For as long as it takes to absorb the period costumes, historic buildings and tavern fare, all visitors are forgiven for leaving the twenty-first century behind in exchange for the year 1775 on Colonial Williamsburg's main thoroughfare, a street frequented by horse-drawn buggies, bewigged men and a sea of women in bonnets. This is, after all, one of the country's most atmospheric living history museums, the year prior to American independence its focus and the place to win even history-haters over to the days of yore.
In all, there are 88 original buildings here, in addition to several hundred conscientiously reconstructed structures which cumulatively provide sight-seers with an all-in colonial experience. Framing either side of pedestrianized Duke of Gloucester Street are the lion's share of attractions open to the public, including a reconstruction of the old Capitol, the restored Governor's Palace (which occupies a prime spot north of Market Square) and a number of trade shops like an apothecary and printing office; there is a fee charged for admission to these buildings and the daily reenactments, though casual passers-by can at least enjoy a stroll down a stretch of Gloucester Street and lunch at one of the local taverns.
Just a quick walk away from the Merchant Square side of Gloucester Street lies the (also historic) College of William and Mary; enjoy an amble across the campus and a detour through the restored Wren Building en route to this institution's fine arts facility, the Muscarelle Museum of Art. Nearby, there is also a decorative arts museum (Wallace Decorative Arts Museum) and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, which offer a glimpse of historic art and artifacts (from both Britain and American) and works by rural artists respectively.
Though there's enough to see and do in Colonial Williamsburg to easily keep entertained for a very full day at least, there's still more to do in the area. An easy drive from the center find amusement venues ala Busch Gardens Europe and Water Country USA, as well as an Anheuser-Busch Brewery and factory outlets.
Five million year old fossils were found at York River State Park nearby, which sprawls over 2,500 acres and flaunts several good fishing holes in addition to 25 miles of trail. Yorktown, at the east end of the Colonial Parkway (a 23-mile long scenic route that links Yorktown to Williamsburg and Jamestown), also has a number of historic sites and a pleasant renovated river-front area dotted with half-moon beaches.
To the west find Jamestown, the first permanent European colony in America established in 1607 and now part of the Colonial National Historic Park. Jamestown Settlement offers visitors a glimpse of early life here through a reconstructed fort, replicas of ships like the Susan Constant and teepees in an Indian camp, all sites manned by period-costumed re-enactors.
Finally, for those eager for still more sights historic in nature, head for the genteel plantations punctuating expansive estates along the James River which can be visited on tours or during seasonal events.
Williamsburg is located in Eastern Virginia about one hour southeast of Richmond, VA, off of I-64.