15 Things We Learned from Visiting Colonial Williamsburg in Winter
1. Colonial Williamsburg is awesome in February. The weather can be cold and windy or mild and calm but whichever you encounter at least it is not hot and muggy!
2. No lines or wait times. Wherever we went or whichever activity we participated in we never had to stand in line or wait for the following session to start.
3. Everyone is happy to see us. From the dressed up colonial “residents” to the wait staff, everyone was happy to talk to us, answer our endless questions, make room for us behind the counter, or indulge us in even more hands-on experiences. Because, often times, we were the only ones visiting that trade or business at that moment.
4. The shuttle bus and visitor centers were both virtually empty. Again, this just meant more personalized attention and the ability to ask more questions. We never felt rushed or like we were the nth people to ask for any particular detail.
5. Buying a ticket for the following day, after 3pm, comes with the additional benefit of getting into the revolutionary city on the purchase day for free. This means an additional 1.5 hours to visit and enjoy the city, get a lay of the land, or simply visit a trade or workshop. With so much to do and see and experience you will probably need that 1.5 extra hours anyway! This is also very helpful if you do not have a lot of time or money to spend in the area.
6. Drinks (water, soda, etc) are expensive to buy inside of the Revolutionary City. And, if you visit in the winter, the water fountains do not work (at least none of the ones we tried worked). Pack a water bottle or two to bring with you because you will definitely need it (all that talking and question asking sure does dry your mouth!).
7. Weather doesn’t have to have an impact on your Colonial Williamsburg/ Revolutionary City experience. Of course there is some walking involved but take it from me (a very walking averse human being with a child that followed suit): it’s a breeze to visit the Revolutionary City. You, of course, walk from one place to another, but you do all your learning indoors. The trades, the shops, the workshops, are 95% indoors. So if it’s raining or snowing or windy it only makes a small impact. That said, spending time outdoors is also fun and full of opportunities when the weather permits (it’s just not the end of the world if you can’t). Just in case, pack the rain or snow boots.
8. The knowledgeable tradesmen, shopkeepers and Revolutionary City “residents/simulators” are present whether it’s summer or winter. Most of the people we encountered had been living in and working in Colonial Williamsburg for decades! These individuals are dedicated and thoroughly knowledgeable every day of the year! We were intrigued by what we were learning and just kept asking question after question after question and they were all patiently answered and explained.
9. No reservations required. During the winter months it seems as though reservations are more optional than at other times. Not to say that reservations are superfluous, but for this fly by the seat of our pants family, it was great to find out that we could have lunch or dinner (we did both) at one of the taverns without having had made advanced reservations. We walked in lunch at two different taverns with no problem and only had to wait 5-10 minutes to be seated for dinner.
10. Hotel prices are very reasonable and the Hampton Inn & Suites, Historic District, and the indoor pool was empty almost the whole time! For us, this meant a free full breakfast of fresh fruits, eggs, bacon, cereal, cereal, waffles, oatmeal and waffles in the morning, a clean comfortable hotel room with free wifi and business center, and an indoor pool almost always to ourselves in the evenings for under $70 (tax included).
11. The annual pass is the way to go! This is, of course, a matter of family time and preference but the single day pass would not have been enough for us. One day, even in winter with no lines or crowds, is barely an introduction to the Revolutionary City. The multi-day pass, allowing three full days plus the 1.5 hours if purchased the day before, makes for a great visit and experience at the Revolutionary City. But we did find that after those three days we wanted to visit more places and experience some of the programs that were coming up later in the week (programs change and alternate throughout the weeks) and so we ended up buying another multi-day pass. In hindsight, we should have bought the annual pass. If there is any chance that you will have the time (4+ days) to spend in the Colonial Williamsburg area you will want to try to buy an annual pass. It is totally worth it.
12. Ask the locals for food recommendations. While we had lunch at the Revolutionary City, we wanted to explore other food options in the evenings. And so we asked various tradesmen and villagers throughout the day for any recommendations. We followed their advice and had some amazing food in the process. Ask and yee shall receive.
13. The Colonial Williamsburg free app. You can easily download this on your phone and have access to program information and surrounding venues and activity options.
14. Many of the scheduled programs start as early as 9:00am. To get the most of your visit it is probably best to be AT the revolutionary city by 9. You certainly don’t have to, but I do recommend it.
15. Educational resources abound! The shops are full of reading and educational books, period toys, traditional crafts, and old style ink/pens/paper supplies. If you are a teacher (in a brick and mortar school or homeschooling your children) this is the place to come and stock up on materials to buy to prepare your future lessons on early American history or colonial times or the American Revolution.
Our biggest lesson is that you should not be afraid to visit Colonial Williamsburg in winter because it is amazing and you will learn so much you won’t even notice the fact that you happen to be bundled up.
Note: This post is the fifth of five that I am writing about our trip to Colonial Williamsburg and the Revolutionary City. If you would like to follow along for the whole adventure , please follow the links below to the other entries and enjoy.
V. 15 Things We Learned From Visiting Colonial Williamsburg in Winter