Step Back in Time in Williamsburg, Virginia | Things to Do, Must See Attractions

Discover why learning about history is interesting and fun with a trip to this unforgettable city.

With the celebration of our great nation’s independence upon us, the site of American flags, the patriotic works of John Philip Sousa and red, white and blue can be found just about everywhere across the country. While patriotism is strong throughout the U.S., there are some places that have played such a historically significant role in our nation’s founding that they take the celebration to the next level. Williamsburg, Virginia, and its surrounding area is precisely one of these places. Steeped in history, and founded in 1632, this community and its colonists helped to weave the fabric that makes up our nation.

Photo Credit: Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance

Williamsburg and its surrounding area is well-known for its many important historical contributions, places and events that led to the founding of a new nation. In fact, Jamestown, Virginia, was the first permanent English settlement in North America, founded in 1607. Today, visitors to the Jamestown Settlement can walk in the footsteps of Pocahontas and John Smith during their visit. In addition, Williamsburg was where George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Mason and other historic figures first practiced the ideals that led to the founding of our nation. In fact, one of the first challenges to the British monarchy was issued in the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg when Patrick Henry called for the passage of a series of resolutions, called the Virginia Resolves. This was in response to and rallied against the principles of Stamp Act of 1765, which was a direct tax on the colonists and taxed most printed materials, including newspapers, customs documents, licenses, college diplomas and most legal documents.

Another town in the Williamsburg area that played a crucial role in the fight for our nation’s independence is Yorktown, Virginia, the site of the final major battle of the American Revolution and the surrender of the British Army under British Lieutenant-General Charles Cornwallis in 1781 (Though Cornwallis, claiming to be ill that day, did not turn over his sword himself. Instead, he sent Brigadier General Charles O’Hara in his place to formally do so.). Visitors today can check out Yorktown and partake in a guided walking tour and a stop at the Visitor Center, which features an orientation film and museum exhibits, including the field tents used by General Washington during the battle. 

Photo Credit: Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance

No visit to this part of Virginia would be complete without a stop in Colonial Williamsburg. A trip here is one of the best ways for visitors to learn about our nation’s origins. Colonial Williamsburg, the world’s largest living history museum (encompassing 300 acres) features nearly 600 buildings, including 88 restored original 18th-century structures. With more than 20 guided and self-guided tours offered daily, guests can engage with the community and get a firsthand look at the life of residents in the 18th century. From art museums and shops to Colonial-inspired meals in a historic tavern, visitors will feel like they traveled back in time.

This Fourth of July, Colonial Williamsburg is the place to be to celebrate the birth of our great nation. Happenings include a traditional Chesapeake Bay breakfast buffet with Thomas and Martha Jefferson; readings of the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry; the Williamsburg Lodge Family Fourth of July Celebration; a special music and fireworks presentation; and much more. Yorktown is also celebrating this important day with an Independence Day 8K run and 5K walk, a parade, activities and food for the entire family, a patriotic concert and fireworks.

Photo Credit: Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance

While Fourth of July is obviously a perfect time to visit this wonderful city, there are many reasons to visit Colonial Williamsburg throughout the summer and all year long. Busch Gardens Williamsburg is a beautiful European-themed family-friendly theme park that celebrates different cultures and heritages while providing visitors with roller coasters and fun rides, games, world-class dining and more. Other fun ways to enjoy the city include a trip to Freedom Park, which features the Go Ape Treetop Adventure course. Here, visitors can race down zip lines and rope swings, and mountain bike through 20 miles of trails through historical sites and forests. Freedom Park is also home to the Williamsburg Botanical Garden. The Colonial Parkway is a 23-mile scenic roadway that connects the York River at Yorktown to the James River at Jamestown. The Parkway, completed by the National Park Service in 1957, connects Virginia's historic triangle: Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown, and it’s a great way to experience and enjoy the natural and cultural beauty of Virginia, or enjoy a panoramic view of the James River and archaeological excavation sites while riding on the Historic Jamestowne Bike Trail

Photo Credit: Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance

For the art lovers, there is no shortage of museums and places to visit to satisfy their creative appetites. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is dedicated to the collection, exhibition and preservation of American folk art; the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum in Colonial Williamsburg features the world's largest collection of southern furniture and one of the largest collections of British ceramics outside of England; and the Muscarelle Museum of Art at The College of William & Mary, located on the 1,200-acre picturesque campus of the second-oldest institute of higher education in the U.S. The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is another must-see attraction. Young visitors can experience a hands-on history lesson in its “A Children’s Kaleidoscope” discovery room. The museum, which also features a recreation of a 1780s farm, provides a look at how many Americans lived back then, and allows visitors to try on 18th-century-style clothing, join a military drill and help water a vegetable and herb garden.

Whether you travel to Williamsburg, Virginia for the Fourth of July holiday or another time of the year, it is sure to be a trip back to our nation’s past that will be cherished for many years ahead.

If you want to further immerse yourself in history, we'll tell you the best things to do in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania!