From the fascinating beginnings of our nation’s history to thrills at Busch Gardens and chills on a twilight ghost tour, Williamsburg, VA, has a lot to offer visitors. The only challenge? Figuring out which things to do, where to eat, and the best activities for a first-time trip. Here are the top 10 “must-sees” to get started.


1. Live in Colonial Times

Eighteenth-century Colonial Williamsburg isn’t the place you visited in fourth grade. The world’s largest living history museum brings the past to life with costumed re-enactors weaving tales (and fabric), whittling, woodworking, and engaging with visitors all along Duke of Gloucester Street. Against the clop of horse-drawn carriages and the cheer of fife and drums, discover what life was like for the average colonist in the 18th century before touring the opulent Governor’s Palace and nearby art museums. Discover the two-century-old Bray School that is no longer hidden in plain sight on the William & Mary campus. One of the earliest institutions dedicated to Black education in North America is undergoing restoration that complements ongoing excavation at First Baptist Church. There, visitors can discover one of the country’s earliest African American congregations, which was founded both by enslaved and free Black worshipers.

Colonial Williamsburg Carriage Ride Vertical

2. Amuse Yourself

For the nation’s forefathers, horseback was the fastest form of transportation – so it’s unlikely they’d believe their eyes at Busch Gardens, where rides including Apollo’s Chariot hypercoaster reach speeds of 73 miles per hour and drops from up to 210 feet. The amusement park is also home to the new DarKoaster™, North America's first all-indoor straddle coaster, whose twists and turns take the bravest riders on snowmobiles through mysterious weather patterns toward the cursed castle grounds of King Ludwig.

At  Water Country USA, chill with some wet thrills. The Cutback Water Coaster is the only RocketBlast coaster on the East Coast and Virginia’s first hybrid water coaster, combining a water jet propulsion system, tunnels, and open-air saucers at a speed of 35 feet per second over 850 feet. Caught your breath yet? Exactly.

Busch Gardens

3. Quench your thirst

There’s plenty of fun brewing in the Williamsburg area, especially for craft spirit lovers. Both Virginia Beer Co. and Billsburg Brewery offer rotating live music and food trucks, while Precarious Beer Project invites friends new and old to grab a burger or a bite from their pop-up restaurant and settle in for trivia nights at long communal tables – or try their hand (or pointer fingers) at pinball. Besides these award-winning brews, there are opportunities to tour one of the nation’s few distilleries with a working malting floor at Copper Fox Distillery, where warmer days beckon visitors from the Speakeasy tasting room to a sprawling patio. At Silver Hand Meadery, raise a glass to history by learning about how the world’s most ancient spirit is made from honey while sampling Virginia varietals.

Billsburg Brewery exterior at sunset

4. Experience the Revolution in a Revolutionary Way

At the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, children of all ages will identify with the stories of ordinary people in an extraordinary time, a period when subjects of a king become citizens of a nation. Nearly every attraction is interactive both inside and outside, with options to rill in an Army encampment, help fire artillery, and tend the crops at a colonial-era farm.

American Revolution Museum Cannon

5. Time Travel Four Centuries in a Day

Head back in time to the beginnings of the colonies at Historic Jamestowne, and connect with archaeologists who share stories about their excavations at the exact site of the first permanent colony in America. Visitors can experience the first democratic assembly and discover the Archaearium, a museum that houses many of the two million artifacts uncovered since the Jamestown Rediscovery Project began in 1994.

Can’t get enough? Supplement your learnings at the living history museum at Jamestown Settlement when you climb aboard replicas of the ships that made the historic voyage from England in 1607. Other explorations include re-creations of a Powhatan village and the original fort, both of which are staffed by historical interpreters.

Jamestown Settlement Ships

6. Find Your Outlet

You can't return home without picking up a souvenir (or a few!). There’s ample opportunity at the 135 stores at Williamsburg Premium Outlets. Take advantage of Virginia’s low state tax sales rate to scoop up deals at fashionista faves Michael Kors, Kate Spade New York, Banana Republic, and Coach. For the athletes, check out North Face, New Balance, and Adidas. And for all? Top it all off with a scoop at Ben & Jerry’s.


7. Take a magical or mysterious tour

No matter if you’re traveling solo, with family, friends, or with a large group, there’s no better way to get the most out of your time in the Williamsburg area than a guided tour that takes the onus of self-planning and puts the focus on fun. A Segway tour explores both historical highlights and the waterfront, while Yorktown Sailing Charters eschew solid ground for picturesque sunset cruises past Yorktown’s historic battlefields and welcome the kiddos aboard for daytime pirate adventures. Junket tours uncover largely untold stories of colonial Williamsburg, while others dig deep into the region’s Black history. If haunted houses are your thing, then a Colonial Ghost Tour offers up serious food for thought. And for the foodies? Mac and cheese, fudge, peanuts, tapas — and more — beckon on a culinary tour with nibbles and sips at up to 10 restaurants with Taste of Williamsburg.

Bike Tour with Patriot Tours Provisions

8. A flavor for every taste

A sample here and a bite there not quite enough? There’s no shortage of flavors for epicureans to discover thanks to locally owned favorites like the Fat Canary in the heart of colonial Merchants Square, and brasserie-style Blue Talon Bistro (each offers seasonal outdoor dining, too). When the weather’s nice, the team at Casa Pearl rolls up the floor-to-ceiling windows in its former Texaco station so diners can enjoy cross breezes in modern digs with seafood sourced from the Chesapeake Bay. The oyster and taco bar also serves up some of the area’s most creative cocktails, like the tomatini, a twist on a traditional Bloody Mary, with tomatillo syrup and herbaceous ancho chile liqueur.

Merchant's Square Influencer

9. Discover the Great Outdoors

Want to learn how to stand-up paddleboard? Zipline through the treetops or work on your paddling bragging rights, canoeing or kayaking? Or simply into leisurely hikes trying to spot birds and butterflies at lakeside Waller Mill Park or Williamsburg Botanical Garden? There are outdoor explorations for everyone and all ability levels in Williamsburg – even scenic driving trails for popping in and out of the car along waterways like Island Loop Drive on Jamestown Island and the Colonial Parkway, which connects Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown.

Go Ape zipline

10. Festivals, events, and frivolity

From spring through winter, there’s something special to experience at Williamsburg’s seasonal events. Check out the region’s freshest produce and baked goodies while enjoying live music and art at Riverfront Yorktown Market Days most Saturdays throughout the year (several also feature special themes like classic cars and pirates). Mid-week is lively in both Williamsburg and Yorktown, where the Thursday Summer Breeze and Wednesday Sounds of Summer concert series (respectively) bring jazz, country, R&B, cover bands, and more complementary fun for those who want to pull up a chair or bring a picnic and blanket. The rest of the year is rounded out by festivals with song, dance, and tasty treats at can’t-miss spots like Busch Gardens,  Colonial Williamsburg, and Jamestown Settlement.


Want to see the latest and greatest arranged by when you’re visiting? Click here for events and festivals in chronological order.