History and Christmastime go hand in hand in Colonial Williamsburg. During the holiday season, Williamsburg has so much to offer–beautiful decor, a history for many Christmas traditions, and is nearby to resort attractions like the Great Wolf Lodge.
Williamsburg, Virginia which is located on the Virginia peninsula in the northern part of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area is a college town and abundant with things to do for all ages. In fact, Colonial Williamsburg is Virginia’s #1 tourist attraction. As you drive along the walnut and oak lined roads as you enter Colonial Williamsburg, you’ll notice that the town’s shopping district is dressed in garland, bows and lights.
At the edge of the shopping district is the Liberty Ice Pavilion and large pine trees covered in white lights. A few steps away from the shopping district, the lights dim and you enter the colonial world as it would have been at dusk during the 18th century.
You’ll notice the hand made magnolia leaf and pine wreaths that hang upon the windows and doors of the merchant shops and homes. While popular thought is that the origin of fruit bedecked wreaths and trappings at Christmastime began in Williamsburg, as it turns out the Colonial Revival period which is the setting for Colonial Williamsburg was influenced, more likely, by “a sculptor with the improbable name of Grinling Gibbons who produced popular architectural wood carvings with festoons of fruit, flowers, and other bits of nature in borders and decorative motifs for English cathedrals and English royalty until his death in 1720.” Instead, it is more likely that Mrs. Louise Fisher, placed in charge of flowers and Christmas decorations for the district, drove to the Library of Congress where she turned up English and American pictorial examples from the period to use as guides. By 1939 her “della Robbia” wreaths were attracting considerable comment and the “Williamsburg Christmas look” was launched.
Colonial Williamsburg is also home to Colonial Revival architecture, which is visible as you walk through the 301 acre living historic area that celebrates early patriots and early American life. Considered a part of Colonial Williamsburg is the College of William and Mary, which was founded in 1693 and is the second oldest institution of higher education in the United States. A large part of the 1,200 acre campus at William and Mary’s consists of woodlands and Lake Matoaka, an artificial lake created by colonists in the early 18th century. Traditions at William and Mary during the holiday season include the Yule Log Ceremony, at which the president dresses up as Santa Claus and reads How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Gentlemen of the College sing the “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
Christmas is markedly observed at the College of William and Mary with decorated Christmas trees across campus. German immigrant Charles Minnegerode, a humanities professor at the College in 1842 who taught Latin and Greek, brought one of the first Christmas trees to America. Minnigerode introduced the German custom of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas at the home of law professor St. George Tucker, and is said to have influenced Americans to adopt the practice at about that time.
Step back in time and lift your spirits this holiday season. Take a Christmas Decorations Walking Tour Dec. 19 through January 1, 2018. Enjoy a ‘Tis the Season Tour this December 24th at 7 p.m. Tickets for adults are just $16. Available for purchase here. Enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride around the Historic District.
And if you know you’d love to celebrate the traditional holiday decor of Williamsburg as well as the dazzling modern light decor of Busch Garden’s Christmas Town, you may want to purchase the Christmas Bounce Ticket which includes Three (3) consecutive days’ admission for Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens Christmas Town, complimentary shuttle service around the Historic Area, Free Parking at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Interpreter-led tours of Colonial Williamsburg’s Governor’s Palace and the Capitol Building as well as admission to the two Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. At the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, see the current show of American Artists called Artists on the Move, a collection of portraits–one made for a president while another was rescued from disposal.
Nearby Williamsburg is Historic Jamestown, the original site of the first permanent English settlement in America. Ongoing archaeology at the site of James Fort provides insight to the challenges and discoveries experienced by early 1600s colonials in Virginia. Like Colonial Williamsburg, living history programs and an archaeology museum tell the story of this the rediscovery of Jamestown.
Make reservations in advance for A Chef’s Kitchen (501 Prince George St, Ste 102, Williamsburg, VA 23185; 757-564-8500) and savor a delectable Roast Rack Of Berkshire Pork, with honey-cider glaze, creamy baby spinach & fried onions. Another great choice is the Fat Canary (410 W Duke of Gloucester St, Williamsburg, VA 23185; 757-229-3333) which serves braised lamb shank, crushed yukon gold potato, green beans, wild mushrooms. The Fat Canary also has vegetarian and vegan options. Nearby you can shop at Colonial Williamsburg’s Merchant Square to pick up Christmas ornaments, home decor, fine cheeses, as well as for jewelry and finely crafted pieces for your home and office.
Once you’ve indulged your appetite for history and tradition, as well as Christmas decor, you may scratch your itch for shopping at Williamsburg Premium Outlets which is located off of Route 199 and includes over 135 shops and stores. Seasonal deals are available.
Should your visit include children or the young at heart and you are in the mood for warmer weather, water slides and swimming, enjoy a stay at Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg. Younger children and vigilant parents will appreciate the Raccoon Lagoon and thrill seekers will want to ride the Howlin’ Tornado and River Canyon Run again and again.
STOP THE CAR
On your way to Williamsburg or back home, stop in Richmond to see the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China.
Outside of the museum, stop to admire and feel a sense of calm and contemplation when you see Chloe, a 24 foot installation by Jaume Plensa.
Luxurious with Regency style furnishings, the Williamsburg Inn (136 E Francis St., Williamsburg, VA 23185) elevates the experience of Colonial Williamsburg. Not only will you be steps away from the Historic District, shopping and the College of William and Mary, but you will get to enjoy a relaxing and aesthetically pleasing dining experience in the newly renovated Rockefeller Room. For a family friendly option that is just a short drive away, you will find comfort and all the accommodations a busy family needs at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Williamsburg-Historic Getaway (515 Bypass Rd., Williamsburg, VA 23185).