I am a self-proclaimed history buff. History was my favorite subject in school, especially the field trips. So, when we got orders to Virginia, I was looking forward to a grown-up field trip to one of my favorite places of living history – Colonial Williamsburg.
Williamsburg was once the capital of Virginia, a cultural center of the colonies. During the time before and during the Revolutionary War, the city was visited by notable patriots such as our first president George Washington, our third president Thomas Jefferson, university founder George Mason and prominent speaker of the Virginia House of Burgesses Peyton Randolph. During the revolution, the capital was moved to Richmond and the prominence that was Williamsburg slowly diminished.
The name Rockefeller is well-known within New York City, but did you know it was also the name of the family that saved Williamsburg? In fact, the preservation of Colonial Williamsburg is greatly due to John D. Rockefeller’s funding and to the Reverend Goodwin, rector of Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, for having a passion to save the historical town. The Bruton Parish church still stands. It’s beautiful windows and layout echo the history that has passed through there. The house that the Rockefeller’s called home while overseeing the preservation still stands as well. Bassett Hall is at outside the main drag of the colonial era, but is included in the admission to Colonial Williamsburg.
Supporting the Military
The Rockefeller’s also had a passion to support the troops. John D. Rockefeller Jr helped establish the United Service Organization (USO) during World War II to support the active duty military and their families. In fact, Mrs. Rockefeller often hosted local military for dinners in their home.
Colonial Williamsburg has continued this support of the military in several ways.
- Complimentary tickets: Beginning June 1, 2016, CW began to offer complimentary single-day admission for the active duty member and up to three direct dependents for any day of the year, once a year.
- Memorial Day Weekend: Free admission is offered to active and retired military, honorably discharged veterans with a DD214, reservists, National Guard and up to three direct dependents for the entire weekend.
- Veteran’s Day Weekend: Like Memorial Day weekend, free admission is also offered to all active duty personnel, retirees, veterans, reservists, National Guard and up to three direct dependents for the full weekend.
- Colonial Williamsburg has tickets available through local Virginia/DC/North Carolina Information, Ticket and Travel (ITT) or All Points Travel offices on base. Single day and multi-day tickets are available for a discount from the ticket window price at CW.
- Annual Passes: New to me information! Active duty service members qualify for 50 percent off up to five annual passes!
- #milmomadventuretip: If you are living near the National Capitol Region, Fort Belvoir, MCB Quantico, Dahlgren, Langley AFB, Norfolk, Virginia Beach – get an annual pass! As a family, we went for Veteran’s Day weekend and used the free admission for two days, and then upgraded to annual passes before the weekend was up. They used the value of our ticket toward the upgrade. It was worth it. We went every month or two for a day or two and still have more to see!
- Retired Military/Veterans: Single-day tickets and Annual Passes can be purchased for a 50 percent discount for them and up to three direct dependents.
The active duty military spouse can utilize any of the above ticket options that their active duty spouse can do, even without the active duty spouse being present at purchase or in Colonial Williamsburg.
Colonial Williamsburg Highlights
Colonial Williamsburg is the colonial town resurrected. When you walk into the colonial district, the homes are restored to as they were in the 18th century, and you will be greeted by historians dressed in colonial garb. You can head to the bakery behind the Raleigh tavern to taste their delicious hot and fresh gingerbread cookies, have a meal at the Shield’s Tavern or walk among the gardens of the Governor’s Palace. Admission to Colonial Williamsburg means you can enter any of the historic sites and museums. At each of the sites, you will be greeted by a re-enactor who will tell you about the home you are visiting and the history that occurred there. A favorite for our family was the Governor’s Palace. After walking around the beautiful home, you can enter into the gardens. This is the perfect place for little ones with lots of energy to run and play and explore. My little one loved the garden maze and wanted to run it over and over. Maybe one day we can bring back the beauty that was English garden mazes in our own backyard, albeit smaller.
For the military buff, there is a lot to see and do as well. The gunsmith on the property makes and restores the rifles you see being used. There are a wealth of information, so ask away! The military encampment is seasonal, but well worth checking out. You can “train” along side a militiaman – which is fun for all ages! There is also now an opportunity to shoot a musket and throw an ax! Both of these do require a separate admission ticket. For up-to-date information on what your military buff might like to see, click here.
This home opened its doors in 2016. It is a home just of Duke of Gloucester Street (DOG street for those in the know) that is open to active duty, veteran, retired military and their families who have tickets to the Colonial Williamsburg area. Per the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation website, free Wi-Fi, a children’s area and complementary hot and cold beverages are available for visitors. There are hours for this building, so make sure to check the time on the map or visitor center when you arrive.
I have never personally experienced the lounge as it was created after we had our annual passes, and were unable to check it out when we went the following year, but am very grateful that this respite has been made! I am sure many a military family has gone here to unwind, or nurse their little one in the air-conditioned or heated space. I know I would!
Logistics for Visiting Colonial Williamsburg
Follow your directions into the Colonial Williamsburg Regional Visitor Center. There is ample parking at this center. Here is where you can purchase tickets, or get vouchers for your complimentary visit. There are also daily times guides with a map. I highly suggest picking one up so you can determine if there are any events you would like to check out. There are Fife and Drum Parades that appeal to the children (and me!) and on certain occasions (like Memorial Day or July 4th) there will be special parades showcasing the military aspects of the Continental Army with George Washington there to inspect the troops!
From the visitor center you can take a shuttle or follow the path to the Colonial Williamsburg area. If it is a nice day, I suggest taking the path. It is a beautiful path that winds up to the Colonial area and makes you feel like you have literally just walked back in time. If it is cold out or you just don’t want to walk, there are plenty of well-timed shuttles. The most we have ever waited for a shuttle is five minutes, if that.
To keep the colonial atmosphere and to keep the streets safe for guests, no vehicles are allowed in the Colonial area.
#milmomadventuretip: Download the Colonial Williamsburg Explorer Mobile App to maximize your visit to Colonial Williamsburg. It has a map of the district as well as times for different events that take place throughout the day.
Colonial History is something that Virginia boasts, and Williamsburg is done so well. My littles loved “looking for Felicity” as we walked about the city, watching the animals and asking questions. It is perfect for little ones who are active, and for parents who want to share American history with their children. With the amazing support they give the military in discounts, this is a must see for anyone who has PCS’d to the east coast! So plan your trip, buy a cap or hat and have fun witnessing living history!
Are you looking at going to America’s Historic Triangle? If you have any questions, please let us know here, through email or on our Instagram!