Holiday Travels: Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg

Dec 8, 2011 by

I’ve talked a bit about visiting Colonial Williamsburg in general, and I wrote my tip-filled review of Busch Gardens Christmas Town, but there’s a third reason to visit the historic triangle during the month of December–Colonial Williamsburg at Christmas time.

A Colonial Williamsburg holiday is almost the exact opposite of Busch Gardens Christmas Town–that is, the decorations are far more subtle and the lights–well, there aren’t any lights in Colonial Williamsburg!  But that doesn’t mean that the holiday season is a bad time to visit..  In fact, we visited specifically because it was Christmas time, and the historic district did not disappoint.  There are several reasons why this is truly ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ to take a trip to Colonial Williamsburg.

The Weather is Lovely

We visited for the start of the holiday season, the weekend after Thanksgiving.  Because we live about six hours north of Williamsburg, we found the weather to be quite pleasant–in fact, it remained in the 60s for the entire weekend!  There were still some leaves on the trees (unlike at home in PA) and the gardens were still beautiful, as you can see in the photo above.  In addition, the campus of William and Mary looked all kinds of scholarly, surrounded by orange- and brown-leaved trees.

A Festive Carriage Ride

While Colonial Williamsburg offers horse and carriage rides throughout the year, what better time of year to enjoy one than during the holiday season?  While we did not partake in a ride–though my husband thought that I really wanted to–just having them go up and down the streets helped put me in the holiday spirit (though, admittedly, it doesn’t take much for me–I’ll ‘fa la la la la’ at the drop of a hat!)

The Holiday Decorations

There are many special tours that only run during the holiday season, all devoted to certain aspects of a traditional colonial Christmas. Tip:  Book one of these tours in advance!  They are most likely worthwhile–after all, all of the tours that we did do in Williamsburg were very educational–but these sell out fast.  So fast, in fact, that we didn’t manage to take one. But no worries–it is possible to do a self guided tour of colonial Christmas decorations.  Almost every building is decorated with at least a wreath or a swag of some sort, and many of them have themes that tie in to the particular building.  For example, in the header photo at the top of this post, the wreaths hung on the printer’s shop and feature pages of newsprint.  This one is my personal favorite–it’s the wreath that hangs on the window at Chowning’s Tavern.  Can you tell that it’s a tavern wreath?

Can you find the beer in this wreath?

Using scallop shells and dried lemons to symbolize the food served in the tavern–and mugs of ale with foamy yellow tops to symbolize the drink served–this truly is a festive tavern wreath!  And lest you think that Colonial Williamsburg is all about Christmas, check out this wreath, which I found on one of the private residences.  It might be my most favorite wreath of them all…

A Hanukkah Wreath–happy festival of lights!

The Holiday Farmer’s Market

If you visit over a weekend–as many people do–you’ll not just be able to look at beautiful decorations, you’ll be able to purchase some, too.  In the Merchant’s Square portion of the downtown area, local craftspeople set up a farmer’s market every Saturday morning, selling everything from eggs and goat cheese to pineapple wreaths.

That’s right, I said pineapple wreaths.

While we did not purchase anything from the market, we did spend some time wandering around, getting inspiration for our own Christmas tree.  Which brings me to my final point…

Colonial Williamsburg is Great Holiday Inspiration

This year, my Christmas tree is decorated with dried orange slices and strips of calico, topped with a star fashioned out of branches (while I did dry and string the oranges and cut and tie the fabric, I did not fashion the twig-star.  I’m not that good!) While our trip to Colonial Williamsburg may have been a short visit, we now get to enjoy the memory of our stay all season long.  Plus, the dried oranges on the tree smell really good!

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  1. Toni

    If you enjoyed Williamsburg, you will also like Winston-Salem NC. Old Salem is the “original” part of the town, settled by the Moravians (German/Swiss settelers whoes religious beliefs are similar to Methodists) who were looking for religious freedom. The decorations are all traditional Moravian and are lovley. They make red candle holders out of ribbon or dyed corn husks, there are Moravian stars made of metal and glass, lovely greenery, etc. You can also attend a “love feast” which is similar to communition- but they serve milky coffee or spiced tea and a special fruit bun during the service. Old Salem is lovely at any time of year- the gardens are beautiful and the “actors” are well informed. Salem Women’s College is also located in Old Salem (my daughter graduated college there). The Moravians were the first to offer schooling to women!!! And it is not far from some of the NC wineries.

  2. An

    Hi! Just discovered your blog. I’m taking a 6-month break from work starting April and I’m browsing the web for some travel ideas. I’m sure your blog will inspire me! It already did actually, with the Bermuda cruise. I’m thinking of taking a cruise along the coast of Norway all the way up North – but sunny Bermuda sounds so nice too…

    • elbodans

      Greetings and welcome! I’m glad you’ve found my blog, and hope that you do become inspired. And good for you for taking a 6-month break! That’s fabulous! I wish I could travel the entire time I’m off, but alas I’m not independently wealthy (and my husband would be bummed!) But now that Christmas is over I’m already looking into a mid-January trip. Be warned–it’s an addiction!

      I’d LOVE to do a Norway cruise. That’s actually very near the top of my travel bucket list. Go for it!!! (wait–why am I telling you this and not doing it myself??? Ha!) Don’t be intimidated by the idea of sailing solo–as you can clearly see from my posts, I loved it. Would do it again in a heartbeat–and am actually looking at a transatlantic cruise in April (see–addiction!) My next post will likely be solo-cruise themed as well, so stay tuned.

      Oh–and Bermuda is LOVELY. I highly recommend it, particularly for solo travel. Happy planning!

      • An

        Thanks! And I just booked my first trip for 2012 – Madrid. Thought I should start closer to home (being Belgium) – then take it further :-)

        • elbodans

          You are very lucky to have so many options close to home. The only thing near me is New Jersey! Ha!

          Have a great trip!!!

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