The next few weeks will bring Spring Break crowds, who will be treated to lots of new experiences alongside old favorites. If you’re thinking about coming to Williamsburg soon, here are some tips for your visit.
See What’s New
Under an impressive shade tree next to the joiners, just across from Bruton Parish Church, stacks of wood and a medium-sized vat herald the return of candlemaking. It doesn’t look like much yet, but in the coming days the new team assembled to reintroduce the craft will be setting up their outdoor shop and experimenting with the best way to run the program.
It probably won’t look too different from the picture above from 1978, when candlemaking was at the Wythe House. The 18th century hasn’t changed too much in the last couple of decades. Feel free to stop by and take a look. They hope to be making candles by March 26, with an expectation that a more formal program will be underway by May 1.
Get a sneak peek of a brand new architecture program by reserving a ticket for The Building Detectives, which will run Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 9:30 a.m. through April 8. Guests will get a behind the scenes look at the Robert Carter House and learn about the real work our architectural historians do, examining structures in minute detail to uncover their secrets. Building Detectives will return in May after this three-week trial run.
Also new, if you haven’t heard, are four lambs! You can find them in two different pastures: at the corner of Nassau and Francis, and behind Bluebell Tavern on the corner of Nicholson and Waller St. And you may see some sheep heading to Market Square midday, assuming the weather is nice.
Get off the beaten path
Colonial Williamsburg has its share of byways and less-traveled corners. They can be great places to find rare breeds catching a nap, or a beautiful garden, where the flowers are indeed starting to bloom.
But if you take the shuttle from the Visitor Center, you may not realize you’ve skipped by Great Hopes Plantation, where you can learn a lot about farming back in the day. They will be planting flax, so if your timing is right, you might just get to work the plow yourself. (That’s what I’m doing in the picture above, taken last Fall.)
The carpenters are also working at the farm right now, making shingles and clapboards. So how do you find Great Hopes? The easiest way is to just head straight past the theaters and straight out the back of the Visitor Center, then follow the walkway. It’s just a couple of minutes away.
Another quiet corner is just around the corner from Wythe House on the west side of Palace Green. Just a short walk down is the Deane Shop, where the wheelwrights make and repair wheels for all sorts of vehicles. They’ve been working on an ox cart lately.
Down at the other end of town by the Capitol, don’t miss the gunsmith. They just moved back to their former location at the corner of Francis St. and they’d love to tell you some real stories about 18th-century firearms.
Kids love the hands-on activities at the Powell House, which is located near the Capitol bus stop. There you can learn about the everyday life of a middling family.
A hit from last summer, Dig! returns for a limited time during Spring Break. On a site right on Duke of Gloucester Street near Prentis Store. Kids get to participate in a real archaeological dig. There are three sessions Monday through Friday beginning at 1 p.m.
If you love seeing what’s happening in our trade shops, don’t miss the new Facebook page for all of our Historic Trades and Skills. It’s an amazing way to see what our talented folks are making—and how. And why. It’s also a great way to plan, as you can decide what you most want to see. And if you check in on Friday, we try to post a complete rundown on what everyone is doing for the next seven days.
Of course, our main Colonial Williamsburg Facebook page has the big picture—offering history, humor, and lots of regular posts about what’s new in town.
The daily map is a pretty good way to easily navigate town, and wireless service is available for guests who provide an email or hotel room number. There’s also a Colonial Williamsburg app which will help you get from place to place. It’s available from the iTunes or Google Play stores. Also an excellent way to locate the nearest restroom, or find a place to get $1 refills in your collectible Colonial Williamsburg cup.
Even repeat visitors will be surprised (but delighted) to learn that there is a new express bus route that takes guests directly back and forth between the Visitor Center directly and Market Square, the central hub of activity. It runs from 9 a.m. to noon every 10 minutes, and from noon until 5 p.m. every 15 minutes.
You’ll arrive right next to the Magazine, and close to the weaver, the shoemaker, and the Lumber House ticket office, where you can pick up tickets for evening programs, carriage rides, the musket range, and more.
You can also still take the loop shuttle, which makes all the stops from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Speaking of Tickets…
Tickets for the new musket range can be purchased in advance but only onsite—at the Visitor Center or Lumber House ticket office. And every shooter in the group must be there to show ID at the time of purchase.
Currently, carriage rides can also only be purchased on site and are dependent on the weather. You might want to make reservations for a tavern dinner or evening programs well in advance, as they fill up quickly. Many programs for ticketholders also require free reservations, so make sure to look at whether it’s necessary for any programs that interest you.
As you can see, there are lots of tools for planning and enjoying your visit beyond the daily program. But here’s a final tip, and it may be the most important one.
You can’t do it all, so don’t even try. Enjoy the moment! Welcome the unexpected! You’ll find surprises everywhere, especially if you take the time to slow down and enjoy it.