There are plenty of places in the US that can give you a tour of history, but there’s not other place like Williamsburg, Virginia. This city is like a living museum full of important and fascinating sites. Williamsburg was founded in 1632, and it’s a part of the Historic Triangle alongside Jamestown and Yorktown. The Historic Triangle alone attracts a few million visitors annually. Williamsburg boasts plenty of attractions on its own, even though the population of the small college town is only a little over 14,000 people. If you’re looking to explore the history and attractions in the area, here are 10 things that you absolutely must do in Williamsburg if you’re there for the first time.
1. Historic Jamestowne
This should easily be top of your list if you were to visit Williamsburg for the first time. It’s an insanely unbelievable feeling to be able to walk through the location where the first British colonists stepped foot into the New World.
2. Colonial Williamsburg
Experiencing Colonial Williamsburg is like stepping back in time to the 17th or 18th century. You’ll find people wearing clothes from back then and talking the way they did back then as well—complete with proper diction, grammar, and lingo of the time. The beautifully restored buildings are part of the attraction as well. These buildings are hundreds of years old. They’re truly a sight to see.
3. Governor’s Palace
As part of Colonial Williamsburg, the Governor’s Palace was built in 1706 and is an attraction on its own. Everything about this building was meant to convey wealth and power. When the palace burned down in 1781, it wasn’t restored for over 200 years. In 1930, a detailed and accurate reconstruction took place, making the palace as majestic as it was originally built.
4. Busch Gardens
Amidst all the historic sights and attractions in Williamsburg, you can’t miss one of the best adventure theme parks in the country: Busch Gardens Williamsburg. This theme park will take you straight to Europe with its charming décor and recognizable landscapes from Europe’s biggest nations such as Italy, France, and Germany.
5. Jamestown Settlement
The location of the original settlement is actually an active archeological excavation. You can look at hundreds of excavated artifacts on display here. You’ll also see a stunning reconstruction of life and culture from the 17th century. It’s basically your history book coming to life.
6. Jamestown Glasshouse
It’s difficult to stay away from history when you’re in Williamsburg, but the Jamestown Glasshouse will at least give you something different. This location was the site of the original glasshouse that was first built 400 years ago, but seeing the glass blowers work on glass today is just simply fascinating.
7. Williamsburg Walking Tour
This city is old. And much like any old city, Williamsburg has its own fair share of ghosts that you can hear about as part of a walking tour. If you’re not into ghosts like that, don’t worry. There are plenty of other walking tours that will give you a different perspective on Williamsburg and how people really traveled in those days.
8. York River State Park
If you want to spend more time surrounded by greenery, take some time out to hike or bike or ride through horseback the trails of York River State Park. There are 30 miles of forest trails and coastline trails for you to enjoy. There are also playgrounds and pavilions where you can set up the whole family for a good day out.
9. Muscarelle Museum of Art
Enjoy a different kind of history through the Muscarelle Museum of Art. The college has accumulated the collection of artwork in this museum for the last 300 years. It features some prominent names in the industry including Hans Hofmann, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe, and other English and American colonial painters.
10. Public Hospital Museum
This attraction might not be for everyone. It can seem a little spooky, but it’s actually more informative and interesting than anything. The Public Hospital Museum was an 18th century treatment center for the mentally ill. You could say that this was the first mental hospital in North America, and many describe it as part jail and part infirmary. It’s a bizarre experience to say the least, but you’ll get a glimpse of the odd treatments used in the 1700s if you do decide to visit this place.