We hope you’re making plans to celebrate independence the right way—with us! Our 4th of July festivities will feature a lot more than spectacular fireworks. We offered a preview a couple weeks ago–now here’s your practical guide for navigating the day.
This year’s theme is “Light and Liberty,” drawn from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to Tench Coxe in 1795. Brimming with his optimism that the American Revolution would inspire other nations to follow, he wrote: “This ball of liberty, I believe most piously, is now so well in motion that it will roll round the globe, at least the enlightened part of it, for light & liberty go together.”
Celebrate the sentiment with our 4th of July logo shirts and more patriotic gear available online.
HIGHLIGHTS OF INDEPENDENCE DAY
- 9:30 a.m. Young Thomas Jefferson reads the Declaration of Independence from the Capitol balcony
- 10 a.m. A Salute to the Stateson Market Square
- 12 p.m. Patrick Henry reads the Declaration at the Courthouse
- 12 pm. and 4 p.m. The classic film musical “1776” at the Kimball Theatre
- 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. Key’s Poem: Our National Anthem at the Art Museums (separate ticket required)
- 8:50 p.m. “The Lights of Freedom” on Palace Green: pageantry, a procession, and fireworks over the Governor’s Palace
And then there’s the auction at 1 p.m.…
The public auction on the 4th of July is the second-biggest of the year (after Grand Illumination). It starts at 1 p.m. on Market Square and will run for as long as four hours. Come for as long as you like. It’s guaranteed to entertain and offer some unique items and special values. (Inside tip: items sold in stores will always sell for less at the auction.)
One-of-a-kind items include a hand-engraved bell forged by our Geddy Foundry and a table that folds into a bench chair made by our Joiners. There will also be products from Virginia Metalcrafters, wooden toys, and original pen-and-ink drawings of the Fifes and Drums and the Founders.
Also up for bid: a Patrick Henry Corner Chair, a Lord Dunmore Table, a Wythe House mantel clock, a Jefferson goblet engraved with his seal, and much, much more.
If you’d like to bid from home, you can do that! Bids are accepted until 5 p.m. the day before the auction and must be submitted to Denise Chiera via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. (You can also request a complete list of auction items from Denise at this email.)
To bid, submit the specific item you are interested in, your MAXIMUM bid, and your contact information for immediately following the auction. A proxy bid will be made during the auction up to the exact amount of your max bid—never more. If you win the item, you will be contacted for your payment information to complete the transaction. Payment must be made on that day or the item will be considered not sold.
FUN FOR KIDS
The slate of fun for younger folks includes (but is not limited to!)…
- 9 a.m.-5 p.m.: Join Patriots at Play behind the Randolph House.
- 9 a.m.-5 p.m.: Stomp some clay in the Brickyard, learn how weavers make cloth on a loom, and discover other 18th-century historic trades. Check the Colonial Williamsburg Explorer app or printed Map & Program Guide for the full list of open shops and their hours.
- 9 a.m.-5 p.m.: Cool off in the air conditioning and play some tabletop games at the Geddy House, geared especially toward learning about 18th-century family life.
- 9:30, 10:30, 11:30, and 1:30 Dig! with a real archaeologist. Ticketed guests may sign up for any of the sessions at the Colonial Street entrance each day at 9 a.m.
- 9:30 and 10:45 a.m. Learn the secrets hidden in the Robert Carter House from architectural historians in Building Detectives (free with admission, but separate reservation required)
- 11 a.m. Learn all about (and meet some of) Colonial Williamsburg’s Rare Breeds Program behind the Randolph House.
- 11:55 a.m. Catch the Firing of the Noon Gun.
- 12 pm. and 4 p.m. Two showings of the classic musical “1776” at the Kimball Theatre. Tickets just $5.
- 12:30-4 p.m. Play 18th-century games like Trap Ball, Game of Graces, Shut the Box, and Hoop and Stick at the Market House.
- 2:30 p.m. Join a bucket brigade in Running of the Engine in the Magazine yard.
- 2:30-4 Use period-correct tools in Level and Plumb at the Brickyard.
