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Looking for a Colonial Williamsburg one day itinerary, since you don’t have a lot of time in your schedule? A trip to Colonial Williamsburg should be on every person’s bucket list if they love history, especially American history.
In this piece, I’ll walk you through our day at Colonial Williamsburg. It’s a place that’s been on my bucket list due to my fascination with 18th-century dwellings and Revolutionary War history. As a Registrar of my local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, learning more about our country’s founding is very important to me. A trip to Colonial Williamsburg checked all of my boxes regarding old homes, re-creation of buildings, examples of working tradespeople, and excellent old taverns, so I decided to do a little time traveling and go back to visit early Americana.
Given that my time was limited, I’ve focused on the top sites that made our visit fulfilling. I’m here to share these highlights to help you craft a well-rounded Colonial Williamsburg one-day itinerary. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or just looking for an immersive step back in time, these are the places you won’t want to miss.
Where to Stay in Colonial Williamsburg: Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel & Suites
When you’re here only one night, I highly recommend saying nearby the heart of Colonial Williamsburg. So, we opted to stay at the Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel and Suites. This was a stellar idea as it turned out to be the hotel with the visitor center right out the front door. Not only that, they have a bus that runs from 9:00 am to 10 pm daily, every 10-15 minutes to the village and attractions.
The Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel and Suites is part of the Colonial Williamsburg Resorts family and was a perfect fit for us. The rooms were immaculately spacious, and their all-inclusive continental breakfast was a true delight with many delicious choices. The hotel caters to all ages as they have a huge swimming pool, splash pad, fitness center, playground, miniature golf, table tennis, and shuffleboard area. As a bonus, by staying at the hotel you are offered a discount for tickets to Colonial Williamsburg attractions.
After we checked in our hotel, we decided that dinner was in order. At the time, Williamsburg Woodland Hotel’s adjacent restaurant was closed, so we decided to try the recommended Market Square in Colonial Williamsburg.
As I noted earlier, the hotel area offers a free shuttle bus to Colonial Williamsburg, offering assorted stops along the way. This was a great idea; no worries about finding a place to park, and best of all, we had a designated driver if we wanted a glass or two of spirits!
The Market Square at Colonial Williamsburg
The Market Square is in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg. It is an authentic replica of an 18th-century village which boasts over 40 eateries and shops. This area is fantastic for bringing in the old with the new: an old setting with new food choices and modern wares.
Restaurants in Colonial Williamsburg
After much consideration, we decided to dine with Berrets Seafood Restaurant and Tap House Grill. As luck would have it, we made it for their Early Bird appetizer special, James River Oysters on the Half Shell, for $1.00 each. These very fresh, delicious oysters were an incredible bargain, genuinely unique.
Next, my husband had Berrets famous Sauteed Backfin Crab Cakes, which lived up to their reputation as the best crab cakes in the area. I thoroughly enjoyed my entrée of Pretzel-Crusted Salmon with Shrimp, including a spicy mustard sauce. Berrets has a full restaurant that takes reservations. The adjoining Tap House has seating on a first-come, first serve basis. It is open-air and also uses the same menu as the restaurant.
Explore Market Square Shops in Colonial Williamsburg
After dinner, we decided to explore Market Square to see what it was all about. As we walked the village, we found many exclusive or one-of-a-kind shops such as:
- The Carousel Children’s Boutique – a specialty children’s store
- Brick & Vine – a 13,000 square store of beautiful home goods, furnishings, and local gifts.
- Fat Face
- Everything Williamsburg
Many of the shops, to our delight, are open late 7:00–8:00 p.m. After a beautiful evening, we picked up our shuttle on the Square and returned to our hotel.
The following day, exploring Colonial Williamsburg was in order. As the visitor center is located conveniently on the hotel property, we had plenty of opportunity to obtain our tickets before the village opened. The village tickets vary in price, and assorted discounts are offered during different times of the year.
Tip: There is no charge to visit the historic area or the restaurants, but any attractions require a ticket.
Be sure to pick up a Colonial Williamsburg area map and directory/times of performances and special events, then hop on the shuttle and head to the village.
The Historic Village
Ok, here is a quick rundown on Colonial Williamsburg before you start off. This unique area consists of 301 acres of historic buildings, homes, and working people, showing how the 17th people lived and worked. There are also two large art museums, 18th-century gardens, and an arboretum.
