With warm weather here and summer fast approaching, picnic season is upon us! Ah, yes—that most summer of traditions—the picnic. And what better place to spend an afternoon lounging in the sun, enjoying a gentle breeze?
Sure there’s the beach and the park, or even the Colonial Parkway, but my favorite place to picnic has always been CW. So when my wife and I finally moved here, we decided to make it our mission to find the perfect picnic spot. I won’t lie, it was a lot of hard work—spending our weekends basking in the sun and eating great food; but we pushed through and discovered there is indeed more than one perfect spot! So without further ado, here is my top 5 list of the perfect places to enjoy a Colonial Williamsburg picnic.
#1 Palace Green
The first stop on our list is what can best be described as the granddaddy of CW picnic spots—Palace Green. If you want to be around the action and enjoy a little people watching, this is the one for you. Here you’ll find everyone from families with small children to students from the College of William & Mary. Palace Green is in the center of town and features a long sweep of lush green grass, perfect for spreading out a blanket and relaxing.
If you have children, you’ll want to stop at the William Pitt Shop to pick up a colonial game like the hoop and stick, Bilbo catcher, or Shut the Box for your family. Or perhaps a game of tag or catch is in order. This is indeed a family-friendly place to picnic!
#2 Behind the Printing Office, Bindery & Post Office
Take the narrow, brick stairs next to the post office down to the Printing Office and Bindery and you’ll discover a wonderful little area, complete with foot bridges built over a meandering creek. Nestled in a valley below Duke of Gloucester Street, this area provides a bit more privacy as well as ample shade for those hot summer days. You’ll want to spend a good amount of time here and enjoy the peacefulness and serenity. I love listening to the creek gently cascade over the rocks or the sound of the horse drawn carriages rolling by on Nicholson Street.
The costumed interpreters often wander through this area on their way to the Revolutionary City, so it’s a great spot to snap some excellent pictures. As we were enjoying our last picnic here, the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums marched by. We could hear the music building as they moved closer while marching down DoG St. It’s that kind of whimsy that makes this one of my favorite CW picnic spots.
#3 Master Gardener’s Garden
Another favorite is the Master Gardener’s garden with all of its beautiful flowers, herbs, and vegetables on display. No matter the season, this garden bursts with color and interest. And nestled perfectly in one of its corners is an ornamental tree with two benches.
It’s here we like to bring a book to read while sipping a cold beverage from the Raleigh Tavern Bakery. This is a spot that’s a little more off the beaten path, but you’ll still be able to people watch as it’s a popular garden for visitors to stroll through. If you are a guest of the Williamsburg Inn, this garden is just a short walk down Colonial Street.
#4 Robert Carter House Porch
Traditionally when you think of picnicking, you think of a blanket in the grass—but who’s to say you can’t still picnic while resting comfortably on a bench underneath the shade of a roof? Between the Robert Carter House and McKenzie Apothecary (just off Palace Green) is a covered porch that provides both shade and those benches I mentioned.
This is a great place to watch the action on Palace Green while enjoying a little quieter atmosphere. If you don’t have time for a full picnic, you can pop in to the McKenzie store and grab a cold beverage and snack to enjoy.
#5 Between the Blue Bell Tavern & Capitol Building
Hop on a bus from the Visitor’s Center to the Capitol—and get off at the stop just past the Blue Bell Tavern. You’ll see a grassy meadow on your right. Here, you’ll find the perfect place for a picnic if you’re looking for a bit more privacy. I also love the ambiance here. There is an old tree that provides some shade, and a small white house and picket fence that make you feel as though you really are in the 18th century.
So now that you know where you’re going to picnic, it’s time to make sure you have everything you need to be prepared! You’ll of course want a blanket to sit on and perhaps a large umbrella to provide shade if you’ve picked a sunny spot. If you want to really get into the spirit, bring a picnic basket which you can fill up with all kinds of tasty treats from the Raleigh Tavern Bakery. We like to grab some Virginia ham biscuits, a pasta salad, definitely one or two (or three) ginger cakes, and a Chowning’s Root Beer and King’s Arms Ginger Ale.
Oh, and of course don’t forget the sunscreen—the Virginia sun can get hot! Happy picnicking!
Do you have a favorite spot in CW to picnic? We’d love to hear about it!
Guest Blogger: Ryan Redding
Ryan Redding is a lifelong lover of Colonial Williamsburg. He started visiting with his parents when he was just a baby, so CW has always felt like a home away from home. He recently relocated to Williamsburg from Southern Michigan with his wife, Rhiannon. They love spending their free time in the Revolutionary City and enjoying everything it has to offer, including dining in our historic taverns!
Ryan is also a golf fanatic and enjoys writing for the Virginia Golf Report about golf in central Virginia. You can follow his Colonial Williamsburg adventures through his personal blog, The Dog Street Patriot.
And let us know, is there another topic you’d like to see written from a guest’s perspective? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll pass along your ideas to Ryan!