Unique Things To Do In Williamsburg, VA

39+ Unique Things To Do In Williamsburg, VA That Are Off The Beaten Path

As a local who was born and raised in Williamsburg, I’m sharing all of my favorite unique things to do in Williamsburg, VA that are off the beaten path.

It’s no secret that Williamsburg is a very touristy place, between colonial Williamsburg and the historic triangle, Busch Gardens, Water Country USA, and the College of William and Mary. But what is a secret are some of the unique things to do in Williamsburg, VA that are off the beaten path that I’ll share in this post!

If you’re looking to get away from the crowds and make extra special memories, I’m spilling the tea on some of the very best spots in town and in the historic triangle, many of which are FREE.

The historic triangle includes the areas of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown, which on a map, form the shape of a triangle. It’s almost impossible to talk about the highlights of Williamsburg without mentioning Jamestown and/or Yorktown, therefore this post will touch on all three places with the heaviest focus on Williamsburg.

The interesting thing is that Jamestown is still a part of Williamsburg, but Yorktown is a separate town. Jamestown is about 7 miles from Colonial Williamsburg (about 20 minutes) and Yorktown is about 14 miles from Colonial Williamsburg (about 30 minutes). 

Colonial Williamsburg fountain in pond

If you’re coming to Williamsburg for history, you really should visit all three areas if you have time. Additionally, some of the entrance passes actually overlap.

For example, both Historic Jamestowne and the Yorktown Battlefield are part of the National Park Service, thus the entrance to Historic Jamestowne will also get you into the Yorktown Battlefield.

Unique Things To Do In Williamsburg, Va

In this post, I will highlight many unique experiences in the historic triangle that do NOT require paid admission. However, keep in mind that you will maximize your experience in the historic triangle by spending at least a little bit of time visiting the living history museums and national parks.

I will touch on that more towards the end of the post as well as include further ticketing information, like how to get FREE and discounted tickets.

But for now, let’s jump into 39+ unique things to do in Williamsburg, VA that are off the beaten path.

fountain in algae pond

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Unique Things To Do In Williamsburg


1. Relax on a floating dock on Queens Creek 

I may be slightly biased since I grew up around the corner, but there aren’t many more inviting places in Williamsburg than the floating dock in New Quarter Park. Since the floating dock faces west, it’s perfect to visit at sunset. However, it’s sublime no matter the time of day.

Consider taking a picnic, a book, or fishing equipment, rent a kayak, or just enjoy relaxing in this serene place.

I mean just look at how picturesque it is!

From the parking lot located inside New Quarter Park, it’s a 0.25-mile walk along flat and downhill sections of paved and gravel trail to the floating dock (uphill on the way back).

The first photo below on the left depicts the beginning of the trail that leads from the parking lot. Walk straight in the direction of the arrow that leads towards the floating dock.

At the end of the paved path, you’ll encounter the next blue sign shown in the picture below on the right which has an arrow pointing left to the floating dock.

However, after that point, the trail to the dock isn’t well signed. I would recommend before you leave the parking lot, you start your walk at these coordinates 37.293980, -76.645740 (start of trail from the parking lot) and map yourself to the dock at these coordinates 37.296765, -76.647375 (dock). 

To do this, type the exact “dock” coordinates listed above into your preferred map application on your phone with the comma in between each number, including the negative sign where applicable. Then select “directions” and enter the other “start of trail” coordinates into the ‘from’ field.

Trail to floating dock in New Quarter Park
Once you pass the pot above, stay straight on the main trail until you reach the floating dock

The park gate is open daily from dawn to dusk from either April 1 or the first Friday in April, whichever occurs first, through the last Sunday in October. During winter, the park gate is closed from Monday to Thursday but open from Friday to Sunday from dawn to dusk.

However, you can still access the park on foot or by bike when the gate is closed, just note that facilities, like the bathrooms, will be closed and no staff will be onsite.

There is no entry fee for the park and there is FREE parking both outside of the gate and inside the gate. If you walk from the parking lot outside of the gate, it’s 0.87 miles along the road to the start of the trail to the floating dock which leaves from the parking lot inside of the gate at the end of the road.

See #17 for more information about visiting New Quarter Park and all that it has to offer.

