Williamsburg Holiday Itinerary
The itinerary below is only a suggestion. For a more customized tour to match your wants and needs, please contact one of our local tour services – no one knows the ins and outs of the Historic Triangle better than they do!
Day One: Colonial Williamsburg & Busch Gardens
Start today at Colonial Williamsburg, where you can participate in the dynamic discussions and events that led to our nation’s independence. Make sure you stop by Colonial Williamsburg’s newest exhibition building, R. Charlton's Coffeehouse, and learn about the coffee house’s role as a gathering place for the politically connected as well as socially ambitious. Conclude the experience with a tasting of period beverages – coffee, tea or hot chocolate.
The Christmas Decorations Walking Tour is a great way to enjoy the Historic Area all decked out in holiday finery. Boughs, wreaths and other decorations are creatively made from all-natural materials. At the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, 18th- and 19th-century holiday traditions are the subject of special focus tours. Art programs allow you to explore the exhibitions and make a toy, ornament or decoration to take home. Or you can make an ornament for the growing collection of homemade decorations adorning the 16-foot Abby Aldrich Folk Art Tree.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg, the world’s “Most Beautiful Theme Park,” opens for the holidays with Christmas Town: A Busch Gardens Celebration. Stroll under a canopy of more than 5 million twinkling lights while the aroma of hearty soups, smoked meats, fresh-baked holiday cookies and peppermint hot chocolate waft through the air. On every street corner you’ll hear the sounds of the season. From traditional Christmas favorites in Banbury Cross (England) to country-style classics in New Frank and Celtic sounds in the streets of Killarney (Ireland), this is the music you love. And be sure to see the latest addition to Christmas Town with the expansion into Italy Village and the addition of the new Miracles show!
Make sure to visit Santa’s workshop at the North Pole to meet St. Nick himself before heading to Oktoberfest to view Virginia’s tallest Christmas tree. This 45-foot LED tree stands taller than Das Festhaus and features computerized lights that dance and change color during special evening light shows sure to fill you with Christmas cheer. Surrounding the tree is a traditional Christmas Market Place, where artists and artisans, among a bevy of vendors, demonstrate their work and offer unique gift ideas. And did we mention you can also enjoy the exhilaration of some of your favorite rides?
Day Two: The Christmas Experience at James River Plantations & Jamestown
Begin your tour of historic holiday traditions west of Williamsburg at Shirley Plantation, Virginia’s first plantation (1613). Through 11 generations, one family has continued to own, operate and work this grand working plantation. Enjoy a guided tour of the Great House with its original furnishings, highlighted by family Christmas stories dating back to the early 1800s. Enter the Colonial Kitchen, and you will feel as if you just interrupted the cook preparing a Christmas feast. Exhibits, displays and a timeline will satisfy your curiosity about the past, while the gift shop will satisfy your desire for that one-of-a-kind gift for everyone on your list, including extensive Shirley Christmas ornaments and 1882 reproduction Christmas cards.
Continue on Scenic Route 5 to visit the site of America’s first Thanksgiving in 1619 – Berkeley Plantation. Enjoy the crisp morning air, breathtaking views of the James River and the beautiful grounds of Virginia’s most historic plantation. Tour the elegant 1726 mansion, furnished with a magnificent collection of 18th-century antiques and beautifully decorated with fresh greenery from the gardens. Costumed guides will add a special touch to your holiday season with stories of Christmas at Berkeley through the four centuries of history. The birthplace of Benjamin Harrison V, signer of the Declaration of Independence, the estate is also the birthplace of Benjamin Henry Harrison, ninth president of the United States, and the ancestral home of his grandson, Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president. The ever-poignant “Taps” was composed here when General George McClellan headquartered 140,000 Union troops here in 1862.
A 30-minute drive brings you to Jamestown Settlement, where the story of 17th-century Virginia and culture comes to life year-round through multimedia presentations and gallery exhibits, historical interpretation and hands-on activities in outdoor re-created settings – a Powhatan Indian village, three 1607 ships and a colonial fort.
Special holiday programs give a glimpse into how our nation’s first permanent English settlers weathered the cold holiday seasons of the 1600s, and how the cultures of Virginia Indians and Africans contributed to build a new society and traditions on our shores. The living history museum’s “A Colonial Christmas” program, running through the end of December, includes a special holiday film and guided tours to compare and contrast English customs of the 1600s with how the season may have been observed in the difficult early years of America’s first permanent English colony. Learn about the colonists’ first Christmas at sea in December 1606, and the Powhatan Indian hospitality shown to Captain John Smith’s trading party in 1608 during a winter storm. In the re-created colonial fort, encounter the English tradition of the Lord of Misrule, “grand captain of all mischief,” who with his followers progressed through town during the Christmas holiday!
Next to Jamestown Settlement, you’ll find Historic Jamestowne, the site of the original landing at Jamestown. Explore the National Park Service and Preservation Virginia site to see where archaeologists continue to explore the original fort site. Save time for a visit the the Archearium to see the discoveries already made.
Day Three: Yorktown & Shopping
A morning drive on the scenic Colonial Parkway takes you from the James River to the shores of the York River and Yorktown Battlefield, where the decisive victory of the American Revolution was on.
Take a stroll through Historic Yorktown Village and along Riverwalk Landing to look for holiday gifts and antiques. Make sure you take part in the Christmas Market on Main the first weekend in December as a guaranteed way to get into the holiday spirit! Next, head over to the Yorktown Victory Center. At the Continental Army Encampment, learn about winter camp life and hear accounts of Christmas during the war, as well as assist the quartermaster in preparing military supplies. At the 1780s farm, historical interpreters demonstrate a variety of holiday activities, including setting a farmhouse table for a holiday feast, decorating with greenery and demonstrating fancy cooking in the farm kitchen.
Enjoy the beautiful drive back to Williamsburg and enjoy an afternoon of retail therapy with some great shopping, taking advantage of the spectacular savings at Williamsburg Premium Outlets. Ranked among the top 10 outlets in the country, the 135 designer and brand-name outlets can take care of your gift list in no time.
And it’s Christmas every day of the year inside Yankee Candle Williamsburg. You can stroll through the Holiday Park and enjoy the daily snow showers, admiring the Christmas trees decorated with ornaments inspired by traditions around the world, as well as American favorites. At the special Wax Works area, you can create your own special jar candle, choosing colors and scents for a special gift, or dip your hands into a wax bath to make an impression of your hand and take home as a keepsake.
Next, head over to the Williamsburg Pottery in the Lightfoot area of Williamsburg. Founded in 1938, the Pottery is home to all of your holiday and shopping needs.
Top off your afternoon and evening with additional shopping at many of our local art galleries, as well as local favorites where you can enjoy shopping and dinner or even a movie at both New Town Williamsburg and High Street — or Merchants Square in the heart of the historic area. Be sure to check each of these centers’ websites, as they offer many holiday events at this time of year.