While Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens regularly top lists of local attractions, there are plenty of less touristy options right nearby, equally fun and more off the beaten path. Whether exploring fascinating antiques, learning about Virginia’s musical history, seeing local community theater, visiting a unique distillery, or catching a sunset aboard a ferry on the James River, these entertaining and engaging outings are just a few miles from our bed and breakfast in Williamsburg.
In recent years, the hit PBS program Antiques Roadshow has brought the show to Colonial Williamsburg more than once, setting up in front of the stately Governor’s Palace as their experts analyzed antiques of all styles. With over 400 years of colonial history in our area – dating back to the settlement of Jamestown in 1607 – historical artifacts abound. There’s no better place to dive in than at the massive Williamsburg Antique Mall, whose sprawling 45,000-square-foot building is a goldmine for discovering hidden treasures. Grab one of their handy cards with a map of the mall’s layout to find whatever strikes your interest, from pottery and unique art to rare jewelry, collectibles like stamps and coins, sports-related items, or Civil War memorabilia (several famous Civil War battles happened in and around Williamsburg). Make an afternoon of it by browsing among the 300+ vendors that set up booths, each with a different focus, ideal for making surprising discoveries. Break up the antiquing with grilled cheese and soup or a cinnamon roll with coffee at Veranda Eats and Sweets, a women-run cafe in the middle of the mall with homespun charm.
The various museums at Colonial Williamsburg are renowned and worth visiting during your stay. But five miles north of downtown, away from the crowds, you’ll find another museum tucked away. The Virginia Musical Museum shines a light on Virginia’s rich musical heritage, whether it’s country/bluegrass from June Carter, Steve Earle, and Ralph Stanley, legendary singers like Wayne Newton and Ella Fitzgerald, or modern sensations such as Pharrell Williams and Missy Elliott. These artists all started in Virginia and influenced the shape of popular music in America, with memorabilia and stories of their careers throughout the museum. Make sure also to check out their piano gallery (one of six museum rooms), which traces the instrument's evolution from its earliest days, including a rare two-century-old Shudi harpsichord. Note: the museum is closed on Sundays but opens at 10 am Monday through Saturday.
Live entertainment is always easy to find in Williamsburg, ranging from William and Mary sporting events to Kimball Theatre music shows. One of the more unique performance groups in town is the Williamsburg Players, and while they may not draw the same huge crowds as the bigger venues, their community theater shows are full of passion, talent, and heart-warming earnestness. Their mission is to “‘stimulate, educate, and entertain,” which they have been doing admirably since their first season over 60 years ago, performing 5-8 shows annually. Upcoming spring 2024 shows include classics like Little Shop of Horrors and Peter & the Starcatcher (a fun and fantastical Peter Pan origin story), and their rendition of A Christmas Carol is a perennial favorite if you visit Williamsburg over the holidays.
Although Williamsburg’s long list of award-winning Williamsburg wineries and Williamsbur breweries garner lots of well-deserved buzz, don’t miss out on our equally noteworthy distilleries. Copper Fox Distillery is one of only five distillers in the US to floor-malt their whiskeys, the most traditional and time-honored way to germinate grain, and their use of specific fruity woods imparts a complex and smokey flavor to their line of over eight whiskeys and gin. Visit their cozy speakeasy tasting room (less than 2 miles from our location) for a flight of whiskeys, a guided tour of their operation, and a platter of fruit, cheeses, and olives. The tasting room is also only a couple miles from the community theater, making it a perfect place to get classy drinks and shareable plates before the show.
Visiting nearby Jamestown’s stunning founding fleet of ships is one of our area’s most popular day trips, a rare chance to step aboard exact replicas of the ships that brought the first colonial settlers to our shores in the early 1600s. During your visit to Jamestown, plan a ferry ride across the James River – it’s free to ride, runs 365 days a year, and is one of the most underrated ways to take in our area’s gorgeous maritime scenery. Even better, plan your ferry ride to coincide with the sunset (ferries depart from the Jamestown dock every 25 minutes throughout the afternoon and evening) when the views overlooking the water are even more spectacular. During your 20-minute relaxing ride, watch for majestic birds like ospreys, bald eagles, and great blue herons, which all nest and breed along the James River. On the other side of the river, enjoy fresh oysters, crab cakes, and delicious cocktails overlooking the water at the Surry Seafood Company before making your way back across on the ferry, finishing with a scenic drive back to Williamsburg on the Colonial National Historical Parkway.
Stay with us, save the tourist traps for another day, and discover Williamsburg’s hidden gems!