By Nicole Trifone
Image by Darnell Vennie/Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
In Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the king recommended, “Begin at the beginning.”
It’s good advice when it comes to visiting the place where America began. When you’re deciding where to go, what to see and whom to meet in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area, a little advice to get you started comes in handy as you plan your visit.
Should you start with The Art Museums? A carriage ride? The gunsmith shop? You could try to meet the people you have long read about in history books or seek out lesser-known people with amazing stories of their own to tell — or both.
Fortunately, there is more than one way to navigate through this 18th-century town. Each time you visit, you can take in the sights, sounds and stories in a new way.
Maybe you like learning about the history of our original and reconstructed buildings? Maybe your father is interested in social history? Your children? They like to explore. And grandmother and grandfather want to see the place they love through their grand-children’s eyes.
We asked experts from across The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation — the people who work hard to educate, entertain and engage guests — to tell us about the places, people and sites they would introduce to visiting family and friends.
See the full slate of programs, sites and events Colonial Williamsburg has to offer on the online events calendar or download the Colonial Williamsburg Explorer app.
Senior Staff Archaeologist
So much detective work goes into presenting the past. As an archaeologist, my favorite way to experience the Historic Area is through the lens of “how we know what we know” about buildings, furnishings, trades, landscapes and the people who have inhabited Williamsburg over hundreds of years. No surprise: my top recommendations are archaeological.
Supervisor of Orientation Interpretation
After more than 30 years of engaging with visitors as an interpreter, telling stories as a woman named Venus and supervising interactive programs, I continue to have aha! moments. I want you to stumble upon your own aha! moments. My itinerary offers a little advice to make sure you find them.
What sets Colonial Williamsburg apart from other museums that present the 18th century is the collection of buildings, both original and authentic reproductions, that can tell a story as compelling as any human interpreter you meet on Duke of Gloucester Street.
Nation Builder Aggy of Turkey Island
As an interpreter for the past 11 years, I have thought a lot about what the people I portray would likely have thought and felt about the world around them. When you visit the Historic Area, I hope you try to do the same. Ask yourself the question, “Who was living here?” — and that means everyone who lived here, worked here, loved here. Who were they? What was their life like every day?
Senior Curator of Mechanical Arts and Numismatics
Since I’ve been nicknamed “Curator of Cool Guy Stuff,” I think folks of all sorts would enjoy a trip that shows them the different aspects of the flintlock firearms of the Revolutionary period. Colonial Williamsburg offers the chance to look and experience these arms from their creation to their actual use, and there is almost too much to choose from. Like a well-balanced diet, I’d recommend a healthy sampler platter of these early firearms.
Manager of Guest Experience
Born and raised just outside of Williamsburg, I grew up visiting the Historic Area without understanding why this place matters. Yet the stories that we share, the conversations we have, the buildings we preserve, and even the streets we stroll connect us to a rich past. What I enjoy sharing with my guests are the everyday moments — the simplicity of human life in an era of monumental change.
New portrayal shows the frustration that preceded George Washington’s ascension to American hero