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Christmas Week - How Crowded is Crowded?

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West Conshohocken...
Level Contributor
170 posts
112 reviews
Christmas Week - How Crowded is Crowded?

I realize that going anywhere even close to a place like CW is probably going to be a headache over a major holiday, but how busy does CW actually get?

My wife and I have been to CW a few times but we have always gone during shoulder seasons or even once during Hurricane Irene so the crowds were always light. But this time we're taking our children (9 & 7) for the first time and don't want them to have a bad experience plus my wife despises large crowds.

We’re going to be in the area for six days (26th-31st) and probably at CW for two of those and the rest of the time will be spent visiting a plantation, Historic Jamestowne, Yorktown Battlefield, Fort Monroe and the Wright Brothers NPS site in Kitty Hawk.

Is it that bad compared to say going in September/October or should I just stop overthinking and do it.

Thanks in advance.

12 replies to this topic
Williamsburg, VA
Destination Expert
for Williamsburg
Level Contributor
1,576 posts
7 reviews
1. Re: Christmas Week - How Crowded is Crowded?

Just do it! Crowds here are like nothing compared to places like Disney World, Busch Gardens, etc,

The Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg is a mile long, and three blocks wide. So the 60 or so sites, taverns, museums, stores, etc. are nothing like the lines at more touristy attractions. If the line at one CW site is longer than five minutes, move on to another one and come back later. The other locations you plan to visit are the same -- crowds pose usually no more than a ten minute wait because things to do are spread out and diverse.

One exception to the above advice are dining reservations in the CW taverns and evening programs. There are four historic taverns to dine in and dozens of evening programs this year -- but you must make a reservation for all of them early as you will not be able to simply walk up and walk in on the program without reserving a spot. Be sure to review the Colonial Williamsburg Holiday Planner -- found here at http://www.colonialwilliamsburg.com/holidays/ -- and reserve those special programs you and your family may enjoy.

Christmastime is a very special time here in Williamsburg, so come, enjoy and relax during the holidays!

Edited: 7:34 pm, October 31, 2013
West Conshohocken...
Level Contributor
170 posts
112 reviews
2. Re: Christmas Week - How Crowded is Crowded?

Thanks for the response Bix.

Everything sounds good and my guess is that we'll be down in December.

Level Contributor
417 posts
189 reviews
3. Re: Christmas Week - How Crowded is Crowded?

If I were you I'd try to stay at the Williamsburg Lodge. Prices are less than the Inn (significantly so) and it has good parking, including a garage underground. The parking, in my view, is worth the extra bucks you may pay compared to a motel further removed from the Colonial area. Parking and traffic can be a big problem if you'll be attending the Grand Illumination and Christmas events drawing crowds. You can walk to everything from the Lodge and not worry about where'll you park. But by now you may find reservations difficult.

Brookneal, Virginia
Level Contributor
1,131 posts
90 reviews
4. Re: Christmas Week - How Crowded is Crowded?

We have visited CW over that particular week, and though there were a fair amount of people there, it was a very pleasant visit.

The crowds that week were nothing in comparison to the one Disney-esque day that CW has,

and that is the day of the Grand Illumination, which will be December 8 this year.

The week between Christmas and New Year's is festive and fun.

Grand Illuminations is horribly crowded and decidedly un-restful and un-Colonial in my opinion.

It was so crowded that the closest place to park (Visitor's Center had no parking spots and anywhere there was green space on the road side people were parked last year) was actually our hotel parking lot on the by-pass, so I drove DH and let him out to "enjoy" the craziness while I went back to the hotel and enjoyed the hot tub. ;)

When he had had enough, he walked back as far as he could then called me to come pick him up.

So I would definitely return to CW for the Christmas/New Year's week, but never again for the Grand Illuminations. I'd rather go the end of January when there are hardly any people (and not all the buildings are opened for programs). Quality and quantity- if I had to choose I take quality over quantity- at Christmas- New Year's you get BOTH.

Edited: 11:13 am, November 01, 2013
Level Contributor
3 posts
51 reviews
5. Re: Christmas Week - How Crowded is Crowded?

This was helpful information and I will be able to plan a trip for my husband and I for the holidays.

Level Contributor
346 posts
6. Re: Christmas Week - How Crowded is Crowded?

If you can at all extend your visit to include New Year's Eve, First Night Williamsburg is chockful of fun and entertainment for the whole family (concluding with the dropping pineapple countdown and fireworks at William & Mary's Zable Stadium).


West Conshohocken...
Level Contributor
170 posts
112 reviews
7. Re: Christmas Week - How Crowded is Crowded?

I guess I’ll post a follow up/trip review of sorts from our time in the Williamsburg area and beyond during Christmas week.

Day 1: This day got completely wrecked as a snow squall came unexpectedly through PA which caused accidents galore plus the parking lot that apparently is I-495 turned our 5 ½ hour trip into a 9 ½ hour trip. We had hoped to get to Shirley Plantation and the 8pm X-Mas concert at Bruton but both were scrapped when we didn’t even get into town until 8pm.

