So your shopping is done (show-off!), the presents are wrapped, and the family is dangerously close to channel surfing. What to do? Why not spend part of your Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day, with us? There’s a festive atmosphere, amazing decorations, and full slate of family-friendly activities on tap. Here’s a guide that might help.
Hours and Tickets
Trade shops and sites will be open the usual hours, 9-5, on Christmas Eve. We’ll have a shortened schedule on Christmas, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. The Visitor Center will be open 10:30-4:30, but the Lumber House Ticket Office will be open 10:45 a.m.-9 p.m. on Dec. 25. Many of our special programs are sold out*, but there’s still enough to fill a week!
*A partial list of sold out programs includes the Musket Range, holiday breakfasts, and the Bassett Hall Ornament Workshop.
Let’s Get Something to Eat!
Christmas Day reservations are still available in a couple of taverns. The day’s menus are the same at each one, so it’s just a matter of finding a time that works for you. At last check there were openings at Chowning’s Tavern, especially around the noon hour, and scattered availability at Shields Tavern. There are also tickets still available for the Williamsburg Lodge Christmas Brunch. Please call 888-965-7254 for available times and reservations.
There will be less programming in the Powell House just east of the Capitol in 2017, but there’s still time to drop in for a visit and see what they’re up to during the holidays. This is a classic slice of 18th-century life in a middling Williamsburg family. See what’s for dinner, how they decorate, what songs they’re singing and games they’re playing. Activities change throughout the day. The Powell House will be open 9-5 on Christmas Eve (kitchen 10-4), and from 11-4 Christmas Day (kitchen closed).
A special family-friendly tour of the Governor’s Palace focuses on the governor’s family and how they made it their home. Recommended for families with young children (pre-K through grade 6). A free-reservation ticket is required. Tour offered Christmas Eve at 9:30, 11:30, and 1:30; Christmas Day at 11:30 and 1:30.
Ox Wagon Rides
There’s plenty of room in the ox wagon. Pile the whole family in for a fun ride around Palace Green. Rides are offered every half hour from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Get your tickets at the Visitor Center and Lumber House ticket offices.
Stop by the Playbooth Theater for this zany take on Christmastide, a humorous nautical musical journey with the Chownings. On Christmas Eve, it plays at 11, 1 and 2 and on Christmas Day, it runs at 1, 2, 3, and 4 p.m. (free with admission ticket)
Joining one of our experts as they show off, and explain what goes into, our marvelous decorations in the Historic Area. The walking tour is offered four times on Christmas Eve and twice on Christmas Day. Tickets are $15, available online or at any ticket office.
A Public Auction
Find some bargains, or a rare treasure, in this 18th-century style auction. It’s free, and it’s a lot of fun. (Feel free to heckle.) Takes place 12-2 p.m. Christmas Eve near the Weavers.
What’s better than immersing yourself in the atmosphere of an 18th-century Christmas Ball at the Raleigh Tavern? You’ll meet the enslaved people who are working to prepare for the big event, then mingle with the town’s elite as they dance in the historic Apollo Room. (Christmas Eve at 1:30, 2, 2:30, 3, and 3:30 p.m. Separate free ticket required. Also offered Dec. 27-29.)
FREE Christmas Classics on the Big Screen
So what’s your preference, Heat Miser or Cindy Lou Who? Doesn’t matter, because we have both for free on Christmas Eve at the Kimball Theatre. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (10:30, 12, 1:30, and 3) and The Year Without a Santa Claus (11, 12:30, 2, and 3:30) will alternate all day. The Kimball will be closed on Christmas Day; click here for the full schedule.
Say hello to Father Christmas on your way to the theater, or while you’re finding a great last-minute gift at one of the shops on Merchants Square. He’ll be strolling the square on Christmas Eve from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Last chance to tell him what you want to find under the tree!
Gather ‘round the as the Virginia Theatre Machine presents the Dickens classic in a frenzied 40 minutes from a tiny set in a trailer stocked with all sorts of fun contraptions. If you haven’t seen it, this is a must. If you have, well, the props and gags change every year. Last two performances of the season are at 3:30 and 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
Firing of the Christmas Guns
In the 18th century, Virginians fired guns to celebrate the Christmas season and other events. Join us on Duke of Gloucester street as we make some noise at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve. We’ll be firing cannons on Market Square and muskets in front of the Magazine.
Annual Christmas Tree Lighting
Shortly after the Christmas guns are fired at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve, we’ll renew a favorite tradition with the lighting of the 35-foot community Christmas tree on Market Square just across from the Courthouse. After a reading of “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” we’ll sing some Christmas carols, then spread the light of the season as the flame of one candle is passed from person to person until there’s a sea of light. Don’t worry, our partners in this annual event, the Kiwanis Club of Williamsburg, will make sure you have a song sheet and a candle.
Holiday Ice Skating
Who needs the gym? Get some seasonally-appropriate exercise with a spin on the ice at Liberty’s Ice Pavilion, open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
And if you have a skating lover you want to take care of, season passes (valid Jan. 1 through Feb. 20, 2017) are now available for purchase at the ice rink ticket booth. Skate as many times as you want. The price is $29 for adults and $25 for youths. The pass does not include skate rental.
The name is the same, but longtime favorite Dean Shostak has some new tricks up his sleeve as he shares holiday favorites on a collection of truly unique instruments, including, of course, the glass armonica. There are just a few remaining performances: at 7 and 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and two more on Dec. 26 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Kimball Theatre. ($12, available online or at Kimball box office)
Something for Everyone at the Art Museums
The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are always a wonderful way to pass a few hours–and they’re open until 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Along with their beautiful Christmas tree adorned with hand-made folk art decorations inspired by the collection, there is plenty going on to keep you in a festive mood.
On Christmas Eve check out 12 Days and Night Before Christmas, a fun mashup of two Christmas favorites (Dec. 24 at 10:30, 12:30, and 2; free event ticket required). Timothy Seamen performs on the hammered dulcimer in Profound Joy (4 p.m., additional $7 ticket).
On Christmas Day there’s A Christmas Remembered, with founding mothers and fathers sharing Christmas memories (11:30 a.m., free with museum admission); and Holiday Memories, featuring charming 1890s-style shadow puppetry (2:30 p.m., $5 event ticket).
In terms of exhibits, step into a different world with A Carolina Christmas, featuring a 19th-century dressed up for the holidays; enjoy the craftsmanship of German Toys in America; or gaze in wonder at the enormous Long Island Dollhouse in The World Made Small. And if you haven’t seen the amazing exhibit We Are One: Mapping America’s Road from Revolution to Independence, hurry! It ends its Williamsburg run on Jan. 29, 2017.
Finally, if you find the time to stop by the Williamsburg Lodge, there’s that amazing gingerbread village. Look, but don’t eat! If you need your gingerbread fix, head over to the Raleigh Tavern Bake Shop for their legendary cookies. They’ll be open Christmas Eve 9-5, and 11-4 on Christmas Day.