Williamsburg, Virginia is an ideal family destination. There are so many things to do in Williamsburg, VA with kids that a weekend is definitely not enough time to truly explore it all. Our family has visited twice and loves all the history and fun activities in the Greater Williamsburg area. This is why Williamsburg is a vacation destination that keeps us coming back. Activities in Williamsburg for kids include museums, historical re-enactments, amusement parks, shopping, water parks, hiking, biking, go-karts, and even zip-lining. The Historic Triangle of Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg offer families the freedom to relax or be adventurous at their own pace. Here are my recommendations for things to do with kids in Williamsburg, VA.
Visit Williamsburg graciously provided our family with tickets to many of the activities I suggest below and planned our vacation; however, my opinions are always my own.
Williamsburg, VA Location
Greater Williamsburg, which includes Jamestown and Yorktown, provides a unique vacation destination located in a beautiful coastal area. It is only two hours away from Washington D.C. and less than an hour away from Richmond VA. Families on an East Coast road trip could easily make Williamsburg a stop along the way.
Williamsburg for Kids: What Makes It Great?
Visiting Williamsburg with kids allows you to “time travel” in a sense as you experience what life in colonial Virginia was like with living history re-enactments at many locations. Visiting Williamsburg with kids really does bring history to life and helps kids understand more in-depth about early colonial life and the American Revolution. Don’t worry if you think your kids are a little young for this, I would say that kids as young as 5 or 6 would enjoy visiting many of the attractions in Greater Williamsburg.
The first time our family visited Williamsburg was when our kids were 6 and 8. We were on a road trip working on completing our 50 state family bucket list. We visited Washington D.C., Baltimore, Alexandria, Annapolis, Richmond, and Williamsburg. Due to the nature of the trip, we were only in Williamsburg for about two days and were left wanting more. We returned when the kids were 9 and 11 and made sure that Williamsburg was the main destination.
Things to Do in Williamsburg, VA With Kids
Below I’ve listed a few tips and suggestions on where to go when visiting Williamsburg with kids. Williamsburg isn’t just filled with historical attractions. Many people assume that Colonial Williamsburg is all that there is in Williamsburg. While Colonial Williamsburg is definitely one of the main attractions, there is much more to Williamsburg than just the historical parts.
Depending on the time of year your family visits the area, there are different seasonal activities and things to do with kids in Williamsburg, VA that you could spend a week in the area and still not do it all. If you are looking to plan your trip to Williamsburg with kids (or without), then check out Visit Williamsburg. It is a very useful site with links to all the different attractions, hotels, shopping, and dining in the area.
These are some of our family’s favorite attractions and activities in Williamsburg for kids.
Colonial Williamsburg is at the center of what to do in Williamsburg for kids. I mean, history is important; which is why so many parents go to Colonial Williamsburg with kids. Here, kids can see history come alive and be immersed in colonial Virginian life. They can see how tradespeople made their living, admire in the riches found in the governor’s mansion, and listen to stories of rebellion. Visiting Colonial Williamsburg with kids can become one of the most memorable and entertaining ways to showcase such an important part of American history.
Now, the first thing to note is that you can visit Colonial Williamsburg with kids for free. The free things to do in Williamsburg, VA include walking the grounds, enjoying Market Square and the Palace Green areas, watching the parade, and even speaking to the townspeople. The first time we visited, all we did was walk around, take pictures, eat at one of the historic taverns, and speak to a loyalist about why he wanted to fight for the British. While that was enjoyable, it did not compare to being inside the shops and taking the guided tours (which we did on our second visit).
The historical re-enactors were wonderful and entering the shops is a must-do activity in Colonial Williamsburg for kids. Our kids enjoyed learning about wigs from the wigmaker, the many uses of tin from the tin shop, the value of silver from the silversmith, how shoes were made from the shoemaker, the different fabrics during colonial times from the tailor, and about the law in the colonies from the courthouse. We also enjoyed a visit with the milliner, gunsmith, cabinetmaker, and blacksmith. We enjoyed two guided tours – the Governor’s Mansion and the Peyton Randolph House. Check out the descriptions of each location here. Your admission ticket will include access to all of these shops as well as several guided tours of buildings.
