For millions of Americans, a mention of Colonial Williamsburg evokes memories of grade school field trips and childhood family vacations. And while it’s still a great place to take the kids, it’s a great weekend getaway for adults too. Not a history buff? No problem; you don’t have to be to enjoy the world-class spa, the award-winning golf course, or the peaceful setting. But it’s hard to come here without reigniting an interest in the birth of the United States. As election season begins to heat up, it’s also nice to be reminded of patriotism without party lines, a concept that comes alive every day in Colonial Williamsburg, where hundreds of actors, in 18th-century garb, recreate the fierce American pride born from the revolution. Williamsburg was, until 1780, the capitol of Virginia, the most powerful of the original colonies, so much of the Revolution began here. You can walk in the footsteps of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, experience life on an 18th-century tobacco farm, or participate in a witch trial. The best part? All proceeds from America’s largest living history museum go to the not-for-profit foundation that runs and restores it, meaning that every dollar you spend helps support the preservation of a vital piece of American history. Here’s how to plan your trip:
Fly into Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport, which is just 25 minutes from Colonial Williamsburg, or into Richmond International Airport or Norfolk International Airport, both of which are about 45 minutes from the Historic Area. Or you can take a train directly to the Historic Area; Amtrak provides service from Washington, D.C.
Stay just steps from the action at the Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel & Suites, run by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. It’s close to the Historic Area, and rooms start at just $75/night, which includes a complimentary breakfast. Also in the historic district, you’ll find the Williamsburg Inn, and the Williamsburg Lodge. Both are on the Historic Hotels of America list, and they both provide full amenities and upscale service. See www.colonialwilliamsburg.com/visit/hotels.
Stroll around the 301-acre Historic Area, which includes 88 original buildings and hundreds more which have been reconstructed on their original foundations. With the exception of the occasional passing car or ringing cell phone, the streets are just as they would have been in the 1770s, at the dawn of the American Revolution. See the Governor’s Palace (where Thomas Jefferson once lived), the country’s first theater, the old capitol building, the courthouse and much more. The foundation also offers more African-American and Native American history programs than ever before. Buy a three-day pass for $41.95 or an annual pass for $59.95 (rates are even cheaper for in-state visitors). Visit www.colonialwilliamsburg.com.
Enjoy historical reenactments all day and evening. Pick up a “This Week” guide once you arrive for a full schedule of the week’s performances. Don’t miss the daily “Revolutionary City”, an afternoon street theater where the events leading up to the Revolution play out right before your eyes. Evening programs include the goosebump-inducing Ghosts Amongst Us. Visit www.colonialwilliamsburg.com and click on “Calendar” for activities and shows.
Relax at The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg, which offers spa treatments inspired by each century’s traditions. The 17th century, for example, brings us a cleansing hot stones experience, complete with a detoxifying wrap, and the 18th century inspires the Colonial Herbal Spa Experience, which includes an herbal footbath, orange and ginger body scrub, and a signature massage. Packages go all the way up to the 21st century, with a full range of other spa services available too.
Play a round at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club, which features 45 holes of championship golf designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., and his son, Reese Jones. The restaurant on-site also provides beautiful views of the course.
Dine at one of the Historic Area’s four taverns, which offer authentic historic recipes. Try Christiana Campbell’s Tavern; George Washington was once a frequent guest. See www.colonialwilliamsburg.com/visit/diningExperience.
Taste wines, cheeses and chocolates throughout the holiday season with executive chef Rhys H. Lewis and restaurant manager Stacy Keegan of the Williamsburg Lodge; $30 will get you into “Wine, Wit and Wisdom,” an interactive, educational and fun sampling experience in the Lodge’s lounge at 2 p.m. on the following dates: November 26, and December 3, 10, 17, 23, 26 and 31.
Celebrate the holidays at Colonial Williamsburg. The holiday season, which runs from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, is magical here; see http://www.colonialwilliamsburg.com/visit/holidays/index.cfm for a full listing of activities and package deals.
For more information on any of the above activities or locations, or to make reservations, call 1-800-HISTORY, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Can’t make it to Colonial Williamsburg now? Check out the book 1776: A New Look at Revolutionary Williamsburg. Or prepare one of these recipes from Colonial Williamsburg’s kitchens.