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Things to Do in Colonial Williamsburg during Christmastide

Colonial Williamsburg

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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Grand Illuminations

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.

Community Christmas-Tree Lighting Ceremony

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.

Walking Tours

Theatrical Performances

Music & Dance

Music and dance were important elements of 18th-century life, especially during the Christmas season.  Events include:

Firing of the Christmas Guns

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:

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.

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