View from floating dock in New Quarter Park

2. Go to a Civil War Redoubt

There are Civil War Trails across six states in the U.S. with over 1,500 sites, and Williamsburg, VA is home to several Civil War Trails sites. You can visit two different Civil War Redoubts at Redoubt Park in Williamsburg, VA to see the embankments that the troops hid behind during battle. The historical signage helps the site come alive.

Find the location here.

Note: If redoubts are your jam, Yorktown has several Revolutionary War Redoubts that are more immersive and more beautifully maintained.

3. Have a drink on the Social Terrace at the Williamsburg Inn 

The Social Terrace at the Williamsburg Inn

The Social Terrace is one of the most inviting and unique places for a drink in Williamsburg, VA. The Social Terrace is complete with an outdoor bar, a fountain, cozy couches and chairs, firepits, and heaters in cooler weather, and it overlooks Golden Horseshoe’s Gold Course golf course.

If you happen to be visiting around the holidays and it’s too cold to sit comfortably outside, you should still stop by the Williamsburg Inn to marvel at its stunning holiday decorations.

Additionally, the Inn has an indoor bar and indoor dining options that are a lovely alternative on foul weather days. Just note that eating a meal at the Inn will be a silver dollar splurge.

The Social Terrace at the Williamsburg Inn

4. Go to Sweethaven Lavender

A fairly new addition to Williamsburg, Sweethaven Lavender is a lavender farm that’s open from spring through summer, for a brief period during fall, and again for a brief period around Thanksgiving and into early December. 

Sweet Haven Lavender
Photo courtesy of Sweethaven Lavender

While the weather-dependent lavender is only in bloom for about a month, Sweethaven has both English and French varieties which bloom at different times, thus you can typically witness the bloom around mid-late May through July.

If you visit during the lavender bloom, you can pick your own bouquet for $8. Zinnias are also available for picking seasonally. 

Sweet Haven Lavender
Photo courtesy of Sweet Haven Lavender

While at Sweethaven, be sure to check out the sheep, chickens, and bees; fresh lavender baked goods and candies, locally churned lavender ice creams, and lavender lemonade and sweet tea; and the Mercantile with more lavender products than you could ever imagine, including skincare, soaps, home fragrance, sprays, and candles.

Additionally, check out the live music lineup on their website if you want to coordinate your visit accordingly. 

Sweet Haven Lavender
Photo courtesy of Sweethaven Lavender

Outside of the lavender season, Sweethaven is a beautiful destination to visit for Harvest Days in the fall (late September – late October) and Christmas festivities (late November – early December). Be sure to check out their website for the latest information about what they have on offer.

Admission pricing ranges from FREE to $12 depending on the time of year, event, and age of the attendee. Reservations are strongly encouraged and may be required depending on the event.

5. Eat at Charley’s Airport Restaurant

Not only is Charley’s a unique thing to do in Williamsburg, VA, but it’s a unique experience you may never get anywhere else in the world! A restaurant with outdoor seating on the tarmac of an airport?? Yes, that’s Charley’s!

Watch the planes take off and land before your eyes while indulging in their delicious eats, including their homemade breads and pies, which they’re most known for. You’ll find everything from soups to salads, hot and cold sandwiches, a daily special, and their oh-so-yummy pies. They offer whole pies to-go with 24-hour advanced notice.

Charley’s is open for lunch daily and for dinner on Fridays only, with live music outdoors on Friday nights seasonally. Charley’s has indoor dining for those who prefer it and for times of inclement weather.

6. Try Virginia Peanuts

Virginia Peanuts are one of four types of U.S.-grown peanuts, primarily grown in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, and Virginia Peanuts have the largest kernel size of all four types. However, they only make up approximately 15% of the total peanut production in the U.S., thus even more reason to sample Virginia peanuts on your visit to Williamsburg in case you can’t get your hands on them at home.

The Peanut Shop has been roasting peanuts for 50+ years and is conveniently located in Merchant’s Square. The most famous flavor is the handcooked Virginia peanuts lightly salted. However, you will find so many other varieties out for sampling while browsing the Peanut Shop, including seasoned, candied, chocolate-covered (more than just milk chocolate), and gluten-free. Virginia Peanuts make great gifts for family and friends.

