Recently I was going to be in Williamsburg, Virginia with my family primarily to go to Busch Gardens (see my post 5 reasons Busch Gardens Williamsburg has something for everyone) but we were going to have about a half day leftover before we would have to go home, so I thought we could go to Colonial Williamsburg. An adult ticket online is $25.99 for a “sampler ticket” that includes a visit to 2 trade shops, the shuttle, the public gaol, and a visit to one family home. A single-day adult ticket for $40.99 will get you all of the aforementioned plus more city sites, trade shops, family homes and gardens, live reenactments in the streets, Governor’s Palace and Capitol Building access, admission to two art museums, and 10% discount on tours and evening programs. Considering we would only have a few hours in the area I didn’t see spending over $100 for that, so I decided we would not buy tickets at all and see what we could see.
After a delicious breakfast at Aroma’s Specialty Coffees, Bakery, and Cafe we walked around the main street of Colonial Williamsburg, Duke of Gloucester Street. I knew that some of the homes here are private residences and offices and if there is a British flag flying, that means it’s open to the public. We kept our eyes open for the British flag and went in several shops such as The William Pitt Shop that sells children’s colonial clothing, hats, toys, games, and books. We also browsed in Prentis Store that sells unique items handmade by skilled tradespeople using 18th-century tools and techniques. We found that if a store or building had people standing outside in period clothing that looked like they were guarding the place, that meant you had to have a ticket to enter so after one or two instances like that, we quickly learned to just by-pass those places entirely. I had read online that the Raleigh Tavern Bakery cranks out hot, fresh-from-the-oven gingerbread cookies every morning so we stopped there to pick up some and quickly devoured them.
Although we just got a little taste of Colonial Williamsburg, given that we only had a few hours to spend I was glad we didn’t spend the money for tickets and just did our own thing on our own pace. I think if we would have bought tickets we would have felt obligated to cram as much in as we could, which would have just been a bad idea. We never would have been able to see and do as much as is offered here and we would have just been exhausted.
There is very little you can see and do without a ticket, so if you plan on spending more than a few hours here, you should definitely buy a ticket and plan on spending at least a couple of days here. Bottom line is pretty much all you can do without a ticket is look at the buildings from the outside and browse in the shops and eat at the restaurants. Would I go back and spend a couple of days to do Colonial Williamsburg properly? I would and if you’re also a history buff, I recommend it for you and your family.