Yes, Colonial Williamsburg is gorgeous. And the tours available in the historic homes and buildings there are not to be missed. As are tours of the America’s first settlements, Jamestown, and Yorktown, two nearby cities of great historical importance for the U.S.
But these tours and visits can cost money. Sometimes not a little bit of money either.
Yet Williamsburg is full of free things to do. Keep your credit or debit card in your wallet or billfold — the following activities won’t cost you one penny.
One of the first things on your to do list of free activities is a ride on the Jamestown Ferry. Are you surprised when we say free and ferry in the same breath? Most people are.
But the 15-minute ride across the James River definitely is free. It’s also priceless, for you’ll get a terrific view of the shoreline. In fact, you’ll be getting a good idea of what the first European settlers saw when they first arrived in the area more than 400 years ago.
The ferry leaves from Glass House Point and crosses over to the Scotland Wharf. It’s a bus/auto ferry and runs 24-hours a day, so if you’ve a hankering at 2 in the morning for a star-lit ride across the river, your whim may be easily indulged.
To see the area as the founders of Jamestown did in 1607, travel the northbound ferry — the view in that direction is more natural. If you’re heading for the area’s “Historic Triangle” (Historic Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown), the southbound ferry is your best bet.
One minor caveat — commuters use the ferry to travel to and from work, so depending on the time of day, you may find yourself waiting in line for a long while.
If you ride the ferry on a summer Saturday, before or after your trip, check out the Williamsburg Farmer’s Market located in Merchant’s Square. Open from early May through late October (it’s also open a few days around Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays), the market provides visitors the chance to leisurely shop for some of the freshest fruits and vegetables, the finest meats and cheeses, and the tastiest baked goods and sweets. From peanuts, to jams and jellies, to seafood and wines, to Greek pastries, the farmer’s market has it all. Even if you purchase nothing — and, frankly, we’d find it hard to believe that anyone could resist buying something — experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of the market will make for a lovely way to pass a few hours. Traveling with your beloved dog? Feel free to bring your furry friends to this Farmer’s Market!
Let’s say you did purchase some things at the farmer’s market — such as a loaf of bread, some wonderful cheese and a bottle of wine. Why not grab a lawn chair or spread a blanket on the lawn in Merchant’s Square for the free Summer Breeze Concert Series? Held in July and August in Merchant’s Square on Duke of Gloucester Street, the series features all types of music, from jazz ensembles to the USAF concert band.
Finally, just walking around outside Colonial Williamsburg’s historic buildings is a great experience –and it’s free. In fact, walk through the homes’ backyards — you can go through any gate so long as it doesn’t say “closed to the public.”