I would advise that when visiting Colonial Williamsburg with kids to be sure to purchase admission tickets to get the most value for your experience and really immerse yourself into colonial life. We visited this area twice during our trip and there was so much more we could have done and experienced. If you are planning to stay in the Williamsburg area for a few days, then I would highly recommend buying America’s Historic Triangle ticket as it includes all of the Colonial Williamsburg sites, art museums, Historic Jamestowne, Jamestown Settlement, American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, and Yorktown Battlefield for seven consecutive days.
Tips for Colonial Williamsburg with Kids
- Download the app or check out the map online or at Colonial Williamsburg to get the “lay of the land”.
- Don’t be shy! Ask the re-enactors questions about what they do or their beliefs.
- Try to arrive early – by 9 AM
- Eat at one of the historic dining taverns. It can get crowded. People began gathering outside by 11 AM for lunch.
- Pick up the program, “Colonial Williamsburg This Week.” It lists all of the programs and performances scheduled.
- Don’t miss the Fife and Drum parade.
- If you have older kids or teens, consider taking a ghost tour.
Here is a short video I put together about what you can expect to see when visiting Colonial Williamsburg with kids.
In Historic Jamestowne, visitors walk on the actual site of the first permanent English settlement. Here you can see James Fort and stand where John Smith and Pocahontas once were. Since most kids learn of the story in school, it is usually a highlight for children. Kids will also love the Ed Shed area which is an interactive space filled with hands-on activities that teach them about the fort and archeology. They will even get to examine real artifacts!
Part of this area is run by the National Park Service and another is the Preservation area. The Jamestown Rediscovery archeologists are still working in the area and many of the signs explain what is left of the structures that remain. Families will enjoy taking a walk around the townsite to see some of the old buildings and read about the people that once inhabited the area on the James River. Check out the map of Historic Jamestowne.
Our family loved walking the grounds and reading about what occurred at this site. As a history teacher, I felt a sense of joy and intrigue at being able to step in a place that I have taught to my students. In addition to the historical value, it is also a beautiful area right on the James River where we enjoyed the views of the sailboats and forested landscapes and imagined English ships docking nearby. Check out ticket prices and discounts here.
Tips for Visiting Historic Jamestowne
- Start at the Visitor’s Center and watch the movie when you arrive.
- It can get very chilly right on the water, so be prepared.
- Dining options are offered.
- Included with your admission are tours offered by archeologists and park rangers.
- Be careful not to confuse this site with the Jamestown Settlement. This is the actual site where the British first settled in America, while the Jamestown Settlement is a set of museums about this time.
Another one of the things to do in Williamsburg, VA with kids is the Jamestown Settlement. It contains two sections: an indoor gallery of exhibits and theater, and an outdoor living history area. Inside you will find exhibits that chronicle the nation’s 17th-century beginnings in Virginia highlighting the Powhatan, English, and West African cultures.
Outside, are three re-created areas. The first is a Powhatan Indian Village where historical interpreters are onsite to teach children about their way of life, traditions, and games they played. Next, there are replicas of the three ships that carried settlers from England to Jamestown. You are allowed to climb aboard one of them and experience what life would have been like in tight quarters. Finally, there is a re-created fort which represents the colonists’ home area. Families can try on British armor and even watch soldiers fire muskets, craft tools, and prepare meals.
Here is a short video showing some of the indoor and outdoor exhibits which will help you know what to expect when visiting Jamestown Settlement with kids.
Tips for Visiting the Jamestown Settlement
- Take plenty of pictures! There are plenty of great photo opportunities at all three outdoor sites.
- Be sure to walk inside of all re-created yehakins, ships, and buildings. They are meant for exploration and play.
- Talk to the re-enactors. They are happy to share about what life was like in Jamestown.
