Williamsburg Stories and Tips

Colonial Williamsburg's Many Taverns

Christiana Campbell's Tavern Photo, Williamsburg, Virginia

During a visit to Colonial Williamsburg, guests have many options to dine as the gentry did during the 18th century. Taverns of the time were not only a place for meals but also to lodge. Today there are a couple of taverns in Williamsburg where visitors can totally immerse into the colonial era. Perhaps the most well known is the Williamsburg Lodge which is located just outside of restored part of the city.

In the restored area, guests do have the opportunity to step back in time to enjoy lunch or dinner while also learning about the games and entertainment of colonial times. All of the taverns feature costumed staff who serve and speak consistent with that of the colonial period. After learning to march like revolutionary soldiers one cool damp evening, we stopped in at Chowning’s Tavern for a hot beverage. When we entered, people were enjoying the music played by several gentlemen in the front room. In the back where we sat, there were several others playing a board game that looked much like backgammon. Chowning’s does offer “light garden fare” during the afternoon in their backyard terrace dining area during the afternoon. In the evening (after 5pm), light snacks and sandwiches, as well as ale and mixed cocktails, are available. No reservations are needed or accepted for Chowning’s Tavern.

Shield’s Tavern is a typical 18th century coffeehouse type experience, offering hot beverages and pastries and other light “carry-with” items, this is also the location for several interpretative experiences including Shield’s Summer Feast on Friday and Saturday nights and the ever popular “Tavern Ghost Walks” which is offered nightly at 7 and 8:30pm. Both of these events require advanced reservations.

For more formal dining, Colonial Williamsburg has Christiana Campbell’s Tavern and the King’s Arms Tavern. Both require reservations for evening meals and are rather pricey (entrées between $15 and $25). Campbell’s Tavern is known for their seafood and is only open for dinner. King’s Arms, however, is also open for lunch and has more traditional offerings of the colonial times. Each features costumed servers who add ambiance and memorable experiences for all who take in one of the taverns on Duke of Gloucester Street. For specific hours of operation, consult with the “Colonial Williamsburg This Week” guide available at the visitors’ center.

One special opportunity exists Thursday through Monday to have breakfast with historical figures from Williamsburg’s past. “Breakfast with Citizens of the Revolution” is held at the King’s Arms Tavern at 8:45 and 9am. Reservations are required and do sell-out early.

Perhaps the most well known of the Williamsburg taverns is the Raleigh Tavern. Also located on Duke of Gloucester Street and directly across from Kings Arms Tavern, Raleigh Tavern has its place in American history as where in 1774 the Virginia Burgesses decided to rebel against His Majesty’s Governor Dunmore who had dissolved their governing body in order to maintain control over the British Colony. This is the place that during a visit to Colonial Williamsburg guests have the opportunity to take in many of the reenactments of events that had profound impact on Virginia and America over the course of over 100 years. While it is not open today for food service, their bakery located at the rear of the tavern is open and has beverages and snack items for sale throughout the day.

One of the best values if you are planning on spending several days in Colonial Williamsburg is the collectable souvenir mug. For $20 you get the large mug and have free refills during all visits in 2007. Several of the taverns in the restored area are "refill locations" for the mugs.

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