My 5 Best Things to Do in Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

colonial Williamsburg with kids

After years of living in DC, we finally made it to Colonial Williamsburg with our kids! As we entered the historic area, we were greeted by costumed interpreters, beautifully restored buildings, and the cutest sheep who transported us to the 18th century.

My kids and I had no idea how large the historic area is with over 500 original or restored structures! The sounds of horseshoes clattering against the cobblestone and the distant chatter of people going about their daily lives. It felt as if we had entered a different world altogether. It can feel a little overwhelming to plan your trip to Colonial Williamsburg so I have put all I learned and our Top 5 Recommendations below.

Table of Contents:

  1. Why Go to Colonial Williamsburg?
  2. Best Ages to Go
  3. Mom Tips: What to Prepare, Bring, Tickets and Where to Park
  4. 5 Best Things to Do at Colonial Williamsburg
  5. Restaurant Options
  6. Where to Stay in Williamsburg

As an Amazon Associate and affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This is at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much!

Colonial Williamsburg Virginia

Why Go to Colonial Williamsburg with Kids?

The main reason to visit Colonial Williamsburg with kids is to see and experience what life was like in Virginia during the American Revolution from 1763 to 1783. But as the world's largest living history museum, their mission goes beyond just showing what life was like, it is "that the future may learn from the past."

On a personal note, I will admit that for a couple of years, I wasn't very interested in visiting because of my perception that the living history museum mostly told stories of white Americans during that time. But after reading their website, I learned about all their work to tell the stories of all people during that time including, "men and women — Black, white and Native American, enslaved and free — played their parts in shaping the nation." I'll share more about how we got to interact with these stories below but if you want to read more, check out their blog here.

interpreters at Colonial Williamsburg

Best Kids Ages to Visit Colonial Williamsburg

The good news is that kids ages 5 and under are free! So if you have younger kids, I would definitely not discourage them from joining your fun. However, because it is an actual town and there is a lot of walking, I would highly recommend a stroller or wagon for kids 5 and under. (Our favorite super affordable travel stroller and wagon with canopy from Amazon).

I would say the best age to start to visit would be early elementary age. My 4th grader was very interested in it because Virginia public schools focus on Jamestown and the Revolution during this year. And even though my 1st grader hadn't studied the American Revolution, he was still fascinated by the engaging interpreters and exhibits.

Mom Tips: What to Prepare, Bring, Tickets and Parking

Colonial Williamsburg Prep Beforehand with Kids

The number 1 thing to do before your trip is to check out their excellent CW Planner and download the map and events for the time you are visiting. They have different maps and event calendars for each season. We downloaded the Spring & Summer 2023 one and highlighted the events and performances we wanted to see and the stage that they are on. There is so much going on that some performances or demonstrations happen at the same time. Also, note that Colonial Williamsburg is over 300 acres so it's not possible to go everywhere all in 1 day!

My second tip in preparing for your trip is to include your kids. Watch their fun YouTube channel, or check out a Virtual Tour so your kids get an idea of what the town is like and you can see what types of events they are more interested in and prioritize.

My final tip to prep is to make a parking plan based on what you want to visit, see below for the 2 main options!

restrooms at colonial williamsburg

The restrooms were really nice!

What to Bring to Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

Of course, it depends on the season you visit but I highly recommend bringing the following in all seasons. I linked to our family favorites from Amazon below:

  1. Water bottles (Water fountains are located at the restrooms on the map and we filled up a lot! These have lasted the whole school year and are leakproof and keep drinks cold.)
  2. Snacks to be eaten outdoors
  3. Stroller or Wagon for kids under 5
  4. Sun Hats for Kids (and my new favorite UPF 50 sun hat for me)
  5. Journal and pen for kids to write down or draw their favorite parts

Depending on the weather:

  1. Umbrella if rain is possible. The 2 main places to go if rainy are the Art Museums and Governor's Palace.
  2. Handheld Fan with Mister

Colonial Williamsburg family

1 of the 30 gardens and the Art Museums building (where we parked for free!)

Parking and Tickets

There are 2 main places to park and both are free. The first is the Visitor's Center and then you take a free shuttle to the Historic Area. Or you can walk along a path that Google Maps says is about 11 minutes or 0.6 miles.

The second parking lot option is the Art Museums and then you walk 2 blocks to the center of the Historic Area. We opted for the latter based on our friends who live in Williamsburg and their recommendations. Also, we planned to have lunch at the Art Museums Cafe so this worked well to have access to our car then. You can also find parking in Williamsburg, but that might have time restrictions.


You can purchase your tickets online or at one of 3 locations. Even if you purchase online, I highly recommend going to one of the Ticketing offices to get a paper map for your kids and talk with the helpful staff to ask for their recommendations for that day!

