Things to Do in Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

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Things to do in Colonial Williamsburg with kids: if you’re heading to Virginia or the Washington D.C. area, a visit here is a must. Read on to find out more about Colonial Williamsburg hotels, Colonial Williamsburg restaurants, Colonial Williamsburg parking, the Colonial Williamsburg Visitors Center and all the things to do at Colonial Williamsburg with kids.

Colonial Williamsburg with kids is a must if you're heading to Virginia or the Washington D.C. area. History is important. That's why so many American parents and other families traveling in the United States go to Colonial Williamsburg with kids in tow. It's easily one of the most memorable and entertaining ways to relay an important part of the United States' history. | When to go to Colonial Williamsburg | Things to do in Colonial Williamsburg | Where to stay in or near Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

History is important. That’s why so many American parents and other families traveling in the United States go to Colonial Williamsburg with kids in tow. It’s easily one of the most memorable and entertaining ways to relay an important part of the United States’ history.

I’ve interviewed a lot of traveling families on the Epic Education Family Travel Podcast. Most of them agree that the best way to learn something is to just dive in and experience it first-hand. Visiting Colonial Williamsburg with kids is just that kind of experience.

Our kids have never lived in my home country, the USA. My kids were both born and raised in Japan until 2013. Since then, we’ve lived in (chronological order):

We may move back to the states someday, but for now, we’ll keep exploring. That said, I want them to know the history of the United States. I love so much about my country, and they do too. That’s why visiting places like Colonial Williamsburg are so special for us.

Because of our travels and our past focus on math and English during our homeschooling years, they hadn’t even heard of places like Williamsburg, Jamestown, or many of the other important places and people from American history. I once told the story about when my daughter saw Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill and asked: “Is that Anthony Bourdain?”

Sigh…something had to be done.

So as you can imagine, this trip meant a little more than your average visit to Colonial Williamsburg with kids. It was a way to catch my brood up on a lot of history they’d never heard before.

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Intro: Colonial Williamsburg for Kids

Visiting places like Colonial Williamsburg with kids can make a huge impact on a child’s view of history. It certainly did for our two.

Below I’ve listed up a few tips and suggestions for getting the most out your time there. Keep in mind that there are enough things to do at Colonial Williamsburg with kids that your family could spend several days there and never do the same thing twice.

There are many other places to go in the area, as well: amusement parks, outdoor activities and other historic sites such as Jamestown. For us, however, Colonial Williamsburg was one stop of many on a madcap east-coast road trip (we had to make the most of our short time in the States!), and our visit was short — approximately 48 hours — so follow my advice accordingly.

Start Your Visit the Day Before Your Ticket

Walking around the grounds of Colonial Williamsburg with kids costs nothing. It’s free! It’s only when you want to enter the buildings or attend events that you need a ticket.

So if possible, plan to go for at least an hour or two the day before your ticket is valid. That way you can soak in the atmosphere and get the lay of the land, thereby using your time more efficiently the following day.

Things like cows and cannon blasts are free to observe — some at a further distance than others — so if you have kids that will want time to pet a horse or stare at a bull, do this the day before you’ve paid to do activities.

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Colonial Williamsburg with kids is a must if you're heading to Virginia or the Washington D.C. area. History is important. That's why so many American parents and other families traveling in the United States go to Colonial Williamsburg with kids in tow. It's easily one of the most memorable and entertaining ways to relay an important part of the United States' history. | When to go to Colonial Williamsburg | Things to do in Colonial Williamsburg | Where to stay in or near Colonial Williamsburg

We rolled into town around 3:30 pm — too late for a full day at Colonial Williamsburg with kids, so instead we grabbed a bite and then showed up on on the grounds around 4:30.

We bought multi-day tickets starting the following day, and then just walked around the town, which gave us an extra two hours to see what was happening and witness the soldiers firing a canon.

Soldier in the uniform: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

Arrive Early

If your visit is limited to one or two days, then I recommend getting in the park as early as you can that morning. This goes double for summer visits, as the park can get hot, muggy and crowded quickly.

Also, if you arrive before they open at 9 am, then you increase your chances of talking to the historical interpreters in period costume.

