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1 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.)

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary

One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary

Where to Stay

Williamsburg is an extremely popular tourist attraction, so there’s no shortage of hotels at any price range. I usually go for hotels that are affordable, but not low-budget. After all, I don’t want to blow most of my budget on the hotel when I’m going to be out seeing the sights. But I still want to be comfortable.

I recommend the Hampton Inn and Suites–Richmond Road. It was definitely a great value for the one day in Colonial Williamsburg itinerary, while still being comfortable and convenient. It was actually within walking distance of some great restaurants and tourist attractions like Ripley’s Believe it Or Not. Plus, there was a tasty breakfast with many choices every morning, no charge!

If you’d like a great deal on this hotel, just click here. And if you want to explore almost 100 great deals on hotels in Williamsburg, click here.

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary

One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary

What to Pack?

  • An excellent small cell charger so you can keep taking pictures all during your one day in Colonial Williamsburg itinerary.
  • The best guidebook to Virginia, with DC even thrown in as a bonus.
  • My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you exactly how solo travel can take your life from BLAH to amazing!
  • Want to learn how I saved enough money to travel 16 weeks a year? Check out my top secret How to Afford Travel digital system.
  • I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by the British during your One Day in Colonial Williamsburg itinerary.

One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary

Morning: Explore Colonial Williamsburg

The first thing you should do is buy your ticket in advance online. It will save you plenty of time and possibly money if you get a good deal. You can buy the ticket here. And you can check the online schedule here.

Did you do that? Are you ready? Then join for me a morning of exploring Colonial Williamsburg’s best attractions!

Approximately Top 5: One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Edition

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary
1) Governor’s Palace

Our first stop will be the Governor’s Palace, which you have to see on a guided tour. Check the times when you arrive, but for this one day in Colonial Williamsburg itinerary, I took the 10 AM tour.

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.

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary

On the tour you’ll 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!

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary
2) Freedom’s Paradox Tour

Colonial Williamsburg has been working hard to have a more inclusive museum that tells the story of everyone who lived in Colonial Williamsburg. So I strongly recommend taking the Freedom’s Paradox Tour to learn about the history of enslaved people in Virginia.

This tour meets at the Payton Randolph House and normally includes a tour of the interior of said house. But when I visited, the house was temporarily closed, so we spent a sweltering July day touring the exteriors of the nearby buildings. It’s very likely you’ll be able to go inside when you have your one day in Colonial Williamsburg itinerary.

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary

Our guide told us that many enslaved people were highly skilled and performed complicated tasks. Being a personal manservant took years of training and was an extremely difficult job. But if an enslaved servant bothered their enslaver in any way, they were sent off to do hard labor in the tobacco fields of Virginia. Enslaved people had almost no rights at all.

One of the most famous enslaved people to live in Virginia was a woman named Mary Aggie. She was accused of theft, and she sued successfully for a pardon on the grounds that she was a believing Christian. After her case, almost everyone in Virginia was able to ask for a pardon on the same grounds in certain cases.

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary
3) 12 Wythe House

At the end of the tour, you’ll be near 12 Wythe House, so you can stop and take a tour. Enjoy the colonial craftspeople working in the yard, including an authentic cooper. (That’s a barrel maker.)

This house was home to the first law professor in Virginia. He taught Thomas Jefferson and had a host of other fabulous accomplishments. But you know what I think his best quality was?

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary

He had faaabulous taste in wallpaper! Just look at this gorgeousness!

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary

Ugh. Also stunning.

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary
4) Olde Tyme Crafts

Some of the most interesting docents at Colonial Williamsburg are the craftspeople. For example, we have the engraver above, who would have produced some of the most expensive objects in Williamsburg.

But my favorite was the metalworker at the foundry who is a professional who repairs antique metal objects. He told me that he is often commissioned to help restore museum pieces.

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary

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.

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary
5) 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.

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary
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.

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary
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

One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary

Afternoon: Colonial Williamsburg Museums

Those of us who are happy to be art lovers AND history nerds will be thrilled to know that our one day in Colonial Williamsburg itinerary 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. But first…lunch!

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary
24 Hour Tip: Eat Light

We’re going to have a big early dinner, so we don’t need much for lunch. And if you have your one day in Colonial Williamsburg itinerary on a Tuesday, like I did, not all the restaurants are even open for lunch. Just duck into the bakery and grab a treat, or grab something at the museum restaurant.

