As one of the most historically significant cities in the country, Williamsburg is a tourist magnet. Experience the history of our nation's beginning, tour fascinating museums, shop until you drop, and have a thrilling day at one of the theme parks in the city. If you're looking at Williamsburg for a student trip, graduation vacation, or simply a summer getaway destination, check out the top ten attractions that you can - and should - visit on your trip.
1. Colonial Williamsburg
I would be remiss not to place the city's most famous attraction as the number one activity to try in Williamsburg. The largest living history museum in the country, Colonial Williamsburg is complete with several acres of historic characters in costume, authentic demonstrations, original colonial buildings, historic artifacts, and more. It's like stepping back into time with your group as you dine at one of George Washington's favorite restaurants, walking through the many museums filled with 18th century furnishings, and more.
2. Historic Jamestowne
The site of the original Fort James, Historic Jamestowne was established adjacent to what would later become the Jamestown settlement. The fort, built by British settlers, was founded on the site of a Powhatan tribe village. Today, archaeologists work tirelessly on uncovering the history of both colonial Americans and the Native Americans who lived on the site. Visit and experience what it's like to be an archaeologist, see an open dig and the artifacts retrieved, view living history presentations, and take part in the many activities that bring history to life.
3. Jamestown Settlement
Another living history museum, Jamestown Settlement portrays what life was like in the actual famous settlement. See recreations of the fort, living quarters, and Powhatan village, learn how to make a canoe and clothes from the Native American characters, and walk through the settlement like one of the colonial Americans who lived there. Here, you can even climb on board replicas of three historic tall ships that originally sailed to Virginia in 1607.
4. Busch Gardens
Taking a break from the history of the city, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is an exciting, beautiful destination filled with flowers, animals, and of course amusement park rides. From thrilling roller coasters like Apollo's Chariot, the Loch Ness Monster, and Griffon to carnival rides, go karts, water rides, and more, Busch Gardens has something for everyone. Tour the animals and meet the canines at Wolf Haven, the majestic raptors of Eagle Ridge, or take an animal tour to see them all up close.
5. Historic Yorktown
Historic Yorktown is technically a fifteen minute drive from Williamsburg proper but it's worth the extra drive to see this Revolutionary War gem. Including sites like the Yorktown Battlefield, historic district, and Riverwalk Landing, Historic Yorktown is replete with attractions. Located on the riverfront, it is a scenic destination for an outdoor adventure through time. Ride the trolley, see the tall ships at port, take a patriot tour, and visit the many museums to learn about Yorktown's involvement in the War for Independence.
6. Sherwood Forest Plantation
Home of President John Tyler, this gorgeous plantation is filled with history, beauty, and purpose. The estate was originally owned by President William Henry Harrison under the name "Walnut Grove" and was purchased by Tyler in 1842, renaming the home to Sherwood Forest, the famed home of Robin Hood, as Tyler saw himself as an outlaw because of his position in the Whig party. Sherwood Forest Plantation has remained in the family and is open for historic tours of the grounds and home from 9-5 daily.
7. Merchants Square
Where most shopping destinations lead you to an unoriginal mall complex, Merchants Square is unique as one of the first ever planned shopping districts in the country. Part of Colonial Williamsburg, Merchants Square is an 18th century style shopping area with over 40 shops and restaurants. Window shop or splurge on your favorite stores like Chico's and Talbot's or tour unique shops like Jazzy Giraffe, Scotland House Ltd., and William & Mary Bookstore and Cafe. The Peanut Shop is also located here and a big crowd magnet with Farmers Market discounts.
8. Public Hospital Museum
Though this museum is also located at Colonial Williamsburg, it deserves its own visit. The Public Hospital was the first of its kind in the New World to be solely devoted to treating mentally ill persons. Learn about the archaic and sometimes cruel practices that doctors believed would cure the sick, see the evolution of medicine to what it is today, and tour the historic rooms and artifacts.
9. Yankee Candle Village
From the name, and the exterior of the building, you might not expect to see an exciting attraction within the brick walls. Step inside and see what appears to be a literal village complete with painted sky ceilings, decorated storefronts, a town square courtyard, and town clock. Experience Christmas in July at the year round Christmas shop where it snows on a regular basis, sniff every conceivable Yankee candle scent, and take part in the many craft opportunities at this friendly village.
10. Mariners' Museum and Park
Exploring the evolution and science of maritime exploration, the Mariners' Museum is an experiential and interactive learning complex filled with artifacts, interactive displays, and interesting history. The USS Monitor Center focuses on the Ironclad Revolution exhibit where you can walk on board the CSS Virginia, build your own ironclad, see sailors living quarters, and more. With over a dozen exhibit areas and educational centers, the Mariners' Museum and Park is highly interesting and always a fun experience.