Get Away: Christmas in Williamsburg

If Santa, trains and twinkling lights are your jam, Colonial Williamsburg is a veritable wonderland this time of year.

Left: Colonial Williamsburg fife & drum. Right: christmas carolers on Duke of Glouchester Street. Photos by Michael Ventura.

Preplanning is the key to enjoying Colonial Williamsburg’s holiday offerings. Peruse the daily program guide (available at ticket offices and at and organize your visit around activities that are most appealing. There are a couple dozen choices per day. You might ice skate at Liberty’s Ice Pavilion, take a Christmas decorations walking tour, learn an 18th century dance, listen to a master storyteller talk about “Remembering Christmas: Slave and Free,” or feel the beat in your chest as you follow the fife and drum.

Liberty ice skating rink in Williamsburg. Photo by Michael Ventura.

New this year is a shadow puppet show called “Holiday Memories.” Offered on select dates, it features a changing panoramic background that helps tell the story of Christmas in the 1890s. Some evenings you can gather around the porch at R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse for a singalong of holiday favorites in the glow of burning cressets (raised iron baskets filled with wood) that light up Duke of Gloucester Street.

For a different look at life in our country during its early years, visit the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, a roughly 20-minute drive from Colonial Williamsburg. As one Yorktown guide put it, “Yorktown reflects what the majority of folks lived like [back then], the country folks and farmers, who were numerous…and thought differently politically than the ‘urban’ folks whose lives are reflected by Colonial Williamsburg.”

Left: Docents at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown making figgy pudding. Right: cookies made by the docents at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. Photos by Michael Ventura.

Opened in 2016, the 80,000-square-foot museum brings to the forefront many voices not originally heard in the telling of Revolution-era history—those of enslaved and free blacks, and women. The experiential theater that is part of the “Revolution” exhibit transports visitors to the Yorktown battlefield in 1781, complete with wind, smoke and cannon fire. The museum’s holiday spin includes musical entertainment from the period, learning about Christmas during the war at the Continental Army encampment, and trying your hand at candle-dipping at a clapboard farmhouse.

Categories: Travel