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Colonial Williamsburg Guide + Tips for Military Families

When the grandparents come to visit, hubby and I abscond for a day (or a few) to some place to recharge and enjoy a little bit of alone time. This time around we decided to head back to Colonial Williamsburg to see the place more opened up for spring, and get our annual passes – so we will be back many more times! If you’re a military family, you’ll want to pay attention because there are a few good deals you’ll want to take advantage of, as well as tips for everyone to make the most of your visit.

Colonial Williamsburg is not very big, about a square mile, but with so much to explore and all of the demonstrations and tours, you’ll want at least two or three days to take it all in. It’s free to wander the town but to see the attractions and enter most of the buildings you’ll need a ticket, which can be purchased for just the day if desired. I advise checking their website or calling ahead to find out when certain exhibits are open because they are not all running every day of the week. The milliner and mantua-maker for instance is one spot that has been closed each time we’ve visited, so if you have your heart set on a particular experience plan accordingly.

Military families: be sure to bring your ID and get the discount on admission, it’s actually one of the more generous military discounts out there, and is better than the Virginia resident rate.

Once you’ve got your passes you’re free to wander the grandest building on the map; the Governor’s mansion! And for this alone, I would argue that the price of admission is well worth it. Prior to 4pm you can take guided tours and get a short history lesson. After 4 pm you are free to wander at your own leisure, snap photos, and ask guides posted in each room all the questions your heart desires!

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Any other Anglophiles will appreciate this little taste of our heartland here in our homeland. Another splendid tour is through all of the smaller yet very well-managed gardens sprinkled about town. I enjoyed getting ideas for my own garden, as someone who likes to make use of as many materials on hand, and doing as much with as little as possible. Take for example their hot beds that line the fence that give the gardener a few months jump-start on growing without fancy lights and indoor growing set-ups. This way is much more attractive to behold, too!

Be sure to pop into the shops that line the main street, and while you’re there I encourage you to strike up a conversation with the historical actors who have a wealth of information to share! The gentleman in the “Tarpley” shop is particularly congenial, and very interesting for any other costume history nerds like yours truly! If you are hoping to take a horse-drawn carriage ride, be sure to arrive early, or book in advance as tickets do sell out quickly.

Military families: we get a 10% discount in all of the restaurants and shops, as well as access to the “Liberty Lounge” where refreshments, air conditioning, and a spot to relax for a moment are all free!

When you get hungry from all of the walking, definitely sample one of the colonial restaurants. There is a modern plaza at the end of Gloustershire St. but these are very much “tourist spots” and I strongly recommend avoiding them. Unless of course you would rather skip an 18th century dining experience … but why?!

Your ticket also includes access to the museum, which is a stones throw from the beautiful Williamsburg Inn. The perfect spot to cool off while gazing at a fabulous collection of antique clocks, enough China to make you drool, and a fascinating comparison of regional interiors styles of the 18th century. There is also an American Folk Art wing but I’m going to be completely honest with you for a minute; folk art gives me the heebie-jeebies so we completely bypassed that side.

In addition to the Williamsburg Inn, there are a few other hotels that surround the town, as well as the opportunity to stay in one of the historic houses, or book a tavern room! Full of colonial charm cottages or multi-room style lodgings in the heart of the historic area; these are my recommendation over one of the large, modern hotels for an immersive experience at a great price.

We never leave Colonial Williamsburg without a few mementos and plenty of ideas for what to do the next time we visit. With Jamestown, Busch Gardens, and Virginia Beach all nearby, it’s entirely possible to make a grand week-long vacation out of your trip to this slice of colonial America.

xo, Mia

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