- 4:20 p.m. See a demonstration of military field maneuvers in The Necessity of Order in Battle
- 5 p.m. Enjoy dinner theater in a historic tavern with The Life of a Jolly Pyrate.
WHAT TO BRING—DO’s & DON’Ts
DO bring blankets and lawn chairs to enjoy the fireworks. If you bring a cooler, please avoid bringing glass or other breakables. DO wear comfortable shoes.
DON’T forget to pack water bottles and plenty of sunscreen. Pretty good chance it will be hot out there. If you have one of our refillable mugs—from this or any year–you can get soda refills for $1. No charge for water, but it may not be available at all the stands.
DO bring white glow sticks, or purchase yours when you arrive for about $1 apiece. As we get close to the fireworks help us bring Palace Green alive with the light of liberty!
DO be nice to your neighbors in the crowd. It’s going to get crowded and dark out there, so be courteous about sharing the space—and maybe bring a flashlight, too. If rain is still in the forecast, don’t forget to bring an umbrella (or two).
PARKING & GETTING AROUND
The Prince George Street parking garage ($1/hour) is your best bet if you want to park near Merchants Square on the west side of town, but may fill up early. Most street and lot parking is for only one or two hours.
The low-stress option is definitely to park at the Visitor Center and take the free shuttle to the Historic Area. (You can also walk by taking the path from the back of the Visitor Center to the Gateway building near the Governor’s Palace.
From 1 p.m. until 8 p.m. bus service will be limited to every 30 minutes. Then from 8 until 9 p.m. there will be express service from the Visitor Center to the Palace bus stop. Important note: all shuttles will stop running from 9-11 p.m. during the fireworks show.
REFRESHMENTS AND DINING
The breakfast and wine dinner with Thomas Jefferson are both sold out and tickets for other events are going fast, so reserve yours as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
The Chownings Independence Day Celebration is going to be a blast, with music, games, and an all-you-can-eat buffet just a short walk from Palace Green. It’s a perfect place to relax in Chownings outdoor garden before the fireworks. Grab a libation, then feast on dishes like Michael Twitty’s famous mop-rubbed Virginia spare ribs, try some fresh Chesapeake Bay oysters being roasted on the fire pit, and play some cornhole while enjoying live music. At 8:45, saunter over to Palace Green for the evening’s fireworks finale. Your ticket includes all the food and all the fun, as well as your own engraved pint glass and two drink tickets.
At the Williamsburg Lodge Family Fourth of July Celebration, enjoy games on Lodge lawn, a buffet dinner in the Virginia Room, then get escorted to a special section on Palace Green to view the fireworks.
Other food options include:
- All day at the cider stands, snacks and $1 refills in our refillable mugs
- 3-4 p.m. Beat the heat at Shields’ Ice Cream Social (tickets $9.95)
- 4-8 p.m. Refreshments and snacks in Mr. Shields’ garden (behind the tavern)
- 5 p.m. Enjoy dinner theater at Shields Tavern with The Life of a Jolly Pyrate
- 5-8 p.m. $10 burger night at Huzzahs next to the Visitor Center
- 5-10 p.m. Several food trucks will be stationed on Duke of Gloucester Street between Nassau and Henry (where the ice skating rink was during the holiday season)
- 9:45 p.m. (approximately) Chowning’s Tavern will reopen for walk-up business at the conclusion of the fireworks.
WEATHER & OTHER CONTINGENCIES
The biggest threat to the fireworks is high winds. Any major schedule changes, delays, or cancellations will be posted on our social media channels. Find Colonial Williamsburg on Facebook, Instagram (colonialwmsburg), and Twitter (@colonialwmsburg).
Restrooms will be open until 11 p.m. and can easily be located on the Map & Guide or using the Colonial Williamsburg Explorer app. Additional portable facilities will be located around Palace Green.
If you need cash, there are SunTrust ATMs at the ticket office in Merchants Square and at the corner of Prince George and North Henry streets, and a Wells Fargo ATM in Barnes and Noble in Merchants Square.
Remember, light and liberty go together, but it’s not enough without the people. Hope we’ll see you out there.