Best Family Vacation Ideas for Williamsburg, VA

We recently had a whirlwind of a weekend trip to Williamsburg VA. While I recommend Williamsburg for everyone, it also has military perks offered by Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens (more on the latter below). Colonial Williamsburg offers one day free a year for active military/reservists/national guard and up to 3 dependents, additional day tickets or annual passes for 50% off, plus 10% off any purchase at one of their gift shops, hotel stays or restaurants. Retired military and veterans qualify for 50% off a day ticket. Be sure to hit up their Liberty Lounge and sign your name in the book. It’s had over 200,000 military visitors in the few years it’s been open. It also has air conditioning, cold water and bathrooms! Bonus! Browse the walls for some amazing photos they have collected over the years. Note- you do not need a ticket to walk through the Colonial Williamsburg area, however, you will not be allowed in any of the buildings without a ticket. I do recommend getting tickets as the buildings and tours are very interesting.

We loved that vehicles are not allowed in Colonial Williamsburg. Where else can you take a break in the middle of the road? This was in the evening hours when the park area was mostly empty. A very neat time to walk around, and a bit spooky!

For our trip we had a Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday to explore the area. Friday evening we did the official Colonial Williamsburg Escape Room challenge located in the old jail. If you haven’t done one of these with your kids, you need to! This one is suitable for the 10 and up age group, younger than that might have a harder time following along. The period actors are on point and make it especially fun.

Our group solved the puzzle in the last few seconds. It was quite a challenge!

Saturday we spent at Busch Gardens. Military and up to 6 dependents gets one ticket free per year at the Williamsburg Busch Gardens. (Note that you may also use your free ticket a year at Busch Gardens Tampa and all Sea World Locations but they are up to 3 dependents.) We had a blast and I wish I had taken more pictures of the park. I’m a Disney snob. I’ve been to all three Sea Worlds and Busch Gardens Tampa and was disappointed in all of them with the grungy oldness of their facilities and rides, not to mention the usually rather bland food choices. However, Williamsburg was completely opposite, clean, and with their European themed villages it was almost Disney-like, if that can be possible. The rollercoasters were so interesting and different from other parks we’ve been to. We did purchase the quick que pass as the park was a bit crowded and since we were after the summer season, park hours were 12-8pm. So we wanted to be sure we got to ride everything at least once. Depending on the time of year you go, this may not be necessary. You can purchase the pass in some of the gift shops if you decide you want it after you’ve arrived. I highly recommend eating at Das Festhaus in “Germany” and Trapper’s Smokehouse in “New France.” Keep in mind that Das Festhaus can be incredibly loud if the band is playing. My favorite ride was the Verbolten and Riley’s was the Griffon. Watch the time, we missed out riding Verbolten for a second time as they shut down several of the rides at least an hour early to prep for the fireworks.

Sunday we used our free military ticket and wandered around Colonial Williamsburg. Despite it being pretty hot and miserable, it really is a neat experience. There is so much to see here that I advise making a plan of your top stops you want to see. The Colonial Williamsburg app is a great tool. You can put stars on the attractions and they’ll show up on your map, as well as alert you to start times of activities. The palace tour and printing press house were very interesting and I have to give props to the period actors. They really are fantastic. In the back of the palace gardens is a fun hedge maze if the kids need to blow off a little steam. Riley participated in Shoulder Your Firelocks which was both educational and hilarious. If you ever wanted to throw your kid into boot camp, this is your chance! Their “drill sergeant” will have them keeping the line, firing their stick and making some hilarious sound effects while they go to battle across the field. We had lunch at Chowning’s Tavern and I highly recommend it. Get one of the family punch bowls! We had the ginger/orange/pineapple one and it was so refreshing on a 100+ degree day. Pass on their deserts as they are rather blah. More on deserts later…

Our evening activity was a Haunted Williamsburg Tour. Use the official park tour as they get to enter a few of the buildings after dark. There are other tour groups that walk you around, but they can not enter buildings. Again, the period actors are really great and made the experience much more unique.

Back to deserts… We wanted ice cream and though many places in the park offered it, several employees told us to go out of the park to Kilwins, which is both ice cream and candy store. Do it! Don’t waste money in the park on sweets as they just won’t compare. It was so good we went back twice. Flavors change depending on availability, but I highly recommend the Salted Caramel ice cream in a waffle bowl. I really can’t/shouldn’t eat stuff like that anymore, but it was kind of worth the pain and suffering…

Lastly, this is a Pokémon Go hotspot. If your kids are like mine (and my husband), you might be standing around waiting for them every five minutes as they found a new Pokémon or gym to defeat. Ugh. At least if you have some in the family that are not so interested in history, they’ll have something to keep them busy!

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