I had heard lots of great things about visiting Colonial Williamsburg with kids but didn’t really know where to start or even how or what to visit while we were there. I started to do some digging for free things to do in Williamsburg and quite frankly felt super overwhelmed and confused about how to visit Colonial Williamsburg on a budget, especially with young children.
As a family of six traveling can get expensive really quick. We are grateful some of our children are so young and we often don’t have to pay full price admission for many attractions. We don’t mind shelling out some cash for our kids to have an amazing educational experience we just always want to make sure it is worth it first. So, because of that and based on our experience of visiting Williamsburg I thought this was an important article to share with other families who want a Williamsburg, VA experience but may want to do so on a budget. I truly believe family travel should be accessible to everyone.
Here is our list of fun and free things to do around Williamsburg with kids:
Visit Colonial Williamsburg for FREE!
First off, admission tickets to Williamsburg are PRICEY. It is definitely not a cheap attraction to visit. The proceeds of an admission ticket go back to the foundation which helps with the upkeep of all the houses, pays for the Colonial characters you’ll admire, and towards ongoing restorations. However, you only have to pay if you want to go in the houses and have the full experience of visiting Colonial Williamsburg. Walking around the town is completely FREE. Most of the grounds and gardens are open to the public, all of the historic shops and even a periodical church are open and free to explore.
I will be honest with you we were on the fence about whether or not to buy full tickets. We decided to opt out of the tickets and instead wander around looking at the buildings and entering the shops, oohing over the sheep, talking with the colonial characters and wandering the gardens. After just a couple of hours, my kids were pooped. They would have never lasted touring all of the buildings or sitting through various colonial demonstrations. We decided to save this for when they are older (or when we come back without them!). I was also stressed about my children entering the houses and wanting to touch EVERYTHING like they did when we visited Historic Nauvoo.
Because the main streets are public you could easily pack a picnic, wander around, look at the horses, meet some Colonial dressed lads and ladies and be ready to leave in a few hours. Another great tip for visiting Colonial Williamsburg is to check in with the visitors center and get the pamphlet This Week in Colonial Williamsburg so you can know of all the activities happening around the center. Many events are free and open to the public.
If you have older children who would love to explore more in-depth or would like a more educational day you may want to buy admission to enter the houses and exhibits.
Keep your ears open and ask
We heard from some neighbors at the campground we stayed at that a local museum was doing a FREE pirate show and exhibition during our time in town. Sure enough, The Watermen Museum in Yorktown had an old ship, pirate artifacts and some great educational opportunities for the children. They really enjoyed an afternoon learning about pirates.
Take a hike or ride a bike
Williamsburg and its surrounding area in Virginia are absolutely gorgeous. We visited in the Spring and the weather was perfect, no bugs and low humidity so we took advantage of all the time we had to play outside. There are bike trails everywhere including The Virginia Capitol Trail which is fifty-two miles of trail that ending in Williamsburg. York River State Park, Freedom Park, and Water Mills Park are also great areas to bike and hike with your family. Freedom Park is home to Williamsburg Botanical Garden which is worth a stop in and of itself with lots of beautiful flowers, a butterfly garden, wetlands and an impressive herb garden.
Ride a trolley
The Yorktown Trolley is a great way for some free sightseeing in the Williamsburg area. You can get a tour of the four-mile loop or enjoy a free ride to the American Revolution Museum, Yorktown Battlefield, and beautiful Yorktown Village. My kids loved the experience of riding on a trolley, my youngest thought it was a train, so a double win.
Ride a Ferry
We actually didn’t have the opportunity to ride the ferry and I was pretty sad about it. I really think my kids would have enjoyed this experience.The Jamestown-Scotland Ferry is a free ferry that connects Jamestown and Scotland. It runs on the hour and according to VDOT 24 hours a day, 365 days a week. All you do is drive your car on, then enjoy some of the beautiful views of the channel.
Sure, the Williamsburg area has Bush Gardens, Jamestown, and plenty of other impressive attractions you may want to spend on but you can always sprinkle in some of these great ideas to make your vacation budget stretch just a little bit further.
What are some of your favorite fun and free things to do in Williamsburg with family?