A guide to historic Williamsburg, VA – birthplace of America

View of the Governor's Palace at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, from the air

Virginia was the location of the first-ever English settlement in North America.

Guest post by Zubin Panday, travel blogger and Virginia native

Williamsburg – an introduction

Williamsburg, Virginia might seem relatively unknown – a place of little importance. But this small town’s history links it directly to the birthplace of America. Much of this heritage is preserved in nearby Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America, which was founded along the James River in 1607.

Williamsburg is around three hours from Washington DC and one hour from Virginia Beach. The town makes for a perfect day trip from the United States’ capital city. There’s so much to see and explore, so let’s jump right in.

Capitol Building at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
Capitol building at Colonial Williamsburg

Historical Sites and Significance

When I refer to Williamsburg, I also refer to Jamestown and Yorktown. Together, these three landmarks form what is known as the ‘historic triangle’.

Williamsburg itself was founded in 1632 and was named the capital city of the English colony of Virginia – named after Queen Elizabeth I – in 1699. You can learn all about this in the world’s largest U.S. living history museum, Colonial Williamsburg, where much of the town’s heritage has been preserved. The museum is located at the heart of the historic triangle.

Just west of Colonial Williamsburg is the College of William and Mary, the second oldest college in the United States and an icon in the town. The college is one of the most prestigious in the country and still houses almost 10,000 students to this date. 

Yorktown

Let’s shift a bit east to Yorktown, a small town on the York River holding big significance. The battle of Yorktown was the final battle in the Revolutionary War and is what won the United States its independence. This battle was held in 1781 followed by the Treaty of Paris in 1783 where Britain officially recognized the United States as its own separate country. You can visit this same battlefield and explore the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, both interesting and exciting places. 

Old colonial English style houses in Jamestown, Virginia, USA
English homes in Jamestown settlement. Photo by Bill Barber on Flickr, CC Licence 2.0

The final place that I’ll mention is Jamestown, the birthplace of America. Just 15 minutes’ drive southeast of Williamsburg will get you here, an icon worth checking out. You can check out the original Jamestown settlement, and get a sense of how these original settlers lived. From wood and clay homes to farming to basic living needs, you can learn all about that here in Jamestown. Check out the Jamestown Historic Ship Museum to see recreations of the original ships used to sail across the Atlantic and so much more.

More things to do in Williamsburg

I’ve already covered Jamestown, Yorktown, and much of Williamsburg. What I haven’t covered is Busch Gardens and Water Country. Two fantastic amusement parks just east of Williamsburg. Busch Gardens offers rides such as the Griffin, Pantheon, and Alpengeist, all closing in on 200 feet. These rides are the most thrilling and offer the most thrilling experience. There is much more to this park though, including cool architecture, a gondola, and many arcade attractions. 

Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, Virginia

Nearby to Busch Gardens is Water Country, voted one of the best waterparks in the United States multiple times in a row. Enjoy some of the park’s best rides, including Vanish Point, and the brand-new Riptide Race. Water Country is a perfect activity in summer and a great way to take a break from history.

Best Time to Visit

As a Virginia native myself, I’m pretty familiar with the weather around here. The temperature, rain, wind, and all other weather factors are pretty similar to Washington DC. The temperature is rather hot in the summer, around the low 30s°C but nothing too absurd. Winters see temperatures around 5°C, again nothing too absurd as long as you pack warmer clothes.

Although rain is consistent throughout the year, spring tends to see the most rainy days. Overall, there’s no real wrong time of year to visit, it all depends on when you’re free and want to make the trip to Williamsburg.

The Governor's Palace, Williamsburg, Virginia
The Governor’s Palace

Where to Stay

Naturally, with so much colonial architecture, the hotels ought to match that style. There are several hotels to choose from, whatever your needs. Please note, the following links are sponsored – refer to our disclosure page for more information about advertising on this site.

Marriott and Hilton have several hotels here, making it almost impossible to choose where to stay. My two favorites among these are Homewood Suites by Hilton Williamsburg and Residence Inn by Marriott Williamsburg. These are both in great locations near shops and restaurants and offer spacious, affordable rooms.

If you want to spend a bit more, Williamsburg Lodge by Autograph Collection and Williamsburg Inn would be my two choices as they are both near Colonial Williamsburg and offer fantastic amenities and a luxurious stay. 

Photo of Homewood Suites hotel, Williamsburg Virginia USA

homewood suites by hilton williamsburg

Great location close to attractions and good for families, with its indoor pool and video arcade. Guest comments praise the friendly staff and tasty breakfasts.

Photo of Residence Inn by Marriott, Williamsburg, Virginia

Residence Inn by Marriott williamsburg

Guests love the pet-friendliness of this modern, all-suites hotel, and the free snacks in the lobby. Minutes away from the College of William & Mary.

Photo of Williamsburg Lodge hotel

wILLIAMSBURG lODGE by autograph collection

18th century style with modern comforts and amenities. Convenient for Colonial Williamsburg and the College of William & Mary.

Photo of the Williamsburg Inn at dusk, with lighting reflected on the pond in front of the entrance.

WILLIAMSBURG INN

5-star luxury, rated no. 1 in Williamsburg by TripAdvisor guest reviewers! Lovely Regency style building with golf course views.

Summary

Overall, Williamsburg is a must-see destination due to all the things that you can do. This place deserves more than just a day trip but rather a couple of days so that you can explore all that the history town has to offer. I hope you found this guide helpful and consider planning a trip to Williamsburg, Virginia. Take my word, you won’t regret it.

Zubin Panday is a travel blogger and a Virginia native who has travelled to many places within his own home region and around the world. Check out his excellent blog Going Locations for more great posts and travel recommendations!

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