Colonial Williamsburg provides a year-round destination for families to share learning experiences they cannot find elsewhere. This fall you can have a perfect day exploring history together. Read on to get a bit more guidance for Colonial Williamsburg with children (as in, Where are the bathrooms??).
Colonial Williamsburg is AMAZING for families! You are experiencing time travel together, AND you are outside a lot. Talk about a break from your normal routine of policing time spent on Minecraft. Yet, as with any themed, all-day experience, it is not rare to see people in matching tri-cornered hats breaking down. As a Williamsburg local, I’ve seen the melt-downs and the victories, advised countless friends, and talked to CW employees. Here are the answers to your most common questions on how to enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with children this fall.
Colonial Williamsburg is an 18th-century living history museum open 365 days a year. At 9 am, programming begins, and the Trade Shops open. At 5 pm, Trade Shops Close, and daytime programming concludes, marked by the "Marching into the Evening" by the Fife and Drum Corps, beginning behind the Courthouse. Evening programming includes music and theatrical performances, as well as dinners at historic taverns.
There are a number of ticket options available. Before buying passes, make sure you explore discount options for military, locals, and College of William and Mary Alumni. In addition, CW runs specials and offers season passes. Carriage rides, ghost tours, and other special activities require additional tickets. You can find this information and purchase tickets online, through the Colonial Williamsburg Explorer app, in-person at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center, or a ticketing location on Duke of Gloucester Street.
Walking! Looking! Listening! Smelling! (?) Colonial Williamsburg has no entry gate. You can enjoy the sights and sounds of the 18th century to your heart’s content without purchasing an admissions ticket. Listen and march with the Fife and Drum Band. They play every weekday at 5 and Saturdays at 1, for no cost at all. You can also listen in on the theatrical presentations on the courthouse steps and see famous historical figures interact with each other on horseback and around the town.
But an admissions ticket gives you entry into the Trade Shops and Historic Sites. With a ticket, you can watch (and participate in) theatrical presentations and tour buildings.
Each day there is a schedule of events available online, on the Colonial Williamsburg Explorer app, and throughout the historic area. The list of programs is divided into morning, afternoon, and evening and provides times, locations, and a special designation if it is a family program intended for young children. The schedule also lets you know additional costs and if the event is not recommended for young children, such as “To Hang a Pirate,” the trial of one of Blackbeard’s crew.
So much! Colonial Williamsburg welcomes children and intentionally engages them in the majority of Trade Sites and shows. Each Trade Site will provide hands-on experiences for young children to learn with their senses. The Apothecary Shop (blood and leeches), The Milliner (clothes, we all wear them), The Wig-Maker (crazy hair), and The Coffee House (18th-century chocolate drinks for all) are excellent trade sites for enjoying Colonial Williamsburg with children. The Brickyard is also a favorite as children can stomp around in the mud learning brick-making. In the fall, CW offers the Official Ghost Walk Junior – a chance for families to hear the traditional, spooky stories intended for children ages 4-7.
No. But don’t cry, yet…There are countless open greens to run and play, gardens to explore, and physical activities to get small bodies moving with children in historic Williamsburg (if walking through history is not expending enough energy.) I recommend Axe Throwing for ages 12 and up and Shoulder your Firelocks each day at 2:30 on the Magazine Yard. In addition, the gardens behind the Governor’s Palace have a maze, and the wooded path to the right of the St.George Tucker House remains a hot spot for playing hide and seek.
But…If you are still in need of a playground (I understand), and it is on the weekend or after school hours, take the small path west of the Governor’s Palace, and you will find yourself at Matthew Whaley Elementary School. Technically, you have left Colonial Williamsburg, but Matthew Whaley is a city public school with an excellent playground. If school is not in session, the palace wall borders the property, so you’ll still be enjoying Colonial Williamsburg with children - they will just be getting 20 important minutes on the monkey bars.
When it comes to eating, which most families with children seem to do quite often, Colonial Williamsburg provides many options. Raleigh Bakery behind Raleigh Tavern offers sweet treats and sandwiches if you want to grab and keep moving. Should you want to experience a full Tavern meal, I recommend Chowning’s Tavern for families with children. It is the most casual and supplies music, games, and even a Young Patriots Menu (no duck, yes chicken fingers). Just the right Tavern experience can be a highlight in Colonial Williamsburg with children.
In Williamsburg in the fall, you will also find several stands throughout the historic area selling hot and cold cider and other beverages along with snacks. If you’re willing to leave the historical atmosphere, The Cheese Shop in adjacent Merchants Square offers excellent sandwiches and snacks for picnicking on the Palace Green. Nearby, Prince George St. hosts Aromas Coffee Shop. With a full day’s menu, as well as Retros Diner, it offers the cheeseburgers and milkshakes the 18th Century might have been missing.
Everywhere. And fear not, the commitment to historical accuracy does not include plumbing. Colonial Williamsburg provides eight different public restroom buildings throughout the historic area. Consult your map, or ask any nearby employee (easily identified by their 18th-century dress) for directions. Historic Interpreters, while in character, are also eager to answer all of your questions. They'll help find you if you are lost and offer a band-aid to your child because you forgot the First Aid kit.
As the days get shorter, bonfires will be lit along Duke of Gloucester Street each evening, signaling the end of full days spent with family, learning, and playing. Remember, Colonial Williamsburg welcomes your children of all ages. The employees are passionate about sharing their love of history and the joy of discovery. This fall, do something different and take an adventure back in time - There will be plenty of bathrooms.