You've heard of Colonial Williamsburg, most likely, but you might not know what you can see and do in this city of living history. Cut right from the past, Colonial Williamsburg is a living history attraction revolving around 18th century America leading up to the Revolutionary War. You may see people going about their "daily lives" in traditional colonial garb, blacksmiths pounding away with hammers as tourists look on with cameras, and much much more.
This you have probably already heard, that Colonial Williamsburg is just a tourist trap, but you'd be mistaken. There's so much more to Williamsburg than meets the ordinary eye and here's what you and your student group can see.
The Revolutionary City
Colonial Williamsburg is known for being dramatic and its employees play their parts well. The city is full of people dressed as political figures, civilians and slaves, all rallying up for the Revolution with demonstrations, town meetings, and even storming buildings in great mobs. Learn alongside your students and classmates what life was like for the common people in the years leading to the war, get caught up in the news of the latest battles and casualties, and find yourself face to face with major historical patriots and some lesser known heroes.
There are two distinct collections of art displayed on the grounds of Colonial Williamsburg: the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. The Decorative Arts Museum displays 15 galleries of handmade goods from furniture to textiles, ceramics, glass, paintings, prints, and much more from the 17th-19th centuries. Here you'll find one of the world's largest collections of British ceramics outside England. At the Folk Art Museum, you can peruse the galleries of quirky, imaginative, and wonderfully bold art created by untrained artists and craftsmen. This is one of the world's largest collections of folk art!
Something Williamsburg is known for is its spectacular gardens. Not only are they beautiful green spaces but many are demonstrative gardens filled with period herbs and plants used by families in their cooking and medicine. Special tours are available for groups to learn about the specific uses of herbs.
Williamsburg goes all out with their living history and that includes the food. Historic taverns based off of original establishments serve traditional colonial food to round out your Revolutionary day. Christina Campbell's Tavern, one of George Washington's favorite taverns, opens its doors to park visitors with plates of crab cakes and delicious seafood alongside others like Chowning's Tavern, King's Arm Tavern, and Shields Tavern. Modern dining establishments are available for those who want a change of pace.
Historic Buildings - There are many more historic buildings located at Colonial Williamsburg but the following are among the most popular and most visited.
- Virginia State Capitol - For a time, Williamsburg played host to the government of Virginia and its grand capitol building is still standing in evidence. Men gathered at the capitol to voice their patriotism before and during the Independence and you can still see the colonists debating, rallying, and guiding your group along your journey into the past.
- Governor's Palace - Once home to seven Virginia governors including Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, the Governor's Palace certainly looks like a palace. A five bay Georgian home, the Palace was massive but was unfortunately destroyed during the Civil War and later rebuilt in the mid-20th century.
- Public Hospital - The first public hospital in North America to be used in the treatment of mentally ill people, the Public Hospital has a very wild and tumultuous past, not all of it pretty. In 1960, the hospital was moved to its current location on the grounds of Colonial Williamsburg and offers tours of the facilities and also access to the two arts museums.
- Family Homes - A number of families have, over the years, built homes in Williamsburg including the Rockefellers. Whether they're new constructions or reconstructions of 18th century homes, these family houses show how real people lived in Williamsburg. Homes like the Peyton Randolph House and the Benjamin Powell House are historic homes open for tours and offer hands on interactive activities for young students to enjoy.