Colonial Williamsburg is a restored and recreated colonial American village in eastern Virginia that functions as a living history museum. Visitors can explore the town and tour Georgian buildings like the Governor’s Palace, Courthouse, Capitol and Bruton Parish Church to experience what life was like in the 18th century. Costumed actors (“interpreters”) populate the streets and demonstrate the lifestyle and common trades of the period. Museums and galleries display decorative arts, folk art, antiques and artifacts.
Colonial Williamsburg is open 365 days a year. It is best to visit when the weather is mild in spring or fall – foliage is lovely in mid-October. Summer is typically uncomfortably hot and humid. Check the weather forecast for precipitation and be prepared for sun exposure.
The historic area is 173 acres covering several streets in the City of Williamsburg that are closed to motor vehicle traffic (about a square mile). The historic buildings are spread out over several blocks, so a lot of outdoor walking is required to see everything. There is a 0.5 mile trail between the Visitor Center and the colonial village, or one can ride the accessible shuttle buses from the visitor center, or park closer to the village.
Most of the buildings are open roughly 9:00am to 5pm. Buildings that are displaying flags at their entrances are open to ticket holders. Schedules for tours, exhibits, programs and interpreted activities vary. Study the schedules online before you go, or stop at the visitor center first to get a copy of the free program guide “Colonial Williamsburg This Week.” Smart phone owners can download an app that has an interactive guide to the town.
Fees: There is no charge to park at the Visitor Center or in lots that surround the colonial village. Designated accessible parking is available in several locations. You can park and explore the town at your leisure; stroll the streets and gardens, browse the shops, eat in the taverns and restaurants, visit Bruton Parish Church ($1 donation suggested), and watch the fifes and drums musicians march from the Capitol to Palace Green (check schedule) without paying for a ticket.
If you want to go inside the buildings and museums, participate in guided tours, interact with costumed interpreters, and ride the shuttle buses then you will need to purchase an admission ticket. Tickets are available online, at the Visitor Center, and at the ticket office in Merchant Square (west end of Duke of Gloucester Street).
There are a few different ticket options, granting varying degrees of access from a “sampler” that permits entrance to only a few locations to a “multi-day pass” that allows unlimited access to everything for the rest of the year. Because some of the historic buildings have entrance stairs or second floors that are not accessible, persons with disabilities may purchase single-day and multi-day tickets at a 50% discount. Add-on activities like carriage rides, special evening programs and costume rentals cost additional.
Many accessible modifications have been made to the hotels, restaurants, shops in the historic area. Colonial Williamsburg has produced an excellent accessibility guide that has a detailed map (including numerous accessible restrooms) and very useful information about the access to each specific building or attraction. The guide is available on request at the Visitor Center and ticket offices, or for download from the official website.
The Visitor Center is completely accessible, housing the ticket offices, a cafe, restrooms, a theatre, and gift and book shops. The art museums and The Spa at Colonial Williamsburg are fully accessible. Sidewalks and paths in the village are made of brick or pavers. This makes them uneven and bumpy to roll over; I found it was smoother and more comfortable to roll on the street. Many of the exhibition gardens around the buildings are accessible but may have gates. Garden pathways vary between marl, gravel and brick.
Some of the historic buildings have entrance steps and others have ramps or lifts, but most interior doorways are wide enough for wheelchairs. In a few buildings where there are exhibits on the second floor (Capitol, Governor’s Palace), photographic interpretations are available on request. The trade shops of the cooper, joiner, blacksmith and printer are accessible. At other trade shops that are not accessible to wheelchairs, ask for assistance from the interpreter as trade demonstrations can often be performed outside the shop if needed.
Where to Sleep and Eat
Williamsburg is a popular tourist destination as well as the home of William and Mary College, so most of the major chain hotels are represented in the area. In addition, the following properties located near the colonial village advertise accessible rooms: Governor’s Inn, Providence Hall Guesthouses, Williamsburg Inn, Williamsburg Lodge, and the Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel (adjacent to the Visitor Center). For those who would like to stay in a historic building, Market Square Tavern and Bracken Tenement are colonial houses that advertise accessibility. When I visited, I stayed at Hampton Inn & Suites Central, at 718 Bypass Rd. (about 1 mile away) and found it to be reasonably accessible to meet my needs for one night.
There are restaurants at the Visitor Center and in the colonial village and surrounding area. Several popular chain restaurants such as Denny’s, IHOP, Cracker Barrel, Applebee’s, etc. are located near the intersection of Bypass Road (US60) and Richmond Road (US60/Rt.162), about 2 miles west of the historic area. My favorite restaurant is Food for Thought at 1647 Richmond Road. It’s fully accessible and has a wonderful variety on the menu, including many healthy and/or vegetarian items. Sal’s by Victor at 1242 Richmond Road is also accessible and has delicious Italian food.
How to Get Here: The nearest commercial airports are Newport News/Williamsburg International (PHF, 18 miles), Richmond International (RIC, 45 miles) and Norfolk International (ORF, 46 miles). Amtrak and Greyhound also serve the City of Williamsburg. Williamsburg Area Transit Authority (WATA) operates fully-accessible kneeling buses on all of their fixed routes; several stop at the colonial village and the Visitor Center.
Other Popular Attractions Nearby: Colonial Williamsburg is part of the “Historic Triangle”; connected to Yorktown Battlefield (12 miles) and Jamestown Settlement (9 miles) via the scenic Colonial Parkway. Busch Gardens and Water Country USA theme parks are 5 miles away. Williamsburg Premium Outlet Mall is 4 miles. Kingsmill Resort on the James River is 11 miles away. Virginia Beach oceanfront is 60 miles.