Fun things to do in Williamsburg

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Most Viewed Things to Do in Williamsburg

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    Where the Action Was and Still Is: Market Square

    by deecat Updated May 28, 2005

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    Market Square is located about half way between the William and Mary College and the Capitol.

    This area was set aside as an area for fairs and markets. At the time, farmers would bring their wares to town and using makeshift counters to display their goods, they sold eggs, butter, milk, meat, fruits, vegetables, and fish to the housewives, cooks, and kitchen slaves. Afterward, the farmers would visit one of the many taverns to drink and gossip.

    Sadly, auctions of slaves also took place in Market Square. When we were there, the very first reinactment of a slave auction took place. It was really a big deal, and all the TV stations were there to record this historic moment. I must say, as a person in the crowd, I was quite uncomfortable when humans were being auctioned as though they were "things".

    The most heartbreaking moment was when a young man was sold and literally torn away from his mother. I was actually crying...it all seems so real, and of course, it was a real "low" moment in American history

    Market Square is the location of the Courthouse which is T-shaped. It has round-headed windows and an octagonal cupola with the original weather vane.
    Back then, two courts met regularly in this Courthouse: The James City County Court and the municipal court which was called the Hustings Court (for the city of Williamsburg.

    All cases that involved slaves were tried before the county court. Those people who were convicted were usually punished immediately after the verdict. Just outside the Court House was the Whipping Post, which was often used as punishment.

    The Court House was my husband Allan's favorite place at Williamsburg. He spent a few hours there on a couple of different days. I only went once, and I did find it quite interesting.

    Note: This photo was taken from the brochure because I did not take my camera to the Courthouse

    Courthouse
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    Can't Miss "Downtown" on Duke of Gloucester Street

    by deecat Updated May 28, 2005

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    In 18-century Williamsburg, the three blocks of Duke of Gloucester Street (named in honor of his Highness William Duke of Gloucester) from Market Square eastward to the Capitol were always the busiest.

    Often referred to as the "main street", it was to be 99 feet wide and run nearly a mile straight from the College of William and Mary on the west to the Capitol on the east.

    There were general stores, specialty shops, taverns, and accommodations for visitors. Today, this area appears more residential because the homes today do not serve as interchangeable shop, store, or tavern and residence. But you can see such places as the James Geddy House, the Mary Dickinson Store, Ludwell-Paradise House, the Prentis Store, the Milliner, the Silversmith, the King's Arms Tavern, and the Pasteur & Galt Apothecary Shop.

    The first public printer in the colony of Virginia was William Parks. There was light industry at the back of the James Anderson property where Anderson had a blacksmith shop. He employed several smiths to man the seven forges. Because this area was not as commercial as the east end, today the block appears to have more open space There was a haystack sign that announced Peter Hay's Shop, the apothecary. The Prentis Store is williamsburg's finest example of a colonial store.

    Prentis & Company ran a successful general store in this original building from 1740 until the Revolution. The gable end faced the street. Through the door above, merchandise could be lifted to the loft. The rear windows would light the counting room, and the front walls, without windows were good for shelving in the sales area.
    Would you believe that the Prentis store survived into the 20th Century, but as a gas station. Today, you are able to purchase 18th-century goods at this store.

    Prentis Store on Duke of Gloucester Street
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    Williamsburg Vistor Center

    by Yaqui Updated Jul 25, 2012

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    Start your visit here by getting your tickets, making reservations for walking tours, carriage rides, lodging, dining, and evening programs. Rent a folding wheelchair at the Visitor Center. A limited number are available, rented on a first-come first-served basis. Browse the Williamsburg Booksellers for your favorite books and grab quick refreshments at Commonwealth Coffee and Tea. Purchase souvenirs and other Colonial Williamsburg products at Williamsburg Revolutions. Costume rentals for boys and girls are also available here. Enjoy the convenience of public restrooms located in the Visitor Center. See the newly restored film "Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot." Since 1957, "The Patriot" has introduced guests to Williamsburg and America on the eve of the Revolution. Catch a free shuttle bus to the Historic Area (free for ticketed guests). When you're ready to begin your experience, the 500-foot pedestrian bridge connects Colonial Williamsburg's Visitor Center with a path that takes you to the Historic Area.

    Wheelchairs are available here too, but limited. A bookstore, a tea & coffee refreshment store, custome rentals available for children, souvenirs store and a wonderful movie presentation. Restrooms are here too and this is where free shuttles buses that take you to the park and drop and pick up at various areas of the town.

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    Be Sure to Visit the Houses: Peyton Randolph Home

    by deecat Updated May 28, 2005

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    Iloved touring the houses, and I was especially fond of the Peyton Randolph home.

    The orginal home was built in 1715, but the Colonial Williamsburg restoration began in 1938 and was completed by 1940. They did more restoring in 1967. The construction of outbuildings did not begin until 1997.

