There’s a reason that groups headed to Washington, D.C., often stop for a day or two in Williamsburg, Virginia, first: This midsize town is home to the country’s most beloved living-history attractions.
Colonial Williamsburg, the historic interpretation area spread out on more than 301 acres in the center of the town, is recognized nearly universally as the best immersive history site in the country. From the furnishing and art in its hundreds of original and re-created structures to its costumes, period-correct restaurants and world-class interpreters, Colonial Williamsburg sets a standard in authenticity and inspiration that few other historical entities can approach.
Colonial Williamsburg began in the 1920s, when local leaders decided to start preserving historic buildings along Duke of Gloucester Street. Many of those structures had been constructed during the period when Williamsburg served as Virginia’s Colonial capital. Philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. funded the project, which preserved and restored approximately 85 percent of the 18th-century town’s original footprint.
Today, visitors to the site will find 88 original historic buildings, as well as 500 more buildings that have been reconstructed based on extensive historical records and archaeological findings. Groups can tour a reconstructed Colonial capitol, as well as numerous original homes, businesses, churches and other buildings that would have been central to town life in the Colonial period. As they make their way through the town, visitors interact with interpreters playing the roles of both everyday townspeople and notable historical figures, who serve to bring the Colonial experience to life in vivid detail.
In addition to exploring the town in guided tours or on their own, groups can take part in numerous special programs at Colonial Williamsburg. Perhaps the best is “Revolutionary City,” a theatrical program that plays out in the streets and shows the events that took place in Williamsburg during the Revolutionary period and illustrates the impact they had on the lives of citizens at that time.
For extended experiences, groups can arrange to have dinners in one of several period restaurants in the village, as well as other modern venues that surround it. The organization also has numerous hotels, which range from economy lodges to the historic and luxurious Williamsburg Inn.
And though the historic area is Williamsburg’s main attraction, visitors can enjoy a variety of other activities during their time in the area.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg
History, culture and fun come together at Busch Gardens, a 100-acre theme park that has been thrilling visitors to Williamsburg for decades. Consistently voted among the most beautiful parks in the United States, Busch Gardens invites visitors to explore Old World architecture, art, food and culture in its six sections, which are themed around six countries in 17th-century Europe. The park features numerous thrill rides, including five roller coasters, as well as live shows, shopping and other activities that tie into the European history theme. There is also an on-site water park, Water Country USA, which features more than 40 waterslides.