13 Things to Do in Williamsburg, Virginia

trees and old white houses

I’ll be honest, while I love history, I can’t say that the colonial-era United States is an area of particular interest for me. But with that said, I’ve been more than pleasantly surprised each time I’ve visited Williamsburg, Virginia. For me, what makes a great trip is that combination of cultural enrichment, delicious food, and a dose of nature. Even if you just have a couple days in Colonial Williamsburg, you’ll find this city is jam-packed with all of the above. And not to worry, even if you’re not a history buff, this list encompasses plenty of other options for things to do in Williamsburg — from the best restaurants, must-see tourist attractions, some nature, and even shopping. 

So if you’re looking for a small town getaway steeped in history, look no further than Williamsburg, Virginia.

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woman wearing black in front of fancy brick building
Governor’s Mansion Courtyard

Getting there

If you’re flying in, Williamsburg is about an hour away from both Norfolk and Richmond airports. For those already in the Northeast or more inclined to use public transportation, Amtrak and Greyhound buses go to Williamsburg, and will take you to just about a five-minute Uber away from the colonial area. And for the drivers, Williamsburg is on I-64 around halfway between Richmond and Norfolk. Exit 238 or Va. 143 from I-64 will take you to the historic area, just follow the signs south to Va. 132. 

What to Do in Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg building

Colonial Williamsburg

Maybe this one’s obvious, but in a post about Williamsburg, Virginia, we have to start with the Colonial Williamsburg.

A visit to Colonial WIlliamsburg will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time — from the employees dressed in 18th century clothing, to the horse-drawn carriages trotting past you on the unpaved roads, to the architecture. While you’re here, pop into a shop or two to learn a bit about a historic trade. There’s wig making, jewelry engraving, weaving, cooking …. the list goes on. A guided tour of the Governor’s Palace gives you a peek into life between colonization and the Revolutionary War and is worth a stop. You’ll also find a number of restaurants, shops, and reenactments and other entertainment depending on the season.

A woman in colonial clothing in apothecary in Colonial Williamsburg

The historic area is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A single-day ticket is $49.99 for adults or  $59.99 for three days. This includes entry to the art museums (which I’ll get to in a moment), all guided tours, entry to all the trade sites, admission to daily performances and reenactments, and free parking at the Visitors Center.

brick mansion with gate in Colonial Williamsburg

Museum of Decorative Arts and Folk Museum

Located on the Colonial Williamsburg grounds, the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Folk Museum (together known as the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg) offer a different look into the history of the United States. 

During my most recent visit, there were unique exhibits centering music in early America, work created by Black artists, and American folk pottery, but you’ll also find an extensive silver collection, furniture, ceramics, and more. I would plan to spend at least a couple hours here — there are over 70,000 antiques and works of art, 15,000 architectural artifacts, and 16 million archaeological artifacts, according to the museum website. 

Use your admission to Colonial Williamsburg to visit the two renowned on-site art museums, or buy a separate entrance fee of $14.99. 

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are located at 301 S. Nassau Street, Williamsburg, Virginia.

forest in Freedom Park

Freedom Park, Botanical Garden

If you’re looking for a quick nature escape, Freedom Park has a beautiful paved walking path that’s about 1 mile long along with a 2-mile hiking trail. Interestingly, this is also the site of one of the first Black settlements, as well as a battleground. You can also find a botanical garden here, which is definitely worth walking through if you’re visiting during the spring or summer. 

Williamsburg Winery

Believe it or not, Williamsburg is an underrated wine destination. Beyond the colonial fare is the 400-acre Williamsburg Winery. Take a tour, stop for a tasting, or explore the tavern. There’s even a European inn-style hotel onsite if you’re looking for a unique place to stay.

Indoor tastings range from $16 to $24, or book an extensive tour and reserve wine tasting for $55, which requires a reservation made at least a day in advance. 

https://williamsburgwinery.com/

5800 Wessex Hundred, Williamsburg, VA 23185

(757) 229-0999

Busch Gardens

If you’ve had enough history for one weekend, blow off some steam by visiting the nearby Busch Gardens, an amusement park with giant roller coasters, water rides, and more. 

Date-specific tickets start at $53.99, but up-to-date ticketing information can be found here.

1 Busch Gardens Blvd., Williamsburg, VA 23185

Where to Eat in Williamsburg

ravioli with red sauce from Sal's by Victor in Williamsburg, Virginia
Photo courtesy of Sal’s by Victor on Instagram

Sal’s by Victor

If you’re craving a hearty Italian meal (I almost always am), Sal’s by Victor, if I do say so myself, is a local gem. Sal’s is an old-school Italian spot — tucked away in a small shopping center, it has ambiance but is approachable and doesn’t feel stuffy. Its lunch specials in particular are reasonably priced and include a soup or salad plus a small dessert, and allow you to choose from a range of pasta, meat and seafood options. However, you can also find plenty of specialty pizzas, subs, burgers and more to choose from at this charming spot. 

