The restored capital of England’s largest colony in the New World is a must-see attraction for visitors of all ages. This is not some phony, fenced-in theme park: Colonial Williamsburg is a living, breathing, working history museum with a painstakingly researched environment that brilliantly evokes 1700s America. It contains 88 original 18th-century buildings and several hundred faithful reproductions, as well as an impressive museum complex. Townsfolk and ‘interpreters’ in period dress go about their colonial jobs, emulating daily life.
Laudably, the park doesn't gloss over America's less glorious moments. Today's re-enactors debate and question slavery (52% of the population of 18th-century Williamsburg were slaves), women’s suffrage, the rights of indigenous Americans and whether or not it is even moral to engage in revolution.
Walking around the historic district and patronizing the shops and taverns is free, but entry to building tours and most exhibits is restricted to ticket holders. Expect crowds, lines and overtired children, especially in summer. There are a number of taverns and a bakery where visitors can eat, and there's also a bakery in the Art Museums complex.
To park and to purchase tickets, follow signs to the visitor center, found north of the historic district between Hwy 132 and Colonial Pkwy. A program detailing the day’s events will be given to you with your ticket, which helps when planning your time at the site.
Parking at the visitor center is free; shuttle buses run frequently between it and the historic district, or you can walk along the tree-lined footpath. You can also buy tickets at the Merchants Square information booth.