- Start with the movie 1607: A Nation Takes Root at the theater.
- Be on the lookout for special exhibition areas.
- The gift shop has some pretty unique items.
- The indoor dining area has plenty of options for families.
American Revolution Museum at Yorktown
The museum here focuses on the Revolutionary era and how the colonists gained their independence from the British. The exhibits are interactive, innovative, and immersive. It was extremely well done and explained. There were short films inside tents, dioramas, period artifacts, but our favorite was the experiential theater that transported us to the Battle of Yorktown complete with wind, smoke, and the thunder of cannon fire.
As great as the inside sections of the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown were, the outdoor encampment sealed the deal! We walked into a Continental Army encampment complete with officer’s quarters, soldiers’ tents, and historical interpreters who demonstrated firing a musket, showed us some military drills, and explained 18th century medical and surgical practices. The farm area includes a home and vegetable/herb garden where historical re-enactors show guests how to process plant fiber for cloth and demonstrate various tools used in daily life.
Tips When Visiting the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown
- Be sure to watch the introductory movie – “Liberty Fever”.
- I don’t think kids younger than 6 will appreciate the indoor area very much, but older kids and adults will love it!
- Try to do some prep work with your kids before they arrive at the museum so they have a basic understanding of the Revolution.
- Talk to the re-enactors and ask questions
- Tickets to both this museum and the Jamestown Settlement can be bought here and are also included in America’s Historic Triangle ticket.
This National Park Service site is the location of the decisive battle of the American Revolution which causes the British to finally surrender and leave the colonists to self-govern their own nation. Start at the Visitor Center where you can watch the orientation film and check out some exhibits, which include the field tents used by General Washington during the battle. There are ranger-led tours of the battlefield, historic town, and junior ranger programs for kids. If you happen to be visiting with a fourth-grader, you can print out the 4th grade national park pass for free admission for the family.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg has been voted the most beautiful theme park in the world, and I completely agree! While I haven’t visited any theme parks abroad, I have been to Disney World, Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando, Knotts Berry Farm, Hershey Park, a few Six Flags parks, and Knoebels. Busch Gardens Williamsburg is definitely one of our family’s favorite theme parks and one of the best things to do with kids in Williamsburg, VA.
The theming of Busch Gardens Williamsburg is Europe, and the attractions, shopping, and dining are themed accordingly. If your family loves roller coasters, then this is a great park for you! There are things to do for people of all ages and plenty of shows, animals, food, and shops for those who are not a fan of rides. In addition, the park is very clean and the food is a step above regular theme park fare.
There are special events throughout the year such as a Food and Wine Festival, Howl-O-Scream, and my personal favorite – Busch Garden’s Christmas Town. This is a short video I put together to showcase some of the light displays we saw when visiting Busch Gardens Christmas Town. There are ten million lights, rides, and special holiday activities. If you are visiting Williamsburg with kids during the holidays, I highly recommend going to Busch Gardens Christmas Town and admire the Christmas lights and decor.
A day at this theme park, after taking a few days to learn about history, is the perfect activity in Williamsburg for kids. There are rides for kids of all ages and the adults will appreciate the theming. Read a more detailed review of Busch Gardens Williamsburg or check out their site to view ride descriptions and purchase tickets.
Yankee Candle Village
Yankee Candle Village was the surprise of our recent trip to Williamsburg with kids. There are only two Yankee Candle Village locations in the United States, the original one in Massachusetts and this one in Williamsburg. First of all, if you do not care much for candles then this may not be the place for you, but I will say that even my husband enjoyed his time here (and he is one of those non-candle loving people).
The store is set up in a circle which makes it very easy to make your way to all of the sections. They have candles of all types and scents, home goods, spices/herbs, kitchen accessories, and Christmas ornaments all year round. While we did come home with three different candles, the highlight of our visit to Yankee Candle Village was the interactive activities in a section called Wax Works. The entire family created our own custom candle, molded our hands in wax, and dipped an ornament in wax.