7. Have a beach day

Did you know there are beaches in Williamsburg? There are actually beaches in Williamsburg, Jamestown, AND Yorktown since each of these areas are located on either the James River and/or the York River. 

Some beaches include College Creek Beach (closest to Williamsburg, on the Colonial Parkway), Jamestown Beach, and Yorktown Beach. Be careful of the rip currents, especially at College Creek, as people have sadly died there.

Yorktown Beach is the most substantive and has the most amenities, with bathrooms and many options for food and drink a short walk away. Jamestown Beach has bathrooms; rinse stations; a seasonal concession stand that sells things like hamburgers, hot dogs, and ice cream; and kayaks for rent. College Creek Beach has zero facilities, including no bathrooms. 

All of the beaches are FREE to visit and have FREE parking, except for Jamestown Beach where parking is charged for non-residents of James City County and the City of Williamsburg from Memorial Day to Labor Day and is $5/vehicle on weekdays and $10/vehicle on weekends and holidays. 

8. Visit a plantation

While not a pleasant part of America’s past, several of the plantations in the area have historical significance and are quite opulent and magnificently maintained.

Berkeley Plantation dates back to 1726 and was the site of America’s first Thanksgiving. It was also the home of Benjamin Harrison V, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and three times governor of Virginia, as well as the birthplace and ancestral home of his son and grandson, both of whom were presidents of the United States.

Another fabulous option is Historic Shirley, Virginia’s first plantation dating back to 1613! Shirley is still an active family farm to this day and home to the 11th and 12th generations of the Hill Carter family.

Adjacent to Historic Shirley is Upper Shirley Vineyards, a beautiful waterfront spot for wine tasting and dining, complete with indoor and outdoor seating as well as a large green space great for picnic blankets and lawn chairs.

Note: both of these plantations are about 40-60 minutes from Williamsburg, depending on what part of town you’re leaving from.

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Go For A Walk

9. Walk the path between the Williamsburg Inn and the Golden Horseshoe Gold Course Clubhouse

Williamsburg Inn

The easiest place to park for this trail is at the Williamsburg Inn (parking fees apply). Once parked, enter the Inn and exit through the back doors of the lobby onto the Social Terrace.

Trail connecting the Williamsburg Inn to the Golden Horseshoe

Follow the bricked trail to the right and enjoy the beautiful grounds of the Williamsburg Inn, the Golden Horseshoe Gold Course, the Spa of Colonial Williamsburg, a quaint Gazebo, the fish pond, and the Clubhouse at the Golden Horseshoe where you can shop at the Pro Shop or dine and imbibe at the Clubhouse Grill overlooking the famed golf course. The path is paved and is less than 0.25 miles in length in one direction.

Trail connecting the Williamsburg Inn to the Golden Horseshoe

10. Walk around Lake Matoaka

Lake Matoaka is a scenic lake on the campus of the College of William and Mary. It was named after Matoaka, Chief Powhatan’s daughter whose nickname was Pocahontas. There are 10 miles of trails in the surrounding area. You can see an overview of the trails here and they are also detailed on Google Maps by a green dashed line.

11. Walk the Bassett Trace Nature Trail

Bassett Trace Nature Trail

Bassett Trace Nature Trail is a 1.4-mile beautifully wooded and shaded trail that leads from adjacent to the Williamsburg Inn to the Golden Horseshoe Green Course Clubhouse.

Along the trail, you’ll see signs for a self-guided interpretive nature walk to aid in your identification of local flora and fauna (approximately 40 bird species can be spotted), you’ll pass a pond, and one of the holes of the Golden Horseshoe golf course on your way to the Green Course Clubhouse.

The trail is not ADA accessible, as there are steps, hills, and uneven terrain. The trail is well signed and trees are marked with orange dots. 

You can purchase grab-and-go food items from the limited menu at the Green Course Clubhouse Grill and watch the golfers while you replenish your energy stores before taking the trail back to your starting point.

Alternatively, you could walk the trail in the reverse direction and eat or drink in Colonial Williamsburg before returning.

View from Bassett Trace Nature Trail

Park either at Rockefeller’s Bassett Hall (FREE), at the Williamsburg Inn in one of the rows farthest to the left (fees apply- $1-2 per hour), or at the Green Course (FREE), if walking the trail in the reverse direction.

