Welcome to America’s Historic Triangle! If you’re unfamiliar with this phrase, it’s the region in southeast Virginia that connects Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown. This area is probably the most historical in the US and is a popular place to visit for families and locals alike hoping to learn a bit more about American history and the Revolutionary War. This guide is going to cover things to do in Williamsburg, Virginia, along with Yorktown and Jamestown!
Disclaimer: Today’s blog post is sponsored by the Fife and Drum Inn in Colonial Williamsburg, Virigina. The inn was kind enough to host me for a night on my recent road trip through the Historic Triangle and work with me on this post and on my Instagram. You can read more about the inn in detail below. As always, all opinions written here are my own.
How To Get There
There are several different ways to get to this area, which is one of the reasons why it’s such a popular trip. The most common way is by car. It’s easy to drive in from the surrounding states on the scenic, 23-mile Colonial Parkway. You can also fly into this area through either Richmond or Norfolk, Virginia, both of which are about an hour away. I recommend Norfolk if you’re looking to visit Virginia Beach on this trip as well. The Outer Banks are also easily accessible from this airport! Whether you choose to fly into the Historic Triangle or drive, you’ll want to have a car to get to the things to do in Williamsburg, Virginia. Jamestown is about 35 minutes from the Yorktown Battlefields, so a car is imperative to getting around.
Where To Stay
Staying in the colonial downtown is one of the top things to do in Williamsburg, Virginia. Yorktown Beach does have a small downtown, but it’s not as popping as Williamsburg. Additionally, Jamestown is basically just the historic site and settlement- I didn’t see any hotels here.
There are lots of accommodation options in Williamsburg, most of them being boutique inns. I highly recommend staying at the Fife and Drum Inn here!
This historic inn is located right downtown in Williamsburg and is central to a lot of the area’s shops and restaurants. It’s actually above a cafe, that’s how centrally located it is! This inn is owned by the sweetest family and will make you feel like you truly stepped back in time. My room came with a four-post bed and claw-foot tub, just like the bedrooms used to have during the Revolutionary War! This inn also has a common area that provides breakfast each morning, along with snacks throughout the day. If you drive here, the inn will also give you a parking slip for your car at a nearby lot!
Thank you again to the Fife and Drum Inn for hosting me during my recent stay and for working with me on this post. Everyone told me this place books up months in advance, so I was thrilled to experience this place and encourage you to as well!
Things To Do In Williamsburg, Virginia
Now that you know how to get to the Historic Triangle and where to stay, let’s dive into things to do in Williamsburg, Virginia! I’m starting with Williamsburg because this is where you’ll be spending most of your time during your visit to the Historic Triangle.
Colonial Williamsburg Visitor’s Center
I always recommend people swing into a Visitor’s Center before starting a trip to ask questions and make plans. The Visitor’s Center here was great- it had a small-scale replica of the city, an informative museum, and a gift shop! Swing in here to grab tickets for local attractions before beginning your trip.
Walk Around William & Mary
Second on the list of things to do in Williamsburg, Virginia is to visit William & Mary. The College of William & Mary is the second oldest university in the US, behind Harvard, and also happens to be one of the prettiest college campuses I’ve ever seen! Williamsburg is a planned city, meaning the main streets of the city align with the city’s most important buildings at each end. For example, the Capitol Building and William & Mary sit opposite of each other on the Duke of Gloucester pedestrian street. This campus is open to the public and is full of some of the oldest buildings in the city, so definitely go for a stroll around here!
Fun Fact: Founded in 1693, William & Mary is the 9th oldest university in the English-speaking world.
Constructed in the early 1700s, the Governor’s Palace was the official residence of the Royal Governors of the Colony of Viriginia. This building was erected to impress visitors with a display of authority and wealth, so be sure to check it out! It’s stunning.
The Homes on Duke of Gloucester
As you make your way from the College of William & Mary to the Governor’s Palace, you’ll become acquainted with the Duke of Gloucester. The Duke of Gloucester is the main road that runs through Colonial Williamsburg. This pedestrian-only street is one of the top things to do in Williamsburg, Virginia. All along this road you’ll pass stunning 300 year old homes, old taverns, merchant shops, and a few inns.
Pro-tip: The DOG is about one mile long. If you don’t feel like walking, there’s also horse-drawn carriage rides here!
Colonial Williamsburg Capitol
The next iconic site on the list of things to do in Williamsburg, Virignia is to visit the Capitol. This building was used as the Capitol by the seat of Government in Viriginia as the state transitioned from Colony to Commonwealth. The Governor’s Council, General Court, and House of Burgesses met here. The original building was constructed in 1705 and destroyed by fire in 1747. Its replacement also burned down about one hundred years later. The third reconstruction opened to the public in the 1930s and still stands today.
Colonial Williamsburg Inn
This inn sits across from the Governor’s Palace, behind the old Market Square, and is one of the luxury resorts in the area. If you’re looking for more things to do in Williamsburg, Virignia, this place has it all! This historic hotel is complete with a golf course, spa, and multiple on-site restaurants. Swing by here to snap a quick picture in front if you’re not staying here!
The last thing to do in Williamsburg, Virginia is to explore Merchant’s Square. Located adjacent to the Colonial Williamsburg historic area and William & Mary, this area is a 18th century style retail village with over 40 shops and restaurants. I recommend grabbing dinner here at the Fat Canary, but book it in advance- reservations are hard to come by at this place.
