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“Like Disneyland, but.....”

Colonial Williamsburg
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Colonial Williamsburg Admission
Ranked #2 of 100 things to do in Williamsburg
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Fee: Yes
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Discover Colonial Williamsburg and become a citizen of the Revolutionary City. Engage with the local community and experience firsthand the daily struggles of wartime. Explore our art museums, unleash your kids' inner colonists, tee off a game of golf, or relax and unwind at the Spa. Stay at one of the official Colonial Williamsburg hotels, with a variety of opportunities to shop and dine, and you'll never want to leave.
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Reviewed October 5, 2006

Let's start by saying it's rather pricey to walk around CW. Don't get me wrong I love history, and the guides/actors truly convey their passion for American History. However, half of the town is a shopping mall, i.e. Barnes and Noble, Talbots and Williams-Sonoma stores trying to get even more money from you (However, the bakery stuff was quite tasty).
The actual exhibits are limited in number, and not all of them are open all day. The shuttle buses are ok, but we visited during off season.
The ‘acting’ was somewhat cheesy, but I can get with cheese.
The most striking feature to me was the lack of diversity among the crowd. There were probably more minority ‘actors’ than there were minority tourists. Doesn’t mean anything, but it struck me as odd.
Would I go back? Maybe for a stroll on a Saturday afternoon, or with a school field trip. Would I pay for it again? No.

5  Thank Milo3814
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed October 1, 2006

My husband and I visited Colonial Williamsburg recently and were very disappointed by the experience. We're both in our early 30's and were excited by the prospect of visiting what we thought would be a living history site. Instead, we were very disappointed overall.

The admission ticket was very overpriced for what you ended up getting. We paid $34 each for our tickets, which we thought was very overpriced even before we stepped foot into Colonial Williamsburg. We ended up going into about 10 of the buildings (wig maker, shoe maker, etc.), which is not what we expected given that we paid a lot for our tickets. I'm not sure if we saw all there was to see in terms of what we could get into with the specific ticket level we purchased, but we got bored of Colonial Williamsburg pretty quickly so after about 10 buildings decided to leave.

Disappointingly, there were few people in costume walking along the streets of Colonial Williamsburg, but it seemed that outside every building that was open, there was a person in character taking note of how many guests were entering the building. They looked very bored, and no one talked to us or engaged us or even smiled--their purpose was to count visitors and that was it. They could have done both tasks simultaneously--counted visitors and engaged them, but instead they were just boredly sitting there. This gave us the impression that the priority at Colonial Williamsburg is counting tourists instead of engaging them.

There were several other things we were disappointed about. First, we thought that the Colonial area didn't look very colonial. The buildings did, but the street and surrounding areas didn't. The streets were paved just like a regular street anywhere--it wasn't the quaint, narrow cobblestone or brick we were expecting. Duke of Gloucter Street, which seemed like the main drag, was a very wide, regular old street. The area between the street and the buildings, adjacent to the sidewalk wasn't very attractive--it looked like there was just gravel filler there instead of nice flowers or lawn. There wasn't any hustle and bustle of costumed characters, either. No activity on the streets by characters (for instance we expected to see reenactments of townspeople going about their daily activities or something). Instead, we just saw a few bored-looking characters standing around, not engaging the visitors at all.

We were also disappointed by how few of the buildings lining the streets are actually open to the public. For instance, when you look at the Williamsburg map, buildings that are available to be toured are highlighted in one color. Many of the buildings on the map which we walked by are not open to the public. That was disappointing--i.e. it seemed at first glance like there's a lot more there than there actually was, but many of the buildings that looked interesting to us said private residence on them and weren't open to the public. The other thing is that when you look on the map, it seems that at least half of what there is to do in Colonial Williamsburg is either eating or shopping. There are a lot of gift shops selling period items, and several eateries, but that was all just filler for us--we came to experience history. We had planned on spending two days at Colonial Williamsburg, but instead we stayed only about 2.5 hours. For the price we paid the fact that we saw all we wanted to see in 2.5 hours was disappointing.

We really enjoyed walking around the areas near Colonial Williamsburg, with all the shops and restaurants. But if we visit the area again, we will just stroll the streets of Colonial Williamsburg, instead of paying for a ticket that lets you go into the buildings. We didn't realize there would be so little to see, otherwise we never would have spent the $34 each for tickets that sure weren't worth the price.