Note: the trail is not clearly marked on Google Maps and Google Maps only shows the trailhead near the Williamsburg Inn and next to Rockefeller’s Bassett Hall, so if you’re not familiar with the trail, you should either start from the traditional trailhead, ask someone at the Green Course, or use these coordinates to find the start of the trail if leaving from the Green Course: 37.2549262, -76.6922444)

12. Walk over the picturesque Crim Dell Bridge

Located on the campus of the College of William and Mary, you’ll find the picturesque Crim Dell Bridge. Rumor has it, that if two lovers cross the bridge together and kiss at the crest of it, they will be together forever.

While you’re there, explore more highlights from the William and Mary campus, including the nearby Sunken Garden, the Tyler Family Garden, the Wren Building, and the Memorial to the Enslaved.

Visit A Park

13. Freedom Park

Freedom Park is extremely rich in history with its origins dating back to the 1650s. It was the site of a 17th-century place of residence, the Revolutionary War Battle of Spencer’s Ordinary in 1781, an 18th-century cemetery, and one of the earliest Free Black Settlements in America (1803-1850).

Freedom Park offers many FREE events, such as the black settlement tours, full moon hikes, and seasonal nature craft events. There are also three historically accurate recreated cabins with period furnishings onsite.

The park claims 600 acres which includes 20+ miles of mountain bike trails; 2 miles of multi-use trails, one mile of which is paved and ADA-accessible; the Williamsburg Botanical Garden with 800+ species of native vegetation; the GoApe Treetop Adventure Course and Treetop Junior Course complete with ziplines, obstacles, and Tarzan swings (fees apply); an Interpretive Center with artifacts and an interactive kiosk; an outdoor classroom; a playground; restrooms; as well as picnic shelters and meeting room space available for rent.

The Williamsburg Botanical Garden hosts special events and monthly educational programming.

14. Check out Kidsburg at Veterans Park

If your kids need to run out some energy, head to Kidsburg. Kidsburg is a 30,000 square-foot playground with a colonial settler theme including a 17th-century replica ship with sounds of the sea, a canoe, and a cannon that sounds a large ‘boom’, among 2 zip lines and lots of other fun features. There are separate play areas for children ages 2-5 and 5-12.

In addition to Kidsburg, Veterans Park boasts 19 acres and is home to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial monument as well as walking trails, basketball courts, pickleball courts, a sand volleyball court, an off-leash dog area, restrooms, and picnic areas.

15. York River State Park

York River State Park is a unique place where freshwater and saltwater meet, resulting in a diverse habitat for both plant and marine life as well as fossils and artifacts dating back to the Native Americans and Colonial Settlers. As such, it’s a research reserve that has been studied in detail. The park’s visitor center as well as programs and activities highlight the rich history, wildlife, and preservation of the area.

The park has over 40 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails through the forests and along the marsh and York River shoreline. There are also opportunities for both fresh and saltwater fishing, use of seasonal boating and recreational equipment rentals, playgrounds, and picnic shelters.

16. Powhatan Creek Park and Blueway

Powhatan Creek Park and Blueway is noted by the Natural Resources Inventory to be the most biodiverse creek on the peninsula. The creek affords access to the Jamestown River at Jamestown Island boasting picturesque views of Historic Jamestown; Greensprings Plantation; and Mainland Farm, the oldest continually cultivated farm in America.

The park is open 24 hours a day and has 5 fishing/observation piers as well as a boat launch for small, non-motorized boats such as kayaks and canoes. No information regarding entrance and/or parking fees is noted online.

17. New Quarter Park

New Quarter Park is home to the floating dock mentioned above in #1, but there’s so much more to the park to explore!

This 545-acre park has miles of hiking and mountain bike trails, Civil War redoubts, playgrounds, an 18-hole championship disc golf course, 2 basketball half courts, a softball field, a sand volleyball court, horseshoe pits, 4 picnic shelters for group rental, 11 other smaller shelters, a campfire circle, as well as kayak and canoe rentals. Kayak and canoe rentals are available from April until the end of September/beginning of October.

There’s an audio tour that you can access by calling a phone number and dialing in the number of each site location.

The park is FREE to visit although some amenities incur a fee. New Quarter Park also offers free and paid events, including FREE bird walking tours and movies as well as paid archery classes, sunset kayak tours, and other fun and creative seasonal events, to name a few.