Personally, I went for pasta with vodka sauce (my favorite) and salmon, and I was 100% happy with my decision. I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit of a food snob especially when it comes to Italian food, but this place hit all the marks for me. 

https://salsbyvictor.com/

1242 Richmond Road (Rt 60)Williamsburg, VA 23185

(757) 220-2641

Sal’s is open Mondays through Thursdays, and Sundays 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. 

chicken and dumplings from Old Chickahominy House in Williamsburg, Virginia
Photo courtesy of Old Chickahominy House on Instagram

Old Chickahominy House

Assuming Williamsburg’s colonial history was part of the draw for you visiting, it’s only fitting that you try an old-fashioned Southern-inspired meal at some point. The Old Chickahominy House is the place to do it.

Despite its relatively small menu, this spot is full of Southern breakfast and lunch classics like chicken and dumplings, hominy grits, and Virginia country ham. The hot biscuits, which supposedly have become somewhat of a legend in Williamsburg, are not to be missed. While I thoroughly enjoyed everything I tried, this restaurant is more about the “experience” than the food itself, so keep that in mind if you’re expecting anything fancy.

An added bonus is that this spot is also home to a decent shopping selection. I may have walked away with a couple trinket dishes from its store when I dined here. 

https://www.oldchickahominy.com/

1211 Jamestown Road, Williamsburg, VA 23185

(757) 229-4689

Open from Tuesdays through Sundays, breakfast is served from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Lunch hours are between 11:30 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. 

lobster tacos on white plate from Casa Pearl in Williamsburg, Virginia
Photo courtesy of Casa Pearl on Instagram

Casa Pearl

If you’re in the mood for seafood, Casa Pearl is the place to go. While oysters and tacos are the star of the show here, you can also find a number of mouth-watering other offerings such as clams, hush puppies, and ceviche. It also has a unique array of cocktails if you’re in the mood for a drink. I couldn’t resist the char-grilled oysters and the grilled fish taco.

https://www.eatcasapearl.com

722 Merrimac Trail

Williamsburg, VA 23185

(757) 208-0149

Casa Pearl is open from Tuesdays to Thursdays, 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Fridays from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 9 p.m. Walk-ins only.

close-up of sandwich from the Cheese Shop in Williamsburg, Virginia
Photo courtesy of The Cheese Shop on Instagram

The Cheese Shop

This spot is located in the heart of Williamsburg in Merchants Square, which is where you’ll find more modern shops and restaurants. While technically right outside of the historic section, everything is still housed in beautiful brick colonial-style architecture. This is a great spot to stop for a quick lunch — along with selling cheese, charcuterie and specialty items, there’s a delicious sandwich menu. While relatively simple (think smoked turkey and cheese or prosciutto with provolone and roasted tomatoes on focaccia) its ingredients are fresh, high-quality and so good. 

https://cheeseshopwilliamsburg.com/

410 W Duke of Gloucester St., Williamsburg, VA 23185

(757) 220-0298 

The Cheese Shop is open Tuesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sandwiches are available from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

oysters on ice with lemon from Fat Tuna Grill in Williamsburg, Virginia
Photo courtesy of Fat Tuna Grill on Instagram

Fat Tuna Grill

Another seafood spot worth visiting is Fat Tuna Grill. This restaurant has so many flavorful options, you may be like me and struggle forever to figure out what to get, before insisting on sharing multiple appetizers plus an entree so I can try as much as possible. From starters like oysters Rockfefeller and blackened tuna bites, a raw bar, and a robust list of entrees with options like Chesapeake crab cakes, parmesan crab crusted flounders, plenty of seafood pastas, plus handhelds and seafood platters, you really can’t go wrong.

https://fattunagrill.com/

1433 Richmond Road, Williamsburg, VA 23185

(757) 903-2811

Fat Tuna Grill is open Sundays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. 

Where to Shop in Williamsburg

Williamsburg Antique Mall

At this extensive antique market, you can find practically anything. From clothing, pottery, art, jewelry or decor, the Williamsburg Antique Mall has it all, whether you’re looking for a unique souvenir or a practical item.

https://antiqueswilliamsburg.com/

500 Lightfoot Road, Williamsburg, VA 23188

Open Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

The Green Cauldron

bowls of black and brown crystals from the Green Cauldron, a crystal shop

Maybe it’s just me, but I can never resist a crystal shop. However, I’m somewhat picky when it comes to where I buy my crystals. look for a warm, cozy vibe, and a unique selection of crystals and other spiritual goods that are beautifully displayed. This store met all my expectations and more, and I walked out of here with more than I’d care to admit. 

https://www.instagram.com/green_cauldron_apothecary_

7191 Richmond Rd unit-a, Williamsburg, VA 23188

The Green Cauldron opens at 10 a.m. daily, and closes at 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and Sundays, and at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Yorktown, Riverwalk Landing Market

Strolling along the York River is worth it on any day, but if you happen to have some time on a Saturday, stopping at the weekly market is worth it. Each week is themed, whether it’s going green or “pirate invasion,” (I’m curious about that one), and is filled with unique vendors selling everything from produce and fresh bread, to  handmade soaps and candies, and artwork. There are also a number of inviting restaurants to choose from that are right on the water. 

Get more information here.

bridge over water in Yorktown

If you’ve tried any of these recommendations, or if there’s anywhere I’ve missed, let me know! And if you’re heading to Williamsburg soon, have an amazing time!

– Tess

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