Williamsburg was the capital of the state of Virginia from 1699 to 1780. The city played an important role in the American Revolution. Together with Yorktown and Jamestown, it forms what is called the “Historic Triangle.” Home to many important landmarks, historic Williamsburg is visited by over four million tourists each year.
History of Williamsburg
Williamsburg, originally named Middle Plantation, began as a settlement between the York and James rivers. The original capital of the Virginia colony was Jamestown, but the settlement was burned down during Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676. The state government relocated to Williamsburg and stayed there until the American Revolution. The capital of Virginia was moved to Richmond, which was less vulnerable to British attack. Williamsburg continued to be the site of conventions and other important events during the Revolutionary War.
Williamsburg lost prominence during the Civil War due to its lack of access to navigable canals and rivers. The construction of the railroad brought passenger travel and freight trains to Williamsburg. The railroad brought support to the farmers and tradespeople in the Williamsburg area and new life to its community. The 21st century has seen updates to historic Williamsburg, and it continues to attract more tourism than any other city in Virginia.
Williamsburg is the location of many of the 18th century’s most famous historical buildings. The George Wythe House is the site where Thomas Jefferson and other students made important science and art discoveries early in the history of Williamsburg. One can learn about slavery and early African-American history at the Peyton Randolph house, a historic museum that dates back to 1715. The Public Armory allows visitors to discover the inner workings of the American Revolution. The College of William and Mary, chartered in 1693, is an early American university founded by King William III and Queen Mary II. Graduate programs in law and medicine made William and Mary one of the first institutions of higher learning in the United States.
Colonial Williamsburg is home to many historic buildings and homes, featuring their original foundations for the most part. Rare animals and historic gardens add charm to the area, making it one of the most romantic places to stay in the country. Many beautiful Williamsburg hotels are located within walking distance of the historic area, including Colonial Houses, the Williamsburg Inn and the Governor’s Inn.
Many Williamsburg restaurants serve traditionally prepared cuisine reminiscent of what George Washington and Thomas Jefferson might have enjoyed during the colonial period. Other restaurants serve options such as southern food, seafood and traditional afternoon tea. The King’s Arm Tavern, frequented by many Revolutionary statesmen, opened in 1772. Called “a place where the best people resorted,” the restaurant today preserves the architecture and authenticity of its original owner, Jane Vobe. Servers wear the authentic wigs, stockings and ruffled shirts of the colonial time period and serve food made from the restaurant’s original recipes. Authentic dishes include “chop of shoat,” which is similar to a pork chop. Shields Tavern, Old Chickahominy House and Josiah Chowning’s Tavern are other restaurants where diners can experience a welcoming colonial atmosphere and authentic cuisine.
Williamsburg is now home to several craft breweries. Visitors can enjoy the local ambiance, fire pits and quality craft beers at Alewerks, the first brewery to open in Williamsburg. Other great Williamsburg breweries include the Virginia Beer Company, Billsburg Brewery and Brass Cannon.
Williamsburg Things to Do
Many exciting events and activities can be experienced in Williamsburg throughout the year. Jamestown Day, celebrated on May 13, is one of the most meaningful Williamsburg events of the year. It features the performance of traditional music, weaponry demonstrations and a trip down James River by a replica of Jamestown Settlement’s 1607 ships.
The Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival offers foodies a variety of wines and cuisines from around the world. The Williamsburg Taste Festival in April features some of Virginia’s best chefs, farmers, winemakers and brewers. Attendees can enjoy a cooking demonstration at the farmer’s market in colonial Williamsburg. Independence Day is one of the most special things to do in Williamsburg. It’s celebrated by the Fife and Drums Corps salute and a commemorative reading of the Declaration of Independence.
There is something for everyone to enjoy in the city of Williamsburg, VA. Its local historic haunts and tourist attractions are combined with first-class modern amenities. Local Williamsburg events provide an experience unique from any other American city. It’s an ideal place to plan a visit that will excite everyone in the entire family.