We were there in August. I am sure you will visit the 'Colonial Williamsburg' area. We parked at the visitor center and took the Williamsburg bus to all three locations that they have. We bought a 'Triangle Pass' and it was good for seven days and all three attractions Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. With the Triangle deal it was free to ride the bus to all locations. You can drive to Jamestown and Yorktown and there is plenty of parking when you arrive at each (at the time we were there) but I wanted to see the area and not have to drive.
Colonial Williamsburg has many restaurants at the end of town.
There is a free trolley in Yorktown after you arrive there. There are restaurants on the waterfront and shops in Yorktown. Not so in Jamestown.
The Marriott Ford Manor timeshare place (the building we were in) was tired and in need of refurbishing. Our building was the last one in the development at the end. The check in and concierge were very helpful and pleasant. The Williamsburg winery does a taste tesing dinner every Thursday evening. There is not enough parking at the Marriott facility. Cars were parked on the sides of the road because all the spaces were taken.
I am sure this area will be spectacular during the holiday season. Is there anything specific you would like to know?
We were there a year ago next month, and i posted the following:
Williamsburg has a a great website that has all the details on tickets and events, but I think, after you visit the site, you should check back as you get closer to your trip to determine what's happening during the week that you choose.
We did that and found out that there was a fireworks show called the Grand Illumination during the time we were there. (early December). There are plenty of things every day during the holidays.
As for the logistics and other details:
Airports: We flew into Washington Dulles from CA , located just outside DC in Virginia. IAD (Dulles) is huge with long runways, almost never closed for weather and has the advantage of being a federally owned airport. That means when you rent a car, and find that though there are some minor state taxes added. overall the extra tariff for renting a car is quite low. We had a car for two weeks (a 2011 brand new Ford Escape SUV) and with all the extras it was still under 500 dollars!
There is an airport in Richmond VA as well but you'll be an hour and a half from Williamsburg when you land, and it normally is not served by that many airlines.
Car Rentals: Every one of them is there and fairly close to the airport. We chose National because we're Executive Elite (aka Platinum) with them, but Hertz and Avis also run specials and might be cheaper.
Driving there: Getting to Williamsburg from Dulles is a straight shot--into the Capital Beltway (I-495/95), 95 South to Richmond, I 64 East to Williamsburg. Took us a little more than three hours, but we encountered Beltway slow downs. It's a 65 mph drive and there are loads of trucks on 95 but keep focused on the fun you'll have once you get to Colonial Williamsburg. Google Maps tells me that it's 166 miles and should take 2 hours and 59 minutes.
Lodging: CW owns a bunch of places where you can stay from the 5 star Williamsburg Inn to more modest Motel style accommodations. Even if you don't stay at the Inn you should go there to see the decorations and meet the very welcoming staff (Ask for Linda, one of the bar servers, and she'll treat you as family right away).
There are several Marriott brands (including one full service hotel) in and around CW. I have not stayed in them but recommend you check them out for rewards stays etc. None of the Marriott's are far from CW.
Marriott Vacation Club International has a place called the Manor Club at Ford's Colony that is very nice, but a distance from CW. Fantastic grounds and beautiful setting too.
With our relatives (who are owners) we stayed in one of the other timeshares, called Greensprings Plantation, a part of Diamond Resorts International. While it was nice, and huge, I am not terribly fond of timeshares and this one had rules for everything: including a detailed list of "fines" for not doing things as they wanted. (take a towel from the pool and you're charged 50 dollars for example!) Not really that welcoming, but then as I said we're not timeshare people. But the relatives paid, so guess what, we suffered!
Bottom line for a big splurge, I would stay at the Williamsburg Inn! Convenience and ambiance are tops.
Transportation within CW: Large CW buses are free to visitors who've paid the entry fee (we each bought a two day pass that cost $93 total for the two of us (as I recall). There are annual passes to buy as well, and if you come more than once in a year they are the best buy. Prices will likely go up in the new year.
Staying at the Inn means that your admission is covered if you choose that package. It also allows you to park at the Inn and catch the every 15 minutes bus to and from the restored CW area. Driving within the area is not that easy and there are few parking choices. The bus is a better idea since it starts early, makes stops, and runs late too.
CW Places to Visit: You'll have literally hundreds of choices of things to do and places to go.
We did the following in our two days in very cold weather.
Governor's Palace, which has a great tour guide. The Capitol is also an excellent place to visit and lovingly reconstructed. Taverns (Shields, Chownings and others are fun places to eat--there is musical and colonial gamboling in each of them and fun for the whole family. Many are first come, first served so you'll have to eat early or wait for a table, or eat very late. Tavern were the place that people of all classes gathered (though in distinctly different rooms) for food, drink and for lodging. More wealthy patrons were given rope beds with mattresses, and the ropes needed to be pulled tighter--hence the saying "Sleep tight...")
Historic Houses are everywhere and feature tradesmen hard at their labors, all willing to discuss their specialties and the way it was to make a living. Cabinet makers, for example, did a brisk business in coffin making -- the first undertakers in colonial America. Visited the Cooper (barrel maker), the Blacksmithand many others--all entertaining and informative.
Special Events: Re-en-actors, as they are called, will appear for an extra fee (normally 5 or 10 dollars) at theater style venues to tell you about themselves. We spent an enjoyable hour with the fellow playing Thomas Jefferson and another with Patrick Henry. Each is very hard to stump, gracious to the bone, and totally immersed in their own and CW history. One CW official told me that these folks spend three months reading about the person that they will play, and nothing else, before they even consider getting into costume to meet the tourists. It shows in their demeanor.
