Williamsburg is one-third of an area that’s known as America’s ‘historic triangle.” Along with Yorktown and Jamestown, Williamsburg is known as the birthplace of modern-day US. Considering its rich history and complex cultures, it comes as no surprise that Williamsburg, Virginia is one of the most popular vacation sites for locals and international tourists alike.
The great thing about this town is that you don’t have to spend a penny to enjoy some of its most famous sites. Read on for a list of FREE things to do when you’re in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Do a Tour of Colonial Williamsburg
Getting into Williamsburg doesn’t come cheap as the admission tickets alone can cost a pretty penny. But, the only time you’re required to pay is if you want to go into the houses. Now, this experience comes highly recommended because going to Williamsburg without visiting the houses is like leaving out key pieces of the puzzle. To truly understand Williamsburg’s history, you must tour the inside of the colonial houses, which feature ancient artifacts that are so well preserved that they impart a feeling of nostalgia.
Not only does paying for a ticket take you into these fascinating homes, but it means you’re contributing to a good cause. Most of the proceeds collected from admission ticket sales go to the town foundation. This pays for ongoing restorations, the colonial characters and maintenance of the houses.
Alternatively, you can just tour Colonial Williamsburg free of charge and view the gardens, grounds, historic shops and even a periodical church which you can tour inside out.
Ride the Jamestown Ferry
The Jamestown ferry experience is breathtaking and absolutely priceless. Although the ride lasts for 15 minutes, it’ll feel like 15 seconds as it’ll take you through a spectacular view of the gorgeous shoreline. Since the area is so well-preserved and hasn’t experienced the type of extensive modernization of neighboring towns, you’ll be taken back in time to 4 centuries ago when the first settlers took a similar train ride upon arrival to the area. It can be a truly edifying experience, especially for history buffs.
Drive a Scenic Route
The 23-mile Colonial Parkway is one of the most scenic drives in the country, as it connects Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg. On the way, you’ll spot both York and James Rivers, as well as interpretive pull-offs. These are well-organized and offer a lot of information on the region’s history. They also provide the perfect place to stop in order to enjoy some well-deserved bird watching, picture taking and picnicking with loved ones.
Go for a Hike
There’s a LOT of outdoor activities to enjoy in Williamsburg which make it a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The Greensprings Greenway Interpretive Trail is a good place to start and it offers a 3-mile hike that’s complemented by a 600-foot boardwalk. Even here you’ll find a number of interpretive programs that clue you in on the history of the place, and some of the trail signs will even show you ancient hunting grounds and trails of the Native Americans who inhabited this place during the early colonial period. It’ll be one of the most fascinating hikes you’ve ever taken.
Visit Free Museums
Williamsburg museums are worth a checkout even if you don’t consider yourself a history nerd. We particularly recommend the York County Historical Museum, the Historic Jamestown and Waterman’s Museum. All offer something different so be sure to make a stop at each and they’re all family-friendly.
Attend Summer Concerts
Williamsburg hosts a number of outdoor concerts during the summer, most of which are available for free, especially in the historic district. Imagine being able to enjoy good music and good vibes while taking in the breathtaking scenery that this area is so famous for. You’ll experience this and more at the Rhythm on the Riverwalk concert series as well as the Riverwalk Landing and the Summer Breeze concert series.
Go to the Williamsburg Park
If you want to experience the natural beauty of Virginia in its full glory, visit the Williamsburg Park. Freedom Park tops our list of the must-visit natural sites in this town as it boasts 689 acres of hiking and mountain biking trails, open meadows, a historic free black settlement (one of the country’s first) and even an 18th-century graveyard. Also located at this part is the stunning Williamsburg Botanical Garden.
If you’re thinking of extending your stay, be sure to visit Waller Mill Park as well, which is spread over 286 acres and boasts a wide array of biking and hiking trails as well as kayaking, canoeing and boating activities. Meanwhile, bird watching enthusiasts will love the scenic views offered by Powhatan Creek Park.
The Norfolk Naval Base is the largest in the world and offers a view of endless ships that go through the Hampton Tunnel. You might even see a few vessels actively going through the tunnel if you visit at the right time! You’ll feel like a kid again watching G.I. Joe for the first time, except this time it’s like you’re on the set!
Visit the U.S. Army Transportation Museum
Spanning over 6 acres, this museum is located just 12 minutes away from Williamsburg in a little-known area called Ft. Eustis. Here, you’ll find a comprehensive history of army transportation including a 50,000 square foot facility that’s dedicated to dioramas, models and fascinating indoor/outdoor exhibits. Petrolheads will definitely love this one!
Take a Walk at the Yorktown Waterfront
The Yorktown Waterfront features incredible views of the York River or you can ramble along the mile-long pedestrian Riverwalk. The interesting thing about this pedestrian walk is that it’ll take you through several of Yorktown’s best attractions and all free of charge! But, you’ll probably walk away feeling edified by the beautiful views of the York River. There are also free trolley runs available to take you through different stops in the town.