Colonial Williamsburg Christmas with kids
We got a great recommendation from some locals that Christmas is the best time to visit Colonial Williamsburg with kids. After spending 2 1/2 days there after Christmas in 2013, I can tell you their recommendation was spot on. They have almost all of the same programs as they do during the crowded, hot, smelly summer season (those old costumes are hot, y’all), and even a few more Christmas themed ones.
We stayed at the Williamsburg Lodge for 2 of those nights and then moved further afield to visit more sites in the historic triangle area. Although sometimes pricey, I think staying in a Colonial Williamsburg property is like staying on property at Disney. Sometimes the perks are worth it. Perks like cheaper tickets, only a short walk or shuttle ride home at the end of the day, a ticket office inside the hotel with discounts for guests, and not having to find a parking place every day. The lodge also had hot chocolate and ginger snaps in the evenings for the kids. The other “on property hotels” are the Williamsburg Inn and The Woodlands. I also found out that the cute colonial carriage tours have reserved one carriage for hotel guests that you may book days in advance. And at a discount!! Unlike the other carraiges, that can only be reserved the morning of your ride and sell out fast. We had two rooms in the most modern area of the lodge (a square brick building) but the furnishings were still of the era. I actually liked that the parking garage was directly underground, as it makes it much easier to get all those family bags up to the room without calling and tipping a bellman. There is only one breakfast place in the hotel (although the buffet was pricey but good) so if you can get a package that includes breakfast, well done you.
You can walk around Colonial Williamsburg all you want without a ticket. But you may not go into any of the buildings (other than gift shops) and interact with the costumed interpreters without a ticket. Trust me, get a ticket. It’s a living museum and the more your kids interact, the more fun it will be for them. The ticket helps your vacation be more educational. There are a few discounts including seniors, child, AAA, and being hotel guest.
Things to Do in Williamsburg
It will take me several posts to go into detail about everything we did for those 2 1/2 days. So I’ll list the things we did in two categories. The things we had to have reservations/tickets for and those that we just showed up to participate.
Family Ghost Tavern Walk – family friendly talks about spooky stories from employees
Dinner in a Pub – we ate at Shields Tavern and Kings Arms Tavern. More on that in another post.
Ghosts Among us – A Costumed interpreter acts out a ghost story about past residents of a home you are standing/sitting in. The stories are loosely based on try stories of the era. They claim it’s not suitable for children but my boys, the youngest of whom is ten, loved it.
Carriage Ride – the afore mentioned hotel carriage is the same one that the current Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip rode in when they visited in 1957. Oooooooh. Aaaaaaaaah.
Most of the scheduled items we did were in the evenings and I booked those about a month or two before we were due to arrive. Pub reservations are a necessity, unless you enjoy waiting around with starving children for an hour. The ghost tours fill up fast, but are offered at several times during the night. Beware of over scheduling events. It was nice to have a mix of timed events, and time to wander and soak it all in.
Fun things to do:
Palace Tour – don’t forget the hedge maze out back, it straight out of Harry Potter. These run every 30 minutes so you can just walk up and join one.
Capitol Tour – the seat of Virginia Government, same schedule as the palace.
An Afternoon with Thomas Jefferson – Historical interpreter speech with Q&A at the end. Only offered once each day with different figures every 2 or 3 days.
Fife and Drum March through Colonial Town – one of my favorite things.
Spy Craft Class at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg – hands on fun for the kids.
Buildings and Trades we visited:
Joiner, Cabinetmaker, Wigmaker, Armory, Shoemaker, Apothecary, Gunsmith, Coffee Shop, Great Hopes Plantation, Tinsmith, Cooper, Courthouse, the Church and the open market.
The next few weeks, I’ll be covering more specifics of our historic triangle visit, but at least know this. If you want to get real value out of these living museums, you have to engage. Prepare your kids ahead of time and talk it up. And then when you walk into that first building (ours was the joiner) take the lead and ask questions, touch things. Your kids will follow your lead with their own interactions and interest. Before long, you’ll learn new things from the inquisitive questions that your own kids are asking. Several times, my own kids would say that they knew what the interpreter was talking about from something they learned at school. We don’t live anywhere near Virginia, but it did my heart good to hear about what they were learning in school without my constant prodding. So while this colonial area is not a leisurely vacation, it sure is worth the effort.