Day 2: This day was for Jamestowne and everything there was fantastic. We’re big supporters of the NPS and this place did not disappoint. It is soooo much better on every level than the tourist trap of a place next door.

The highlight of the day was easily the tour led by Ranger Jerome. The man is a shining example of how historical tours should be given and how they can retain the interest of anyone if done properly.

At night we did the Tavern Ghost Walk and overall it was alright. Having a guide in period costume as opposed to someone in sweatpants and a Where’s Waldo hat who had only been on the payroll for around six months would have been nice but overall, while cheesy, the Walk was good enough.

Day 3: We went down to Fort Monroe and the Cape Henry Lighthouse also taking the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry. Fort Monroe is nice enough although being a newer NPS site it’s not fully up and running especially considering that they don’t have a daily ranger on site yet. Cape Henry Lighthouse is truly an amazing piece of history and was well worth the drive and the fairly heavy security screening to get onto Fort Story to access it.

At night we ate at Shields Tavern and overall the adult meals were pretty good. The kid’s meals are outrageously priced considering what is served. (Hot dog black and shriveled with the bun being equally charred for one meal along with a micro portion of Mac & cheese that came with a mountain of carrots and string beans for the other while having to beg for fries not to be given as a side.)

The guitar player who played for around ten minutes had a rather healthy attitude as he said that he would take 18th century song requests only and after no one offered any he eventually said something to effect of “Well it’s your vacation money” and walked into the next room to play.

Day 4: We did CW this day and things were pretty good as it rained for most of the day and that scared off the crowds. Highlights would have been the Powell House, the jail and the coffeehouse.

At night we did the Christmastide at Home tour which came recommended by another family we met and meh, it was alright but if we hadn’t done it I wouldn’t have cared.

Day 5: We did CW again and holy cow was the place crowded. The joiner, the wigmaker and the coffeehouse were impossible to get into as they had huge crowds all day and people were being told to come back later and not to even bother waiting.

At night we drove down to VA Beach to see the light display on the boardwalk which was quite a show and quite a wait as it took well over two hours from the time we began queuing up to pay until the time we finished.

A few points:

* I only called about a week and a half before we got to Williamsburg and had no trouble getting a 5pm Saturday night reservation for Shields.

* There is no need to book the Tavern Ghost Tour or the Christmastide Tour that far in advance because they are done so many times a night that maybe aside of a Saturday, anyone who wants to go will find space. We heard several times that if need be CW will add tour times the day of or the day before based on demand. I reserved the Ghost Tour online three days before we left and the Christmastide Tour the day of at around one in the afternoon.

* There were very few people in costume and even fewer that were “in character”.

* The schedule of which trades are open and closed on which days is maddening because there is no rhyme or reason for not making it more uniform-standard or simply having everyone be open seven days a week. Some of the more vocal tradesmen (Cooper-Gunsmith) will even tell you that they hate the schedule as well.

* When you got to places like the Capitol, the Palace or the coffeehouse there seemed to be two different types of CW employees that you encountered. The ones who gave the tour who were by-in-large fantastic and the ones who were trying to herd people into the appropriate places that were down right rude and ornery.

* CW is truly morphing into Disney where your ticket only gets you so far and the emphasis is clearly on trying to get you to spend more on dining and night programs. Also every shop more or less has the same things with little to no differentiation.

I like CW and wish that I could like it more but to me parts of the place are 5 stars and parts are 1 star and I’m not really a fan of where the powers that be are taking things because while I’m sure it’s great for The Foundation’s bottom line it’s making the experience increasingly less than ideal compared to what it was ten or fifteen years ago.

West Chester, PA
Level Contributor
2 posts
93 reviews
8. Re: Christmas Week - How Crowded is Crowded?

Lefty33, Thank you so much for your commentary and helpful tips. Our family is venturing down this year! I wish that I could give you a helpful vote, because you have calmed my nerves considerably.

Dallas, Tx
Level Contributor
567 posts
48 reviews
9. Re: Christmas Week - How Crowded is Crowded?

Lefty33, I found your review to be incredibly helpful as our party will be visiting Christmas week 2015. First of all, I will not prepay for the Christmastide Tour after reading your review. We will take a wait and see approach with the weather and our mood and not worry if for some reason we can't get into a tour (which you are saying we should be able to get somewhat last minute). I can't believe your ghost tour was led in the way you described! I wonder if CW had too many ghost tours going during the holidays so they let inexperienced and unprofessional guides fill in.

I had considered the VA Beach lights, but since we will be seeing the lights at Busch Gardens I think we'll skip it.

Dallas, Tx
Level Contributor
567 posts
48 reviews
10. Re: Christmas Week - How Crowded is Crowded?

Lefty33, if you see this message I would love to know which day was your day 5. Was it New Year's Eve? I really don't want to deal with crowds like you described.

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