25 Fun Facts About Williamsburg That Will Make You Want to Visit
25 Fun Facts About Colonial Williamsburg
Whoever said history was boring definitely hadn’t heard of Colonial Williamsburg, the world’s largest “living history” museum. As one of the most unique historic destinations in the United States, the town attracts locals and tourists from all over the world. If you haven’t been yet, these fun facts about Williamsburg just might bump it up to the top of your bucket list.
Colonial Williamsburg Facts for Kids
From historic landmarks to unique tourist destinations, the famous Williamsburg VA attractions make it an incredible place for adults and children alike. There is no shortage of fun activities for kids, ranging from thrilling amusement parks to exciting museums to mini-golf. Whether you and your kids are history buffs or not, the whole family will enjoy being taken back in time to the 18th Century of Old Williamsburg. To discover what makes the historic colonial town such an incredible destination, read on for 25 fun facts about Williamsburg that will make you want to visit.
1 | You can stay in period-specific accommodation | Would you love to stay in a luxurious yet colonial-style hotel to immerse yourself in the full experience? The charming Westgate Historic Williamsburg Resort is located in the heart of the action and just steps away from the historic area. The resort is like stepping into a time machine back into historic Williamsburg. It’s also a short mile away from fun activities like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum and Kiwanis Municipal Park.
2 | Thomas Jefferson frequented the town | Did you know that the third president of the United States went to Williams & Mary College? After Harvard, it’s the country’s second-oldest university that opened its doors in 1693. Because of his time on campus, Thomas Jefferson spent plenty of time in Williamsburg.
3 | The original capital of Virginia | Did you know that Richmond wasn’t always the capital of Virginia? In 1699, Williamsburg became the capital of the colony, up until 1780.
4 | Home to the first psychiatric hospital | In 1773, Williamsburg established the first hospital for mentally ill patients in all of the nation. Originally deemed the "Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds,” it was able to house up to 24 patients. These days, it’s more commonly known as Eastern State Hospital and is one of the more popular Williamsburg, VA attractions to check out.
5 | Town was restored by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. | This American financier and philanthropist was responsible for funding the restoration of the town in 1926, which has now become the Colonial Williamsburg we know and love today. Thanks to his efforts along with a few others, you can visit the town and see many of the same buildings you would have come across in the 1700s. 80 of the original buildings were preserved, including the courthouse, governor’s palace, and taverns to name a few.
6 | Wages between 30 to 40 cents per hour | Can you imagine earning a living of only 30 to 40 cents per hour? When the town reopened to the public in 1932, that’s all the hostesses were making. Surprisingly, this was a highly desired and honorable position, held mostly by married women at the time. Fortunately, by the 1960s, their wages had increased to about $2 per hour.
7 | Attend free summer concerts | You don’t have to break the bank to have a blast checking out many of the Williamsburg, VA attractions. During the warmer months, the whole family can attend free music series on the historic grounds and lawns of the art museums. If you’re feeling hungry or thirsty, there are always plenty of food trucks and snacks tents.
8 | Town named after King William III | Originally named First Plantation, the town’s name was then changed to Williamsburg when it became the colonial capital in 1699. The name was given in honor of the King of England at the time.
9 | An episode of Lassie was filmed in Williamsburg | If you’re a fan of the classic “Lassie the Voyager” TV series, then this will be one of the more interesting fun facts about Williamsburg. Filmed in the historic colonial town in 1966, a turkey farmer accuses Lassie the dog of being dangerous and after his flock in one episode. Like any prestigious actor, he rode through the town by carriage.
10 | Home to the most notorious haunted house in America | If you’re into ghost hunting, then you won’t want to miss this. Built back in 1715, the Peyton Randolph house — one of the town’s oldest buildings — had over 30 deaths occur, ranging from mysterious illnesses to tragic murders. Since then, it’s been featured on every ghost tour in the nation. It’s also said that, to this day, people still hear the stomping of boots throughout the house or catch a glimpse of the ghost of a man dressed in 18th Century clothing.
