Williamsburg, Virginia is steeped in American history as the bustling center of the Virginia Colony in the 1600s and one of the country’s first planned cities. Though times have changed, the city’s charm remains with its living history museums, new places to eat, and good old Southern hospitality.
While a regular tourist itinerary would include a visit to Colonial Williamsburg or unlimited play at the Kingsmill Resort and other golf courses around town, we thought of listing down these out-of-the-box things to do during your stay in Williamsburg, Virginia.
- Photograph the Presidents Heads
Once located in the now defunct Presidents Park, these 46 busts of various American presidents standing 20 feet tall have been moved to a private farm owned by Howard Hankins. Photography enthusiasts can book a tour with local photographer John Plashal to gain access to and take night photos of the field and the remains of David Adickes’s presidential sculptures. If you want more guidance with your photography, make sure to book his Shoot and Light Painting Workshop.
- Visit the Public Hospital of 1773 and its ruins
The Public Hospital opened in 1773 as the nation’s first mental health facility. Originally called The Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds, the original buildings were once bleak facilities for mental health patients who were subjected to harsh and debunked therapies. The hospital eventually moved to Dunbar Farms and even gave part of their estate to The College of William and Mary (W&M) for use as student housing. These days, the facility runs elsewhere as the Eastern State Hospital for mental health patients. A reconstruction of the original hospital stands at Colonial Williamsburg’s The Public Hospital of 1773 exhibit. If you want to see the actual buildings, visit the Dillard Complex at W&M before some of them are completely demolished.
- Talk to the dead
Tour Williamsburg in candlelight and learn the basics of paranormal investigation in a three-hour Extreme Ghost Tour. Equipped with what’s been described as “the latest ghost hunting equipment,” you can become a conduit for the dearly departed of Williamsburg’s most haunted sites as you listen for their voices in a Psb7 spirit box. Not ready to see ghosts? Book a 90-minute tour of Yorktown or join a haunted cruise to Jamestown Island while listening to ghost stories from the Original Ghost Tour’s master storytellers.
- Solve mysteries
If you are looking for light activities, book a game night with the Colonial Escape Room, a homegrown business run and designed by a cooperative of Williamsburg creatives. You can find clues and solve mysteries in any of their four themed rooms, like Black Beard’s Cabin, where you must steal the pirate’s treasure before he returns; or the Massacre room where you must work as detectives racing against time to find the Greeting Card Killer’s next victim.
- Learn about whisky, coffee, and beer
A group of adults can easily book a tasting tour with Drink Williamsburg. Open daily, the tour includes transportation and takes you to Williamsburg’s local breweries, distilleries, and roasters. You will start the trip at Joker Brewing and King of Clubs for a coffee cupping and kombucha tasting session. Depending on the day of your trip you will then get to sample liquor at the Copper Fox Distillery, Brass Cannon Brewing, or the Eight Shires Distillery. If you’re lucky, the tour will also take you to one of the last establishments using the Colonial Style distilling technique.
- Shop for antiques
At 45 square feet, the Williamsburg Antique Mall is devoted to vintage furniture, jewelry, and décor from over 300 dealers. The mall even offers collectible coins, action figures, and comics for the collector in your family. Once that original Mickey Mantle Louisville Slugger is in your trunk, grab a quick bite at their café.
- Eat with the locals
Nothing brings you closer to the community than food. For aviation-themed sandwiches, visit Charly’s, a local restaurant near Williamsburg’s Municipal Airport. Here, you can share a table with visiting pilots and try the Billy Mitchell. Named after the father of the United States Air Force, this mouthwatering sandwich is served with ham, turkey, roast beef, and Provolone cheese. Skipping the meat? Try The Amelia, made with tasty portobello mushrooms, Swiss cheese, feta, grilled peppers, onions, lettuce, and tomatoes. Make sure to end your meal with a hearty slice of Charly’s homemade pie.
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