  • Visitor Center
  • Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, the Visitor Center
  • Lumber House Ticket Office (Located in the middle of the Historic Area on Duke of Gloucester Street.
flag at Colonial Williamsburg

5 Best Things to Do at Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

Below is the list of our family's 5 favorite things at Colonial Williamsburg. They are not in any order and with over 500 structures, we certainly didn't see everything, all the more reason to return!

1) Finding the Grand Union Flags and Meeting the Interpreters!

Hands down this was our family's favorite. Every building which had a large Grand Union Flag outside was open for us to explore and usually, there were costumed interpreters inside. Many of them were not just there to tell us about the building but were actually in the process of creating something for the living history museum. For example, we met a couple of women who were actually weaving and dying yarn. A man who was actually engraving plates and printing them to be used in stately homes or for sale at the gift shop. And women who were gardening.

My daughter loves crafting and had so many questions for the interpreters about the process, materials, and details of everything.

2) Maze Behind Governor's Palace

I am not sure why this isn't on the map but our friends from Williamsburg all agreed this was their favorite place! It is an incredible boxwood maze behind the Governor's Palace which is fun to try and in my opinion, even more fun to watch people try from atop the ice mount! (I took the picture below from here) Highly recommend checking this out after the 30-minute tour of the Governor's Palace. We did this first and the kids were pretty tired of the Palace tour :)

family Colonial Williamsburg

This maze was so fun! And even better was watching people from atop the 17th century ice mount!

3) Tour of Governors' Palace

This was my favorite structure of the day because of the opulent rooms and attention to detail. The costumed interpreters, with their extensive knowledge and friendly demeanor, made history come alive. They shared stories of colonial life including lesser-told stories of the people who were enslaved during that time and the interactions with the Native people groups. I don't believe there were timed tours but when we arrived we sat down for maybe 5 minutes before the tour started.

4) Following the Kids' Interests

A lot of the fun in visiting the largest living history museum in the world is just wandering around and letting the kids lead to where they are interested. My son started listening to a soldier outside the Guardhouse and Magazine talk about coming to Virginia from Scotland and bringing their kilts to fight...but too tricky in Virginia! I thought he would be bored after a while but he listened for 15 minutes asking questions.

5) Visting the Gardens

My biggest surprise at Colonial Williamsburg was the more than 30 gardens! We went in the late Spring and the whole town was in bloom. I had no idea about the beauty of the planned gardens behind the Governor's Palace (like a European garden!) or the smaller plots around the cottages. There are also historic shade trees, vegetable gardens, and more.

Next time!

We didn't get a chance to attend one of their larger events on this visit. We would love to visit all the cool special events including July 4th (free single-day ticket!), Lights of Freedom (fireworks), American Indian HErtigagte Month, Winter Grand Illumination, and the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums.

aromas coffee Williamsburg

Family Restaurant Options at Colonial Williamsburg

There are tons of great dining in and around the Historic Area. We only got to experience 2 spots personally but check out their website for all the details on the historic dining options including Shield's Tavern, McKenzie Apothecary, and a dozen more!

We ate a great lunch at the Museum Cafe in the Art Museums building at the edge of the Historic Area. After walking around for hours, it was an easy and delicious option for our kids and the seating is a bright atrium. They had sandwiches, soups, mac and cheese hot dogs etc but all kicked up a notch. (they made the mac and cheese in front of you!)

We also stopped for coffee and treats at Aromas Coffeehouse Bakery and Cafe near Colonial Williamsburg's Merchants Square. Delicious and fabulous coffee right near the College of William & Mary.

Colonial Williamsburg with kids 2

Family Hotel Options at Colonial Williamsburg

Two buckets of options for visiting Colonial Williamsburg, either stay nearby or a little father and drive in.

There are lots of resort-style family hotels in Williamsburg. Also, check out the CW Planner website for special deals where you can receive free tickets to Colonial Williamsburg or resort credit in booking a combo!

Hotels close to Colonial Williamsburg

  1. Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel - A Colonial Williamsburg Hotel - Breakfast Included
  2. Kingsmill Resort - along the water with a pool
  3. Marriott's Manor Club at Ford's Colony - Indoor and Outdoor Pool plus lots of activities!
  4. Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Gateway - with a pool

We chose to stay in Hilton Richmond Downtown which was a 45-minute drive. It worked out with our schedule of visiting other spots in the area and has a beautiful indoor pool and very large rooms.

More Family Fun Near Williamsburg, Virginia:

  1. Virginia Beach in a Spring Break Blog Post
  2. Chincoteague or Assateague: Where to See Wild Ponies
  3. Washington DC Family Activities
  4. NorthernVirginia Family Fun
  5. Jamestown Family Review (coming soon!)