First, let’s be clear that it’s not Outlet Mall Williamsburg that’s a Great American Thing. Or Pancake House Williamsburg. Or Theme Park Williamsburg. All of those things have their place, and can be a fun part of a family visit to the colonial capital. But they’re also available lots of other places. It’s Colonial Williamsburg, and the beautiful area surrounding it, that we celebrate.
Williamsburg became the capital of the Colony of Virginia in 1699 when the original capital in Jamestown burned for the second time. The city received a royal charter as a city in 1722. By this time, the College of William & Mary had been established, the Capitol had been built, and Duke of Gloucester Street was laid out to connect the two. Of course, Williamsburg was one of the hotbeds of activity leading up to the American Revolution, with Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Henry, and others making their imprints on the fledgling country.
In 1780, Virginia’s capital was moved upriver to Richmond, and Williamsburg reverted to a rural, college town life. By the early 1900s, however, its historic buildings were falling into disrepair and their survival was endangered. W.A.R. Goodwin, the rector of Bruton Parish Church, worked to make certain his church was restored. But he realized that more needed to be done, so he managed to enlist the help of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his wife Abby Aldrich Rockefeller in a massive restoration of the entire colonial area.
Today, Williamsburg is Virginia’s premier tourist destination. Now you can see artisans recreating 18th century crafts such as weaving, blacksmithing, and printing. You can dine in a historic tavern. You can enjoy beautiful gardens. You can even stay in Colonial Williamsburg’s 4-star hotels, and enjoy a level of luxury the Governor himself wouldn’t have imagined in 1776.
Then you can have your pancakes. Go to Busch Gardens. Get a great deal at an outlet store. With the ghosts of earlier centuries lingering just minutes away. Here’s a beautiful video that gives you Williamsburg’s highlights in just over three minutes: