Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia is lovely, quaint, and heart-warming all year round, but never more so than during Christmastide, which runs from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.
I try to go for at least a day every December. The purpose of this post is to help you plan your own colonial Christmastide.
What to Do during Christmastide
in Colonial Williamsburg
The heart of the Christmas season in Colonial Williamsburg is the special programming, the holiday events that occur only during the five-week period. Highlights include:
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In the 18th century, illuminations marked major events such as the birthday of a reigning sovereign, military victories, or the arrival of a new colonial governor with fireworks and gun salutes. On Saturdays in early December, Colonial Williamsburg continues the tradition with musical performances on multiple stages throughout the brick streets and fireworks displays from the Capitol building and the Governor’s Palace.
On December 1, Father Christmas helps illuminate the live spruce tree in front of the Courthouse. The festivities also include singing Christmas carols and hearing the story of the first Christmas tree in Virginia and a special reading of The Night Before Christmas. The event begins at 5 p.m.
- During the Christmas Decorations Walking Tour, a guide describes the materials and techniques used to create the traditional decorations on display around the Capital.
- During Talk of the Town | Christmastide, an 18th-century Williamsburg resident guides visitors through the Capital and discusses holiday traditions and the news of the day.
- In A Christmas Remembered, a “Nation Builder” shares Christmas memories and hopes for the New Year.
- In Of Christmas Past, a British servant in Virginia recalls the Christmas customs and traditions he left behind in the mother country.
Music & Dance
Music and dance were important elements of 18th-century life, especially during the Christmas season. Events include:
- Concerts at the Capitol and the Governor’s Palace
- Christmas Balls at the Palace
- Christmastide Music at the Courthouse
- Governor’s Musick at the Raleigh Tavern
Gunfire expresses joy and celebration on Christmas Eve.
Where to Stay in Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg offers a range of hotels. Two of the best are:
It is also possible to stay in “Colonial Houses“, period accommodations (with modern bathrooms!) in the heart of the Historic Area, so you don’t have to break the magic. (I once stayed in a room that had been occupied by Margaret Thatcher.)
There are often several advantages to staying at official Colonial Williamsburg hotels, such as proximity, convenient parking, length-of-stay admission tickets, and access to exclusive events like tours.
If you prefer to stay off-site, there are plenty of hotels in and around the city of Williamsburg, such as Great Wolf Lodge, an off-site property with its own water park and close proximity to Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que, the best barbecue spot in Virginia. If you choose to stay off-site, you would park at the Visitor Center and walk or ride a shuttle bus to the Historic Area.
Where to Eat in Colonial Williamsburg
There are lots of places to eat in Williamsburg, including historic taverns and hotel restaurants. These venues offer several special events during Christmastide, including:
- Thanksgiving Dinner at the King’s Arms Tavern, the Williamsburg Inn, and the Williamsburg Lodge
- Holiday Tea at the Williamsburg Inn
- Wine Dinner with a “Nation Builder” at the King’s Arms Tavern
- Grand Illumination Dinner at the King’s Arms Tavern
- Feast of the Seven Fishes at the Williamsburg Inn
Colonial Williamsburg is popular during Christmastide, and grows more so later in December. I recommend going early in the season and making your plans as soon as possible. Please note that many of the events highlighted here require special tickets, beyond your general admission passes to Colonial Williamsburg. For more information, please check out Colonial Williamsburg’s holiday planner.