Places to Go and Things to Do in Williamsburg

Check out our list of top spots for locals and tourists in Williamsburg, Virginia.

A Colonial Scene in Williamsburg, Virginia

Colonial Williamsburg Church and Carriage

Photo By: Evelyn Bennett View original photo.

Evelyn Bennett

Bruton Parish Church, named after a town in England, provides the backdrop for a conversation between friends in Colonial Williamsburg.

By: Kim O'Brien Root

Food and Drink Essentials

BEST PLACE TO BUY GROCERIES

Trader Joe's
5000 Settler’s Market Blvd.
757-259-2135

It might be a chain store, but since Trader Joe’s opened in New Town a few years ago, it’s been popular among college students and residents alike. Trader Joe’s stocks the basics like milk, butter and bread, but also has imported cheeses, organic produce and a wide selection of wine that’s affordable and good. There is always some kind of food or drink to sample, and kids who accompany their parents get a free balloon.

BEST ETHNIC FOOD

Nawab Indian Cuisine
204 Monticello Ave.
757-565-3200

Tucked into a nondescript strip mall that also houses a thrift store and a storefront church is Nawab, an Indian restaurant where elegant tables are set with white tablecloths, cloth napkins and candles. The restaurant -- part of a local chain -- offers a lunchtime buffet to try out savory dishes, and a full bar serves the dinner crowd. The naan breads, tandoori specialties and mango lassi drinks rank with the best curry restaurants out there.

BEST BBQ

Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que
447 E. Rochambeau Dr.
757-565-2955

Visitors to the Williamsburg area happen upon Pierce’s while vacationing, and then return time and again for the delicious hickory-smoked, Tennessee-style barbecue. For a yummy lunch, the “J.C. Special” features a generous pulled-pork sandwich topped with coleslaw, fries, drink and a homemade cookie. Pierce’s offers catering services and through its online store ships its “Doc” Pierce’s original and honey barbecue sauces around the world -- the owners have been known to ship sauce to military personnel in Iraq.

BEST PLACE TO GET A DRINK

Green Leafe Cafe
765 Scotland St. (Downtown) and 4345 New Town Ave.
757-220-3405 or 757-221-9582

Voted a Top 10 bar by USA Today, Green Leafe Cafe offers a huge selection of beers -- more than 60 drafts and more than 150 different bottled beers, including Virginia brews such as Williamsburg’s own Shock Top Belgian White and Bud Light. Green Leafe also offers an extensive wine list and lunch and dinner specials. The Downtown location, across the street from the College of William & Mary football stadium, is a favorite among locals and college students, while the newer restaurant in New Town features outdoor seating.

BEST PLACE TO GET DESSERT

The Trellis
403 Duke of Gloucester St., Merchants Square
757-229-8610

If dinner at The Trellis is too pricey -- it’s one of Williamsburg’s most expensive restaurants -- at least stop by for dessert. The signature Death By Chocolate dessert, which inspired a cookbook and arguably made The Trellis famous, is a seven-layer chocolate torte with chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce. The elegant restaurant’s dessert menu also features sweet potato fritters, a selection of homemade sorbets and a cheese plate.

Outdoors Essentials

BEST FREE THINGS TO DO

Colonial Williamsburg

Save the admission passes for the tourists -- simply walking around Colonial Williamsburg is free and fun. You might not be able to get into all the attractions, but you can still walk among scores of reconstructed homes, shops and public buildings. Stroll down Duke of Gloucester Street and encounter costumed interpreters, stop to pet the horses tethered along the side of the cobblestoned roads or pause to learn about a 18th century trade. Get a glimpse of CW’s Revolutionary City -- a family-friendly, live dramatic program that features interpreters suddenly launching into street theater that’s intended to recreate life around the time of the American Revolution. Or just people-watch.

Kidsburg
Mid County Park, 3793 Ironbound Road
757-259-5360

Kidsburg is a community-built playground located at a 19-acre park in James City County. The wooden playground includes a fenced-in toddler area, a zip line, a play pirate ship with ladders and lookouts and a wooden tower with a slide steep and fast enough to intimidate adults. The park itself has a 2/3-mile paved path encircling it and includes lighted ball fields, basketball and tennis courts, a beach volleyball court and picnic shelters. 

Entertainment Essentials

BEST PLACES TO SHOP

The Williamsburg area is full of shopping possibilities, including the popular Premium Outlets on Richmond Road that features stores such as L.L. Bean, Coach, Bass, J.Crew, Gymboree, Harry & David, Dooney & Bourke and Crocs. Down the road is the Williamsburg Outlet Mall, which includes Lee/Wrangler, Black & Decker and Pepperidge Farm outlets. Then there’s the 200-acre Williamsburg Pottery -- 32 buildings that include a salt glaze pottery as well as custom framing, flower arrangements, cement garden ware, a lamp workshop, and Christmas items.

Merchants Square, an 18th-century style retail village near Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area and the College of William and Mary, is another shopping destination. Retailers such as Binns, Chico’s and Williams Sonoma are mixed in with specialty shops that sell toys, Scottish goods, cheese, Williamsburg crafts, peanuts and candy. New Town, a mixed-use development in James City County, offers another option for shopping with stores such as White House Black Market, Ann Taylor Loft and Hi-Ho Silver, a local jewelry chain.

BEST THINGS TO DO WITH THE KIDS

Busch Gardens
One Busch Gardens Blvd.
800-343-7946

In the spring and summer, ride roller coasters and get soaked on the log flume and Roman Rapids ride. In the fall, get spooked at Howl-o-Scream. In the winter, marvel at the sparking lights and festive fun of Christmas Town. Busch Gardens has something for every season, for every person, for every age. For the kids, there’s Sesame Street Forest of Fun and the magical fantasy rides in Land of the Dragons. There’s Irish dancing, musical acts, summer concerts, animals (wolves, Bald Eagles, Clydesdales), fireworks and more. Virginia residents are eligible for Fun Cards, where you can pay for a day and come back all spring, summer, or fall. A nearly 240-foot drop tower -- which will be the highest ride at the park -- is planned for spring 2011.

Water Country USA
176 Water Country Pkwy.
800-343-7946

Music from the 50s and 60s pipes through the popular water park off Route 199 in York County. There are water slides for the daring, a lazy 1,500-feet-long river best enjoyed while wearing the park’s flotation jackets, multiple children’s areas (Cowabunga, anyone?) and a huge wave pool. A new attraction called Vanish Point is set to open in the spring 2011 -- it features a 75-foot high skybox where the floor drops out, or a 300-foot speed slide.

Great Wolf Lodge
559 E. Rochambeau Dr.
757-229-9700 or 800-551-9653

For some water fun during cold weather, head for an overnight’s stay at Great Wolf Lodge -- one of 12 indoor waterparks across the country. The always-84-degrees park includes a water park as well as a spa for adults and children, an arcade, a fitness center, and an interactive MagiQuest game played in the hallways. Every night at 8 p.m., children can wear their pajamas for story time under the lobby clock tower. All rooms include microwave and refrigerators, so bring your own snacks, drinks and breakfast to save on having to purchase food inside the park.

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