Get Away: Christmas in Williamsburg
If Santa, trains and twinkling lights are your jam, Colonial Williamsburg is a veritable wonderland this time of year.
If You Go
Where to Shop
The historic area’s dozen-plus shops offer things you won’t find in a superstore, including silversmiths at the Golden Ball fashioning one-of-a-kind jewelry, and the Prentis Store’s collection of handcrafted leather goods, iron hardware, reproduction furniture, Colonial clothing and Native American crafts.
Merchants Square at Colonial Williamsburg
Home to more than 40 shops and restaurants, this 18th century-style village is a mix of national brand stores and unique shops, such as Scotland House for gifts and apparel, and Williamsburg Craft House for a wide selection of pewter, folk art, jewelry and more.
Yorktown’s Riverwalk Landing
This collection of waterfront shops offers jewelry, quilts, art and clothing. Auntie M’s American College is the place for handcrafted art from across the country. The Yorktown Onion sells fine art and home accessories.
Where to Eat
Helmed by John Gonzales, a former executive chef at D.C.’s Watergate Hotel and the author of two cookbooks, this novel restaurant teaches diners how to make a multicourse dinner, then serves the complete feast along with paired wines. Dishes for the five-course fixed-menu meal change monthly. The dinner is $94.50 per person and includes hors d’oeuvres, champagne, three glasses of paired wines and the recipes—including the one for what many guests have said is the restaurant’s “life-changing” cornbread. Book well in advance.
Aromas Specialty Coffees and Cafe
A Merchants Square spot, Aromas is a favorite for warm beverages and its extensive menu of delicious breakfasts (including a brie-stuffed French toast), salads, sandwiches, pastries, cakes and more.
DoG Street Pub
This 80-year-old bank-turned-gastropub serves craft beers, from ales to lagers, and fare including burgers made from salmon, lamb or Angus beef. Join the pub’s dog-friendly run club on Monday evenings year-round for a 5K jaunt followed by a pint and small bites.
Where to Stay
Set on the banks of the James River, this resort is the place for spacious condos and culinary feasts, from a history-themed Thanksgiving dinner to a traditional Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. The three-night Christmas package includes a two- or three-bedroom condo decorated with a Christmas tree and stockings hung by the fireplace, full breakfast daily and transportation to Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg. Packages start at $605 per night; available from Dec. 21 to 26.
Since opening in 1937, the inn has been a place of respite for royalty, politicians and celebrities. Extensive renovations over the past three years have enhanced the property’s classic elegance (a doorman in a top hat and tails greets you) while adding 21st century amenities and a new terraced pool. Explore the inn’s first-floor lounges and nooks for gorgeous holiday décor and photos of famous guests. Rates begin at $419.
This Old World European-style boutique hotel, surrounded by 300 acres of farmland and vineyards as part of the Williamsburg Winery property, has 28 romantic rooms and suites decorated with antiques and tapestries inspired by notable wine regions. Many have wood-burning fireplaces. Rates start at $160. A continental breakfast and a Williamsburg Winery tour and tasting for two are included.
Colonial Williamsburg Grand Illumination—Dec. 2, 4-7 p.m.
In keeping with the 18th century tradition of celebrating special events with illuminations (such as military victories or the anniversary of a reigning sovereign’s birth), you can stroll along the streets of the historic area to see holiday decorations, enjoy musical performances on multiple stages and catch the fireworks—all for free.
Holiday Pops with the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra—Dec. 1 and 2 (two shows each day)
This year, the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra is teaming up with two church choirs for an even bigger take on this holiday tradition.
Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade—Dec. 1
Power boats and sailing vessels bedecked in twinkling lights that cast red and purple ripples in their wake compete for best in show in this floating parade off Riverwalk Landing. Caroling around a bonfire, music and complimentary hot cider round out the festivities.
Holiday Concert—The King’s Singers—Dec. 21, St. Bede Catholic Church, Williamsburg
Formed by six recently graduated choral scholars from King’s College in Cambridge in 1968, The King’s Singers—Britain’s beloved Grammy Award-winning a cappella ensemble—perform ancient and modern Christmas music from across its repertoire, including selections from Christmas, Christmas Songbook and Gold, their 50th anniversary album.
Christine Koubek is a travel and essay writer, and teacher at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda who divides her time between Montgomery County, Maryland, and Virginia’s Tidewater region.