In addition, there are stands to purchase homemade fudge, ice cream, and popcorn with various seasonings. A family could easily spend an hour or two visiting Yankee Candle Village. I highly recommend a visit to Yankee Candle Village for a unique activity in Williamsburg for kids. Check out this short video about what to expect when visiting Yankee Candle Village and the Wax Works activities with your family.
William & Mary
William & Mary, located right in downtown, is a beautiful campus. Our family enjoys visiting college campuses around the country when we travel, so the fact that this was right in the center of town was perfect for us. Wander around the campus which was founded in 1693 and is considered America’s second-oldest university. If you’re feeling inspired, the Barnes and Noble College Bookstore is just down the street with great Tribe gear and gifts.
The downtown area of Williamsburg has some delicious food and great local shops. One of the best free things to do in Williamsburg, VA is just to wander downtown. Here are some of our recommendations in walking distance of Colonial Williamsburg:
Ripley’s Believe It or Not
To be honest, my children have wanted to visit Ripley’s Believe It or Not since we visited St. Augustine about 7 years ago. I am always hesitant, but this time decided to let it happen. Ripley’s is one of the things to do in Williamsburg,VA with kids that we all ended up enjoying. It is filled with some interesting and odd exhibits and rare pictures of unique individuals. They enjoyed learning about some of these oddities and playing some of the games included with admission. The Laser Race and Color Rush games were their favorite. Sadly the outdoor mini-golf was closed when we visited, but they did like the 4D Theater.
If you have some extra time in your day, visiting Ripley’s is a “different” way to enjoy Williamsburg with kids. You can buy tickets at the door or ahead of time here. Don’t forget to check Groupon, as they are often available here at a discount and cash back apps like Rakuten offer money back for going through their site first.
Also, one of our favorite restaurants is located just next door to Ripley’s – Food for Thought. The decor features pictures of inventors, scientists, and leaders while the walls display thought-provoking quotes. We love that discussion cards are at each table to help ignite some thought-provoking conversation. Their menu has tons of options from classic American dishes, to more ethnic options and allergy-friendly choices too.
Water Country USA
If your family needs a break from all of the history lessons, then you may want to consider a visit to Water Country USA. If the weather is right, then this is one of the best things to do in Williamsburg, VA with kids. Water Country USA is Virginia’s largest water park with 11 rides and slides, a wave pool, and plenty of water activities for younger kids.
If you are planning a visit here, then don’t forget to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, appropriate swimwear, and towels. Water Country USA is owned by Busch Gardens, so a combo ticket to both parks may be a great idea if you’re visiting Williamsburg with kids. Check the calendar, operating hours, and purchase tickets here.
Williamsburg Premium Outlets
Our family loves outlet shopping! We try to visit outlet malls when we travel and every few months back home to try and score great deals. The Williamsburg Premium Outlets are no exception. They have a great variety of stores and they’re located just 5 minutes from downtown. The Williamsburg Premium Outlets also have a few restaurants and something I have never seen before inside an outlet mall- a brewery! If you have never shopped at an outlet mall, what are you waiting for? Check out the directory here.
Go Ape Treetop Adventures
Go Ape Treetop Adventures is probably the most adventurous activity in Williamsburg for kids (and adults too). Guests can climb high in the trees and navigate their interactive ropes course. The course features zip lines, suspended obstacles, rope climbs, tree to tree crossings and more. Kids must be at least ten years old to participate in Go Ape Treetop Adventures; however, there is another course called Go Ape Treetop Journey for younger ones or those that don’t want to venture that high up. Check out more details and pricing here.
Great Wolf Lodge
Great Wolf Lodge is one of our family’s favorite places to stay because included with your hotel room rate is some water park fun. Regardless of the temperatures or weather outside, it is always warm inside the water park, which makes this one of the best things to do in Williamsburg, VA with kids. Our family has visited a few of these around the country and have some useful Great Wolf Lodge tips for families.
