Colonial Williamsburg with kids: two-day Revolutionary City itinerary

There’s so much to do in Colonial Williamsburg with kids, prep work ahead of time is definitely essential. Luckily, planning a Williamsburg vacation is very user-friendly. It’s been called the ‘Disney of history buffs’, and I do see the similarity. Williamsburg’s Revolutionary City has a lot going on…at all times. Prepare for sensory overload!


Like Disney, Williamsburg cannot be done in a day…at least not in our opinion. And like many destinations, Williamsburg is what you make of it. Come ready to participate and be open to its many opportunities. Families will want to stay ‘on-site’, and purchase two-day tickets to the city. Here’s how we do it:

Pre-trip prep:


Ahead of time, book your hotel reservations and tickets to any programs or tours you want to participate in beyond what’s offered in the daily admission. We recommend staying at an official Williamsburg hotel; if you have a reservation number (or room card, once on-site) you save considerably on Revolutionary City tickets and other programs.


Where to stay: Williamsburg official hotels range from luxury to colonial cottages to family-focused hotel rooms. We loved staying at The Woodlands, which is located directly adjacent to the visitor’s center and right on the walking path to Revolutionary City. The shuttle bus stops nearby as well. The Woodlands offers upscale rooms, and lots of included amenities, such as a pool, mini golf, free parking, and a deluxe free breakfast.


Day 1:
With your Revolutionary City passes in-hand (buy the evening before or morning of, in the visitor’s center), head into Colonial Williamsburg. Don’t plan an itinerary for this day. I can’t believe I’m advising this, but trust me: the magic of Williamsburg lies in the reenactments, living history characters, and impromptu moments. Sticking to an exact itinerary limits your ability to be spontaneous. When we kept our plans open, we were able to linger a full hour participating in the storming of the Governor’s Palace and later make an unplanned stop at the bakery. Later, the kids played a Colonial stickball game in the streets with costumed characters, and we had a lively debate about the idea of a Constitution with a tradesman of the middling class. Keep yourself free to go where you feel led.


Walk Duke of Glouchester Street and adjacent blocks and stop at the various living history exhibits, pausing for programs as desired. Among our favorites: the Brickyard, where kids can stomp through the muddy clay; the Milliner, and the Military Encampment, where kids can be treated like newly enlisted soldiers (for better or for worse!). We also loved the 30 minute tour of the Governor’s Palace (be sure to try the maze in the self-guided portion at the end) and Great Hopes Plantation, located at the edge of the city on the walk in from The Woodlands or the Visitor’s Center. At the plantation, kids learn about rural living and the life of slaves. Everywhere you go, ‘citizen’s of the city are in costume (and in character). Ask them questions, and they’ll give answers relevant to their time period. It’s a lot of fun.


Day 2:

Day 2 is when you’ll want to make a more detailed plan. Check out things you missed on Day 1, or use the weekly program guide to make sure you’re in the right place at the right time to see reenactments. We especially enjoyed the reading of the Declaration of Independence on the capitol lawn and a fife and drum corp marching down Glouchester.


Kids may also want to try RevQuest on Day 2. This high-tech scavenger hunt-type game uses any cell phone to send clues to kids. The quest takes you all over Revolutionary City, and prompts kids to interact with various characters at many locations. It’s easy to set up on your phone, but not easy to play, and does take quite a bit of time to do (some steps have to be completed at designated times). We don’t recommend it for the first day of your first visit, because it sends you from location to location without time for side trips or delays. Our middle grade and upper grade kids loved it as a final activity of our trip to Williamsburg, but our 4th grader got bogged down by it.


During both days, we brought lunch food into Revolutionary City, and ate picnics. Picnicking is permitted in many places; we liked the tables behind the Bakery (after buying some cookies to end our meal)! We also saved money by bringing waters bottles in; drinking fountains for refills are abundant. Of the taverns, our favorite evening meal was at Chownings, which specializes in reasonably priced flatbread-style sandwiches and homemade root beer and cider.

Evening programs worth booking:


Life of a Jolly Pyrate: this dinner theater production at Shields Tavern combines good food with a fun colonial atmosphere and an intimate live theater production. The show’s acts take place between courses, and is family-friendly.

Pyrates Among Us: This nighttime tour takes visitors to three different Revolutionary City destinations. In each, a live actor tells a different part of the story of the infamous Blackbeard. It’s creepy, yes, but was not too frightening for our school-aged kids. We didn’t see any kids under age 8 at this event.


Admission prices:

One-day admission is $43.95 for adults, and $22 for kids 6-12. Multi-day tickets are available (and the best deal).


Hours of operation:

Hours vary by season, but most of the year, Revolutionary City’s interactive exhibits and reenactments take place between 9 am and 5 pm. The Visitor Center is also open until 5 pm.


As I disclose whenever applicable, we experienced some of our colonial experience as guests of Colonial Williamsburg. All opinions are our own.