    This Peyton Randolph House is one of the oldest and most historic homes in Colonial Williamsburg. It's really three houses in one. The first house (west wing) was built for Peyton's father, John. John added on to this first house. Peyton built the two-story central section between the other two houses.

    Interestingly, the roof of the west wing was designed to funnel rain to two concealed two-log gutters that was carried to a cistern.

    I really admired the center section which contains the best surviving paneling, and the floor is mostly made of original edge-cut pine.

    The photo shows the wonderful red oak paneling from floor to ceiling in the bedchamber. The chairs in this room were made in Williamsburg about 1770. It's quite a nice room.

    Who was Peyton Randolph? He was Speaker of Virginia's House of Burgesses in the years that lead to the Revolution. His home served as a "hub of political activity". Peyton was elected the presiding officer of the First Continental Congress at Philadelphia. Peyton and his wife Betty had no children, and after their deaths, the home was sold at auction.

    Bed Chamber in the Peyton Randolph House
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    Abby Aldrich Rockerfeller Folk Art Museum

    by Yaqui Updated Jul 25, 2012

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    This museum has been moved to the Public Hospital Museum and DeWitt Wallace Museum.

    The first museum in the United States devoted to American Folk Art . Has so many wonderful exhibits of whimsical paintings, sculpture, furniture, weather vanes and some pretty neat hands on toys to enjoy for all. I really enjoyed this exhibit for sure. There are two floors of exhibits, and wonderful covered walk way entrance to the back main door. A beautiful fountain in front and a wonderful garden in back.

    What is folk art? It is described as "primative, country, naive, provincial, non-academic, and amateur." What a hoot huh? Well any-hoo, I love folk art. I think it represents much of Americana as well as Murals do.

    Someone very important in our history said, " To me art is one of the great resources of my life. I feel that it enriches the spiritual life and makes one more sane and sympathetic, more observant and understanding, as well as being good for one's nerves." ~ Abby Aldrich Rockerfeller, January 7, 1928 ~

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    The Weaver

    by Yaqui Updated Jul 25, 2012

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    Coachmaker Charles Taliaferro purchased this property in the early 1770s and practiced his trade there. In the early 1880s, Jesse Cole acquired the shop and used it as a post office and general store. Today, Colonial Williamsburg's weavers practice their art in the Taliaferro-Cole Shop using 18th-century recipes for dyes.

    Although the weaving trade has been interpreted in Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Area since the 1930s, evidence suggests that there were actually no weavers in business in the city of Williamsburg in the 18th century. Contrary to popular belief, the colonists were not isolated from the world, forced to produce everything they needed for everyday life. Indeed, most cloth was imported from England, China, and India, and it could even be said that colonial dependency on imported textiles began the day the English set foot on the new continent.

    There was a weaver in nearby York County in the 18th century, and many plantations had their own weavers. The related trade of dyeing and coloring textiles did exist in Williamsburg, and it required a seven-year apprenticeship of its own. A gentleman could have the color of a suit changed, or a lady might need a ball gown cleaned or fancy pressing done on delicate items.&b

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    The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum

    by deecat Updated May 28, 2005

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    I was delighted as I walked through the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. It is located off South England Street close to the Williamsburg Inn.

    The untrained artists and craftspeople represent those who work outside the mainstream, academic art community. However, their work is a history of everyday life by using ordinary, interesting media.

    I love color, and most of this work uses bold colors and simple shapes. There are carvings, oil paintings, needlework, textiles, toys, sculptures, watercolors, decoys, and decorations of all kinds.
    This museum offers changing exhibits of American folk art from their permanent collection, and they also sponsor major works loaned to them. A ticket is required.

    Abby A. Rockefeller began collecting folk art from the early 1900s and did so until her death in the 1940s. Her collection was about 400 objects, which was used when the museum started. She gave her collection to Colonial Williamsburg.

    Today, the museum boasts of over 4,000 items in its permanent collection! The museum was expanded in 1988-1991 because of the increased items and the popularity of the exhibits. I just recently read that a new museum is in the making, and this new museum is to reopen on a new site in October of 2006!

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    Historical Homes of Duke of Gloucester Street #3

    by Yaqui Updated Dec 29, 2004

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    Duke of Gloucester Street simple beginnings was when it was once a narrow Indian path that was used by settlers as a horse path in the 17th century when the community that would become Williamsburg was called Middle Plantation. This little village the horse path was on followed the crest of ridges that separates the watersheds of the James and York Rivers Then in 1699, it ordered that its main street "in honor of his Highness William Duke of Gloucester. President Franklin Roosevelt dedicate Duke of Gloucester Street's reconstruction and called it, "The most historic avenue in all America."

    Just remember that some of the beautiful homes are private residence and we must respect their privacy.

