A Step Back in Time

Williamsburg, Virginia, gives visitors a chance to enjoy history, recreation and pancakes

By Joseph Frye

Located on the Virginia Peninsula, in between the York and James rivers, Williamsburg, Virginia is a popular destination for many travelers looking to see this city that is an integral part of American History. Today, the city offers more than history, providing visitors with a variety of activities to enjoy on their trip to the former capital of the Colony of Virginia.

The mainstay of any trip to Williamsburg is the widely celebrated Colonial Williamsburg. Deemed a “living-history museum,” the city’s historical center underwent a reconstruction in the 20th century at the hands of The Rev. W.A.R. Goodwin, with help from the Rockefeller Family. Today, actors dressed in revolution-era clothing walk visitors through tasks such as apothecary and tin work along with others that were common in the 17th and 18th centuries. Visitors can tour the reconstructed Capitol, built after the original burned in 1747 and the second suffered the same fate in 1832. A reconstruction of the House of Burgess and Courtroom within the Capitol gives the opportunity to see what the inner workings of the colonial government would have looked like.

Williamsburg, Virginia, U.S.A

Just steps away, the Governor’s Palace allows visitors to stroll through the same halls that past Virginia governors like Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry walked. In front of the mansion, the Palace Green offers a large outdoor space where tourists and locals alike can de-stress, picnic and socialize.

As a part of the Historic Triangle, Williamsburg is just a short drive from two other colonial communities: Yorktown and Jamestown. Located less than a 30-minute drive from one another, all three sites invite visitors to step back in time and visit three places instrumental to the creation of the United States.

Also popular among visitors to the region are each town’s beaches. Yorktown Beach offers kayak, bike and paddle board rentals, along with various boat tours. The beach town also includes multiple shops, restaurants, hotels and bed and breakfasts. Jamestown Beach, the more secluded of the two, lacks any formal businesses and is better suited for those looking for a more laid-back afternoon, with a designated fishing area along with picnic areas equipped with grills.

Visitors looking for some outdoor recreation without straying outside of Williamsburg can check out Lake Matoaka, located on the campus of William and Mary. Featuring more than 10 miles of trails, the lake was created in the 1700s by English Colonists and is named after Pocahontas, whose birth name was Matoaka.

Although the lake is not open for recreation, the surrounding trails are popular for hiking and biking.

Williamsburg is also well-equipped for gastronomes. The Fat Canary, located in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg, is widely considered to be the city’s best restaurant. Since opening in 2003, the Fat Canary has received the AAA Four Diamond Award every year. The menu changes seasonally, so there are always new dishes to try.

Those looking for a more low-key dining experience can visit one of Williamsburg’s many pancake houses. Every morning, both visitors and locals flock to one of nearly a dozen pancake houses in Williamsburg, many of which date back to the mid 20th century. Favorites include the Colonial Pancake House, known for its pancakes loaded with toppings, and the Smokey Griddle, which sets itself apart by also serving Mexican fare.