A Perfect One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary

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Greetings Internet Stranger! I realize that this blog has quite a few international readers, so some of you out there might be reading this and thinking, “What is a Colonial Williamsburg? Why would I want to have a One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary? What can I do with Colonial Williamsburg tickets?”

The short answer is that Colonial Williamsburg is a recreation of an 18th century American town. It is located in Williamsburg, Virginia partially because this was the capital of Virginia before Richmond got the job.

A One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary is ideal if you like American history, people in funny costumes, nerd humor, marching bands, and fish cakes. If any of those things sound appealing, come with me! Your One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary will be some of the best hours of your life. (If it doesn’t sound appealing, take a good hard look at your life, Internet Stranger. I’m not judging, just trying to help.)

24 hour tip

I’m a non-driver, so I decided to walk to the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center, which was a horrible decision. The streets of Williamsburg were not made for walking. If you haven’t brought or rented your own wheels, just take a rideshare.

From the train station it was but a short trip to my hotel in Williamsburg. And if you want to explore almost 100 great deals on hotels in Williamsburg, click here.

One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary

What to Pack?

You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.

Virginia is hot in the summer, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.

Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. And you won’t want a big purse because they didn’t have those in Colonial times! Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!

One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary

One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary

Morning: Colonial Williamsburg Museums

Those of us who are happy to be art lovers AND history nerds will be thrilled to know that Colonial Williamsburg has not one, but two art/history museums. Not only that, but they are connected to each other through a mysterious underground tunnel. (OK, it’s not really mysterious. I just said that for effect.)

The first museum in our One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary is the Dewitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. The second is the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. What both have in common is that they are dedicated to cool, Colonial objects that don’t necessarily fall under the category of fine arts.

There’s so much to see in these museums we could spend all day here. So why not get started with…

Approximately top 5: colonial williamsburg museums

24 hours in colonial williamsburg
1) Porcelain Ben Franklin

The Dewitt Wallace Museum has a notably impressive collection of porcelain. Apparently porcelain was a status symbol in the young United States. In the early days, the porcelain would be imported from England. But once the US set out on its own, we wanted to make our own. I guess this explains porcelain Ben Franklin here. It’s hard to imagine the British wanting old Porcelain Franklin. I admire the patriotic spirit that created him! But I have two questions. Where is his friend the mouse? Also, why he is wearing so much rouge? I can’t think that’s historically accurate.

24 hours in colonial williamsburg
2) Colonial Cabinets

I didn’t know there was so much history in a cabinet until I visited the Dewitt Museum. But in fact, there was a lot of regional variety amongst cabinets just in the South. The Richie Riches in the Chesapeake area liked to import their snooty cabinets directly from England. Yet, when you went further South, the hillbillies preferred to make the cabinets themselves. In fact, they used local walnut wood instead of that “European” mahogany. That’s what I call a proper ‘Murican! USA, USA, USA!

24 hours in colonial williamsburg
3) Abby Rockefeller Folk Art

Now we move on to the Abby Rockefeller Museum of Folk Art. As you can see from her name, Mrs. Rockefeller was a wealthy lady. She was married to John D. Rockefeller Jr., the son of the founder of Standard Oil. But Mrs. Rockefeller wasn’t just content to sit on her moneybags. She had a mind of her own and a passion for folk art that led her all around the country collecting. One of the docents explained that folk art just means any art from an artist without formal training.

As an example of folk art, check out this wooden doll above. It might belong to the genre of child portraits. Sometimes folk artists would give their portrait services to families in exchange for room and board. Even medical services might be exchanged for art. If a family was quite well-to-do, they could even commission a portrait for their child. I think we should bring back this tradition! I’d definitely be up for feeding an artist if it meant having a portrait, would you?

24 hours in colonial williamsburg
4) Olde Tyme Signs

I’m a big fan of The Great Gatsby, so I was stoked to see this sign during my 24 hours in Colonial Williamsburg. It looks just like the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg from that novel that stare upon the grim, soulless landscape of America in the 1920s. However, since these glasses were on display as part of an exhibit on Cool Shop Signs, I assume they are just meant to advertise a bifocals business. But it’s more fun to imagine that it’s advertising a Great Gatsby fan club.

24 hours in colonial williamsburg
5) Thunderbird Jewelry

My favorite exhibit in the museum was dedicated to Thunderbird jewelry. The Pueblo Indians made these to sell to tourists during the Great Depression. They’re beautiful, aren’t they? But there’s a catch! They’re actually plastic. Because it was the Depression, the Pueblo Indians didn’t have the same access to expensive stones. Also most tourists couldn’t afford nice jewelry. So the Pueblo melted down everything from car batteries to hair combs to plastic forks to make the necklaces, and business took off!

