Your Ultimate Holiday Guide to Williamsburg

skating rink with several people skating

The Holiday season is upon us! And here in Williamsburg, there’s so much going on to celebrate. Lucky for you, we’ve compiled the Ultimate Holiday Guide to all the special seasonal events so you don’t miss any Christmas festivities. Here we go!


First off, there are several recurring opportunities available in Williamsburg throughout the entire season. Come explore Sparkleland in Merchant’s Square every week Thursday through Sunday. You can enjoy special performances and activities, or come meet Santa! Just next door is the Liberty Ice Pavilion, open daily for the perfect cold-weather past-time. Every Thursday and Sunday, head over to Charlton’s Coffeehouse for Christmas caroling, complete with burning cressets.

If you have a love for the historic side, Colonial Williamsburg tours are perfect at this time of year. Check out their Christmastide in Virginia tour to learn about traditions and techniques of a colonial Christmas, or the Midwinter Stories presentations throughout the day. For some 17th century classics, consider the seasonal concert series at the Governor’s Palace where you can enjoy impressive musicianship and historic holiday-themed selections.

We would be amiss to forget Busch Gardens’ Christmastown, Williamsburg’s own winter wonderland! Always a local favorite, you can experience the sights, sounds, and smells of holiday comfort and take in thousands of Christmas lights!


There are, of course, some special events throughout the season as well. Here’s the ones we’re most excited about!

-November 24: The annual Tree Lighting party, complete with free hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts, of course.

-December 1: The Williamsburg Christmas parade, a must see!

-December 1-2: Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra Holiday Pops concert, conducted by Janna Hymes.

-December 2: the ever-popular Grand Illumination! It’s a well-known Williamsburg tradition, including performances by the best local musicians and a beautiful fireworks display.

-December 15: “At Christmas Be Mery”: A Special Evening at Historic Jamestown, where you can experience traditional early-English traditions, including the firing of the guns and a seasonal bonfire.


{{ brizy_dc_image_alt uid='wp-37c791c17dda65412ec3944ba467ad84' }}

It’s certainly no secret that Colonial Williamsburg is known for it’s breathtaking and naturally-made decorations, and this year is no exception. The streets and buildings will soon be adorned by garlands and, in particular, wreaths made locally from natural materials to make a beautiful seasonal landscape. You can read all about the history of this tradition here, then take to the Williamsburg streets to experience this unique Christmas decor. You can even take a tour around such houses with this special Colonial Williamsburg tour.

We take such pride in these homemade decorations, in fact, that this year the Christmas Homes Tour is in it’s 58th year! This unique tour includes entry to several historic buildings like the Nelson-Galt House, Edinburgh Castle Tavern, and Benjamin Waller House. It’s a special event over the course of December 1-2; click here for tickets!


Finally, here’s a simple recipe for a cold-weather classic…mulled cider! It’s the perfect cozy drink for the holiday season…

This recipe is from The Pioneer Woman, click here for the whole post. 

{{ brizy_dc_image_alt uid='wp-a43515b52a5b059e2ba55da210e8184b' }}

4 whole cinnamon sticks

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

8 whole allspice berries

Orange peel from 1 orange

Lemon peel from 1 lemon

1/2 cup maple syrup

6 cups unfiltered (fresh squeezed is great) apple juice

1/2 cup dark rum (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Place cinnamon sticks, ground cloves, allspice berries, orange peel, and lemon peel in a medium saucepan. Pour in maple syrup and apple juice, then bring to almost a boil. Reduce the heat to its lowest setting and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and serve in mugs.

(Add a splash of rum for an adults-only version! Yum, yum, yum.)


We hope this Holiday Guide sets you up nicely to experience all the Williamsburg area has to offer this season!  It can be easy to get wrapped up (no pun intended) in Christmas crazy, so take a little time to experience the beauty of the area and the joy of the season. It only comes once each year, here’s to the loveliest year yet!

What’s your favorite way to bring in the holiday season? Let us know below!

A Look at a Williamsburg Christmas During Colonial Times

lady in green blouse and skirt standing in doorway of cabin

Christmas is come, hang on the pot, Let spits turn round, and ovens be hot; Beef, pork, and poultry, now provide To feast thy neighbors at this tide; Then wash all down with good wine and beer, And so with mirth conclude the Year.


Virginia Almanac (Royle) 1765

This poem from 1765 makes the holiday sound strikingly similar to today’s traditions – but there are a few specific changes we’ve made over the years. Ranging from tree trimming to gift giving, traditions have changed a bit.

{{ brizy_dc_image_alt uid='wp-798feb32925953950031ec38ed52b11d' }}
{{ brizy_dc_image_alt uid='wp-fca64df94f1012282abcffe65defbfc4' }}

Gift Giving Was a Bit Different Without Santa Claus in the mix, eighteenth century shopkeepers would suggest items appropriate for gifting. Customs like candy in wooden clogs, came over from Europe and eventually transformed into stockings. Learn more about it here

12 Days of Christmas: Each night of Christmas was celebrated and Twelfth Night was the most festive night for parties and balls. While most people who observe Christmas today only celebrate the 24th and 25th, the advent calendar is a relic of the past that carries the tradition of multiple days of merriment. 

12th Night:  Dancing, drinking, eating, and games ruled. Perhaps a bean and a pea, or two coins of different value, baked into the Twelfth Night cake.  Selecting this “King of the Bean,” for instance, is a custom as old as the Roman Saturnalia. The idea was to bake a bean into a cake, with the honorific going to the person who drew the lucky portion. The lucky pieces settled the succession of the party and the cake from year to year. Learn more here

{{ brizy_dc_image_alt uid='wp-eb4fd4ca17f815444f59a906c2373844' }}
{{ brizy_dc_image_alt uid='wp-1d93c1f996444bf92eaf1f742631b6dd' }}

Lord of Misrule:  The chosen captain of all holiday mischief always wears yellow and green scarves as he does a jolly dance through the streets on Christmas Day. This whimsical tradition fell out of fashion when more puritanical ideals took hold. Today, a holly jolly Santa Claus has the cheery undertones of this character without the mischief.   

