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Colonial Williamsburg for Locals

Sure, you’ve visited Colonial Williamsburg on school field trips, for coffee in Merchants Square, or to walk the dog on DoG Street, but there’s so much more to experience….right in your own backyard!

In the News

Frequently Asked Questions for Locals
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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.
  • Intersections
    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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Merchants Square
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.  

Save on Admission

Annual Pass

An Annual Pass pays for itself in just two visits. With 365 days of access to the Historic Area sites, two art museums, programs, performances, and more, the Annual Pass is a great value. Plus, enjoy exclusive discounts on shopping, dining, golf, relaxation at the spa, and more.

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Good Neighbor Pass

We’re happy to offer our hyper-local neighbors a discounted annual pass featuring the same great admission and exclusive benefits. If you live in 23089, 23090, 23127, 23168, 23185, 23186, 23187, or 23188, you qualify for our Good Neighbor Pass!

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City and County Employees

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.

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Teacher Pass

Teachers who work in Greater Williamsburg are eligible to receive a FREE Good Neighbor Pass. See a list of qualifying schools.

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William & Mary Collegiate Pass

Current William & Mary students, faculty and staff are eligible for a free collegiate pass.

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Christopher Newport University Collegiate Pass

Current Christopher Newport University students, faculty and staff are eligible for a free collegiate pass.

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In Your Own Backyard

Explore Colonial Williamsburg

With over 300 acres to explore and something new to discover every season, there’s something for everyone all year long. Check out archaeology at Custis Square, learn about rare animal breeds, and meet the people who bring history to life.

Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg

Featuring the best in British and American fine and decorative arts, plus the nation’s premiere collection of American folk art.

Special Events

Join us for special programming for holidays and commemorative seasons throughout the year.


Come behind the fence for a closer look at current excavations, tour our labs where much of the discovery takes place, or find out more about what our latest projects have revealed.

Bassett Trace Nature Trail

Take a self-guided tour of the Bassett Trace Nature Trail. Use the Nature Trail Map to identify shrubs, trees, and flowers found throughout the trail.

Self-guided Arboretum Tour

Look for interactive tags on trees throughout the historic area. Use the camera on your phone to scan the QR codes with your smart phone or tablet and learn about each species.

Pastures at Colonial Williamsburg

Visit the Foundation's rare animal breeds throughout the historic area.

Merchants Square

Over 40 unique stores and restaurants. Unlimited memorable experiences. At Merchants Square, you'll find so much more than can fit in a shopping bag.

Working and Volunteering at Colonial Williamsburg

Find exciting careers in Virginia at our living history museum. Rewarding Colonial Williamsburg jobs available for new and returning job seekers.

Visit After Work

Evening Programs

Evening entertainment includes signature favorites and new enchanting experiences. Discounts on evening programs are available to all Annual, Good Neighbor, and Collegiate Pass holders.


With a mixture of historic taverns, modern restaurants, and cafes located in and around the Historic Area, you’ll find the perfect place for a historically inspired family meal or an intimate evening of creative cuisine.

Homeschool Resources

Colonial Williamsburg invites homeschoolers and their families to experience revolutionary educational opportunities. Discover history brought to life and meet the people who contributed to the founding of America.

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Homeschool Family Itinerary

A Parent’s Guide to Weekly Visits

Homeschool Virtual Programs

Contact Us

Donate Today

Did you know that contributing to the Foundation can earn you admission benefits as well? Join the Duke of Gloucester Society to receive Good Neighbor rates for two annual passes. Further donor levels earn you complimentary annual passes, plus your contribution makes it possible for us to fulfill our mission: that the future may learn from the past.

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