The way to get around will be on foot as no cars are allowed, but there are other options, such as carriage and wagon rides. The shuttle also has a few stops around the village, which you may use as a “get-off, get-on” way of travel.
Exploring the Historic Community
The village consists of many historic sites and exhibitions. The two most significant landmark buildings not to be missed are the Governor’s Palace and the Capitol building. Tours are given throughout the day by exceptional costumed historians who know their stuff. I know I bugged our tour guide with lots of questions, and he never missed a beat giving an answer. Whatever you do, don’t miss these two buildings!
Throughout the village, people will be in the character of the 18th-century lifestyle. Wander down the many streets, and you can enter and view the numerous trades’ men at work. We found blacksmiths, weavers, cooks, brickmakers, and wheelwrights busily at work. There are hourly performances and presentations at assorted locations where you may learn about the culture, politics, economics, and general life in the 18th century.
🇺🇸 Pro Tip: When an American flag is in front of a building, it designates the site open to explore.
King’s Arm Tavern
We were getting a little hungry and opted to dine at the King’s Arms Tavern on the Duke of Gloucester Street. The tavern opens daily except for Wednesdays at 11:00 a.m. This 1772 recreated tavern was one of the hot spots for great food centuries ago.
My husband ordered the Chicken Hash, which was from an old 1753 recipe. The hash was really a thick stew with lots of vegetables and big pieces of chicken served on a trencher. I opted for the Salmagundi, which sounds crazy, but in reality, it is a traditional Chef’s Salad-ham, turkey, cheese, etc.
Apparently, this was a favorite dish in the 1700s, and after a bit of research, I learned that it originated in England and was composed of cold meats, fruits, eggs, etc. Afterward, my husband enjoyed the chocolate cobbler, which was, in reality, a warm custard dessert; overall, a delicious dining experience.
Additional Tours in Colonial Williamsburg
There are many additional tours in Colonial Williamsburg throughout the day and late evening. If you are up for spooky tales, visit the evening programs at the Capitol and Market House, where frightening tales such as “Cry Witch” and “To Hang a Pirate” are nightly performed. If gardening is your thing, the Arboretum at Griffin Campus or the “Meet the Gardner” tours may fit the bill.
The Abbey Aldrich Rockefeller Art Museum houses a great collection of amateur artisan folk art. To make the most of your time, an overview tour of the museum is quite helpful.
Outdoor Activities in Colonial Williamsburg
If poking around in historical sites is not your deal, there are plenty of other outdoor activities to enjoy.
Golden Horseshoe Golf Club
Within a short distance of the village, the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club offers two outstanding championship golf courses built by father and son team-Robert Trent Jones and Rees Jones. The Gold and Green courses are designed among the hills and dales of Virginia’s picturesque landscape. Golfers of all levels will enjoy these outstanding courses.
Bassett Trace Nature Trail
The Bassett Trace Nature Trail is located in Colonial Williamsburg near the Griffin Hotel. This well-established trail is loaded with gorgeous scenery, including plenty of wildlife, streams, and even a dam. The entire walking trail is approximated at almost 3 miles and the walking is moderate, no big hills to climb and pretty easy. Also, most of the trail is shaded which is excellent for summer hiking.
The Maze at the Governor’s Palace
The Maze at the Governor’s Palace is a site to be seen. This beautifully groomed hedgerow maze stands 6ft tall and is located at the back of the palace. The maze is so intricate that the gardeners have made a few cheat spots for confused visitors to exit when getting lost.
If horse lovers are in your crowd, be sure to tour the horse stables. This 1-hour walking tour, named appropriately “Stables behind the Scenes,” gives an orientation of the care and overview of Colonial Williamsburg horses. Walking through the stables, you will learn about equines, carriages, tack, and grooming.
Final Thoughts: Colonial Williamsburg One Day Itinerary
So that’s Colonial Williamsburg in a nutshell if you’re trying to squeeze it all into one day. Though it’s feasible, to truly get a sense of everything this historic site has to offer, you might find, as I did, that three days would be a better fit. A single day’s visit is just enough to spark a yearning for more—next time around, I’ll be planning for a longer stay to catch all the details and experiences at a more relaxed pace. For anyone crafting their own Colonial Williamsburg One Day Itinerary, remember – it’s just an appetizer. The full course of history awaits on your next visit.