Spend the Fourth of July in Williamsburg

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

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
Fireworks in Yorktwon
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 American Cook-In at 4-6 p.m., featuring an all-American buffet, music, and games and crafts for the kids.

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 8 a.m. Reservations are required. 

A special dinner (6:00-8:30 p.m.) at the King’s Arms Tavern features a four-course meal of some of Thomas Jefferson’s favorite dishes — each paired with his favorite wines and beverages from around the world. After dinner, Young Tom will invite guests to a VIP viewing at the Palace Green where he will read the Declaration of Independence from the balcony of the Governor’s Palace, kicking off a patriotic procession and 4th of July fireworks display. Reservations are required.

A VIP celebration takes place at Chowning’s Tavern at 6-9 p.m. featuring an all-you-can-eat reception, great beverages, fun games and live music before the fireworks. Reservations are required.

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. 

For the artist in you, celebrate Independence Day at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. At “Create! For Independence Day” at 10:15 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., you can create a patriotic work of art to take home. See the U. S. Air Force Heritage of America Band perform on the lawn of the museums at 4-6 p.m., followed by a performance by Brasswind at 7-9 p.m. The event is free.

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 Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums.

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 19-minute score features the original anthem “The Lights of Freedom,” recorded by The Gentlemen of the College, and “Shine,” a new song performed by Colonial Williamsburg tavern troupe, The Watermans.

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 242nd 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.

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 join an “Effigy Tax Protest” against the British Stamp Tax.

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.), patriotic 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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