Mini-Guide to Williamsburg, Virginia
The other day my business partner and I were having lunch and discussing this wonderful town we call home: Williamsburg, Virginia. We both moved here from big cities, Sherry from Boston and I from Atlanta. It was a bit of a culture shock twenty-two years ago but as they say, “We have come a long way baby.” Many of you might think you know Williamsburg because you visited during a seventh-grade field trip or were dragged here by your parents to be force-fed colonial American history. Don’t get me wrong—Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown are important destinations and should be on your list of must-do vacations. With new interactive programming and a beautifully renovated Williamsburg Inn, you would be hard-pressed to find a more romantic fall getaway.
What you might not know is that Williamsburg has a growing reputation for three other distinct and fun types of activities: libations, live music events, and outdoor recreation.
Let’s Start with Libations.
The Williamsburg area is home to a nice variety of top-notch craft breweries, distilleries and wineries. Including the granddad of all breweries, Anheuser Busch, there are six breweries and three distilleries. If your favorite is wine, we host our own award-winning Williamsburg Winery, with Upper Shirley Vineyard, Saudé Creek Vineyards, New Kent Winery and James River Cellars all within an hour’s drive. Not sure where to start? The Williamsburg Tasting Trail may be just the ticket.
- Virginia Beer Company – Nightly, they feature a rotating cast of food trucks, with live music on Friday nights and many fun special events by the season. This fall you might enjoy a glass of their Apricot Orchard Brett Golden Ale while sitting around the fire pit.
- Upper Shirley Vineyards – Just 30 minutes out from Williamsburg, you will find the Upper Shirley Vineyards. Trust me; there is nothing prettier than a ride up Route 5 on a fall day or any day as I think about it. The Vineyard’s rows of grapevines are picturesquely set right on the James River. A perfect afternoon would be a tour of Shirley Plantation and then a scrumptious lunch and bottle of wine at the winery.
All that Jazz
Williamsburg is home to the Williamsburg Symphony and the permanent residence of Bruce Hornsby, along with a large music department at the College of William and Mary. You can count on a nice music scene here.
In 2015, a non-profit now known as CultureFix, @culturefix, started the Winter Blues Jazz Festival, to liven up the winter months. It was a huge success and has grown each year since. The festival takes place in Williamsburg every January over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend. It’s four days full of events for every taste and price range. Mark your calendars for January 11-14, 2018. The success of the Winter Blues Jazz Festival spawned The Big Bluesy: a Blues Music Festival, scheduled for November 4, 2017. With a focus more on the blues, it also boasts an outstanding lineup of performers.
If that isn’t enough, Bruce Hornsby started the Funhouse Fest in 2016. The annual event, curated by Bruce Hornsby and held in June, brings three days of music to historic Williamsburg featuring an array of some of the most creative and innovative musicians performing today. In 2017, the show featured singers Sheryl Crow, Rhiannon Giddens, and The Staves; bands Lake Street Dive, and yMusic; and jazz saxophonist Kenny Garrett. Hornsby played all three dates, performing a rare set of his greatest hits, a Grateful Dead tribute, and an acoustic jam with his favorite drummer, Sonny Emory. Look for a repeat of this popular outdoor festival to be part of the Virginia Arts Festival again in June 2018.
Winter Blues Jazz Festival, Jazz Brunch at the Williamsburg Inn. The Regency Dining Room at the Inn is one of the prettiest settings around. The combination of top-notch culinary brunch delights and jazz music are hard to beat. Get you tickets early because it sells out fast. winterbluesjazzfest.com
Let’s Get Out and Play.
Williamsburg really shines in this area, offering a wealth of outdoor activities. Situated on a peninsula, there are waters to paddle and rivers to fish, and the beach and Chesapeake Bay are only an hour away. You can take a run along Duke of Gloucester Street, ride your bike on the 52-mile Virginia Capital Trail, see York River State Park via horseback and hike miles of fabulous trails. On the water, kayak around Historic Jamestowne, take a boat tour or sailing excursion, or simply go fishing or swimming. Hit the greens on one of more than a dozen golf courses, take on an action-packed adventure like Go Ape zipline, or enjoy the thrills at Busch Gardens. Did you know that there are three national parks in the Greater Williamsburg area? Historic Jamestowne, the Yorktown Battlefield, and the Colonial Parkway.
- The Virginia Capital Trail. There is nothing like a morning ride on this trail, as you pass through oak-lined tree canopies, traverse bridges and pedal by manicured farmland. It is simply a beautiful experience and great exercise, too. The dedicated, paved Virginia Capital Trail stretches 52 miles between the commonwealth’s old capital in Williamsburg and the present one in Richmond. Beginning with Mile Marker 0 at Jamestown, the trail connects to Richmond via historic Route 5, crossing the Chickahominy River and passing colonial plantations en route. The trail connects to the City of Williamsburg from Jamestown via the Colonial Parkway. There are several watering holes along the way, with more popping up as the trail’s popularity builds.
- Jamestowne Active Archeological Dig. While the emphasis of this article is “beyond history,” the fact that there so few active archeological digs in the USA make this an exception. It is quite fascinating to walk the grounds where our forefathers landed in 1607, and learning of the new discoveries that are being made about the lives they lead is awe-inspiring. A great day with the family is a bike ride on historic Jamestown Island, picnic on the banks of the James River where the first settlers stepped ashore, and a tour of the active dig. In 2017, archaeologists are examining evidence of the first church, where the first General Assembly was convened in 1619. Thus 2019 will mark the 400th anniversary of representative government in the western hemisphere.
As you can see, Williamsburg is much more than its historic charm. If you haven’t been here since seventh grade it might be time to revisit with your family or for a romantic weekend. We have just touched the surface. Came visit and enjoy all our wonderful town has to offer! visitwilliamsburg.com