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Colonial Williamsburg operates the world’s largest living history museum, interpreting Virginia’s 18th-century capital of Williamsburg. At the time Williamsburg was the capital of Britain’s largest, most populous and richest colony. It was also a flashpoint of the American Revolution.

In that period more than half the city’s population was Black, most of them enslaved. The city was a major trade and diplomatic hub with indigenous tribes in lands extending west to the Mississippi River.

With more than 600 restored or reconstructed original buildings, two world-class art museums, many educational outreach programs for students and teachers, lodging, a range of culinary options, retail stores and gardens, the Colonial Williamsburg experience is extensive.

Innovative and interactive experiences highlight the relevance of the Colonial period to contemporary life and the importance of an informed, active citizenry.

Educational opportunities

For more than 70 years Colonial Williamsburg has been a premier school field trip destination. Plus, the organization offers schools help in addressing educational standards and individually tailoring an experience that fits unique classroom needs.

Garden and interpreter, Colonial Williamsburg
Credit: Colonial Williamsburg

“Once your students step into the Historic Area they are fully immersed in 18th-century Virginia’s colonial capital city,” said Joseph Straw, senior public relations manager at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “Our interactive programs and cross-curricular investigations will engage students’ minds. They will see and experience life as the founding families did in the 1700s. Our professional tour guides will make their learning fun!”

Colonial Williamsburg works with educators to create a customized tour. Whether educators wish to cover math, science, English or history, the professional educators at the site will partner with them to create a tailored, individualized experience.

“Your students will discover everything from the global economy to African American life, from fashion trades to agriculture and livestock, to government and politics,” Straw said. “We want to personalize your experience to meet your curriculum needs.”

Student favorites

Student groups tend to enjoy the 18th Century Daily Life Program. In this program they see what their lives would have been like in the past. The students explore everyday life, work, and play in 18th-century Williamsburg. Tours are tailored to the age group of the students, whether they are in elementary, middle or high school. The tours give young people a feel for what their life would have been like had they lived in Williamsburg then. Additionally, they may join in hands-on activities such as drawing water from a well or trying on period fashions.

Colonial Williamsburg
Ken Schwartz, blacksmith, Colonial Williamsburg
Credit: Colonial Williamsburg

Our hope is that students go home with a deeper understanding and enthusiasm for our shared history that, along with their memories, will last a lifetime,” Straw said.

For student groups to get the full experience, a full day with a six-hour guided tour is recommended. But Colonial Williamsburg also recognizes schedules are limited. So a three-hour guided tour experience is available, and it can be customized based on specific needs of a group.

Health and safety

Colonial Williamsburg has adapted the experiences it offers guests to ensure their health and safety, which is the attraction’s highest priority. The living history museum’s expansiveness has allowed it to move many of its most popular offerings outdoors. This includes historic trades and other interpretation. The larger sites, including the Capitol, Governor’s Palace and the expanded Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, remain open. And they are operating in accordance with state health guidelines.

The foundation is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. Philanthropic support and revenue from admissions, products and operations sustain its educational programs and preservation initiatives.

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David Hoekman is a former newspaperman on a quest to tell the stories of the world’s various places and cultures in compelling ways. He especially enjoys learning and writing about the business of group travel. His favorite destination is wherever he is going next and his travel tip is to always pack an emergency granola bar or two.