The College of William and Mary, the US's second oldest college, is in town and worth a walk around once you're through with CW, or in between colonial adventures
Taking the bus home we asked about other places to eat outside CW. We tried these:
Chain food places are everywhere, for every price range. But there are enough places within CW and the town to keep you happy no matter what you'd like. Dinner at the Inn is a life changing experience, not only for the cost but the service as well. Worth the price, as I keep telling myself!
Well, that's my Colonial Williamsburg report for today. Hope that it answered your questions. We also hope that you'll enjoy it once you've been at Christmas.
Stepping and Mrs. Stones
It is improbable, I know, that a "foreigner" would be able to contribute much to answering your question - particular after SS's exhaustive assessment - but I was there in May this year and have one or two fond memories.
1. As you'll appreciate, visiting the site of a battle at which your "sneaky" General Washington - I mean to say, who crosses frozen rivers! - inflicted a rather painful defeat on our chaps wasn't the happiest of occasions. Be that as it may, I spent a day wandering around Yorktown and thoroughly appreciated the excellence of the historical detail it presents. It is true that I needed a big drink at the end of the day to handle the enormity of what I'd seen - but then I tend to need big drinks whatever the particular circumstances. In Williamsburg itself, I was offered an opportunity to dress as the Governor (or was it Washington himself), but found this a "step too far"!
2. I agonized over where to stay before eventually going to the Marriott. I arrived via Amtrak from DC - I don't expect you'll be going that way - at about 21.00. Mistakenly, I took a while getting off the train, and by the time I reached the Rank it was empty. Being a resilient and much traveled Brit, I immediately panicked, but after some counseling from a very kind local I decided that all wasn't (quite) lost - and, after about ten minutes, a taxi duly reappeared. The Marriott is about 6/7 minutes away from CW itself and a very large establishment previously owned by Holiday Inn (I believe). Perhaps it has seen better days (but by then so had I), so I checked in, found my room, and - even faster than usual - positioned myself at the Bar. Recovery was swift. The next morning I went down to breakfast (free, by the way, but no CL), was welcomed by an effusive manager and settled down to what, by my standards, was a large spread. Or so I thought. What I hadn't realized was that my visit coincided with the 144th Congress of the Virginia Baptist Convention. Delegates - whose first session started at 06.30 (SS: not even NIS did that to me!) - appeared after 5 minutes, exultant after a particularly vivid bible meeting (so I was told) and proceeded to do unimaginable things to huge plates of "fluffy eggs, waffles, syrup, toast, muffins and fruit", all at the same time. The next morning the experience was repeated, only this time the mood was even more elated, so much so that, at one point, the "breakfasters" at one table started singing spirituals. So there you go: practise your singing.
Otherwise I did the things that SS noted - and also went to an out-of-town Premier Outlet Mall (recommended by the GM) where this impoverished Brit enjoyed a (secular) experience in some ways commensurate with that of my fellow "breakfasters"
Attached are a couple of pics:
2. The Governor's Residence - where I wasn't offered drinks
Arkwright, all is forgiven!
I recall a friend in Her Majesty's Service (guess which one?)telling me that his public school lower level history textbook had the following assessment of the War for Independence: "in 1776 the United Kingdom disembarassed itself of several new world colonies." Succinct and to the point I would say.
I chuckled; it still rings true today - at least in that particular Dept, and probably others too! Witness our ambivalent attitude to most things "European". I think Churchill once observed that "we don't much like the idea of a united Europe, but we like the alternatives even less".
Like Arkwright, we were there this year too ... perhaps the Brits are planning something!?! We were there in September, on the tail of the hurricane. The Ford Colony unit that we stayed in had a little external damage from a fallen tree but the internals were fine. As Tef states, the buildings are in some need of refurbishment but were still very comfortable. We were also there 2 years ago ... not much had changed.
Even if you can't do the tasting, the Williamsburg Winery is a great place for lunch.
We did the usual Colonial sites but there is some interesting Civil War history around the area. Some of the James River Plantations are also worth a visit ... Shirley was the most interesting one for us.
Our route to Williamsburg was from Jacksonville NC. We were slightly concerned when the SatNav route came up with a new sign to us ... a little boat. Unbeknown to us, our route crossed the James River and we had to cross by ferry. That was a new one to us ... not many ferries on UK SatNav routes. However, it was quite a pleasant experience. The crews were very efficient and we were disembarked next door to historic Jamestown. The ferry was free too!
I spent most of my youth exploring the area on bicycles riding down from Richmond on the weekends. Its a wonderful area with plenty to see and do. As others have mentioned the property is a little dated but overall its nice. Parking was an issue when I was there last as well.
Lots of shopping to do down there with the outlets and pottery. Plenty to see and do in the colonial areas as well. If you do venture down to the colonial area, make sure you take a drive down the colonial parkway and stop off at some of the pull outs. Sunsets along the parkway can be quite lovely in the fall
Zuk, the Pottery was undergoing some major development whilst we were there in September. There was a lot of stuff there but it was a bit random in layout. The Williamsburg Outlet Mall was great value for us Brits. Tommy Bahamas had a half-price Labour Day sale ... excellent!