Campfire circle at New Quarter Park

The park gate is open daily from dawn to dusk from either April 1 or the first Friday in April, whichever occurs first, through the last Sunday in October.

During winter, the park gate is closed from Monday to Thursday but open from Friday to Sunday from dawn to dusk. However, you can still access the park on foot or by bike when the gate is closed, just note that facilities, like the bathrooms, will be closed and no staff will be onsite.

There is FREE parking both outside of the gate and inside the gate.

Reflection of a bicyclist at golden hour

18. Waller Mill Park

Waller Mill Park is complete with hiking trails (both wooded and asphalt), boating (kayak, canoe, pedal boats, jon boats), a disc golf course, a playground, a fishing pier, a boathouse store selling fishing essentials, picnic shelters, a dog park, and ball fields. The entrance fee for vehicles is $2.

Book tours and activities in the historic triangle below through Get Your Guide!

While some of the following are not off the beaten path, they are unique experiences that you shouldn’t miss when you’re in Williamsburg, VA.

Colonial Williamsburg

19. Watch a Fifes and Drums march

Watching a Fifes and Drums march is such a unique experience that you really should not miss when in Williamsburg.

While there are other Fifes and Drums corps reenactments in other historic areas in the United States, including Yorktown and towns near Boston, the Williamsburg Fifes and Drums corps is professional and substantial.

The corps was founded in 1958 and consists of boys and girls aged 10 to 18 who play the fife, an ancient wind instrument, and drums (snare and bass). Fifes and Drums marches are FREE to the public. Check the schedule here.

20. See a Colonial house with a river running under it

The Cabinetmaker in Colonial Williamsburg

A house with a river running under it? Yes, you read that right!

The Cabinetmaker is located inside the house at 305 E Nicholson St. with a river running beneath! It is a cool site to see and a dream home if you ask me. I’ve actually never been inside, but the outside sure is something to marvel at. If you purchase admission to Colonial Williamsburg, you can enter the house to witness the historic trade of cabinetmaking.

21. Visit Bruton Parish Episcopal Church

Bruton Parish Episcopal Church is a historic church, formed in 1674, that’s still active and operational to this day. You can visit for FREE and sit in a pew where notables like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson sat. They have docents that will tell you a bit about the history and answer any questions.

A pew at Bruton Parish Episcopal Church where George Washington sat

22. Visit the first American hospital devoted solely to the mentally infirm

The Public Hospital of Williamsburg began admitting patients with mental illness in 1773, marking 250+ years of mental healthcare in the United States. There’s a museum inside the public hospital with fascinating exhibits and docents who help to bring the history alive.

However, since reopening after Covid, the hours of operation haven’t been standardized. It’s best to check the website linked above for updated information on opening days and times. Mental Health Awareness month occurs in May every year, so there are always lots of special programs on offer during that time.

23. Eat a “ginger cake” from the Raleigh Tavern Bakery

The Raleigh Tavern Bakery, located in the restored, historic colonial area of town directly behind the Raleigh Tavern, is the most unique bakery in Williamsburg. Baked goods are made fresh daily in an authentic wood-fired oven by bakers dressed in period costumes.

They are most famous for their ginger cakes (cookies). It’s truly an experience you can only get in Williamsburg and one not to be missed!

Ginger cakes from the Raleigh Tavern Bakery in Williamsburg, VA

Read more about the best places for dessert in Williamsburg, and bookmark the post for your trip.

24. Visit a Colonial archaeological dig site

Often, one or more archaeological digs are underway in Colonial Williamsburg at any given time. Stop by an active archaeological dig site to witness ongoing historical discovery happening before your eyes.

In addition to visiting current excavations, you can also tour labs where further discovery takes place and to learn what previous projects have revealed. 

Note: you may be able to observe the archaeological dig sites from afar for FREE, however in order to enter the sites and labs, you’ll need to purchase admission to Colonial Williamsburg.

25. Visit a historic trade shop, or several

There are 20+ historic trades and skills that have been preserved in Colonial Williamsburg and are available for observation. Some of these historic trades include coopers, joiners, wheelwrights, wigmakers, and blacksmiths, to name a few. 

