How We Made 12 Hours in Williamsburg, VA Worth It


Daniel and I made the 8-hour road trip to Williamsburg, VA for a dear friend's wedding last weekend. We arrived on Friday evening and left on Sunday morning, so we really only had a single 12-hour period of time to fill. And - though the wedding was, of course, worth the 8-hour trek alone - Daniel and I had never been to that part of Virginia before, so we wanted to fill our time with as much adventure as we could.

So what did we do in Williamsburg that made the 16-hour round trip totally worth it?

1. Visited the restaurants rated highest by locals.

Yelp is a godsend. We only had the time (and budget) for 3 meals in Williamsburg, so I wanted to make them count. For the first dinner out, I searched "southern comfort food" and found the restaurant rated most highly by Virginian locals: Food for Thought. It was absolutely divine. Daniel and I got an appetizer (crab chowder), two entrees (him: pot roast with sweet potato fries and asparagus, me: meatloaf with mashed potatoes and cheese grits) and a dessert (a strawberry and nutella crepe) for $50 (including tax and tip.) For us, this was a bit of a splurge. But the quality of the food, service and company was absolutely worth it. (I say "company" because we made friends with the people sitting around us--apparently this whole "being friendly" notion is sort of a Southern thing.)

For our second meal out (the evening after the wedding), we went to Cookout. We had heard from a lot of our college friends that Cookout is the place to go because it's delicious and cheap. Daniel and I definitely agree with the "cheap" part - $4.99 for an entree with 2 sides and a shake. Other than that, it wasn't anything special; but we were glad we got to partake in that part of Southern (college) culture. And I will say without shame that I do enjoy a fast food burger every now and then!

For our last meal out, we visited a place recommended to us by a Williamsburg local that I knew in college: Pierces the BBQ joint. (Southern comfort food, and BBQ. We did our little "trip to the South" right.) We went here on Sunday afternoon after sleeping in and then checking out of the hotel at 11am. The place was hopping! It was a tiny BBQ joint squeezed in between a bunch of Southern churches that had just let out--so the people waiting in line were all wearing nice clothes and holding Bibles. The food was great--Daniel and I both got pulled pork sandwiches with a side and a cookie (he got fries, I got potato salad.) I never find good potato salad in NYC, so I had high hopes for this  Southern joint, and it didn't disappoint. The servings were so huge, we didn't finish; and we didn't pay more than $18. It isn't sit-down dining, though - you order and then wait for your number to be called.

2. Visited Colonial Williamsburg

Of course, if you only have 12 hours in Williamsburg, VA, what are you going to do? You're going to visit Colonial Williamsburg! We got up early on Saturday morning and decided to walk through the town and see what we thought about it. Because we had such little time, we didn't even consider purchasing the $40 ticket to get unlimited access to the park - but, if we ever return, I don't think we'd purchase them even then. I'm no history buff, so the stroll through Colonial Williamsburg we had was the perfect amount of time spent there. I got to take in the environment, enjoy the lack of city grit, watch the horse-and-carriages, walk through the markets and gift shops, people-watch, and interact with the "interpreters" (employees in costume.) We ate lunch at King's Arms Tavern - the dining room was in a historical home, and the waiters and waitresses were all dressed in Colonial garb. (This was one of the top-rated places for tourists to eat, which is why it isn't included in the point above.)

3. Went on a Ghost Tour

This was probably the funnest thing that we did. At midnight in Colonial Williamsburg, we joined a group of 33 people and followed a guide around the town. It was cold, pitch black and totally silent in the town as our guide took us to each haunted house, the prison and the graveyard. The creepiest moment was when our guide was explaining that "even if you take pictures of this house that turn out completely black, don't delete them. Upload them to your computer so you can zoom in and see if you caught anything." So I pulled out my phone to do just that. I had already taken a few photos that had turned out completely black, but I figured I should try again since he brought it up. When I held my phone up to take a picture of the "most haunted house in America" - my phone went completely blank. It flashed twice, then died. (It had had nearly 15% left.) He actually said that this happens a lot (#creepy #hegetspaidtosaythis). But when I plugged my phone in later that night and flipped through my pictures, I saw the 3 completely black ones I had taken early in the night. But the last picture - the one my phone died while taking - there was a creepy orange blur in it. What is it? I'll leave that up to you to decide.

4. Completely embraced the culture shock.

The longer I spend in the city at one time, the harder the culture shock hits when I leave. Daniel and I have been in the city since the holidays (typically we try to get out once a month, but with our jobs this year, that's been hard.) So leaving the city and going to a place that isn't York, Pennsylvania, I couldn't believe the amount of culture shock I experienced! Perhaps it's Southern culture, or perhaps it's just not being in city culture. But these were the random cultural differences that I noticed:

  • Random people talk to you. A lot. Too much. I couldn't fill my cup at a fountain, pick up my drink at Starbucks, sit at a table in a restaurant, or wait in line for a bathroom without someone striking up some small-talk. And it surprised me every time.
  • The bathrooms are huge.
  • When you actually do engage in small-talk with the people beside you, you eventually discover that they know the person your friend is getting married to. #smalltown
  • There were BBQ joints, "Good Friday Fish Fry" advertisements and cigarette shops on every corner.
  • There were confederate flags. (Wut.) But if there weren't confederate flags, then there were a wholeeeee lot of American flags.
  • When you're sitting at a crowded restaurant, people don't ask to sit at your table. No matter what, they just won't do this.

Restraunt Logistics: 

  • Food for Thought is directly downtown, beside the Williamsburg General Store and the Ripley's Believe it Or Not museum. Their address is: 1647 Richmond Rd, Williamsburg, VA 23185.
  • Plates average $13-$17, but are completely worth it. 
  • Pierces is a little bit outside the "downtown" area. You have to drive past more trees and churches to get to it. Their address is: 447 E Rochambeau Dr, Williamsburg, VA 23188.
  • Pierces sells its own merch and BBQ sauce. We picked some of their sauce up to give as presents later in the year! 

Colonial Williamsburg Logistics: 

  • A single-day adult pass is $40 when purchased on the internet, and a multi-day pass is $50. 
  • The passes give you access to all of the performances, museums and historic buildings. However, Daniel and I found enough to do without spending a dime on the pass. The town is open for anyone to walk through, as are the markets and gift shops - both colonial and modern alike. (I guess I'd recommend getting the pass to those of you who are more fervent history buffs than we are.) 

Ghost Tour Logistics: 

  • We definitely recommend the ghost tour. Just remember that it is late, and it is long. Boy did I have to go to the bathroom at the end of the two hour tour. 
  • Tip the tour guide. We were the only ones that did this! But he was grateful. 
  • This specific company offers 2 different tours: the Ghost Tour, and the Extreme Ghost Tour. We went on the "extreme" ghost tour; they advise that kids don't go on that one. However, I didn't find it entirely too "extreme." It was just late! 
  • You can book tickets on their website or at the Williamsburg General Store in downtown. The tours will not be cancelled if there is rain; however, they will be cancelled if less than 8 people show up. We went on a cold night in March and we were with 33 people, so I'm not sure how often they get such low attendance. 
  • Their website is: Visit it to see more creepy testimonials!