Celebrate July Fourth in Williamsburg

Fireworks? Picnics? Patriotic re-enactments of historical events? Greater Williamsburg has it all! Discover star-spangled family fun for Independence Day.

Fireworks over the Governor's Palace at Colonial Williamsburg
Fireworks over the Governor's Palace at Colonial Williamsburg
Riverwalk Landing at night
Riverwalk Landing at night
Yorktown Virginia fireworks
Fireworks in Yorktwon
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Fireworks
4th of July Fireworks display at Busch Gardens
4th of July Parade in Yorktown

You're certain to get red, white and blue goosebumps celebrating Independence Day in Greater Williamsburg. Sure, the fireworks are stunning, but in the cradle of democracy the thrills run much deeper to the very roots of our country.

Dining and Picnicking

First, plan your meals. The revolution won’t happen on an empty stomach.

Planning to picnic on the grounds of Colonial Williamsburg? Great idea. Order ahead from The Cheese Shop on Duke of Gloucester Street and avoid the long lines. Or slip down to Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Que for some pulled pork sandwiches or the picnic special. What could be more American than barbeque?

Among the patriotic dinner options, the Williamsburg Lodge is offering a 4th of July All-American Buffet at 4-8 p.m., featuring music and games for the kids. Also in the lodge, the Sweet Tea & Barley patio will be serving a special menu from 4:00 to 9:00 p.m., along with special cocktails, such as Mulberry Sparkling Punch and Blueberry Whiskey Sour.

In the Historic Area, several of the period taverns will be serving special meals on July 4.

Before the reading of the Declaration of Independence, you can have a casual breakfast with Thomas Jefferson in the beautiful Pavilion Area of the Shields Tavern at 7:45-9:00 a.m. At 9 a.m. Mr. Jefferson will invite everyone to walk over to the Capitol and watch as he reads the Declaration of Independence. Reservations are required. 

A VIP celebration takes place at Chowning’s Tavern at 4-8 p.m. featuring an all-you-can-eat reception, great beverages, fun games, and live music before the fireworks. Reservations are required.

Celebrate the Fourth on the Social Terrace, a new patio extension to the Williamsburg Inn’s main lobby. It will be open from 3-9 p.m. serving their regular menu along with 4th of July specials. Enjoy live performances by 504 Supreme at 4:00-5:30 p.m. and 504 Supreme and the Truetone Honeys at 7:00-8:30 p.m.

Patriotic Fun

With your meals planned, it’s time to take in the July Fourth events that are so special here.

In Colonial Williamsburg, the activities stretch from morning to after sundown. Start this patriotic day with a public reading of the Declaration of Independence by a young Thomas Jefferson at the Capitol West Balcony at 9:30 a.m. Hear the stirring sounds of the Revolutionary War field music with Colonial Williamsburg’s award-winning Fifes and Drums. At 10 a.m., attend the Salute to the States, a special muster in commemoration of the anniversary of the birth of our nation and the original 13 states. The Fifes and Drums play, flags of each state are displayed, and muskets and cannon celebrate the significance of this historic day. 

Come see the theatrical antics of the Chowning family as they perform one of their original published plays on the Play House Stage, where the first theater in British North America was built in 1716. Though the building is no longer there, its spirit still lives on. Performances are at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

In case you didn’t make it to the early reading, be sure to catch the noon reading of the Declaration of Independence by several members of the 18th-century community at the colonial Courthouse steps in the center of Duke of Gloucester Street. Afterwards, listen to the talented Fifes and Drums.

Engage with a “Nation Builder” at 1:30 p.m. on the open-air Charlton Stage as you step into the past to learn about their contribution to the founding of our nation. At 3:30 p.m. take in a performance of “Created Equal.” When the Declaration of Independence was written, more than 52 percent of Williamsburg’s population was enslaved. This show explores African American perspectives on the Declaration, the revolutions it inspired, and the ongoing struggle for equality and freedom in America.

Colonial Williamsburg’s 4th of July is capped off with dazzling fireworks at 9:20 p.m. launched from behind the Governor’s Palace. Be sure to arrive in time to find a seat in the Palace Green for prime bombs-bursting real estate. The program starts at 9 p.m. and includes Thomas Jefferson’s reading of the Declaration of Independence, a torch-lit procession of the Fifes and Drums, patriotic sing-along and, of course, the thrilling fireworks display above the Governor’s Palace set to colonial and patriotic Americana music.

There is free parking at the Colonial Williamsburg Regional Visitor Center, where you can purchase admission tickets and use the shuttle bus.

Over in Yorktown, there is also a full slate of events for the Declaration's 243rd anniversary.

The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown offers a Liberty Celebration on July 4 to mark the patriotic occasion. From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., visitors can enjoy interpretive programs, military drills and artillery demonstrations, and learn about the challenges that faced our nation’s founders, including those who signed the Declaration of Independence. You can even see a rare July 1776 broadside of the Declaration of Independence, which was duplicated in mass to spread the word of liberty from town to town.

At the re-created Continental Army encampment’s artillery amphitheater, you can join an 18th-century artillery crew, followed by historical interpreters firing a salute to our nation’s founders. Throughout the day, you can enlist in the Continental Army, take part in a wooden-musket drill, and train as a member of the Virginia militia. At the Revolution-era farm, you can learn how farmers during the American Revolution became more self-sufficient by growing and processing flax, cotton, and wool for homespun cloth in “From Field to Fabric,” a program from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Downtown in Yorktown, start at 8 a.m. with a Yorktown Independence Day 8K run and 5K walk at York High School followed by a patriotic parade at 9 a.m. along Water and Main Streets, featuring the U.S. Coast Guard Band. Evening activities include a bell-ringing ceremony on the Riverwalk Landing Stage (7 p.m.), Super Jazz Band concert (8 p.m.), and an amazing fireworks display over the York River (9:15 p.m.). For a unique view of the fireworks, reserve a spot on the Alliance, a tall ship cruising the river. 

Theme Park Thrills

At Busch Gardens, the thrills are in the sky as well as on the rides. Fireworks light up the night on July 3, 4, and 5 at 9:30 p.m.

Check out 7 patriotic reasons to thank Williamsburg this Fourth of July and 12 things to do for family fun, then plan your visit today


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