Many of them are still arriving and getting into character, and they’re still fresh — not yet having been ground down by the heat, the layers of clothing and the hundreds of tourists peppering them with questions. Which brings me to the next point…

Marching band-flute: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

Talk to the Re-Enactors!

Interact with them! Ask them questions! Strike up a conversation! It’s their job to relay the history, and the more you interact with them, the more fun, educational and memorable the day becomes.

Anyone in costume has a story to tell, and when you show interest, they are happy to share. One of our best family experiences in Colonial Williamsburg happened simply because we expressed interest (see under Trades below).

Colonial Williamsburg is Photogenic – Read Our Travel Camera Reviews

Re-enactors: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

Re-enactor: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

Get the Map, the App, and the Program

Colonial Williamsburg App for smartphone: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

The Colonial Williamsburg map is available both online and at the venue, and the app is on iTunes and Google Play. Both are excellent (and free) resources to help you plan your trip and learn a LOT even before you arrive.

Once you get there, pick up their program, “Colonial Williamsburg This Week.” This will give you a rundown of all the programs and performances scheduled. You definitely want this if you plan to catch more than one walk, event or performance in a limited amount of time.

Governers' Kitchen: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

Park at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center & Take Free Shuttles

We parked at the Colonial Williamsburg visitor center, and I recommend you do the same. Trying to park next to the town is a time waster and could get you a ticket. The free shuttle was fast and efficient, and the walk from the visitor center is anywhere between 5-15 minutes, depending on who’s walking.

The path itself is flat and easy, but not necessarily scenic, and you’ll be on your feet all day, so judge for yourself if you want to add this walking time to your day. That enter is a good idea.

Horse-buggy: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

Look for Flags on the Map

Get a free copy of the Colonial Williamsburg map and look it over. Any building marked with the flag is part of Colonial Williamsburg and you are welcome to walk in. Ticket holders are welcome, that is. This is another reason I recommend spending a few hours walking around the day before your ticket is valid because what may look boring on a map or website may actually look like a lot more fun to kids once they see it in person, and vice versa.

For example, I was OK to give the brick maker a pass and had we not walked by it the day before, we would have missed it. So glad we didn’t, as it was definitely a highlight.

Take the Orientation Walks

Start your day with an Orientation Walk — either the regular one or the Children’s one (ideally one per day if you can). These walks give you a good foundation of some of the history and a good feel for what all is available to do that day, which can help you plan accordingly.

Colonial Flag: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

Things to Do in Colonial Williamsburg With Kids

As you’ll see when looking at their website, there are many, many activities to do with children — morning, afternoon and night. Here are only a few recommendations of things to do in Colonial Williamsburg with kids.

The Governor’s Mansion

Gun Display at the Govener's Mansion: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

Your tour guide here plays the role of a main from the time period. In character, she takes you through this incredible reconstruction as she tells you about the “master of the house” and his plans for a ball that evening.

Highlights for us were the ballroom itself, the kitchen (with authentic food prepared), and the hedge maze, which M and I wandered through for 15 minutes after our visit.

Inside of Governer's Mansion: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

The Capitol

Re-enactor at the Capitol: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

Our guide walked us through the steps toward the American Revolution, all while emphasizing the sacrifices that would have to be made for the sake of freedom and independence. I found it riveting, but this performance was lost on the kids (then 9 and 12) about halfway through.

Raised in Japan, they didn’t grow up with this history, and I hadn’t done a good enough job introducing it to them beforehand. Children who are more familiar with the names and events of this particular time in American history will appreciate it more.

The Witch Trials

Also in the Capitol Building, and much more high-intensity for teens and tweens. I wouldn’t recommend little ones for this, I’m afraid. Having said this, if you’re in Colonial Williamsburg with kids interested in this part of history, or in how societies can get wrapped up in paranoia, then this is worth checking out.

Stock for Publish Punishment: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

The Benjamin Powell House

While most re-enactors at Colonial Williamsburg are there to relay various trades and historical figures, the Benjamin Powell House is a great place for kids to see what family life was like in the 18th century, including the food, chores, and games that occupied the kids of the time.