No Christmas Trees: The tradition of a Christmas tree first started to catch on in Europe in 1848 when a decorated tree graced Windsor Castle. Around the same time Professor Charles Minnegerode, moved to the United States to teach German at The College of William and Mary. With him came the tradition of tree trimming when he delighted students by decorating a tree outside the St. George Tucker House. In 1928, The Richmond News Leader wrote about this grand day when Martha Vandergrift decades later. Learn more here.

Decorations: You’ll see gorgeous wreaths up and down Duke of Gloucester Street this year; a time honored tradition, though one that we can’t be sure the accuracy of. One thing is for sure; the hanging of a sprig of mistletoe was a common practice in these days.

Tune into this local program to learn more about what a Colonial Christmas was like with a guest appearance from the Lord of Misrule and demonstrations of traditions of the past.

As we look back through history and observe the traditions of the past, it begs the question, what traditions will stand the test of time and what will change or fade away in the future? Are there any traditions you would like to add or traditions you can’t stand?

One tradition that seems to stick is a holiday greeting in all shapes, sizes, and languages. So Merry Christmas to all!

{{ brizy_dc_image_alt uid='wp-179c3a5b08f86c2b6a77bdff4a06c86c' }}

5 Events You’ll Only Find During the Holidays in Williamsburg

smiling Santa Clause on street

Looking to get into the holiday spirit and wake up from that cabin fever? Williamsburg is full of classic traditions and new offerings for people of all ages. From ice skating at Liberty’s Ice Pavilion to The Grand Illumination, to beverage tastings at some of Williamsburg’s best new pubs and breweries. Can you cross everything off this list?


  1. Ice Skating

Skate into the wintery spirit at Liberty’s Ice Pavilion on the bustling Duke of Gloucester Street. Parking available at the Merchants Square lots or in the paid garage on Henry Street. Pricing ranges from $4.25 – $12 depending on age.

2. Caroling 

You’ll find live brass bands and carolers going from corner to corner in Merchants Square all month – not to mention the big man in red, making his rounds with candy canes and smiles!

{{ brizy_dc_image_alt uid='wp-1176f66aa1ceed94bea0e3847305a1ab' }}
{{ brizy_dc_image_alt uid='wp-d1eaad489226d72d9121bab0627cf292' }}

3 A Christmas Carol

Performed in the middle of the street: It has become a beloved Williamsburg tradition every holiday season; you simply can’t miss this two man production of “A Christmas Carol” – it’s a classic story turned into an outdoor family experience for the books.

4 The Grand Illumination

The grandest fireworks display you’ll ever see; did you miss the Grand Illumination this year? Here are some photos of the incredible festivities, including live jazz on the Palace Green to bring us back to the days of Colonial Williamsburg’s Restoration period of the 1930’s! Make reservations now for next year’s visit!

5 Holiday Beverage Tastings

Go to your favorite Williamsburg Breweries, Wineries and Meaderies (With two new breweries popping up in just the last 2 months) Williamsburg is filled to the brim with places to explore and sit down for a glass of Holiday Cheer! Check out events coming up at the Williamsburg Winery, the Hair of the DoG Bottle ShopThe Silver Hand Meadery, and the newest hot spot minutes from our doors, the Amber Ox!

{{ brizy_dc_image_alt uid='wp-117652499e0cae1729c359433cf29cc8' }}

So, where are you going first?

Williamsburg Holiday Dining Guide

looking down on various types of foods

Over the years, Williamsburg has become a mecca of exceptional restaurants, many of which are located just a short walk away from our bed and breakfast. Which ones will you choose to dine at this season? Here are the holiday schedules of some of our favorites – we would be happy to make recommendations and reservations for you during your stay.  


Restaurant

Christmas Eve

Christmas Day

New Year’s Eve


Aromas

Open

Closed

Open


Berret’s Seafood Taphouse

Open

Closed

Open


Blackbird Bakery

Open

Closed

Open


Blue Talon Bistro

Open

Closed

Open


Capitol Pancake House

Open

Closed

Open


Cheese Shop

Open

Closed

Open


Chowning’s Tavern

Open

Open

Open


Christiana Cambell’s Tavern

Closed

Open

Closed


Corner Cafe

Open

Closed

Open


Culture Cafe

Open

Closed

Open


DoG Street Pub

Open

Closed

Open


Fat Canary

Closed

Closed

Closed


Fat Tuna

Open

Open

Open


Gabriel Archer Tavern at the Williamsburg Winery

Open

Closed

Open


Golden Horseshoe

Open

Open

Open


Hair of the DoG Bottle Shop

Open

Closed

Open


King Arms Tavern

Open

Open

Open


La Yaca

Open

Closed

Open


Maurizio Italian Restaurant

Open

Closed

Open


Pekong & Mongolian Grill

Open

Open

Open


Pierce’s Pitt Barbecue

Open

Closed

Open


Retro’s Good Eats

Open

Closed

Open


Sal’s By Victor

Open

Closed

Open


Second Street

Open

Closed

Open


The Hound’s Tale

Closed

Closed

Open


Shields Tavern

Open

Open

Open


The Trellis

Open

Closed

Open


Two Drummers Smokehouse

Open

Closed

Open


Williamsburg Inn

Open

Open

Open


Williamsburg Lodge

Open

Open

Open