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Williamsburg Neighborhoods

The Historic Triangle consists of three distinct sites—Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown—all within a roughly 15-mile radius of each other. Within Williamsburg's city limits are the College of William & Mary, the actual city of Williamsburg and the Historic District, which is the main event as far as most travelers are concerned. All in all, the Triangle is physically compact, although the glut of things to see means you should give it some time for exploration.

Around Williamsburg

Few people spend the entirety of their vacation within just Williamsburg. Within 15 miles are the major sites of the Historic Triangle, including two parks dedicated to Jamestown and two parks dedicated to Yorktown. That’s not even counting a mix of other sites, including theme parks like Busch Gardens that only nominally have anything to do with history. Chances are you’ll be driving between all of the above, but there are bus links between all of these sites which can save you road hassle and headache. That said, the wooded landscape of the Virginia Peninsula has plenty of physical charms absent its history and manmade amusements.

William & Mary

Just a block west of the Historic Area is the College of William & Mary, one of the oldest institutes of higher education in the U.S. and one of the main reasons there’s a city in these parts. Indeed, the school’s idiosyncratic Wren Building was always something of an architectural counter and older brother to the Capitol building. The W&M campus is a traditional and frankly very pretty college campus of red brick buildings slathered in creeper and ivy, park-like greens and squares, and an intellectual buzz besides. Most visitors are surprised to learn the school is public.


Williamsburg proper is an attractive enough town, full of leafy lanes and the municipal spinach that allows places like Colonial Williamsburg to exist. Being a city whose two main economic sectors are a university and a theme park, there’s lots of history hitting you over the head, even away from the costumed interpreters—a lot of the businesses out here have some vague Colonial theme. The main reason to get out here is to find a hotel: Some of the best lodgings in the Triangle are located here. Traffic sometimes gets clogged, especially when lots of visitors are in town.

Historic Area

When people think of Williamsburg, they’re generally thinking of this 301-acre plot of preserved and renovated buildings that, together, constitute the main tourism draw of the Historic Triangle. The main thoroughfare through the Historic Area is Duke of Gloucester Street; the first Capitol building in British America was built here in 1705. In the 1920s, with the financial backing of John D. Rockefeller, some 720 buildings were demolished to make way for the Historic Area. What is now officially Colonial Williamsburg is a living museum, although even the descriptor "living" doesn’t capture the vibe here. The Historic Area is in many ways a functioning town within a town, with its own shops, restaurants and economy. It’s an easily walkable space, but on hot summer days you may want to seek the shade of a restored brick building or one of the many trees that line the dusty pedestrian lanes.