Main Street in Williamsburg Virginia

Surround yourself in history in Colonial Williamsburg. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Spend a Laid-Back Weekend in Williamsburg, Virginia

Williamsburg may be nearly 400 years old, but don’t let its age fool you: This little city is anything but stodgy. With countless 18th-century sights, elegant restaurants and famed amusement parks, it’s a marriage of historical gravitas and college-town quirk — with a dash of theme-park hilarity. 

On the cobblestone streets of Colonial Williamsburg, restored taverns, houses and shops make history books come alive.

Foodies can explore the town’s excellent restaurants and bars, including many wineries, breweries and distilleries. And no visit to this part of Virginia is complete without discovering the lush forests and salt marshes that blanket the Tidewater region.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Travel Back in Time

Grab a table at Baker’s Crust, a trendy bistro serving fresh-baked pastries, along with dishes like “Swanky Eggs Benedict,” a house-made buttermilk biscuit piled with fried chicken, bacon, arugula, poached eggs and a drizzle of hollandaise.

Colonial drummers marching
Take a trip back in time. (Photo: Getty Images)

The next best thing to time travel is a visit to Colonial Williamsburg, where you’ll glimpse life in the 18th-century capital of the Virginia Colony. The 301-acre town, meticulously restored in the 1930s, is the largest living-history museum in the country.

Wander the streets of the city, where historical interpreters in period costumes work as blacksmiths, milliners, farmers and soldiers, answering questions as they forge tools or sew dresses. Stop by one of the working shops for Colonial trinkets like inkwells or wooden toys, or even a head-to-toe period ensemble.

The Governor’s Palace and its adjacent gardens are a must-see. The grand building, once the center of power in Virginia, is furnished in full Georgian splendor. Visit the George Wythe House and the Capitol building, before finding a table at Chowning’s Tavern for a proper 18th-century-inspired pub lunch.

Spend your afternoon at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, one of the country’s finest collections of 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century American folk art, and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, which houses stunning Southern furniture, historic jewelry and British ceramics.

Finish your day at a fittingly historic dinner venue: The elegant King’s Arms Tavern on Merchants Square has a menu of updated takes on Colonial recipes like vol-au-vent and game pie. Grab a nightcap and a live music performance at the Corner Pocket before turning in.

Saturday: Take a Wild Ride

Williamsburg is not just for history buffs — the town is also home to Busch Gardens and Water Country USA. On the way to Busch Gardens (or Water Country USA, which is open only in the summer months), stop by Shorty’s Diner for diner classics — think stacks of buttermilk pancakes and corned beef hash.

Busch Gardens spans 383 acres of rides, performance venues, shopping and dining, all designed to evoke quaint villages from France, Germany, Italy and the British Isles. Jump-start your adrenaline rush with a 210-foot drop at Apollo’s Chariot coaster or hop on the Skyride for a leisurely tour of the park from 80 feet in the air before lunching on lamb gyros at Marco Polo’s Marketplace.

After lunch, check out one of the live shows, which change seasonally and run the gamut from kid-friendly animal demonstrations to Celtic dancing. And don’t leave the park empty-handed — stop into one of the many boutiques to commemorate your stateside “European tour” with a German-made stein or Irish-inspired knitwear.

Fresh oysters on ice with lemon wedge
Enjoy happy hour over some oysters. (Photo: Getty Images)

Back in town, hightail it to Casa Pearl for happy hour in a former gas station. Try small plates like local oysters and hush puppies along with drinks like “Murphy’s Law,” a tropical-with-a-kick blend of pineapple and chile-infused vodka.

Save room for dinner at the legendary Amber Ox, an upscale pub in Colonial Williamsburg known for creative cocktails and stick-to-your-ribs fare such as poutine, grilled pork chops and venison with plum glaze.

Finish your evening with a different kind of nightlife: a 90-minute ghost tour of Colonial Williamsburg, during which you’ll learn local legends and — if you’re lucky — get a brush with the paranormal.

Sunday: Explore the Great Outdoors

Start your day with coffee and a plate of fluffy buttermilk pancakes at Capitol Pancake House — and perhaps a flight of their fruit-flavored mimosas, if you’re feeling festive. Then it’s on to Jamestown and Yorktown, which together with Williamsburg form the Virginia Historic Triangle.

Indigenous home recreated in Powhatan village
Learn about the Indigenous culture at Powhatan village. (Photo: Getty Images)

Start in Historic Jamestowne to see the re-created 17th-century fort and Powhatan village, along with a working archaeological dig. When your stomach starts to growl, head to Water Street Grille in Yorktown for crab cakes and a bowl of she-crab soup overlooking the York River.

After lunch, rent a kayak and see that shoreline up close or opt for a bike rental to explore the historic town and the famous battlefield roads at your own pace. Patriot Tours offers kayak, paddleboard and bike rentals and can suggest the most scenic routes.

Back in town, the six breweries on the Williamsburg Tasting Trail, including the award-winning Alewerks, are dotted along a 6-mile span. Most offer short pours or flights, so you can mix and match a few stops without overdoing it.

Cap off your Williamsburg weekend — and balance out those beers — at Berret’s Seafood Restaurant & Taphouse Grill. Grab a seat on the patio (or indoors by the cozy fireplace) and order whatever seafood sounds best. Berret’s sources its catch from the Chesapeake Bay and the York and James rivers, so you can’t go wrong.

After dinner, stroll around the block to the historic Kimball Theatre in Merchants Square for a play, dance performance, or even an opera — the very best way to end your weekend on a high note.