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    What's for supper?

    by b1bob Updated Nov 14, 2009

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    As you all know, food is one of my interests. Oddly, past visits to the Governors Palace overlooked the kitchen. It is always interesting to know how they cooked and ate during other times in history. Recipes then weren't as we know them today with exact measurements and cooking temperatures. It was assumed that the ladies knew the basics of cooking at their mama's knee. How well folks ate depended on class. The governor and gentry had the most skilled professionals from Europe who oversaw highly trained slaves. The upper middle class used slave cooks and had less choices, emulating the gentry when entertaining but ate more basic foods on a daily basis. The lower middle class relied on the mistress of the house to cook. Most colonial Virginians didn't have much in the way of cooking equipment, so their diet was very basic- porridges flavoured with pork and vegetables.

    An interesting note on colonial table manners: the forks they used back then had only two tines and were used to load the food onto the knives which brought the food to the mouth. I am not certain when the custom evolved to what we know now. Cooks often wore their tasting spoons around their neck.

    Is it soup yet?

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    Upper Chamber

    by b1bob Updated Jul 27, 2006

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    The Upper Chamber was fashioned after the British House of Lords in that the position was passed down by birthright, from a lifetime appointment by the king. The members of the Upper Chamber served as the governor's cabinet, and the Supreme Court. This room served as a jury room for complicated trials. If you think jury duty is a pain in the back porch now, consider this: Jurors were not permitted food, drink, candle, or heat during deliberations so there weren't many hung juries back then!

    Upper Chamber
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    Immersing your child in the colonial spirit!

    by VeronicaG Updated Nov 7, 2005

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    Costumes for either boys or girls were available to rent for $18.00, but some people made their own outfits for the kids who wore them throughout their visit! We bought the three corner hat for the outfit because it wasn't provided.

    Those children renting costumes were given clues leading to various locations. One of the clues led us to the Printer's shop shown here. The printer gave our little colonial guy something that was made at the shop as a souvenir. They also participated in a drill at the magazine where they were put through the paces! Costumes had to be back by 5 pm.

    On a mission to ye olde print shop Costumed for the day Drilling with the young Post Office
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    NAVIGATE THE MAZE AT THE GOVERNOR'S PALACE

    by VeronicaG Written Oct 31, 2005

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    A challenging thing for kids to do while at the Governor's Palace is to try out the maze in the gardens. It's created by natural plantings and so tall that you can't see out. We watched our grandson work his way through the pathways from a rise near the maze. If the child is very young you should accompany him or her, though. When they reach the end....VICTORY!

    Gardens at the Governor's Palace
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    The African-American Experience

    by upesnlwc Written Jan 19, 2006

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    At the dawn of the American Revolution, 20 percent of the population in the thirteen colonies was of African descent. The legalized practice of enslaving blacks occurred in every colony, but the economic realities of the southern colonies perpetuated the institution first legalized in Massachusetts in 1641. During the Revolutionary era, more than half of all African Americans lived in Virginia and Maryland. Most blacks lived in the Chesapeake region, where they made up more than 50 to 60 percent of the overall population. Enslaved African Americans in the Chesapeake established familial relationships, networks for disseminating information, survival techniques, and various forms of resistance to their condition.

    During the 18th century, half of Williamsburg's population was black. The lives of the slaves and free persons in this Virginia capital are presented in reenactments and programs by Colonial Williamsburg's Department of African-American Interpretation and Presentations, founded in 1988.

    Williamsburg presents the lives of African Americans in the 1700s through powerful reenactments and interpretations.

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    PARTICIPATE IN AN 18TH CENT. POLITICAL DISCUSSION

    by VeronicaG Updated Nov 4, 2005

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    There are opportunities to join in on recreations of the social commentary from the 18th century in Williamsburg--something we experienced at the Raleigh Tavern one night. The Raleigh Tavern was the center of social and business activity. Disgruntled citizens met here to discuss grievances against the king and Parliament.

    We viewed costumed characters from the 1700's as they participated in an interactive debate on events looming on their horizon. It was like we were peeking into the past and the performance was perfectly convincing!

    For more events or details see the website or call.

    The Raleigh Tavern--waiting for our tour

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    VISIT THE GOVERNOR'S PALACE AT CHRISTMAS

    by VeronicaG Updated Nov 9, 2005

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    The Governor's Palace was home of the first royal Governor, Alexander Spotswood who helped oversee the building of it. It was completed in 1720 and occupied by seven royal governors. It is beautifully decorated at Christmas time! Costumed guides make your visit into the 18th century realistic!

    Inside, see lavish decorations and impressive firearms. Notice the ballroom where gentry rubbed elbows with the notables of that time. The palace was a residence and official headquarters of the king's representative. The last governor to live here was the Earl of Dunmore, who fled during the first stirrings of the American Revolution.

    A fire in 1781 destroyed the original Palace. It was rebuilt using an original floor plan drawn by Thomas Jefferson in 1779 and from information found in House of Burgesses journals.

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