Most of the historic trade shops require an admission ticket, however, you can observe the outdoor carpentry area from the road without having to pay admission. If you want a closer look and further explanation, you’ll have to show your admission ticket to enter the carpentry area.

Carpenter's Yard in Colonial Williamsburg
Outdoor Carpenter’s Yard visible from East Nicholson St.

26. Tour the Governor’s Palace and Gardens

If you choose to tour any of the Colonial buildings in Williamsburg, prioritize a trip inside the Governor’s Palace. As you step inside, you’ll get a glimpse into the grandeur of royal authority when the colonies were still under the British crown.

Two post-colonial governors of Virginia, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, also lived in the residence prior to the relocation of the capital to Richmond.

Tours commence every 15 minutes from 9 AM to 4 PM with self-guided discovery available from 4 – 5 PM. The beautifully manicured gardens on the property are a site to see as well. This site requires admission to Colonial Williamsburg.

27. Eat or Drink at a Colonial Tavern 

There are several taverns in Colonial Williamsburg serving up 18th-century fare by waiters in period costumes. You may even be entertained by FREE Colonial entertainment and games while you imbibe and feast on things like hot buttered rum, peanut soup, potato dumplings, and hoe cakes.

Christiana Campbell’s Tavern, specializing in seafood, was George Washington’s favorite place to dine.

28. Observe the handmade wreaths during the holidays

Starting Thanksgiving week, you’ll be able to admire the beautifully handcrafted wreaths adorning all of the doors in Colonial Williamsburg.

The wreaths are made of a wide variety of ingredients including foliage, flowers, feathers, fruits, herbs, spices, and even things like antlers, shells, and Colonial-style beer steins. I even saw a Colonial shoe utilized once!

Each wreath is different and there’s even a long-standing contest since 1937 that takes place to judge which wreaths are the best. The wreaths stay up through the Christmas season and are taken down sometime after the New Year. You can even purchase wreaths that are made in the same style. Find more information here.

29. Silver dollar splurge: Take a horse carriage ride

Horse carriage rides anywhere are quite possibly the most romantic way to see a place, and taking a horse carriage ride down the historic streets in Colonial Williamsburg is no exception.

Sit back, relax, and be transported to ages past as you listen to your Colonial interpreter while he steers the carriage past historic buildings and provides a new vantage point for observing the Colonial town, just as the locals would have done hundreds of years ago.

Horse Carriage Ride in Colonial Williamsburg

While it won’t be inexpensive, the memory is sure to last a lifetime. The cost is per carriage, somewhere in the ballpark of $80, although possibly more expensive now. Inquire at any Colonial Williamsburg ticketing location for the most current information on availability and pricing. 

Carriage rides occur daily, weather permitting, and can only be purchased the day of the ride. You can purchase tickets at any Colonial Williamsburg ticketing location, such as the Lumber House Ticket Office which opens at 8:45 AM daily. It’s best to arrive when they open as tickets sell out quickly.

Good Dimes Tip: If you purchase the Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket or are an annual pass holder, you get a $15 discount on carriage rides. Note: your ticket must be valid on the day you wish to take the carriage ride.

30. Drive to Jamestown and/or Yorktown on the scenic Colonial Parkway

This historic 23-mile-long roadway connects Williamsburg to both Yorktown and Jamestown in opposite directions. As National Park Service property, it’s much more than just a road. It’s a “memorial roadway of the American colonial experience” that integrates the region’s cultural and natural resources, as described by the National Park Service.

Colonial Parkway

The Colonial Parkway is a three-lane road, one lane in each direction and a center lane for passing at demarcated areas. The Colonial Parkway is unique in its construction out of stone and the fact that it does not have painted lane markers, but rather a small groove between each lane.

The parkway is also free from commercial development and has attractive brick bridges, all resulting in a beautiful and calm roadway experience, complete with sweeping views of both the York and James Rivers.

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Go To Jamestown

31. Visit the Jamestown Glasshouse and watch glass-blowing demonstrations

Jamestown Glasshouse

The Jamestown Glasshouse is the site of the first British attempt at manufacturing goods in America. Despite the attempts being unsuccessful in terms of profitability, glassblowers in period costumes continue to keep the tradition alive, blowing a variety of glass objects just like they would have done hundreds of years ago.