For years, art experts thought these necklaces were junk. Fortunately, they have become recognized as the art treasures they are. This story illustrates to me that folk art is just as significant and worthy of appreciation as fine art.

24 hours in colonial williamsburg

One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary

Afternoon: Explore Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg has so many attractions and events happening every day that it would take you more than One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary to see them all. I recommend perusing the daily schedule as soon as you arrive. You can even do it online before you arrive. This will help you prioritize. If you’re interested in what my priorities would be….

Approximately top 5: One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary

24 hours in colonial williamsburg ice cream
1) Snack at McKenzie Apothecary

I hope you had a big breakfast because we’re not having much lunch. The sit down restaurants at Colonial Williamsburg take too much time out of the day, and we’re having an early (and massive) dinner. I suggest just grabbing a quick snack at McKenzie’s Apothecary. You should probably get a more substantial snack, but all I wanted was ice cream. It was hotter than the fire from Redcoat muskets in Virginia on this August day. Plus there’s carbs from the sugar and protein from the milk, so I’m sure this is pretty healthy.

24 hours in colonial williamsburg governor's palace
2) Governor’s Palace

This delicious mansion was home to Her Majesty’s Royal Gouvernor when Virginia was still an English colony. (The first Virginia capital was Jamestown, but it got moved to Williamsburg early on. I assume it was because of plague.) The palace was also home to the first two American governors of Virginia until Thomas Jefferson had the capital moved to Richmond.

You can take a tour of the Governor’s Palace and learn all about the last colonial governor of Virginia, one Mr. John Murray, Earl of Dunmore. He was not a popular dude in these parts. When he became worried about revolution, he tried to steal all of the colonists’ gunpowder from them in the middle of the night. He pretended he was doing it because he was worried the slaves would use it in a rebellion. Eventually the situation deteriorated to the point where Dunmore had to flee and leave this beautiful palace behind. It was nice while it lasted!

24 hours in colonial williamsburg courthouse
3) Courthouse

This was my favorite part of Colonial Williamsburg. You get to reenact three real colonial trials and volunteers from the audience play the witnesses. It was Law and Order: Colonial Williamsburg. (Chung! Chung!) Sadly I was neither the police who investigate the crimes, nor the district attorney who prosecutes the offenders. I actually got to play a role as a woman bringing a charge against her naughty apprentice.

You know it wasn’t a real Law and Order episode because there was no twist ending involving me, my apprentice’s father, and Hudson University. Still, I expect the Academy to be calling with my Oscar nomination any moment. Oh wait, I’m comparing this to Law and Order, aren’t I? So really, I should get an Emmy for this performance.

24 hours in colonial williamsburg
4) foundry

Some of the most interesting docents at Colonial Williamsburg are the craftspeople. For example, the metalworker at the foundry is a professional who repairs antique metal objects. He told me that he is often commissioned to help restore museum pieces. He’s even worked for the Metropolitan Museum back in my hometown! But when he’s at Colonial Williamsburg, his job is to repair antiques around the town and perform demonstrations. It’s so cool that this ancient skill is still useful today! An iPhone can’t solve all our problems.

I listened very politely to his whole story. Then when his back was turned, I stole one of the antique silver spoons and sold it on the black market to finance the British Army. Serves him right for trusting a native New Yorker! Everyone knows we’re all Loyalists.

24 hours in colonial williamsburg
5) Coffeehouse

This is another of the best spots in Colonial Williamsburg. The coffeehouse would have been a popular place to meet and gossip and argue about the Stamp Act. You paid a penny and got a drink of your choice. If you wanted more drinks, you had to pay for them. Lucky for us, a drink was included with the tour. I selected the rich hot chocolate spiced with pepper and orange. I felt it would go nicely with that chocolate ice cream I had for lunch.

24 hours in colonial williamsburg
6) Capitol Building

If the Governor’s Palace is the headquarters of the Crown, the capitol building was the stronghold of the colonists. Legendary patriots like Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry served as representatives here. For Americans, the building is most famous as the place where Patrick Henry gave his famous, “Give me liberty or give me death!” I wouldn’t call myself especially sentimental when it comes to American history, but it still gave me a chill to walk these halls.

24 hours in colonial williamsburg
24 hour treasure

My tour through the capitol was self-guided, but the helpful docent inside was happy to explain the building and its artifacts. I was especially interested in this old map that shows that north Florida used to be part of the colony of Georgia. That explains so much!