The Parades

We caught the main two Colonial Williamsburg parades: the first one culminated in a reading of the Declaration of Independence and had many stops along the way, where preachers, generals, and other characters spoke at length.

Re-enactor-Declaration of Independence: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

My kids tired of these stops about midway through but were surprisingly riveted by the Declaration of Independence reading at the end, which could be due to the fact that many of the re-enactors in costume reacted to the reading with palpable emotion.

Marching Drum Band - How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

The second parade was near the end of the day when dozens of drum-and-fife battalions (who looked like local teens) marched through the town to a field for military-like exercises, which ended with a cannon blast. The kids couldn’t get enough of this one.

Infantry Training

Infantry Training: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

I don’t normally encourage war-related play, but here we let the kids go nuts, firing imaginary muskets and hurling dull tomahawks at the enemy.

They even helped fire a canon. Out of every activity we did, this was the one they most vehemently wanted to do again.

Lighting Cannon: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

Experience 18th Century Trades

Most of Colonial Williamsburg’s town is dedicated to the trades and occupations of the time, and these can be a lot of fun to witness.

Re-enactors actually ply the trades of yore using essentially the same tools and materials of the period, all while leaving themselves open for questions as they work.

Shoemaker of 18th century: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

We were recommended a number of these to visit, but unfortunately thanks to lines or other time constraints, we missed some of the most popular ones, such as the wigmaker, the shoemaker (see above) and others. Out of the ones we did visit, here are our favorites:

The Milliner

Re-enactor, The Milliner: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids - USA Family Travel

Here is where fabrics are made into clothing, hats, blankets and other goods. The kids particularly found the dyes for coloring cloth to be interesting. For example, one of the most prominent red dyes of the day was made from bug shells. They got a kick out of that.

The Silversmith

The Silversmith: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids - USA Family Travel

The kids have had an interest in silversmithing ever since they tried it in Bali in 2014. But here they learned about how silver was not just for jewelry but also for dinnerware and religious items, and also served as a way to save, store and show off your money.

The Jailer (and the Jail Itself)

The Jail: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids - USA Family Travel

We all got a kick out of visiting the warden’s house (he was a well-respected member of town). We stepped into the cells, touched the chains that bound people and…

Well…we giggled at the 18th-century prison toilets as we sat on them for pictures. Yes, I am still a child.

The Blacksmith

Blacksmith: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids - USA Family Travel

Colonial Williamsburg has an operating armory, so as we talked with the re-enactors, we could see them hammering red-hot metal into form right there.

The Brick Maker

Brick Maker: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids - USA Family Travel

Sure, the brick-making process may not sound that interesting, but the role of building materials is probably very important to Colonial history. OMG. Let’s squish our toes in the mud! Who’s with me?!

The Printer & Binder

Re-enactor of Printer: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids - USA Family Travel

This was far and away my favorite part of the day, and probably the kids’ favorite after the parades and infantry training mentioned above. Our family loves books, and I’ve been writing off and on for a newspaper since 2001, so I wanted the kids to see the time, energy and effort it once took to create reading material of any kind.

As a piece of machinery, the printing press is pretty fascinating to observe in action, and if you have kids who are into gears, tools, mechanics or anything related to working with your hands, they may find this as interesting as we did.

Office Closed: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids - USA Family Travel

What made this the highlight for us was the level of one-on-one attention we were given.

When we showed up, there was a sign in the window indicating that the shop was closed (see image on the left). However, when the printer saw us staring in the window and me attempting to explain the printing press on the other side of the door, he opened up and fielded our questions for nearly an hour.

How to create Print at Colonial times: How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids - USA Family Travel

This is what I am talking about when I say to strike up a conversation with the re-enactors and show interest. This was a fitting end to our day, and we learned a lot.

Colonial Williamsburg Hotels

Williamsburg offers several accommodations in the area and they are not only family-friendly but also dog-friendly (check each hotel for details). There are also many chain hotels in the area.

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Williamsburg Inn: Colonial Williamsburg Hotels

This hotel is just a step away from Colonial Williamsburg. Pools, Spa, tennis court, fitness center and rental bikes are available for guests. Connecting rooms are available, which can be used as a family room and can be essential for some families. Great Colonial Williamsburg hotel option.

