Frequently Asked Questions for Locals
Williamsburg Community Christmas Tree
Join us on Thursday, December 1 for the annual Williamsburg Community Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, presented with the Kiwanis Club of Williamsburg. The festivities begin at 5 p.m. in front of the Courthouse steps with the story of the first Christmas tree in Virginia. Hear the timeless classic A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore read by Christy Coleman, executive director of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation; Kevin Lembke, president of Busch Gardens; and Jerri Marr, superintendent of Colonial National Historical Park. Join a community choir to sing classic Christmas carols and count down as the 40-foot spruce with over 7,500 twinkling lights is illuminated on Market Square.
Grand Illumination, December 3, 10, 17
Grand Illumination will take place Dec. 3, 10 and 17 from 5-7:30 p.m. Each evening includes seasonal music, the lighting of the cressets, storytelling on Palace Green, a special appearance by Father Christmas, and a procession led by the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums culminating in fireworks demonstrations in the Historic Area over the Governor’s Palace and the Capitol. For a complete list of Grand Illumination FAQs visit colonialwilliamsburg.org/gifaq.
Additional Colonial Williamsburg Holiday Programming
Free and open to the public.
- Lighting of the Cressets
December 23-24 – Lit cressets (metal baskets of wood mounted from poles and used as an early form of street lighting) will illuminate historic Duke of Gloucester Street as musicians stroll the city. 6-9 p.m.
December 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, 22-24, and 29-31 – Costumed historic interpreters will bring the streets of the Historic Area to life with this free street theater program in front of the Raleigh Tavern in which residents of Williamsburg prepare for an 18th-century holiday ball. 10-10:25 a.m.
- Celebration of the Yule Log
December 2, 9 and 16 – The Yule log will be hauled by a wagon from Capitol Circle to Market Square where it will be added to a bonfire accompanied by holiday music, festivities, and the lighting of the cressets. 6-8 p.m.
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There’s always something new to discover in Colonial Williamsburg’s Merchants Square with new restaurants and stores, summer menus and special events. Visit the website for the latest and be in the know. (Don’t worry, there are hundreds of free parking spaces throughout the downtown area. See information on Parking below.)
Good Neighbor Pass
If you live in the Williamsburg area, the Good Neighbor Pass is an excellent way to enjoy Colonial Williamsburg programs and special events at substantial savings. Enjoy unlimited admission to the Art Museums and Historic Area as well as discounts on shopping, dining, evening programs, and tickets for friends and family. Williamsburg-James City County teachers and current municipal employees of the city of Williamsburg, James City County, and the Bruton District of York County are eligible to receive a FREE Good Neighbor Pass. More information here.
Museums for All
Colonial Williamsburg has joined Museums for All, a signature program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the Association of Children’s Museums, to encourage people of all backgrounds to visit museums and build lifelong museum-going habits. The program enables those receiving food assistance (SNAP) benefits to visit Colonial Williamsburg for a minimal fee of $3 per person (for up to four people) with the presentation of a SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. “History belongs to all of us and should be accessible to all,” said Cliff Fleet, president and CEO of Colonial Williamsburg. “Colonial Williamsburg is proud to participate in initiatives like Museums for All to ensure that everyone — regardless of race, religion, politics, or socio-economic background — is able to see themselves in our nation’s history.” For more information on this special offer visit colonialwilliamsburg.org/museumsforall.
After a parking study was conducted by the City of Williamsburg several years ago, it became clear that changes needed to be made to improve parking in the downtown area. Implementing a modest charge for parking ensures that spaces are not occupied unnecessarily for extended periods of time, and funds are generated to maintain and improve parking facilities to provide the best and safest possible experience for residents and guests visiting the area. Currently there are hundreds of free parking spaces throughout the downtown area that do not require use of the Passport App, including the parking lots adjacent to Merchants Square and at the Art Museums. The city parking garage on N. Henry Street utilizes a self-pay kiosk that does not require use of the app. Free two-hour parking is available in most parking lots, including the Williamsburg Inn, Williamsburg Lodge, and the Tavern parking lots, as well as the parking lots on Francis Street, but the app is required to log your visit. More information here.
Historic Area Paving
Historic Area street paving by the City of Williamsburg is done in two phases to allow the surfaces to cure between applications. City contractors first apply a standard paving material, which appears black and makes the streets look like a traditional road. A brown aggregate topcoat is then applied. The topcoat must be able to withstand the metal banded carriage wheels on Colonial Williamsburg carriages as the wheels would pulverize traditional aggregate topcoat as they travel along Duke of Gloucester and adjacent streets. Although paving began last year, complications arose during a test of a possible aggregate topcoat and further evaluation is needed by Colonial Williamsburg and the city before it can be applied throughout the Historic Area. We know that the aesthetics of the brown aggregate complements the Historic Area experience and look forward to applying a suitable material as soon as possible.
Colonial Williamsburg Regional Visitor Center
The Colonial Williamsburg Regional Visitor Center is open for ticket purchases, information, parking, and shuttles to the Historic Area. In addition, there is a small gift shop.
The Historic Triangle Recreational Facilities Authority (HTRFA) has determined that property adjacent to the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center building and owned by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is its preferred location to build a regional indoor sports facility. Colonial Williamsburg is reviewing the HTRFA’s proposal, but no decision has been made about the best use of the property. The HTRFA’s proposal for the indoor sports facility has no impact on the Visitor Center building. The development of an indoor sports facility is independent of Colonial Williamsburg operations. For additional information, visit the Historic Triangle Recreational Facilities Authority (HTRFA) website: https://htrfa.org/
Restaurants and Taverns
We are pleased to see that so many are eager to enjoy our wonderful restaurants and taverns. There is currently a nationwide and regional shortage of hospitality/restaurant workers. Colonial Williamsburg’s hospitality group is hiring restaurant staff, but is confronting the same challenges as others in the region. When combined with the economic impact resulting from COVID-19 health and safety restrictions, the Foundation has temporarily reduced operating hours at some of our facilities to ensure that we provide a high-quality guest experience. We are actively recruiting talented restaurant staff in anticipation of a return to normal operations in the coming months as the world emerges from the pandemic.