In just a few hours, my house mates and I will leave behind this place that we’ve called home for the past four years. Williamsburg, Virginia is a beautiful city built around rich colonial history and populated by an eclectic college community and friendly retirees. April kicks off the official college visit season when flocks of prospective students march through the ancient campus of William and Mary, wide-eyed, and eager to become a fellow TWAMP. Of course, Williamsburg is not just a place for students, it can also be a wonderful side trip if you are visiting Washington D.C. or looking for a romantic weekend getaway. Here are a few things you need to know to help you plan your visit:
When to visit
Williamsburg is notoriously muggy in the summer months and exploding with school groups. Visit in November-April to beat the heat and the crowds.
What to see
If you have been to Colonial Williamsburg (CW) before, I would suggest that you skip the expensive pass and take a stroll down Duke of Gloucester (DoG) street. Many of the colonial attractions such as the Fife and Drum Corps (everyday at 5pm) are outdoors and free to the public. However, if you are visiting with family or you are very interested in colonial history, by all means, purchase a pass. The Wren Chapel at the College of William and Mary offers free tours by knowledgeable history students. Wonder through the College and join the students on the Sunken Gardens to soak up the sun or for a cup of coffee at our central watering hole, The Daily Grind. There is always something unexpected on campus. If you are lucky, maybe you’ll stumble upon a Quidditch match, an AMP event, or even a Michelangelo exhibit. If you still haven’t had enough history during your trip, head over to the Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center which are 10 minutes by car from CW. You can also relax on Jamestown beach after a long day of site seeing.
Where to eat
Williamsburg must have the highest number of breakfast joints per capita anywhere in the world. The Astronomical House of Pancakes (AHOP) is a must for lovers of bigger-than-your-plate pancakes. A word of caution, you may want to split an order of astronomically large pancakes unless you are wearing XL elastic-waist pants, have multiple stomachs, or haven’t eaten in days while hiking the Appalachian Trail. Other notable breakfast places include Aromas Coffee conveniently located in CW and The Coffeehouse (creative, I know), a small batch coffee roaster tucked away in the Williamsburg Crossings shopping center off of Route 5.
CW offers a plethora of wonderful eateries, three of which owned by Chef David Everett. The Blue Talon bistro serves a mean burger with a fried egg on top, the DoG Street Pub is a beer lover’s dream, and the Trellis offers fine dining in a modern shabby-chic setting. The Fat Canary across the street from the DoG Street pub is wickedly expensive but apparently worth the price and the attached Cheeseshop house dressing is a CW staple. As a student, I’ve only had the pleasure of ogling the menu. All the these restaurants are very popular on the weekends. The Blue Talon Bistro, in particular, is often fully booked on weekends so make sure to call in advance! Food For Thought, El Tapatio, Bangkok Garden, and Giuseppe’s are also wonderful restaurants if you want to dine away from the main drag.
When it comes to dessert, Sno-to-go is THE place to go. There is a cult following for their house Stuffed Snow Balls with delicious shaved ice covered in creatively named syrups (Ninja Turtle, Frog in a Blender, Fuzzy Tiger, etc) , sandwiched between impossibly creamy soft serve. Sno-To-Go is not open all year round so if you are visiting during the winter months, the apple pie at Aroma’s or an Extraordinary Cupcake are both scrumptious substitutes.
Where to stay
Unfortunately, I will no longer be living in Williamsburg to offer guests a couch to crash on but I highly recommend the various award-winning Bed and Breakfasts lining Richmond and Jamestown Roads such as the White House Inn or the Boxwood Inn. Last November, my boyfriend and I stayed at the Fife and Drum Inn in CW and we and an amazingly romantic stay with free parking! You can check bedandbreakfast.com for last minute deals and flash sales. If you are traveling with family, I recommend looking on Groupon Getaways and Livingsocial Escapes which often runs deals for self-catering town homes or apartments at the Historic Powhatan Resort, Greensprings Plantation Resorts, and King’s Creek Plantation.
Best Bet Hidden Gems
Catch a show at the Historic Kimbal Theatre
Get a taste of spain at La Tienda
Picnic in the College Woods by Lake Matoaka on delicious finds from the Saturday Farmers Market in CW
Taste local wines at the Williamsburg Winery.