Things To Do In Historic Yorktown
The second point in the Historic Triangle of Virginia is Yorktown! Yorktown is home to the battlefields in this area, Yorktown Beach, and downtown Yorktown. I don’t recommend staying here (Stay at the Fife and Drum Inn mentioned above), but definitely come here for a full day. From Williamsburg, Yorktown is about a 20 minute drive on the scenic Colonial Parkway.
Yorktown Visitor’s Center
As mentioned above, I always like to start a trip at the Visitor’s Center! I highly recommend doing this for Yorktown so you can pick up a map, especially since Yorktown is a National Historic Park! There’s also a trolley that leaves from here to bring you downtown if you choose not to drive.
The Siege, or Battle of Yorktown occurred in October 1781 and was the victory of the American and French forces over the British army. The battle here was the last major battle of the Revolutionary War, and led to the British Government negotiating the end of conflict. The war officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. There’s lots of signage in the fields that will explain all of this to you if you’re looking for more information. Hopefully this post gives you some context to the significance of the Historic Triangle to American history!
On your Visitor Center map, you’ll see there are two drives through the Yorktown Battlefields, the red and yellow paths. The yellow route is quite long, and extends off of the more popular red route. I recommend driving the self-guided red route! With the help of your map and signs throughout the area, you’ll have no problem visiting the 6 stops. This 7-mile route creates a loop that will allow you to see most of the battlefields here, including historic homes, original trenches, canons, and more. I recommend setting aside about an hour to complete the loop at your own pace.
Looking to hit a Chesapeake Bay beach? Head to Yorktown Beach! This 2 acre beachfront sits along the York River and is a great place for families looking to sunbathe, boat, and swim. There’s plenty of parking in this area for day-trippers, along with a few pubs and shops. I recommend spending some time here if you’re traveling with younger children!
Downtown Yorktown has very few restaurants and shops in it and consist of mostly historic homes. This area is also mostly pedestrian-only. The major road here is Main Street and has a few charming homes and inns on it that I recommend checking out. Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters is one of the few cafes in this area and also happens to be in a super Instagrammable historic building, so check it out! Be sure to swing by the Yorktown Victory Monument here too!
Things To Do In Jamestown
The third, and most southern point, of the Historic Triangle is Jamestown! This area is probably the most visited in the triangle and has two major attractions I want to cover.
Historic Jamestowne, like Yorktown, is a National Historic Park, meaning you’ll have to pay a fee to visit here. The Visitor’s Center and museum opens at 9 am, and I definitely recommend arriving early!
This cultural heritage site is where the first permanent English settlement was in the United States. The town of Jamestowne was built within the James Fort in 1607, and consisted of multiple grave sites, a church, storage houses, etc. Unfortunately, most of the original buildings have decimated overtime, leaving behind just the ruins. I highly recommend setting aside about an hour or two to see the ruins here. You’ll have to use your imagination to envision what this settlement used to look like, but it’s cool to know you’re walking right where the English first landed from the James River.
Pro-tip: If you have an America the Beautiful National Park pass, your entrance fee will be $10 instead of $25! I highly recommend investing in one of these if you plan on visiting any national parks.
About one mile back up the road is the Jamestown Settlement. I highly recommend seeing both on your trip, although the order doesn’t matter. I enjoyed seeing the actual locations’ ruins and learning about the history here before seeing the reenactments at the Settlement. The visit to Historic Jamestowne definitely provided some context to the Settlement. You’ll want to set aside 2-3 hours here.
Jamestown Settlement is very well-known for bringing tourists back in time. The settlement has Native villages, replicas of the three ships that crossed the Atlantic in 1607, along with a replica model of the James Fort! Aside from these buildings, there’s also actors here that portray what life would’ve been like in early 17th century Virginia. For example, I saw basket weavers in the Native village, ironsmiths in the Fort, and tour guides throughout, explaining what day-to-day life would’ve been like.
As I mentioned, I really enjoyed seeing the ruins of Historic Jamestowne come to life in the outdoor exhibits of the Settlement. The reason why I recommend setting aside more time here is because there’s more to see. In the outdoor exhibits, you’ll want to take your time watching the actor’s presentations, asking questions, and also visiting the various sites. I was able to climb aboard all three ships here and ask questions about the journey, which I recommend doing! Aside from the outdoor exhibits, there’s a lot to see in the museums and galleries here as well. After you buy your ticket in the lobby (which was $18 for adults), you’ll want to exit left towards the galleries.
The Museum & Galleries
The galleries at the Jamestown Settlement walk you through life before Fort James, when the area was inhabited solely by Native peoples, and through the various centuries leading up to modern-day. These galleries were super interactive and informative. If you read every sign here, you could probably spend 2+ hours in this area alone. There’s also restrooms, a gift shop, and a cafe for lunch inside this building as well. Jamestown is about 20 minutes from downtown Colonial Williamsburg, so again you’ll want to drive to reach this area.
That’s all for my Historic Triangle blog post! I hope you enjoyed learning more about Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown, and are well on your way to planning an upcoming visit of your own! This post gave you several recommendations for things to do in Williamsburg, Viriginia, but as always, feel free to leave any questions below. Thank you again to the Fife and Drum Inn for sponsoring this post about things to do in Williamsburg, Virginia!
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