Colonial Williamsburg: What to see, what to skip, and why not to go

Located in Colonial Williamsburg, the original Bruton Parish Church is still used to this day.
Located in Colonial Williamsburg, the original Bruton Parish Church is still used to this day. /

Colonial Williamsburg and the surrounding area is a trip you should take with your family.

Colonial Williamsburg, Va. invites you to take a trip back in time to colonial America but it misses a lot when it comes to actually being there.

When we think of Colonial Williamsburg, located in southeastern Virginia, we tend to picture a sprawling community that takes us back in time to a period of our ancestral birth, a period when our nation was being formed. In reality, it is not all enjoyable.

If you are going to Williamsburg, Va., then Colonial Williamsburg seems to be your biggest draw but it isn’t and if you can not see everything that Williamsburg and Jameston has to offer, skip Colonial Williamsburg all together.

The Williamsburg and Jamestown are is all about history. It is made up of Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement, American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, and the Yorktown battlefield and historic site. We are going to look at Colonial Williamsburg.

Entering the pavilion where you buy your tickets you are greeted with the sound of a fife and drums and you can’t help but get a little excited. I mean, it is the birth of our country right?

Once inside, you are immediately hit with the gift shops and you laugh a little but then realize, this is cool, let’s buy the little ones a bonnet or three-point colonial hat. After you get your tickets you can walk the one-mile trek to the par or wait on a shuttle. If you can walk it, walk it.

Tickets are around $25.00 for the day. Admission into CW is free but to visit different buildings, all marked with flags, you need to have a purchased ticket. Personally, you’re not missing too much by skipping it. There is a map you can view at the admissions building that tells you what building are open for free and what are not.

Inside Bruton Parish Church
A living memorial of colonial days, Bruton Parish Church has seen little change since it was first erected. /

Colonial Williamsburg takes you back into a world that should be untouched by time. For me, I envisioned people walking about in colonial garb and they were but there was also far too much present-day as well.

Yes, there is no electricity nor phones. Those that work in the CW are dressed in period pieces and do not break their characters. Some live in the community and what they make there, they sell there. And they sell it with a big price tag, buy your souvenirs outside.

You will find the original Governors Mansion on the grounds but you also quickly realize you are not really back in time. The roads are paved and you can see parked cars behind some of the buildings and one main street ends with a barricade and a coffee shop on the other side where the college of William and Mary campus is.

My kids enjoyed it for a bit but quickly tired of the experience. While they have scheduled events for kids (ticketed) to experience different games and stuff from that period, they were hard to locate and some events didn’t actually happen. The price is a bit much given the fact that while you can interact with people and ask questions, some of their responses are based in fact and some are based on opinion depending on the question. I asked about how the community was used during the Revolutionary War but the guy in the armory didn’t know. Turns out, it really wasn’t part of it at all.

Colonial Williamsburg
A iron worker molds and shapes a tool in Colonial Williamsburg, Va. /

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What did work? The church. One of the few buildings that is still standing, the narration of its history was really done. When you find out you are standing where John Adams and George Washington stood, there is a cool connection to the past. Of everything CW offered, this was by far the best part of it and I wish I could have gone back to learn more.

Overall, if time is an issue for you, you won’t miss much by not going here and if money is an issue, enjoy the walkthrough for free. Some of the CW workers are a bit rude and came across bothered when my kids asked a question or if they could get their picture with them.

Maybe it is just me, but when I go to make a reservation to eat and the colonial dressed man at the front door opens his iPad to check seating, tells me this isn’t really a colonial period piece like it is marketed as.

Overall, Colonial Williamsburg is interesting but I didn’t learn anything about our past outside of the church, which again, I rave about,  and I wanted to. After about 2 hours spent, we left, grabbed lunch at an overly expensive restaurant just outside the barricade and headed to Jamestown.