Storied traditions plus spectacular light shows make this small town a holiday wonderland.

Williamsburg, Virginia
Credit: Courtesy of Visit Williamsburg

At any given time of the year, “charming” is a word you might use to describe the town of Williamsburg. Once home to one of the first colonial settlements in America—and now the site of the world's largest living history museum celebrating that past—Williamsburg lures visitors with its quaint cobbled streets, stately brick buildings, and natural, rural beauty.

But as enchanting as the southeastern Virginia city is year-round, nothing tops the magic of experiencing Williamsburg around the holidays. From its historic main street to its world-class theme park, the entire town comes alive with Christmas spirit—and, happily, celebrations are anything but understated. Here are five spectacularly festive sights you’ll only find in our country’s colonial capital.

Grand Illumination

Bundle up and get cozy at Williamsburg’s premier Christmas celebration honoring the centuries-old tradition of illuminations (or the firing of guns and fireworks to honor significant holidays and events). At this annual extravaganza, locals and visitors gather to experience Colonial Williamsburg at its most whimsical, with torch-lined streets and buildings decked out in holiday flair (including more than 2,500 wreaths). Carolers performing classic holiday tunes and vendors serving up cocoa and hot buttered rum add to the old timey ambiance; the evening culminates in not one, but three magical fireworks shows designed to light up the night sky in every direction.

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens

If you measure holiday spirit in the amount of lights one puts up, Williamsburg is perhaps the most spirited place to be. With more than 10 million lights, the town’s Busch Gardens theme park boasts one of the largest holiday displays in North America. And that’s just one of the allures of Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town attraction. Here, holiday revelers can also find carolers, holiday-themed shows, a Polar Express-like train ride, a Christmas tree maze, and over-the-top decorations adorning some of the park’s most famous rides.

Holiday Parades Featuring the Fifes and Drums

We all have our favorite classic Christmas tunes, but have likely never heard them performed like this. Throughout the month of December, Colonial Williamsburg’s celebrated Fifes and Drums band will provide the Christmas-themed soundtrack to a slew of holiday events. Clad in traditional 18th-century attire, the ensemble honors the tradition of military music from the Revolutionary War.

Williamsburg Inn
Credit: Courtesy of Visit Williamsburg

A Bevy of Bedazzled Christmas Trees

For a small town, Williamsburg has more than its share of glitzy evergreens. The city’s flagship, a towering eye-catcher in Merchant’s Square (AKA downtown Williamsburg), is illuminated every year on the Winter Solstice—a community event that includes musical performances and a storytelling of the first Christmas tree in America. Others can be found throughout Williamsburg, including at the Governors Palace, the outlet mall, and within a number of the town’s cozy inns, including the elegant Williamsburg Inn (pictured above).

A Candlelit Wonderland

Think Yankee Candles can only freshen up your holiday with the sweet scents of Christmas? Not in Williamsburg. The city is home to one of just two enormous Yankee Candle Villages nationwide, which transform into mini holiday theme parks come Christmastime. The Williamsburg outpost hosts its own tree lighting celebration, complete with kiddie train rides, make-your-own-ornament classes, and complimentary milk and cookies.