What It's Like to Live in Williamsburg, Virginia

Learn what it's like living in historic Williamsburg, Virginia.
Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia

Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia

The Governor's Palace was reconstructed on its original site in the 1930s and is one of the two largest buildings in Colonial Williamsburg.

Photo by: Evelyn Bennett

Evelyn Bennett

By: Kim O'Brien Root
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Living in Williamsburg means living in the midst of history.


Established in 1699, Williamsburg was the capital of Virginia at the time of the American Revolution, and the area prides itself on keeping that history alive. Walk through the streets of Colonial Williamsburg, the restored historic area, and you’ll encounter costumed interpreters willing to entertain you with tales of living in colonial times.

LOCATION

The city is at the heart of the Historical Triangle of Virginia, which includes Jamestown and Yorktown and is among the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It’s also home to the College of William and Mary, the country’s second-oldest public university. Thomas Jefferson went there before founding the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Williamsburg is located along the Interstate 64 corridor between the James and York rivers and is an hour or less drive to the Atlantic Ocean or the Chesapeake Bay. The scenic, 23-mile, cobblestone-like Colonial Parkway connects the Historic Triangle.

A Williamsburg ZIP code extends beyond the city’s nine square miles, however, including parts of nearby James City and York counties. Beside Jamestown, America’s first permanent English colony, 144-square-mile James City County includes Busch Gardens Europe — an amusement park known for its roller coasters as well as its picturesque grounds. York, in the easternmost corner of the Historic Triangle, was the site of the British army’s surrender that ended the Revolutionary War. In York County, like Williamsburg, history mixes with tourism: You can find battlefields as well as water parks both outside (Water Country USA) and inside (Great Wolf Lodge).

Williamsburg takes pride in its rich colonial history. 

POPULATION

Nestled in the northwest corner of Virginia’s greater Hampton Roads area, an area known for its strong military presence, Williamsburg and its adjacent counties draw retirees as well as young families. A wealth of living opportunities abound, ranging from a condominium in the planned urban community of New Town — where you can walk from your front door to more than 170 restaurants and shops — to a lavish riverfront home in the gated resort community of Kingsmill — which includes three renowned championship golf courses, a spa and more than 20 residential neighborhoods spread among 2,900 acres.

The population of Williamsburg hovers around 12,700 with a median age of 22.6 — thanks to the presence of William and Mary. Nearby James City County has about 63,700 people, while York County has around 61,100. Median home values range from $212,000 in the city of Williamsburg to $337,600 in James City County — although million-dollar-plus homes are not hard to find.

Williamsburg is at the heart of the Historical Triangle of Virginia, which includes Jamestown and Yorktown. 

WEATHER

A four-season climate means hot and humid summers (perfect for a trip to the bustling — although busy — Virginia Beach oceanfront) but usually mild winters with an average annual snowfall of six inches and temperatures that stay above freezing. The area’s extensive network of wooded parks is ideal for autumn leaf-peeping, while spring brings out the flowers, including daffodils and dogwoods. The area’s many tourist attractions mean crowded highways especially in the summertime, however, and the interstate can often back up for miles.

The Virginia Beach oceanfront is a popular tourist destination in the summer.

ACTIVITIES

Williamsburg draws not only history buffs but, thanks to a vast selection of shopping, entertainment opportunities and several newer mixed-use developments, it also draws shopping fans. The Premium Outlets, one of the most popular outlet malls in the country, is located in James City County along Richmond Road — there you can find everything from candles at Yankee Candle’s southern flagship store to Virginia hams. The Merchants Square area of Colonial Williamsburg offers high-end restaurants and specialty shops.

And if you enjoy good food and wine, look no further. The area is full of restaurants, offering everything from fresh seafood to savory barbecue. The Williamsburg Winery is Virginia’s largest, and history is visible even here: Most of the wines, including the award-winning Governor’s White, have historical references listed on the back of each bottle.

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