12 | Over a million yearly visitors by 1957 | Just 25 years after reopening the museum, the historic town had begun to attract over one million visitors every year. To this day, the town still receives about one million visitors each year, for tourism, the university, and more.
13 | Williamsburg cooks only served in-season food | Unlike nowadays, colonial cooks didn’t have fresh fruits and vegetables year-round. They had to can goods in order to preserve them for longer. In the restaurants, main dishes were often animals that came to the table with the limbs and head still attached. Don’t worry — nowadays the taverns offer plenty of vegetarian-friendly meals as well.
14 | No admission fee | Although you’ll need a ticket to enter any of the historic buildings or museums, you can stroll through the grounds for free. There is plenty to see, including historic interpreters that bring the town to life.
15 | Several royal governors resided in the town | Right at the start of the historic area, you’ll come across the breathtaking Governor’s Palace. In addition to royalty, the place was also home to post-colonial governors, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry.
16 | Home to one of the first inland biking trails in North America | Are you a biking fanatic? Then consider riding the scenic Virginia Capital Trail, which begins and ends in Colonial Williamsburg. It’s full of history and spans over 52 miles if you’re up for the challenge.
17 | Home to the first canal in America | Or should we say, the first attempted canal. Although it was approved in 1772, it never received funding thanks to the American Revolution. There was no more need for the canal when the capital of Virginia moved in 1780.
18 | Boasts over 40 restaurants and shops | Experience cuisine that will take you back to the 18th Century. For foodies, the town’s colonial restaurants and taverns are some of the best Williamsburg, VA attractions. Try a hearty plate of Welsh Rabbit, Carolina Fish Muddle, or a bowl of Peanut Soup.
19 | The Capitol building you see today is not the first | This important building is where the House of Burgess and the government met in colonial times. However, the original Capitol building burned to its foundation in 1747, with almost nothing left standing. The cause — chimneys were added.
20 | It’s the ancestor of all theme parks | This is one of the fun facts about Williamsburg that you’ll love if you can’t get enough thrilling rides and fun games on your vacations. Williamsburg is known for its incredible attractions, including Busch Gardens, Water Country, and Great Wolf Lodge.
21 | Home to many of Virginia’s firsts | At one point, Williamsburg was the cultural, social, and political epicenter of the state. Virginia’s first printing press, first newspaper, first theatre, and first paper mill all appeared in Williamsburg over the duration of the 1700s.
22 | The people of Williamsburg believed in witchcraft | Back in the 17th and early 18th centuries, women were put on trial for being witches and there was nothing they could do about it. One of the most notorious trials and tests was for Grace Sherwood, who later became known as the “Witch of Pungo.” These days, you can watch the mock trial, interview witnesses, and cast your vote at the “Cry Witch'' event at the Capitol General Court.
23 | Students can enjoy electronic field trips to the town | No matter where you are in the United States — or the world — you can take a virtual tour to learn about the history of Colonial Williamsburg.
24 | Filming location for many movies and TV shows | Apart from Lassie, over a hundred movies and TV shows have been filmed in Colonial Williamsburg. For any film buffs, does Cold Mountain or John Adams ring a bell?
25 | Great year-round climate | Colonial Williamsburg has decent weather year round. You can enjoy average highs of 48 degrees in the cooler month of January, while July sits roughly around a warmer 88 degrees. That’s definitely something to keep in mind if you’re planning your next getaway.
Final Thoughts on Williamsburg, Virginia
Outside of this list, there are endless fun facts about Williamsburg that you can discover on your next getaway. There is no shortage of things to do, including thought-provoking exhibits and exciting art museums for people of all ages. The town is known as the “Ancestor of All Theme Parks” and is also home to the best artisan craft breweries, hidden gem taverns, exceptional golfing, and is right next door to historic Jamestown. So come stay at the Westgate Historic Williamsburg Resort and start planning your next vacation today.
Looking for fun things to do in another incredible destination? Check out our Travel Blog for vacation ideas, tips and tricks for a super awesome getaway.
*Westgate Resorts is in no way affiliated with the attractions featured in this article. Items or places listed are current as of the publishing date of this article. Please call or visit the respective website for the most up-to-date offerings and details.
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