There’s a gift shop where you can purchase the items created at the Glasshouse. Some of the items are rather reasonably priced and would make a nice souvenir or gift for a loved one. You can also place orders online.

Glassblowers making glass at Jamestown Glasshouse

Before leaving, be sure to walk the short loop trail from the Jamestown Glasshouse back to the parking lot to see the remains of the original glasshouse and furnace dating back to 1608 and learn more about the history of glassmaking in Jamestown.

Good Dimes Tip: Walk to the left edge of the beach adjacent to the Jamestown Glasshouse and observe the first 3 (recreated) ships to sail to Virginia – the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery  – don’t miss this, especially if you don’t plan on paying to enter the Jamestown Settlement to see them up close.

A sighting of the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery from the Jamestown Glasshouse
A sighting of the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery off in the distance

32. Drive or bike the Jamestown Island Loop 

You can take either the short (3 miles) or complete (5 miles) route around the island. There are lots of informational signs as well as beautiful views. Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles that nest in the area.

There’s a short out-and-back trail (0.2 miles one way) that leads to Black Point where you can stand on the edge of the James River and watch the tide roll away.

Good Dimes Tip: Other than the serene beauty of this drive, I love the fact that you can get a good look at all three recreated ships! This is another great viewing option for those not planning to visit the Jamestown Settlement and see the ships up close. After finishing either the short or complete loop, you’ll get a good vantage of the ships off to the left just after leaving the island when heading back towards the Jamestown Settlement. There’s a pullout where you can stop the car and get out for photo ops. Bring binoculars if you have them for the best viewing experience!

33. Take the FREE ferry from Jamestown to Surry 

The FREE Jamestown-Scotland car ferry is a fabulous way to view Jamestown from the water, just as the settlers would have done as they traversed the James River by ship, looking for a viable place to set up camp.

Additionally, you’ll get a unique vantage point of the first 3 (recreated) ships to make it to America as well as Jamestown Island, Glass House Point, Historic Jamestowne, and Jamestown Rediscovery, including the statue of Captain John Smith – all for FREE! 

Jamestown-Scotland Ferry

The ferry operates 24 hours per day 365 days per year and departs adjacent to the Jamestown Settlement and Jamestown Island. The ferry schedule does vary, especially during the winter and on holidays, so be sure to check the current schedule through the link above. 

While you’re in Surry, stop by Hampton Roads Winery for wine tasting, indulge in homemade ice cream or go produce picking at College Run Farms (blueberries, pumpkins, etc.), or eat seafood at the water’s edge at The Surry Seafood Company before catching your return ferry back.

34. Walk or bike along the Virginia Capital Trail

The Virginia Capital Trail is a 51.7-mile fully paved trail that connects Virginia’s original capital (Jamestown) with Virginia’s current capital (Richmond). Along the trail, you’ll find 45+ attractions including parks, plantations, museums, and historical sites as well as bathrooms and 50+ places to eat.

Of course, there are many more obvious and popular things to explore in Jamestown, including a visit to the Jamestown Settlement where you can tour the living history museum which includes a recreation of the 1607 English settlement, its 3 (recreated) ships that sailed the ocean blue, and a Powhatan village. You’ll need the better part of a day, or at least a half day minimum to do the Settlement justice. 

State Flags outside of the Jamestown Settlement
State Flags outside of the Jamestown Settlement

You’ll need an additional couple of hours to explore Jamestown Rediscovery and Historic Jamestowne, which are part of both Preservation Virginia and the National Park Service, incurring fees from both organizations.

Entrance to this area of Jamestown includes access to the “Old Towne” which includes what’s believed to be the original site of the James Fort, the Statehouse, the Voorhees Archaearium Archaeology Museum, the historic tower, the memorial church, the statues of Pocahontas and John Smith, New Towne, the Ambler Mansion Ruins, the waterfront Dale House Cafe, the Jamestown Island drive, and the Jamestown Glasshouse.

When you pay for entrance to Historic Jamestowne, you also gain access to the Yorktown Battlefield. A 7-day pass is $30. However, if you have a valid National Park pass, you can get the 7-day pass for just $15. Tickets purchased online from Historic Jamestowne must be redeemed at the Historic Jamestowne Visitor Center before they can be used at the Yorktown Battlefield. 