24  Thank Travelkitten70
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 1, 2006

We just got back from Colonial Williamsburg and thoroughly enjoyed it. I am an American History fan so this was just right for me. I liked that the Colonial aspects of the town are somewhat intermingled with a modern city -- some purists may hate this, but it didn't bother me. I was surprised by how "open" it was, in that regard; you can park and just walk through if you should want to. We stopped in the night before we had our day trip planned; we got the idea of the how things were laid out so we were ready to explore the next day. Yes, tickets are quite expensive, that's true. We had a small snag with picking our tickets up at the Vistors Center; I had my confirmation and information in hand for the tickets I'd bought online, but this seems to throw the staff (I don't know why, I must happen all the time). This particular lady seemed to struggle to locate our tickets in their system, although she was finally able to. They take a picture for your ID card at that time.

We went to the Audience with Thomas Jefferson, which was great. One important thing I picked up from the visit is that CW doesn't go for the "easy" approach on historical events -- Jefferson spoke in period language (it was not "dumbed down" a bit) but still worked some humor into his recitation. He also had a somewhat austere air about him -- he seemed to fit the tone I've picked up in his writing very well. Just a tad sarcastic, which I don't think is untrue based upon my modest studies. He dealt with questions from the audience well and was very amusing but true to the character. I would say the same thing about the audience with George Washington we attended; he comes off as somewhat stiff and overly proper, which again met my image of him. When questions threatened to move into personal areas he seemed somewhat alarmed, even, and politely avoided the question. (Someone asked "why did you cut down that cherry tree?" and he played quizzacal -- "I grew up in Virginia and everyone knows that a cherry tree wouldn't possibly grow in our climate. . .") Very cute but thoroughly in character.

If you're going, be sure to review the website closely. The schedule for every day (barring weather or other issues) is up on the site. I planned what we wanted to do carefully as we only had one day to spend. I had given thought to what ticket level we should buy and what I wanted to see. Another cool thing -- the place is quite pet friendly -- when we saw so many people with dogs we went back to the hotel to get our dog so she could enjoy everything, too. From what I understand, pets are allowed throughout but not in any buildings or at ticketed events.

So, plan -- go online, go on the orientation walk, and enjoy!

20  Thank DaphneG
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 20, 2006

I had wanted to visit Williamsburg for years and finally got the chance, I wanted the complete experience so we stayed at one of the homes inside of the historic area and arranged dinner at the Kings Arms.

This is not really a living history place, there may be people in period costumes but they are indifferent to the visitor and defintely do not indulge in any kind of role playing. They seem to be unfriendly mannequins.

As part of what I had hoped would be an immersion experience I booked an expensive dinner at the Kings Arms expecting a reenactor experience somewhat like I had at Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria, VA.

It turned out to be a very overpriced plain, unentertaining experience, with waitresses in period costumes with their cellphones showing and wearing sneakers as well as a horrible violin player with no musical or people skills,

I guess I was disappointed as I expected a living history experience from this trip and found that you are really better off reading about it than going.

Staff at Colonial Williamsburg is very lackadaisical and seemingly untrained in guest service. One lady who was of course wearing an I Pod, sneakers and sunglasses with her colonial costume seemed downright hostile, when I asked her if the Courthouse was open for visitors, demanding to see my badge rather than answering the question.

Also the expense was unbelieveable considering the level of sophistication of the site. Extremely expensive and really not worth it.

We had a much better experience at the Yorktown Victory Center down the road at a much cheaper price. Those people knew what they were doing.

23  Thank mutt5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed September 20, 2006

After reading several reviews about Williamsburg, I just have to respond! As someone who worked there as a historical interpreter for many years I saw a variety of visitors have many different experiences. One thing is certain, you need to do your research before you go and before you attempt to see a place with that much to offer. You can't plan to see it in one day and get a good overview of what Williamsburg is about. Many visitors pay the price of the tickets and then gripe because they didn't bother to read the literature and schedules of events handed to them. They didn't bother to take an orientation tour to aquaint them with Williamsburg and help them plan to see the place efficiently. Why spend that kind of money and then breeze through the place and miss everything? This isn't television where you just flip through channels!
As far as people being disappointed because the costumed interpreters "are not in character"-- well, a majority of them aren't supposed to be. The costumed employees that you see outdoors are there to give visitor information, directions, check tickets and help you plan your visit. The ones you see inside give the tours. Once in a while you will see an interpreter who is portraying someone from history, and that person will be in character...but not everyone in costume is supposed to be portraying a person from history. Once again, read the literature that they give you at the visitor's center! It's not just there to act as an umbrella! You can even call them and have them send it to you in advance of your trip.
Wiiliamsburg is a beautiful city, a college town and a historical site that has much to offer. But you can't find that out unless you take the time to do the research.

43  Thank loveymyhome
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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