Colonial Williamsburg – Williamsburg, Virginia, U.S.A.
A Re-created Day in the Life of a Royal Capital
Meticulously re-creating the crucial period of 1750-1775 – the end of the colonial era – this amazingly detailed open-air living history museum is peopled by blacksmiths, carpenters, saddle makers, wig makers, apothecaries, “slaves” (who made up more than half the town’s population in the 18th century), freemen, gentry, and merchants, all dressed in period garb and ready to engage visitors in impromptu conversation.
Named after William III, Williamsburg served as Virginia’s capital from 1699 to 1780. In 1926, John D. Rockefeller Jr. initiated and financed (to the tune of $68 million) a top-to-bottom restoration so scrupulous and historically accurate that today it’s impossible to tell which of the 500 buildings were restored and which were totally reconstructed. Standouts are the Georgian-style Governor’s Palace, with extensive topiary gardens and holly maze; the Capitol; the Courthouse, fronted by pillories and stocks; and the George Wythe House, once the home of Thomas Jefferson.
Educational programs and engaging lectures take place around town, and Colonial Williamsburg’s Fife and Drums parades really get the patriotic juices flowing. You might come face to face with Thomas Jefferson, Martha Washington, or the rabble-rousing Patrick Henry, plus a wide cast of townspeople going about their daily lives and completely immersed in their characters.
Four historic dining taverns in town promise period atmosphere and menus that include regional favorites – just don’t expect haute gourmet. Josiah Chowning’s is probably the most authentic of the bunch, while Christiana Campbell’s once served a hungry George Washington – the real one.
The elegant 1937 Williamsburg Inn is the showpiece of the nonprofit Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s lodging choices. For less extravagant but more authentic accommodations, the inn also manages twenty- eight restored Colonial Houses scattered about the cobbled streets of the Historic Area.