Go To Yorktown

35. Pay a visit to an 18th-century home with a cannonball lodged in the brick facade

The Nelson House, home to Thomas Nelson, Jr., one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, underwent heavy hits during the battle of Yorktown. While the cannonball unfortunately isn’t original to the Revolutionary War, the authentic cannonball damage appearing as dents in the brick is still apparent today.

The house was used as a hospital to house wounded and sick soldiers during the Civil War, some of whom carved their names and initials into the brick surrounding the front door which you can still see today.

36. Check out Cornwallis’ Cave

Legend has it that this cave is where the British General Cornwallis retreated during the Revolutionary War to avoid bombardment during the Battle of Yorktown. Although the mouth of the cave is gated off, you can still walk up to it and peer inside.

There’s a small, steep, wooded path to the right-hand side where you can climb on top of the cave and peer through the trees towards the beach and York River. The cave is FREE to visit.

37. Take a sunset sail or a Pirate Adventure Cruise on a beautiful Schooner resembling ages past

Sail along the York River and take a step back in time as you pass by the Yorktown Battlefield where America won its independence, admire the Victory Monument standing tall, enjoy a unique vantage point of the Yorktown waterfront, keep your eyes out for osprey and dolphins, and perhaps even sail past a naval submarine or warship. You’ll have the opportunity to stand at the helm and play Captain for a moment in time.

38. Don’t miss the FREE concert series on “the Green” at Yorktown Waterfront

The FREE concert series runs from summer through fall and in the past has fallen on either a Thursday or Friday. Check the event website for the most updated information.

39. Take a ride on the FREE trolley

The trolley is a great way to tour historic Yorktown, as it stops at all the main attractions, including the Yorktown Battlefield Visitor Center, the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, and Yorktown Beach, among many others.

The trolleys are ADA compliant, operate from March through December, and are temperature controlled, so you can enjoy AC in the summer and heat on the colder days. You can download the trolley map and app to track the trolleys in real time.

40. Eat a waterfront meal

Despite having so much waterfront land in the historic triangle, Yorktown is the only place with waterfront restaurants that are open to the public without an entrance fee (unless you take the ferry to Surry and eat at The Surry Seafood Company, mentioned above in #33).

Larry’s is the most affordable “waterfront” dining option in Yorktown, however, it’s located across the street from the beach with limited outdoor seats that overlook the parking lot and beach in the distance.

Water Street Grille is much more upscale, but that hefty bill does come with a fabulous waterfront view.

Alternatively, pack a lunch and enjoy it on the beach for a Good Dimes meal!

Ticketing Information For The Historic Triangle (Including Discounted And FREE Admission)

If you have several days to spend in the area and are interested in visiting multiple historic sites, consider purchasing the America’s Historic Triangle Ticket which is $119 for adults and $53 for ages 6-15 in 2023.

America’s Historic Triangle Ticket gives you access to three living history museums and two national parks over 7 days (Jamestown Settlement, Historic Jamestowne, Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown Battlefield, and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown). Additionally, there is a 4-site value ticket and a combination ticket offering. 

FREE and discounted admission to some or all of the historic sites in the historic triangle are available to the following groups or on the following days:

  • Local residents can visit Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown for FREE with proof of residency. 
  • Virginia residents can purchase an American Heritage Annual pass for a full year of access to the Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown at the price of a single-day admission.
  • People who receive food assistance (SNAP benefits) can visit Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown for FREE.
  • The Colonial National Historic Park is typically FREE for all visitors on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the first day of National Park Week, The Great American Outdoors Act, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day. Check here for current information and dates. The Colonial National Historic Park includes the Yorktown Visitor Center and Battlefield Tour Roads, Jamestown Visitor Center, Glasshouse, Island Drive Tour Road, and recreational access along the Colonial Parkway.

The above list of conditions for free and discounted admission is not exhaustive and may change without notice. There are countless ticket options and combinations to consider when visiting the historic triangle, as well as different exceptions and discounts for each individual historical site. However, I’ve tried to do my best to highlight some considerations you don’t want to miss when you’re planning your trip.

Enjoy getting off the beaten path on your trip to the historical triangle! Please comment below if you have any additional information or updates to share with the Good Dimes community about any of the activities highlighted in this post.

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