A Wintry Williamsburg

by Betty Jo Riggs /
Betty Jo Riggs's picture
Jan 11, 2011 / 1 comments

Twice now, we have been privileged to experience Colonial Williamsburg in the aftermaths of blizzard conditions. And, oh, the difference from a humid July visit!



This season’s Christmas snow storm worried us no little bit as we traveled from northwestern Michigan to Virginia on December 26th and 27th. Would the turnpike in Ohio be glazed with lake effect snow? Would Pennsylvania’s turnpike be closed down through the mountain passes? Surely, the road down the mountain into western Maryland would be heart stopping. And, what? Virginia has declared a state of emergency due to record snowfalls! But the Force was with us. Only a few flakes came down in the mountains, and we saw very little snow by the roads until almost to Williamsburg itself. The storm had gone through the day before, temperatures were warming, and roads were clear. Even our children driving from Baltimore and Charleston, SC, were untroubled by the snow which had threatened their areas.

Advice for Winter travelers: keep an eye on the weather forecasts; prepare your car and yourself for cold and delays; consider alternate routes; say some prayers; go for the adventure realizing weathermen don’t always have it right.

Our day touring Colonial Williamsburg came with bright sunshine, warming temperatures, and delight at experiencing snow in unexpected places. Picture kids from points south frolicking on the Palace Green (or Palace White today) and building snowmen. 

Snowman, Williamsburg


Picture minimal crowds and lines. Imagine walking straight into a tavern and being seated right away. The temperature on our touring day was in the 40’s, cool enough to appreciate a warm coat, mittens, and boots but also just right for walking down Duke of Gloucester Street.



One enters a different holiday spirit here. No Santa Clauses, no blinking, twinkling lights, not even a Christmas tree on the green. Instead, focus your camera on the doorways and window sills of the colonial buildings. Charming wreaths adorn most doors. From osage oranges to oyster shells to dried citrus slices or feathers or magnolia leaves, even decks of cards, the residents have fashioned original designs sure to delight.




Candles appear in the windows and shine through frosty nights.

Characters dressed in eighteenth century garb abound. Their songs or stories enchant the young and old as they maintain the persona of the character they bring to life.



 A prayer service in Bruton Parish Church, sitting where signers of the Constitution also sat, was an experience to remember, but we were sorry to miss an evening organ concert in that historic place.





Felicity and Elizabeth, those American Girl dolls from this period of history, had caused our three granddaughters, 8, 9, and 11, to be deeply interested in anything colonial. Thus, our trip was planned to bring history to life for them. It did. The recreations of Jamestown and Yorktown were fascinating as well.

We can recommend the Westgate Historic Williamsburg Resort as a convenient and pleasant spot to stay. Our two two-bedroom units accommodated our four families with five grandchildren—although as the kids grow, we will definitely need another room next time. The condos allowed us to relax and cook-in after full days of touring, but nearby restaurants beckoned with interesting menus and great food. Uno’s Pizza, Red, Hot and Blue Barbeque, Mama Steve’s Pancakes, and The Black Angus Grille served us well. Of course, a visit to at least one of the Colonial taverns is a must. This time we enjoyed Shield’s Tavern for an excellent lunch. From restaurant servers to guides to hotel managers, absolutely everyone we encountered greeted us warmly and helpfully. That Southern Hospitality thing lives on in this town.




No, you can have your summer visit to the first capital of Virginia if you wish to endure the crowds and the sweltering sun. Me? I’ll take the magic of snow to enhance my stay any year.




Betty Jo Riggs is the Retiree Travels Co-Editor for Wandering Educators 

All photos courtesy and copyright BJ Riggs



Comments (1)

  • Carol Voigts

    13 years 5 months ago

    What a good idea to go the williamsburg in the winter and with grandchildren too.  It must have been beautiful!  

    Carol Voigts --RETIRED!!!

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