in front of homes, there were no sitting breaks—it was all standing or walking. Believe it or not, this was my first ghost tour. I loved it so much there are sure to be many more in the future!
When visiting Williamsburg for the first time, I recommend taking a ghost tour the night before visiting. The reason? Besides the fact that it’s just plain fun, Colonial Williamsburg can be a little overwhelming. The town is just that—a town. The layout is large and includes several streets, homes, and areas to explore. The ghost tour served as a great introduction to give me the lay of the land. I felt situated when we returned the following day and had a general idea of where things were and where to head on my own. Otherwise, I would have been wandering the streets of Colonial Williamsburg and maybe missed some of its more fascinating parts.
For a day trip, you can walk around for free or pay for a wristband to enter the colonial homes and join tours, but the tours are only of individual homes. I feel that the entrance wristband fee is reasonable and it would be a little disappointing to not be able to enter any of the homes. I recommend paying the fee and seeing it all!
Get Ready for Some Serious Walking!
The one important piece about Colonial Williamsburg is to note there is a great deal of walking. Colonial Williamsburg, the day experience, also included a large amount of walking from street to street and in the historic house tours. We toured the haunted Peyton-Randolph house as well as the Governor’s Mansion. Both of these homes involved at least one flight of stairs and some were steep. I noticed some tour-goers struggling or seeming winded after climbing the stairs. To the person with average fitness and health, it shouldn’t be an issue, but some members did seem to be experiencing difficulty with the tours. In addition, we only stayed a half-day at Colonial Williamsburg, but the pedometer on my phone told me I had walked 3 miles. When we took lunch, my legs were happy for the rest. So, imagine a full day of wandering about the historic town! If you want to tour homes or walk the streets to take in the sights, it will be a lengthy walking trip and there will be steep sets of stairs in the homes.
If walking seems intimidating to you, I noticed a great deal of horse carriage tours and this would be a nice way of touring Colonial Williamsburg as an alternative. This is an additional cost (we did not partake in the carriage tour).
What You Absolutely MUST See
The tours of the Governor’s Mansion and Peyton-Randolph House were excellent and roughly 30-45 minutes in length. Both tours were led by interpreters (the folks in period costumes) who seemed informed and stayed in character. These were my favorite points in the experience at Colonial Williamsburg. Make sure to explore the gardens and maze in the back of the Governor’s Mansion after the tour. That was my favorite part. There is a wall in the garden that has bullet holes (with the bullets still in them) from the Revolutionary War!
Lunch was at the King’s Arms Tavern and was DELICIOUS. I seriously recommend this restaurant for your visit. We stopped and asked direction for some lunch and the sales clerk at a souvenir stall asked humorously if we were looking for modern food or authentic fare. We went for authentic fare. I will note, the restaurants/taverns look just like the historic homes and buildings and we did walk around for a little bit, confused as to what was an actual, operational restaurant. We found the King’s Arms Tavern and (after yes more steep, narrow stairs) we made it to the dining room and the food was great! A fiddle player came out periodically and everything was charmingly colonial. I had the pottage pie (amazing and really HOT).
Walking back to the car, we did lose our way. The parking lot at the visitor’s center is seriously huge. This is a plus because parking is abundant, but it takes a little while to find the car. I was exhausted and grateful to take a seat … and this was after a half day.
A good restaurant to note in the Williamsburg area is Paul’s Deli. They serve HUGE portions, authentic recipes, and seem to have everything from American, to seafood, to Italian. They have cake slices bigger than your hand. (Get the chocolate cake—you’re on vacation—just go for it!) It was so delicious, we ended up eating there three times during our stay!
All in all, Colonial Williamsburg gave me some great stories, amazing photos, delicious food, ghastly ghost stories, and quite a few steps on the pedometer. It was charming, educational, and I really did walk away feeling as though I had immersed myself into this time period. I give Colonial Williamsburg a 4 out of 5 stars in terms of accessibility. Exploring the town may be challenging for those with walking limitations or those unable to handle stairs. Again, for those with those concerns, the carriage rides might be the way to go!
Want a Beach Day? Yorktown Beach is the Place to Go
The last day in our stay in Williamsburg, we headed to the beach. The night prior we had the good fortune to run into a couple in the Jacuzzi who just happened to be in the area. We were looking to go to a beach and were considering Yorktown Beach, Virginia Beach, or Buckroe Beach. They gave us some great tips! Virginia Beach would have been the longest trip and they said for day trippers, parking can be scarce and expensive. Buckroe beach (in June) was apparently having an issue with jellyfish! Yikes! And they recommended Yorktown Beach.
Yorktown beach was a mere 20 minutes from Williamsburg and is actually a beach off of the Yorktown River. It didn’t have ocean waves, though you could see where the river met the ocean in the distance. It had free parking less than a quarter of a mile from the beach, was uncrowded, and even offered a great shaded stone wall for beach-goers to sit on if they didn’t bring a chair-or wanted out of the hot sun. There were plenty of restaurants nearby and old sailing ships with full masts were sailing along the river right in front of the swimming zone. It was an incredible sight and the beach served our needs nicely!
The best part was the walk from the parking lot to the beach included access to the caves General Cornwallis hid in during the siege of Yorktown! Talk about an amazing attraction to pass by on our short walk down the sidewalk to the beach!
In terms of accessibility, further down the beach there was even a wheelchair access ramp over the sand. From parking lot to car, there is a short walk. Parking is FREE (so nice), and there is even the shaded wall. The sand is smooth and the water gentle. I give Yorktown Beach 5 out of 5 stars in terms of accessibility and had such a great time while there!
So, have you ever visited Colonial Williamsburg? Are there any fears, concerns, or questions of the unknown I didn’t cover? Comment below and let me know!
Per Person Cost: $ (>25) $$(25-50) $$$(50-100) $$$$(100-200) $$$$$(200+)
Unless you are staying right in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg plan to drive to most areas. The visitor information center has a large free parking lot for Colonial Williamsburg tours. Taxi’s or other car services such as Uber or Lyft would be able to accommodate driving needs.
Colonial Ghosts: $
Colonial Williamsburg: $$
Yorktown Beach: Free!
Paul’s Deli: $
Kings Arms Tavern: $ – $$
Some odd driving situations are present. For instance, there are some roads where right turns are considered “too sharp” and motorists can be ticketed for making such a turn. Also, Colonial Parkway is gorgeous, but does not have painted road lines. Cautious driving is a must!
US Dollar: Every payment situation offered the option for cash or credit.
Locals and Odd Quirks
I had read that interpreters dislike being asked about ghostly or paranormal happenings with Colonial Williamsburg. Sure enough, on our first tour, an interpreter was asked about the ghost tours and the interpreters seemed very displeased with the topic. Ghost tour guides mentioned visitors were unlikely to have paranormal questions answered in the daytime.
Colonial Williamsburg boasts some of the most haunted homes on the eastern coast of the USA! The Peyton-Randolph house is one of the most famous, along with stories from the College of William and Mary and the prestigious Governor’s Mansion. Several ghost tour companies offer tours nightly.