Check Availability: Williamsburg Inn at Booking.com

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Read: What others say about Williamsburg Inn

Williamsburg Lodge: Colonial Williamsburg Hotels

Slightly more economical than the Williamsburg Inn, this is still very close to the Revolutionary City. There’s access to two outdoor pools (one is heated) and an indoor pool located at The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg. Babysitting service is available.

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Colonial Houses: Colonial Williamsburg Hotels

If you’d like a more in-depth experience for a night or two, then this is the Colonial Williamsburg hotel for you. You will literally be in the city itself, staying in one of those colonial style houses, During the daytime, you may see a tourist or two trying to peek in, or perhaps resting at the doorstep.

At night, when everyone else has left, then you can go for a stroll without the crowds. However, if you prefer lots of space, then you may want to give this a pass. Remember: this is Colonial style housing.

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Woodlands Hotel & Suites: Colonial Williamsburg Hotels

Woodlands Hotels and Suites is right at the visitor center of Colonial Williamsburg. They have table tennis, mini-golf, a heated pool, and a splash park.

Check Availability: Woodlands Hotel & Suites at Booking.com

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Other Options: Hotels Near Colonial Williamsburg

In addition to Colonial Williamsburg Hotels, there are many chain hotels around. Mostly located on Highway 60 right next to each other.

Hampton Inn & Suites Williamsburg Historic District

A 5-min drive from Colonial Williamsburg. There is another Hampton Inn & Suites (Central) on Hwy 60, so don’t be confused. This one is more removed from Hwy 60, which makes it a bit quieter. Complimentary breakfast included.

Check Availability: Hampton Inn & Suites Williamsburg Historic District at Booking.com

Hilton Garden Inn Williamsburg

Less than 10 min from Colonial Williamsburg. Many options for dinner within walking distance. There’s a CVS pharmacy nearby if you forgot to bring something or just in a mood for small snacks.

Check Availability: Hilton Garden Inn Williamsburg at Booking.com

Marriott’s Manor Club at Ford’s Colony

Located away from the tourist center and a 20-min drive to Colonial Williamsburg. There are three pools for you and your family to enjoy after exploring Colonial Williamsburg.

Check Availability: Marriott’s Manor Club at Ford’s Colony at Booking.com

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Colonial Williamsburg Restaurants: Where to Eat in Colonial Williamsburg

How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids - USA Family Travel

There are lots of restaurants in Colonial Williamsburg, but we tried to save money by eating a meal away from the main street. We saved a few bucks and had some decent grub at Seasons Restaurant & Bar — the BBQ, macaroni & cheese, and other dishes were quite good, but not necessarily memorable.

For our next meal, we ate at the King’s Arms Tavern, one of Colonial Williamsburg restaurants that is a re-enactment in itself. This was slightly more expensive: approx. USD $15 more for the four of us.

That’s not nothing, of course, but the experience made it entirely worth it.

The food was more unique, we had a fiddler in costume playing period music as he walked by the tables, and the interactions with our waitress — in period costume and speaking in period language — really made an impression on the kids.

Was the food in this Colonial Williamsburg restaurant authentic of the era? I don’t know, but the beef, the apple salad, and the seafood chowder were pretty tasty, as was the hard cider that I slaked my thirst with. Some of these themed restaurants will have a long wait during meal hours. So try to be there before the crowd, or see if you can put your name down and come back later.

Conclusion: Colonial Williamsburg for Kids

Have you been to Colonial Williamsburg with kids? What did you see? Where did you stay? Do you know any good Colonial Williamsburg hotels or Colonial Williamsburg restaurants? Our kids enjoyed our visit so much that I’ve considered a return visit next time we are Stateside. Where else should we go in the area?

Further Reading

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How to Enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means, at no extra cost to you, we might receive a small commission if you make a purchase or book using those links. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help your travel, and your visit to Colonial Williamsburg VA. Have you been to Colonial Williamsburg with kids? Do you know any good Colonial Williamsburg hotels? Tell us about it so we can make this post better!

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