Historic Colonial Williamsburg: An Easy Weekend Trip from Washington, D.C.


Whether you are looking to explore the outdoors, discover a nearby winery, or check out a historic site, Washington, D.C. is a short drive from some truly fabulous destinations! This past November, my family decided to spend Veterans Day weekend at Historic Colonial Williamsburg, located in nearby Williamsburg, Virginia. 

Depending on the day and time that you leave, the drive to Williamsburg can take between 3 and 4 hours. We left on a Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend, and the traffic was predictably heavy along I-95 south between D.C. and Richmond. Our drive home on Monday (which was Veterans Day) took much less time. Also, if you have an E-ZPass, make sure to bring it, as there are tolls along this section of I-95!!

A map from The Guide to Colonial Williamsburg shows the proximity between Washington DC and Williamsburg, VA.
This map is from the official guidebook to the Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg. I bought my copy of this extremely helpful book during my visit there. You can also purchase it ahead of your trip on Amazon.

About Historic Colonial Williamsburg

The Historic Area at Colonial Williamsburg is a preserved and reconstructed authentic colonial town from the 18th century. Visitors can walk the streets and experience what it might have been like to live during this time. They can also go inside a multitude of restored buildings and interact with men and women in period dress. At the time of our trip, my son was 5 years old, which turned out to be a wonderful age for a first visit!

The Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums march down the street wearing the distinctive red coats of British military uniforms.
The Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums march down Duke of Gloucester Street.

Kid-Friendly Areas and Activities

The entire Historic Area at Colonial Williamsburg is family-friendly. Since it is a working town, visitors will spend a large portion of their time outside (walking between buildings, taking a carriage ride, exploring the many gardens, pastures, and fields, etc.). It is easy to find places where young kids can run around and burn off extra energy throughout the day. And the best part? No cars are permitted in the historic area!

An impressive three-story red-bricked building is situated at the far end of an expansive front lawn.
The Governor’s Palace at Colonial Williamsburg, which according to the official guidebook, was “one of the finest residences in British America.”

There are some places and activities that my son particularly enjoyed. We went to the Blacksmith shop and watched them work for a long time (at the time, the blacksmiths had been making links to a metal chain, which is a fascinating process). We also really enjoyed visiting the Silversmith who has a beautiful shop filled with wares that had been made on-site. My son absolutely loved the “Experience Life as a Soldier” activity, during which kids get to take part in drill practice and learn how to fire a musket. Our favorite activity as a family was taking an authentic carriage ride through the streets of the historic area!



Onlookers watch as a blacksmith dressed in authentic period attire works in this historic, revolutionary era metal workshop.
A blacksmith is forming the individual metal links that will make a long chain.


Two white horses pull a red covered carriage down the street in Colonial Williamsburg.
We loved taking a carriage ride through the Historic Area at Colonial Williamsburg!

Dining Options

There are several historic dining options available at Colonial Williamsburg. My family ate dinner at the King’s Arms Tavern, which was one of my favorite experiences from the weekend. This tavern offers a hearty chophouse menu and the restaurant servers dress in period attire. Additionally, we ate dinner by candlelight for a truly authentic experience! I highly recommend eating at one of the historic dining taverns. Don’t forget to make reservations ahead of your visit because seating is limited and can fill up quickly (click HERE for more information).

Throughout the Historic Area at Colonial Williamsburg, there are small sandwich and snack shops. These are great for grabbing quick bites to enjoy outside, picnic-style.

Where to Stay

My family stayed at the beautiful and iconic Williamsburg Inn, which is one of the official Colonial Williamsburg hotels. The Williamsburg Inn opened in 1937 and offers both luxurious historic charm and convenient modern amenities. Other official Colonial Williamsburg accommodations include the Williamsburg Lodge (Autograph Collection), the Griffin Hotel, the Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel & Suites, and the Colonial Houses- Historic Lodging. All of these offer convenient access to the Historic Area at Colonial Williamsburg.

A little boy stands outside in front of a large Regency style hotel with white columns and impressive entryway.
The Williamsburg Inn is a beautiful and iconic hotel that offers both historic charm and modern amenities.

Tips for Visiting Colonial Williamsburg

Looking for more getaway ideas that are easy drives from Washington DC?

Don’t miss these posts about family-friends trips to Middleburg, Virginia and St. Michael’s, Maryland!