One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary

Late Afternoon: Dinner at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern

We’re having an early dinner in our One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary because we don’t want to miss our ghost tour this evening. So I booked a 5:30 dinner reservation at Christiana Campbell’s. This was supposedly George Washington’s favorite seafood restaurant, though I’m quite confident the seafood they serve was caught more recently than the 18th century.

Christiana Campbell's

The drinks are served in period-accurate mugs. I felt like a real wench sipping on my brew!

Christiana Campbell's

I was tickled to see that Oysters Rockefeller are served as appetizers here. After all, John and Abby Rockefeller greatly helped finance Colonial Williamsburg. However, I stuck with the seafood chowder because Washington said the seafood here was the best. Who am I to argue with the father of my country? The seafood was fresh and it was topped off with sherry, and that’s really all I ask for in seafood chowder.

Christiana Campbell's
24 hour treat: crab cakes

The house specialty in the crab cakes, so I couldn’t resist them. Virginia is not as famous for crab cakes as Maryland, but it’s still in the Chesapeake region. The crab in these was extremely fresh and the recipe didn’t use too much breading. I approve! But my favorite thing was that moist spoon bread on my bread plate. This is a Native American dish that tastes more like corn pudding than bread. The corn and eggs made it so sweet, it was almost like a dessert. But my real dessert was even more exciting

Christiana Campbell's
24 hour treat: rum cream pie

How much you like this dish depends on how much you like rum. I looked up the recipe and a half a cup of rum goes into this puppy and you can taste every drop. I liked it very much, and I imagine so did every self-respecting pirate in the 13 colonies.

One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary

Evening: Official Colonial Williamsburg Ghost Tour

Some people are freaked out by ghost tours. Either they get spooked or they think it’s all horsepucky. On the other end of the spectrum, we have those who are passionate about making new ghostly friends. These fine folk might partake in paranormal hunts and measure ectoplasm.

I would say I fall somewhere in between these two. I’m open to believing ghosts are real, but I’m not interested in forcing a meeting. I consider ghost tours to be a form of street theater. Maybe you’ll meet Casper and his friends. Or maybe you’ll just get a fine entertainment and a brief history lesson! Either way it’s win-win.

I learned many spooky tales on the Williamsburg ghost tour, so I’ll limit myself to…

Three fun facts about colonial williamsburg ghosts

colonial williamsburg ghost tour
1) Doughboy…or dead boy?

Not all the ghost stories here were from Colonial times. Our guide told us that many of the ghost stories associated with Colonial Williamsburg involve the ghosts of soldiers. This makes perfect sense. But the story he told here was about the ghost of a doughboy (World War I) soldier who supposedly stands by here as if waiting for a ride and then suddenly disappears. I really have to admire that ghost’s spunk! I don’t think there were any battles fought in the US during World War I, so he must have had to cross the Atlantic Ocean to start haunting people in Williamsburg.

colonial williamsburg ghost tour
2) Can I stay in a haunted hotel?

This is a hotel right in the middle of Colonial Williamsburg, and you can really spend the night here. Unfortunately, some of the guests seem to have never bothered to check out. There are reports from guests about strange noises, smells, and people touching them during the night. Of course when they turn the lights on, there’s no one in the room. I definitely want to book a room at this hotel. I’m a solo traveler, so my journey can get a little lonely. I could use a ghostly companion every once in a while

colonial williamsburg ghost tour
3) What’s the spookiest spot in Colonial Williamsburg?

The Randolph House is sometimes called the most haunted house in America. It’s sooo haunted the house wouldn’t even let me take its picture. (That’s a street lamp in my photo above, not a ghostly apparition.) Our guide told us that they have a hard time keeping docents at the Randolph House because it’s so haunted. One time a guard was investigating mysterious noises at the house and he was trapped in the basement! Whether he got trapped by the ghost or by his own clumsiness, he refused to ever go inside the house again.

I make a lot of ghostly jokes, but maybe there’s something to all these stories. If enough people see something or feel a mysterious presence, it might be because there’s really something else.

But one thing’s for sure. It’s the people who love and care for Colonial Williamsburg who bring it back from the dead every morning for our education and amusement. Long may it continue!

One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary

What would you do on a One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Williamsburg? Have you ever put pepper in hot chocolate? And do you think a ghost could swim across the Atlantic Ocean? Please leave your thoughts below.

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have a One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary. If you have another 24 hours in Williamsburg, Virginia, add this itinerary for Busch Gardens!

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