I sort of wish I’d gotten a salad instead of this sweet potato muffin because I could have used more nutrients. But then the sweet potato muffin sounded more colonial. At least we’ll be very hungry for dinner, and that’s the important part!

Now we are ready for!

Approximately top 5: colonial williamsburg museums

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary
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.

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary
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!

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary
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?

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary
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.

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary
5) By African American Hands

There’s a special exhibit stretching across both sections of the art museums called By African American Hands. I loved this piece by a barber named Elijah Pierce that depicts the famous American opera singer Marian Anderson. The Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let her sing for them because she was black, so First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt featured Anderson in a special concert on the Lincoln Memorial.

Pierce was working at a time when it was hard to find art of prominent Black figures, so he made the art he wanted to see himself.

One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary

Late Afternoon: Dinner at Le Yaca

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. Ordinarily I would say that we should have dinner at Colonial Williamsburg itself, but a lot of the restaurants were closed on a Tuesday when I visited.

So instead, let’s take a cab over to Le Yaca for an early dinner, and then we can head back to Colonial Williamsburg for a fine ghost tour!

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary

I decided to go all in and feast on Le Yaca’s five-course dinner, starting with a lobster-scallop duo. You can’t miss the chance to have shellfish in coastal Virginia. Virginia is not as famous for crab cakes as Maryland, but it’s still in the Chesapeake region. This appetizer was full of nothing but the pure flavors of seafood.

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary

Up next we’re staying classic French and diving into some escargots with garlic butter. (There’s another choice for the second course if snails freak you out, but I promise that they are delicious.)

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary

Don’t get too nervous about the five course thing because up next we just have a wee palate cleanser of lemon sorbet. It’s refreshing and if you get the wine pairings to go with it’s even more so because it comes with a glass of pear liqueur.

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary

And now we have the main event: our Dover sole with brown butter sauce. (Again, if you’d rather do meat for the main course, that is an option.) This was filling but surprisingly light and lemony, and I liked that they served all that butter sauce on the side so you can control the amount you get.

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary
24 Hour Treat

But my favorite part of the meal was this amazing dessert called the Symphonie. It came with a mini Grand Marnier souffle, Charlotte citron, Marquise chocolat, and a tiramisu. The flavors of each mini dessert were so pure: orange for the souffle, lemon for the charlotte, chocolate for the marquise, and coffee for the tiramisu. It really was a symphony of sweetness!

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary

One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary

Evening: Colonial Williamsburg Ghost Tour

Ah, and now we come to the creepiest part of our one day in Colonial Williamsburg itinerary. 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.

And the Colonial Williamsburg ghost tour is one of the best and most fun around. The one I recommend leaves at 8 PM, so there’s plenty of time on our one day in Colonial Williamsburg itinerary to get there if you book an early dinner. Just be sure to book your spot on the ghost tour in advance by clicking here.

Then get set for a night of…

Three fun facts about colonial williamsburg ghosts

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary
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.

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary
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

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary
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 and may we spend more than a one day in Colonial Williamsburg itinerary here!

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary

One Day in Colonial Williamsburg Itinerary

How to Get There?

By Car: This is an easy way to get to your one day in Colonial Williamsburg itinerary, if you are coming from somewhere else on the East Coast in the United States. You can drive here easily from Richmond, VA, Washington DC, or Baltimore.

However, I don’t know how to drive, so this wasn’t an option for me. You’ll need a car to get to and from your hotel from Colonial Williamsburg but Uber is widely available if you don’t drive. If you need to rent a car, you can use the search engine Expedia to find the best price from the available car rental companies.

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary

By Plane: There’s no airport in Williamsburg. But if you need to fly to get to coastal Virginia, the closest airport where you can get a flight is probably Norfolk. You can fly into Norfolk and then drive or take a Greyhound bus into Williamsburg. (Again, I recommend using a search engine like Expedia to search for the best prices on flights.)

By Train or Bus: I used the Amtrak train to get from Baltimore to Richmond, and it was easier than riding George Washington’s horse. Amtrak does have a train that goes from Richmond to Williamsburg, but not one that left at the time I wanted, so from Richmond I had to take the Hound bus to Williamsburg. Just check the schedules and see what works best for you!

Just keep in mind that Richmond has more than one train station, so your train to Williamsburg might not leave from the station where you arrived.

one day in colonial williamsburg itinerary

That’s a 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? Email me at [email protected]

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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