This charming historic town goes all out for Christmas.

virginia williamsburg christmas busch gardens
This charming historic town goes all out for Christmas.
| Credit: Busch Gardens Christmas Town

Here in one of America's first planned cities—and capital of the Virginia Colony from 1699 to 1780—you can enjoy an old-fashioned Christmas with candlelight and natural greenery or a glitzy one with more twinkle and sparkle than you can shake a candy cane at.

Central to the city is Colonial Williamsburg, a longtime living history museum (think period restaurants, shops, and carriage rides hosted by costumed interpreters). Back in the 1920s, the Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin and his supporter, John D. Rockefeller Jr., saved and preserved 80 of the original historic structures in Colonial Williamsburg and rebuilt others. So you and your crew can literally step back in time.

You've probably heard about the gorgeous wreaths adorning Colonial Williamsburg during the holidays, but did you know that Busch Gardens Williamsburg (pictured above) transforms into Christmas Town, with tons of holiday shows and events set in a sparkling 100-acre theme park? Consider the numbers: It takes a team of 100 people some 10,000 hours to put up 10 million Christmas lights, 20,000 ornaments, 1500 freshly cut Christmas trees, 3 miles of garland . . . Yep, it's festive alright and will remain so through January 5, 2019. Bonus points: Busch Gardens is offering a new Christmas Town Express this year, so you and your pals can recapture your childhood with an "all aboard" moment on the train.

Christmas Town is just one of many things to do in Williamsburg, Virginia, and the surrounding area during the holidays.You can also eat well and do some serious shopping.


If you choose an official Colonial Williamsburg hotel, you can take advantage of special holiday packages that include tickets to the historic area and to Busch Gardens Christmas Town, free transportation to and from, and more. The Williamsburg Inn is lovely but pricey, especially in December, so unless the elf on your shelf has an impressive credit card limit, travel with girlfriends who don't mind sharing rooms and try to plan your trip for the first week in January, when the inn's online rate calendar is showing lower numbers. For something easier on the wallet, check out the Williamsburg Lodge, which is also convenient to everything. The Fife and Drum Inn doesn't belong to the "official" group of properties, but it's a nice-looking B&B right between Colonial Williamsburg and William & Mary, the historic college chartered in 1693.

Eat & Drink

We hear candlelit Christina Campbell's Tavern is a must for an authentic Colonial dining experience. Other local favorites include the gourmet coffee and pastries at Aromas, amazing cakes at the Black Bird Bakery, breakfast all day at Shorty's Diner, house specialties from Giuseppe's Italian Cafe, fresh seafood and to-die-for desserts at Fat Canary, "serious comfort food" at the Blue Talon Bistro, cocktails at Copper Fox Distillery and Hounds Tale bar, and blasts from our brewing past at Alewerks Brewing Co., which has developed four varieties adapted from 18th century brewing manuals, and Silver Hand Meadery, where you can sip the honey-based fermented drink that likely got our forefathers tipsy. Wine lovers, don't miss The Williamsburg Winery, where you can also dine and even stay the night at Wedmore Place.


Two words, ladies: spa day. Check out the luxe treatments and serene surroundings of The Spa at Colonial Williamsburg. For retail therapy, shop Merchants Square, one of America's first planned shopping districts. Discover handmade pottery, jewelry, and more at A Touch of Earth, or go all in for designer deals at Williamsburg Premium Outlets, where you can shop for Kate Spade, Brighton, The North Face, L'Occitane, Oakley, Michael Kors, and more. Bundle up (seriously, y'all, break out the Cabela's because Virginia is COLD in December) and take a ghost tour, or just crank up the heat in your rental SUV and make a day of exploring Colonial Parkway, which connects Virginia's historic triangle: Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. And if it's snowing? All bets are off. Find the nearest roaring fire, a bottle of Virginia wine, and settle in for some female bonding.

WATCH: Hang Out and Enjoy a Hallmark Movie Marathon

With Test Kitchens Pro Ivy Odom hosting, you know this will be a festive binge-watch. We just hope somebody marries a prince masquerading as a starving artist before it's over with.