Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia with Kids | Ciao Bambino!

Tips for First-Time Visitors to Colonial Williamsburg

It doesn’t matter where you go, or how old you are, traveling is about learning. Whether you discover a new culture or a foreign food, you come home knowing something you didn’t know before. A family trip to Colonial Williamsburg takes the learning to a whole new level. The largest living history museum in the world, it offers a playground to the past.

Colonial Williamsburg
Early morning in Colonial Williamsburg

Thank You Mr. Rockefeller

If it weren’t for the vision and generosity of philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Colonial Williamsburg as we see it today, might not exist. In 1926 he and a local Reverend named Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, began the process of restoring a few of the more important buildings.

It grew into a labor of love and work expanded to include a major portion of the colonial town, encompassing approximately 85 percent of the 18th-century capital’s original area. Rockefeller funded the preservation of more than 80 of the original structures, the reconstruction of many buildings, and the construction of facilities for visitors.

Horse and Buggy Colonial Williamsburg
Climb aboard for a carriage ride

The Neighborhood

Anyone can and does walk through Colonial Williamsburg. Home of the College of William and Mary, iPod clad coeds are commonly seen running. Residents walk their dogs and ride their bikes. Think of Colonial Williamsburg as a neighborhood, just with horse-drawn carriages instead of cars.

An admission ticket or pass is necessary to get inside Colonial Williamsburg’s many buildings and to take part in tours and activities. There are a variety of ticket options to think about, depending how long you’re in town and other activities you might have planned. Combination or flex tickets that include admission to Historic Jamestowne, Jamestown Settlement, the Yorktown Victory Center and Busch Gardens are a good way to cover all the big tickets admissions in one purchase.

When You Arrive

The first thing you should do is pick-up a copy or two, of the Colonial Williamsburg This Week Map and Program Guide. The pamphlet is printed weekly, so if it’s happening in Colonial Williamsburg, it’s in the guide. On one side you’ll find a list with the location of every program held every day, and a heads up if you should plan ahead and make a reservation. A smiling colonist icon highlights family programs.

History alive

Handy, Dandy Map

On the other side of the program is a great, color-coded map. Exhibition sites like the Courthouse and Wigmaker are red. Food the likes of taverns to Italian are blue. Shops that sell everything from candy to candles are yellow. White denotes offices and private homes. Remember what I said about it being a neighborhood. Folks actually live in Colonial Williamsburg.

So Many Choices

You will not be able to do everything, so don’t try. Make choices as a family. Don’t forget your own interests and do everything with the kids in mind. If you have tweens and/or teens get them to weigh in and hand them a map. Map reading is a skill no GPS device can teach. School age kids might enjoy navigating with a copy of the Kids Holiday Adventure Map.

Get Into Costume

What kid doesn’t like dressing up? Colonial costumes are available to rent at the Visitor Center. Boys shirts with tails and dresses that practically dance on their own teach your kids about colonial kids in a way history books can’t.

Baby Lambs in Colonial Williamsburg
You never know who you’ll meet in Colonial Williamsburg


Don’t Miss

Fit the Children’s Orientation Walk into your schedule. It’s typically offered everyday, twice a day and begins at the Gateway building, which is also conveniently home to the Kid’s Corner. Children’s guides entertain and The Children’s Orientation Walk goes to places the grown-up Orientation Walk doesn’t. Important places you may not find on your own like the field where the baby lambs are kept with their doting moms. It’s not on the map either.

Strike up a Conversation

Say hello to a soldier. Carrying on a conversation with a colonist. They’ll happily point you in the lambs direction. They may even share a story the shoemaker told them about the baker. They will definitely help parents in their quest for a holiday card photo contender.

“She loves interacting, she gets into character,” says grandmother Ginny Ketcham, visiting from Colorado with 7 year-old Julia. “The children’s programs are great.”

Julia was having the time of her life in a beautiful colonial dress, but she didn’t rent hers.

“When her mom was young we came quite often,” says Ketcham.

They didn’t have costume rentals then, so Ketcham, a talented seamstress, did the honors, and the well dressed family tradition of visiting Colonial Williamsburg lives on. From the smile on Julia’s face, I’d say more visits are in the future.

This post is sponsored locally by your best trip ever destination – Williamsburg, Virginia. Discover fun for the whole family and book your vacation now at All photos by Dana Rebmann.

Relevant Links:

Getting kids into the spirit in Williamsburg

Start a Discussion

  • Thank you for all the information. We are going June 1 and we are really excited. We are traveling with two 11 year olds , so any more tips is welcoming. Thank you.

  • I can’t wait until my kids study American history in school so we can visit colonial Willamsburg. I am a sucker for period costume villages.

  • Thank you for such a lovely informative article. You’re right in saying that you always learn something new when you travel and I certainly learned something new by just reading your infromation about colonial Williamsburg. It sounds like great fun.

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