In addition to the water slides, hot tubs, pools, and wave rider, guests can purchase tickets to other attractions located inside the hotel. Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg offers a MagiQuest, ropes course, bowling alley, XD Theater, arcade, and more. Day passes to the water park are also available without a hotel stay. Check out all there is to do on their website.
Where to Stay in Williamsburg with Kids
Colonial Williamsburg Hotels
Colonial Williamsburg has five official hotels. They are conveniently located within and around the Historic Area and offer different types of accommodations to suit your family’s needs. From authentic colonial houses to traditional hotel rooms or even upscale suites, staying at one of these accommodations is a great way to enjoy Colonial Williamsburg with kids. Check out the Colonial Williamsburg hotel options here.
Woodlands Hotel & Suites
My family loved our stay at the Woodlands Hotel & Suites in Williamsburg. My daughter loved the pool, splash pad and room to run around on the grounds. My husband and I liked the way that staying there made our visit to the area really easy. The management definitely understands what families want and need. The suites give parents some privacy, the staff is helpful and breakfast is included. But wait! You’ll also find mini-golf, shuffleboard, a small playground and nightly family entertainment (we saw a very funny magician). The restaurant lets kids make their own pizza and keeps a half-dozen local beers on tap for mom and dad. The bartender will even serve you in a plastic cup if you’d like to drink your beer while relaxing by the kid-friendly pool.
The resort sits next to the Colonial Williamsburg visitors center and is a short walk from the town itself. A shuttle that does a loop around the historic area stops at Woodlands, which made it easy to leave our car behind when we wanted to. The hotel also runs a separate shuttle to Busch Gardens, saving you the hassle and cost of parking. We actually left Williamsburg wishing we’d had more time to spend at the hotel, which speaks well for itself and gives us a reason to go back. Read my full review of the Woodlands Hotel and Suites.
Contributed by: Eileen Gunn from FamiliesGo!
Holiday Inn Club Vacations Williamsburg
Holiday Inn Club Vacations is a great hotel in Williamsburg for kids because it has a bowling alley, a mini-golf course, indoor and outdoor pools, a playground, sports courts, and board games/DVDs for rent at the clubhouse area. Families will like that the one-bedroom villas include a full kitchen and a washer/dryer in the unit. While it is not downtown, it is a short 7-minute drive. Check out the rates here.
Situated on the James River, Kingsmill Resort offers an idyllic setting for a family getaway. It’s also just minutes from everywhere you want to be, including Busch Gardens (7 mins) and Colonial Williamsburg (12 mins). Opt for a spacious condo or a colorful cottage. In summer, laze the day away at the River Pool, which has a lazy river, waterslide, and fountains. Rent a bike, play tennis or take a stroll around the lush grounds. There are four restaurants on-property, including Elements 1010, which is known for its scrumptious breakfast buffet.
Contributed by: Erin from Kidventurous
Rent an Airbnb
There are many homes and condo units available in Williamsburg that are very close to downtown and all of the attractions. A house or apartment could provide those amenities that hotels cannot, such as a full kitchen or even a washer and dryer in unit. Many times, renting an Airbnb is much less than staying in a hotel room. You just have to make sure to read the descriptions well, message the host, and read the reviews to be sure it is what you want. Our family has rented Airbnb units all over the country and we have had very positive experiences. If you’ve never done this, as a new user you get $40 off your first booking. So, why not give it a shot?
Bottom Line: Taking a Trip to Williamsburg with kids
If you’ve never considered taking a trip to Williamsburg with kids, I hope that this post has changed your mind. If your family enjoys trips that teach about history, Williamsburg is the place to be! History really does come alive in Williamsburg for kids and allows them to understand colonial life in a different way than a traditional museum. In addition, the Greater Williamsburg area has so much more to offer families that the historical aspect.
Thank you again to Visit Williamsburg for all of their help in planning and organizing our family vacation in Williamsburg. Their website is a great source of information filled with links to all of the area attractions, dining, and accommodations.
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