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Roller coasters, ghost stories, and living historyRoller coasters, ghost stories, and living history

Williamsburg, VirginiaWilliamsburg, Virginia

From thrill seekers to history buffs, Williamsburg, Virginia, offers an escape sure to please everyone with Busch Gardens, Water Country USA, Colonial Williamsburg, and the famed College of William and Mary. One thing is for sure—you'll need your walking shoes.

  • Since 1990, the National Amusement Park Historical Association (NAPHA) has voted Busch Gardens® Williamsburg the "Most Beautiful Park" in the world. The landscaping staff spends many hours each day pruning, planting and weeding. Photo courtesy of 2014 SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.
  • The Colossal Curl is Water Country USA's newest ride that will leave the young and young at heart screaming and giggling for more. Photo courtesy of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc.
  • The George Wythe house is a must when visiting Colonial Williamsburg. Wythe signed the Declaration of Independence and mentored Thomas Jefferson. Photo by Alyssa Cobb.
  • The George Wythe house doesn’t have a typical backyard. Tourists can walk around the back of the house to see the smokehouse, stable, the dovecote pictured here, and more. Photo by Alyssa Cobb.
  • Shelves built into the corners of rooms house dishes and plates. Photo by Alyssa Cobb.
  • Signs share historical information about important structures in Colonial Williamsburg, offering opportunities for learning even for those who don’t join designated tours. Photo by Alyssa Cobb.
  • The Governor’s Palace features many gardens, including this maze. Photo by Alyssa Cobb.
  • The blacksmith building is one of the most-popular attractions in Colonial Williamsburg. Photo by Alyssa Cobb.
  • The Capitol tour led by a guide in period dress provides a wealth of history not only about the building but also about the early formation of Virginia’s government. Photo by Alyssa Cobb.
  • The first floor of the Capitol contains a court room, open for tourists on guided tours. It is also the location of mock witch trials. Photo by Alyssa Cobb.
  • Passersby can watch the Fifes and Drums March on Duke of Gloucester Street during certain days of the week. Photo by Alyssa Cobb.
  • Youth and adults learn about 18th century living from hands-on experiences at Colonial Williamsburg. Photo courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Fly in to Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport, which is less than five miles from the city and less than 10 miles from Busch Gardens and Water Country USA.

Busch Gardens boasts roller coasters, shows, train rides, river cruises, and kids' areas. Its new feature is a virtual reality ride, “Battle for Eire,” that is fit for the whole family and offers a moderate thrill level on the fun meter. Busch Gardens is much more than a typical amusement park. Get up close with eagles, Clydesdale horses, and gray wolves during an animal tour, or sit back and enjoy music, dancing, and children's performances at its shows. Throughout the year, Busch Gardens hosts special events such as weekend fireworks, Bier Fest with local beers, Howl-O-Scream, and Christmas Town.

Right next door, Water Country USA’s yellow-and-blue Colossal Curl looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. The new ride delights water park goers young and old with steep drops and high turns that keep riders screaming and coming back for more. On a hot summer day, the water park is the perfect place to cool off with high-thrill rides, lazy rivers, and a wave pool. The park has some natural shade, plenty of food options, and packages to reserve lounges and cabanas.

Both parks offer active-duty military and veteran special offers and discounts.

For a slower pace, some fine dining, and living history—Colonial Williamsburg is a must.

Williamsburg played a key role in the formative years of the American colonies. In 1699, it became the capital of the Virginia Colony, according to the city’s website. The city also played an influential role in our early political leaders. Three presidents, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler, studied at the College of William and Mary, which was founded in 1693. Walk the Tribe’s campus, where beautiful brick buildings are laid out around hiking trails surrounded by lush trees.

A U.S. flag waves proudly in the breeze above the Capitol in Colonial Williamsburg. The state government occasionally meets in the building to keep it designated as an active Capitol. Groups can tour the building or take part in mock witch trials. Photo by Alyssa Cobb.

In Colonial Williamsburg, actors dress in period costumes and tradesmen hone their 18th-century crafts. The area is “known internationally as the premier center for the preservation and interpretation of American colonial history,” according to the city. Don’t be surprised if you bump into the tailor in the William and Mary College bookstore before he goes to work. He might enjoy his 18th-century trade, but he likes modern-day breakfasts from the Starbucks inside the bookstore. Some tourists also visit Colonial Williamsburg in their own period costumes!

Ticketing and information specialists on site recommend two-and-a-half days to tour Colonial Williamsburg, but if you don’t have that much time, they will highlight the most popular attractions to help maximize the time you have. (One-day and one-year passes are available, and are needed to enter any of the locations marked with a flag outside.) Key points of interest include the Wythe House, where George Wythe, who signed the Declaration of Independence, mentored Jefferson; the Governor’s Palace; the blacksmith; the Randolph House Domestic Activities African American Life; and the Capitol. Guided tours are available, but tourists can also plan their own route and walk through some of the buildings on their own (tours are included in the pass).

If you time it right visiting the Governor’s Palace, you might get to engage in a mock debate with a young Jefferson. Jefferson surprises his first-time crowd when he announces that they’ll be participating in a debate instead of hearing a speech from him. The new lawyer plunges participants into the 18th-century debate about how to end slavery.

The Capitol is mostly open to tourists for tours and witch trial reenactments, but the state government periodically uses the building so that it is still designated as an active Capitol.

In the evening, take in the popular ghost tours. Various tours are offered, but the Ghosts Amongst Us tour takes you inside the historic houses where you sit in candlelit rooms and listen to riveting ghost stories (similar to spooky campfire stories) that keep you guessing all the way to the end. There might even be a scream or two from participants in your party!

Those who want a more hands-on experience can try ax throwing, participate in a witch trial, and get an individual lesson on playing a spinet or other stringed instrument. Carriage rides are also available to tour the perimeter.

Hotel options abound in Williamsburg, where you can stay closer to Busch Gardens and Water Country USA or near the historical section. If you can’t get enough of Colonial Williamsburg, consider staying in it. Some of the colonial houses offer historic lodging.

In addition, you can eat at a number of taverns in the historical section or walk to modern-day eateries. The Trellis Bar and Grill has a romantic patio for evening dining, and the salmon is melt-in-your-mouth delicious. A handful of restaurants are side by side right off Henry Street (including a sandwich shop and wine and cheese cellar), but there are dozens more just a couple blocks away near Colonial Williamsburg.

Pack your walking shoes and set your flight plan to Williamsburg for a weekend getaway or vacation sure to please groups and families of all ages and interests.

Located in the heart of William and Mary’s scenic campus, Crim Dell Bridge is a popular site for students and visitors alike. Lore has it if students kiss on the bridge they will marry each other. Photo courtesy of the College of William and Mary/Scott Elmquist.
Located in the heart of William and Mary's scenic campus, Crim Dell Bridge is a popular site for students and visitors alike. Lore has it if students kiss on the bridge they will marry each other. Photo courtesy of the College of William and Mary/Scott Elmquist.
Alyssa J. Miller

Alyssa J. Cobb

AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor
AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Cobb has worked at AOPA since 2004 and is an active flight instructor.
Topics: Travel, US Travel

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