Christmas is a prime time of year to visit Colonial Williamsburg, America’s largest interactive history museum, just a few hours' drive south of Washington, D.C. Architectural Digest called Colonial Williamsburg the best town in America for Christmas celebrations. The Christmas season comes to life with Colonial Williamsburg’s world-renowned holiday decorations and 18th-century seasonal programming. Beating drums, trilling fifes, firework displays, theatrical programs, and interpretive characters take visitors back in time to celebrate the holidays as Virginians did during colonial times.
Planning ahead for your visit to Colonial Williamsburg is key to ensure you have all the holiday experiences you hope for.
- Since this is such a busy time, reservations for lodging and dining during the holiday season should be made as far ahead of your trip as possible.
- Make reservations for special programs and tours. The Christmas Decorations Walking Tour is not to be missed, and going to a musical program or play is a great way to spend the evening.
- Special experiences like carriage rides, behind-the-scenes tours, and craft workshops also need advance reservations that can be made on the Williamsburg Holiday website.
Williamsburg welcomes in the Christmas season with candles, fireworks, and music during an unforgettable night of fireworks and entertainment (check website for date). The Grand Illumination celebration begins in the late afternoon with a variety of entertainment that starts at 4 p.m. on multiple outdoor stages throughout the Historic Area. The Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums provide 18th-century music appropriate to the season. Other costumed performers present holiday entertainment found in Williamsburg two centuries ago. As the sun goes down, candles are lit in public buildings, shops, and homes, and fireworks are launched at 7 p.m. at three Historic Area locations: the Governor’s Palace, Magazine, and Capitol. After the fireworks, entertainment resumes on the outdoor stages. Illuminations of individual buildings within the Historic Area will be on display throughout December.
Christmas Decorations at Colonial Williamsburg
Traditional Christmas decorations include wreaths and swags using pine, boxwood, Fraser fir, magnolia leaves, assorted fruits and berries, and dried flowers. Residents of nearly 85 homes in the 301-acre Historic Area join in the holiday spirit each year by displaying additional decorations. More than 1,200 electric candles in the windows of buildings throughout the Historic Area are lit at dusk each evening during the holiday season. The Christmas Decorations Walking Tour takes a look at their work throughout December.
Colonial Williamsburg offers a wonderful selection of entertainment programs for the holiday season. Visitors of all ages will enjoy performances such as Midwinter Stories, Dressing the Fashionable Bride (in the Colonial era), or walking tours such as the Annual Christmas Homes Tour, a walk through five private homes in the Historic Area not usually open to the public. Note that these programs require tickets at an additional charge.
Seasonal Programming for Kids
Programs for the little ones in your family include dressing up for the holidays; 18th-century music, dance, storytelling, and a puppet show; celebrating several religious traditions; singing carols, and an introduction to British holiday traditions. The whole family will love the Christmas lights and, for real excitement, head over to Busch Gardens amusement park.
Holiday Dining at Colonial Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg operates four dining taverns in the Historic Area, each offering unique 18th-century menus served in authentic colonial surroundings.
- Chowning's Tavern: Casual restaurant serving chicken, ribs, and pulled pork
- Christiana Campbell's Tavern: Upscale restaurant specializing in seafood and fine Southern food
- Shields Tavern: Casual restaurant that serves Southern fare
- King's Arms Tavern: Fine dining restaurant that specializes in prime beef, pork, and lamb
In Williamsburg, the taverns focus on food in authentic surroundings and so the whole family will enjoy their dining experience.
Christmas Town at Busch Gardens
At Christmas Town at Busch Gardens, the amusement park is transformed into a Christmas wonderland, combining an immersive holiday experience with one-of-a-kind shopping and dining opportunities, all-new holiday shows, and a spectacular light-dancing Christmas tree.
In 2020, you can bounce back and forth between Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area and Busch Gardens Christmas Town with your Colonial Williamsburg admission with the 3-day Christmas Bounce ticket. Receive a free shuttle ride between the locations and free parking at Busch Gardens.