see + do
Time Travel, Williamsburg, Virginia
Concierge.com's insider take:
Welcome to EighteenthCenturyWorld, the only town run by a not-for-profit educational institution. If you haven't been and you're tempted to dismiss Colonial Williamsburg as hokey and inauthentic, think again. This is one of the most amazing museums in Americaand one of the country's most fascinating experiences. True, the dining options sound terribly twee, but even those are extraordinarily well executed.
What makes this town unique is its 88 original 18th-century buildings, augmented by hundreds more reproduced so faithfully it's hard to tell which ones they are. The main road is Duke of Gloucester Street, which, like all roads in the 301-acre Historic Area, is dirtand emphatically car-free, except overnight. Instead of traffic, scores of 18th-century people roam the streets, many industriously engaged in their crafts (merchants, milliners, blacksmiths, innkeepers, printers, bakers) and all wanting to engage you in conversation, always staying strictly in character. Thomas Jefferson himself is around somewhere, too, plus a large number of slaves. Events are constantly erupting. Depending on which of the four most crucial years (17731776) of the early history of America is being reenacted that day, there may be battles, witch trials, or fife and drum parades.
Completed for the 2005 season (and 52 years in the making), Peyton Randolph's plantation is the site for new scenes from the life of this president of the First and Second Continental Congress, along with that of his wife and 27 slaves. Among the other important structures are the 1722 Governor's Palace, one of British North America's finest buildings; the Capitol, reconstructed in the 1930s during the original restoration period of park founder John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and based on the first 1701 capitol; and Thomas Jefferson mentor George Wythe's 1755 Georgian-style house. At the far west end of Duke of Gloucester Street, outside the Historic Area on the campus of William & Mary, is another major building, the 1695 Wren Buildingthe oldest academic building in continuous use in America. In addition to all this, there's sort-of-authentic shopping to be done in the nine historic shops, as well as in the stores of Merchants Square, where you can find Williamsburg ProductsColonial reproductions of all kinds. All in all, Colonial Williamsburg is so stirring, it will thoroughly reinvigorate your patriotic spirit.
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