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What was life like in 1775? How did people react to the Declaration of Independence? How did medicine, blacksmithing, and clothes-making look in the 18th Century? Want to take a fun family holiday and get the answers to these questions at the same time? Then take a trip to Colonial Williamsburg.

By Humberto Moreno (Colonial Williamsburg Uploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Humberto Moreno (Colonial Williamsburg Uploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Buildings and Trades

One of the best parts – in my mind – of Colonial Williamsburg is the ability to see eighteenth century trades being practiced. Which are the best for children? The blacksmith and silversmith are two of them. For kids who like medicine, the apotheocary is fascinating. The milliner is great for kids who want to learn about clothes. The wigmaker and shoemaker are also a lot of fun. The brickmaker is also great for kids, but is only open (and making bricks) at certain times of the year.

The Powell House is specifically geared towards younger children, but is also only open at certain times. At least one kitchen is open most days, and that too is very interesting. While you cannot try the food, watching them cook it (and learning about some of the dishes that were popular in the late 18th century.

Spend some time going through the homes as well.  Because many of the homes had children, there are toys and other artifacts from children in them. The Wythe house has chickens in the back, which are fun.

Finally, check out the gaol. Is it kid-friendly? Well sure, to an extent. But it’s a lot of fun.

By Humberto Moreno (Colonial Williamsburg Uploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Humberto Moreno (Colonial Williamsburg Uploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


There are many interesting programs at Colonial Williamsburg that help bring history to life for kids.

Lanthorn Tours

This evening program is not offered to the general public often, but when it is, you should jump on it. Guided by a lanthorn, a guide will take you to four of the trade shops, and talk about how they operated. You’ll also get general knowledge and stories. Why are these different from seeing the shops during the day? When you go during the day, you see each one on its own. However, in the evenings, the lanthorn tour will link all four of the shops into a common theme.

Courthouse trials

Want to be a lawyer? Ever dream of the excitement of sitting on a jury without all of that pesky missing work? The courthouse in Colonial Williamsburg runs a very entertaining program where members of the audience get to assist in the trial and then act as the jurors.  Will you find the defendant guilty? Will you be able to decide based upon the evidence, and the standards of the 18th Century?

Games on Palace Green

When it is time to get the kids running around, take them to the Palace Green. There, staff from Colonial Williamsburg will be hosting an informal game session, with fun games that would be played by kids in the 18th century. Hoop and stick was my favorite, but there are always others. Options vary based upon which staff member is around.


Every year, Colonial Williamsburg releases a new game around its Revolutionary City program. The program integrates modern technology, cell phones, and social media into the mission of teaching history and engages children. It has been very highly regarded and there is a reward for success. It gets children involved as actors, learning about history, instead of just passively watching it take place.

No matter what type of programs you are looking for, Colonial Williamsburg has one for you. It is a great family trip because it is so easy to include everyone.

Have you been to or planning to visit Colonial Williamsburg?