Williamsburg is perhaps the most famous later-colonial period living museum city in the United States. Williamsburg was one of the first English settlements in North America that grew to overshadow the first colonial settlement of Jamestown a short distance away.

A trip to Colonial Williamsburg is a journey back into Colonial times. It is a place where one can learn much about this period of history - including what it was like to eat in Colonial America. Unlike Plymouth to the north, Williamsburg was not founded by Puritans. One can also visit the living Plymouth museum in Massachusetts to learn what the colonial Puritan colony.

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The History Of Virginia's Former Colonial Capital

Williamsburg was founded in 1632 and was called Middle Plantation. It started out as a fortified settlement situated on high ground between the York and James rivers. Jamestown was always plagued with problems. Williamsburg overtook Jamestown as the capital of the Colony and later the Commonwealth of Virginia. It remained the capital from 1699 to 1780. It was found that Williamsburg was both safer and more pleasant than neighboring Jamestown (which had problems with mosquitoes and humidity).

  • Name: Middle Plantation Was Renamed Williamsburg In Honor of King William III of England
  • Capital: Was The Virginian Capital From 1699 to 1780

When the English colonist arrived in the area and founded the Colony of Virginia in 1607, the area that is now Williamsburg was part of the Powhatan Confederacy.

Another Williamsburg claim to fame was the first purpose-built psychiatric hospital in the 1770s (called the Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds).

  • First: Williamsburg Had The first Purpose-Built Psychiatric Hospital

After the capital again moved, Williamsburg went into decline. Another contributor to its decline was that it had been built on the higher defensible ground, but transportation of the day way mostly by the canals and navigable rivers.

Related: Dark Secrets About Jamestown, America's First Colonial Settlement

Colonial Williamsburg Today

Today Colonial Williamsburg is the part of the city that is a living history museum. It is made up of the historic district of the old city and spans some 301-acres (122 ha).

The area includes hundreds of restored or re-built buildings from the colonial 18th century times when it was the capital of Colonial Virginia. There are also 17th, 19th, and Colonial Revival buildings.

  • Historic Triangle of Virginia: Williamsburg Is Part of The Historic Triangle (Including Jamestown and Yorktown)
  • Designated: A National Historic Landmark District

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One will see many costumed employees re-enacting the past and helping to guide visitors. They dress in period clothing and some of them even speak with colonial grammar and diction (although few have mastered colonial accents).

Carriage & Wagon Rides

One of the more iconic old-timey activities to enjoy is a carriage and wagon ride. If one would like to have a leisurely wagon trot around the town, one can purchase a ticket for a carriage at the Lumber House Ticket Office.

One can book these tickets the day of the ride, but keep in mind that these rides are popular and tend to sell out early on. So it is recommended to make reservations early on in the day. There is also a $15 discount on carriage rides for those with a current admission ticket or annual pass).

  • Tip: Book The Carriage Rides Early In The Day As They Sell Out
  • Pre-Booking: Carriage Rides Can Only Be Booked The Day Of The Ride

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There are a number of carriage options. These are the:

  • The Benjamin Lewis Spraggins, Sr. Sociable Carriage
  • Romantic Wythe
  • Red Carriage
  • Madison Carriage
  • Stage Wagon

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Virginia's 'Historic Triangle'

Visiting Colonial Williamsburg Today

Today visiting Colonial Williamsburg is a great activity for the whole family. It is a day the kids will enjoy learning more than they ever would studying in the classroom. Browse through their iconic sites and see working tradespeople, historic taverns, and two world-class art museums.

Colonial Williamsburg is open every day of the year and most of its Historic Trades and Sites are open from 9 am to 5.00 pm. If one is planning to come after working hours, see their Evening Programs (some of which run well into the night).

  • Open: The Colonial Site Is Open Every Day
  • Hours: Most Historic Trades And Site Are Open From 9.00 am to 5.00 pm
  • Art Museums: Open Daily From 10.00 am to 6.00 pm

One will need an admission ticket to actually enter the historic buildings and see Colonial Williamsburg's programs. The admission ticket grants access to the most iconic sites (like the Capitol, Governor's Palace, and Courthouse) as well as access to multiple programs throughout the day on the Charlton and Play House stages and more.

Next: West Virginia Is Also Called 'Almost Heaven,' And This Is Why You Should Visit