It’s time to plan your spring visit to Colonial Williamsburg, and I have some local photography advice to help you capture photos you’ll love while you’re here.
You can get a head start by ordering your tickets online. (Link below). You can order tickets to special performances as well and make reservations for dinner. If the evening performances or tours look interesting to you, be sure to book them ahead, too. The ghost tours are very popular.
While you’re busy getting ready for your spring visit to Colonial Williamsburg, be sure to download the Colonial Williamsburg Explorer app.
Fair warning: There is a lot to see and do so if you can allow two full days for your visit. When you check the daily schedule, you’ll notice that buildings are open on different days, too.
Arrive a day early for your spring visit to Colonial Williamsburg.
To start your visit, plan to arrive a day early and spend time in the Visitor Center.
There, you can pick up a paper map with the current schedule printed on the back. I like to have one of these even though I can print one from home. It even includes the location of the restrooms!
Be sure to watch the movie, Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot, too! I first saw it when I was nine years old. If you have time, you can take a walk to the Historic Area to look around and get your bearings.
Start the day of your visit early: Parking
If you’d like to take advantage of free parking, park at the Visitor Center and walk into the Historic Area to be there before the tourists arrive. You’ll need to be parked by 8:15 a.m. The shuttle buses don’t start running until 9 a.m. (You’ll understand why I suggest this timing in the next section.)
The lot next to the Art Museums is also free. The walk from there is much shorter.
When I visit, I park in one of the paid parking lots instead. The first two hours are free and then you’ll pay using an app. They are more convenient. The lots closest to the Lumber House Ticket Office are near Merchant Square.
Where to go first on your spring visit to Colonial Williamsburg:
An insider secret is that the quietest time in Colonial Williamsburg is from 8:30-10 a.m. The buildings open at 9 a.m. and the interpreters are out and about walking to work or doing their chores.
For photographers, this is the best time to visit. You’ll be able to capture outdoor photos with fewer harsh shadows and far fewer tourists. This is why you should plan your visit to the Visitor Center for an earlier day and why you should walk into the Historic Area.
Plan to be at the Lumber House Ticket Office on Duke of Gloucester Street, near the Palace Green, at 9:00 a.m. That’s where you’ll buy your ticket for a carriage ride. They are only sold on the day of the ride and are first come, first served, so they sell out quickly. Below, I’ve included a link to an article about the huge tree in this photo. It’s a famous Compton Oak.
While you’re there, be sure to ask where the baby animals in the rare breeds program are pastured. One of the advantages of visiting Colonial Williamsburg in the spring is that this is the season when the babies are born. Take a walk over to get photos of the Leicester Longwool Sheep with their lambs and the American Milking Devons. You’ll also see these cattle pulling carts during the day.
Then, set off to explore and shoot the outsides of the buildings and the gardens. Keep your eyes open for photo opportunities. The carriages make great subjects, as do the interpreters. You may even see George Washington ride by on a white horse. If you have an iPhone, try capturing the action of the Interpreters using Live Mode or Burst Mode.
There are also outdoor theaters to visit, as well as occasional street performances.
Where to go next on your spring visit to Colonial Williamsburg:
As the sun gets higher in the sky, it’s time to visit the houses and trades in the Historic Area. They are lit by the window or door light, so it helps to have the bright sun shining. Watch for moments when the interpreters are looking toward the windows. This will evenly light their faces for photos.
You’ll need a high ISO to compensate for the low indoor light. I recommend setting your ISO to Auto for the day.
Another local tip is to be at the restaurant you’ve chosen before it opens for lunch. Reservations aren’t taken for lunch and the restaurants fill up quickly.
By now, you’ve realized that there is much more to see on your spring visit to Colonial Williamsburg.
Don’t forget to take a tour of the Governor’s Palace and allow time to visit the gardens in the back.
If you’re only visiting Colonial Williamsburg for one day, you’ll want to head over to the Art Museums. They remain open until 6 p.m.
Time to relax:
By now, you’ve earned a little time to sit and reflect on your busy day and maybe have a quick look at the photos you’ve captured.
The perfect place to unwind is the Williamsburg Inn. You don’t have to be a guest at the Inn to visit for a drink. When you enter the Inn, you’ll turn right to enter the hallway to the Terrace Restaurant. Explain to the host that you’re just here for a drink unless you’ve booked a table for dinner.
Buy a drink in the bar and ask for directions to the Social Terrace, which is an expansive outdoor terrace overlooking the Golden Horseshoe Golf Course and the gardens.
If you’d rather stay inside, you can take your drink back to the elegant lobby and sink into one of the comfortable chairs. (Hint for another season: It’s a wonderful place to enjoy on New Year’s Eve, too!)
Now it’s your turn:
Here’s a link to information to help you plan your trip: https://www.colonialwilliamsburg.org/visit/know-before-you-go/
You can learn more about the rare breeds program in this article: https://www.colonialwilliamsburg.org/learn/rare-breeds/
Click here to learn more about the rare Compton Oak in the photo of the carriage:
If you can’t make it to Colonial Williamsburg this spring, you can read about a fall visit in this post: https://www.carolinemaryan.com/fall-visit-to-colonial-williamsburg/