I am really busy. My girlfriend, Stephanie, is busy, too. Planning a vacation together can be hard because we often don’t have the ability to leave town for a week or more. But sometimes we just need to get away.
Without much hassle. Away to somewhere fun with good restaurants. Thank God Williamsburg is only 45 minutes away (if I-64 behaves).
Williamsburg is cool because it can be so many different kinds of weekend trips. You can spend the whole time at Busch Gardens and Water Country and stay in a hotel nearby—the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel (50 Kingsmill Road) is close and is also the site of MarsCon, one of the most fun science fiction conventions in the state.
You can also immerse yourself in history and visit Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown—the historic triangle. Day and weekend passes to the attractions are available.
But we prefer to chill out and eat good food. We try to leave early enough on Friday to skip the traffic and head right to La Tienda (1325 Jamestown Road), a Spanish grocery open Thursday-Sunday. On weekends their bar, La Barra, is open and serves great tapas and drinks. We usually buy a few snacks in the store for late night munchies.
There are more than 100 hotels and bed and breakfasts in the area. We usually go the bed and breakfast route and often stay at The Boxwood Inn (708 Richmond Road). It’s just a few blocks from Merchants Square, William and Mary and the historic district. The Boxwood has a great breakfast and its rooms are named after presidents who attended or are affiliated with the College. Our favorite room is the Washington Carriage House room, which features a large whirlpool. If the Boxwood is booked, I like A Williamsburg White House (718 Jamestown Road, pictured below). Yes, I am a presidential history geek, but besides the great name, the White House has a friendly living room stocked with baked goods, wines, ports and sherries.
If B&Bs aren’t your thing, the Fort Magruder Hotel & Conference Center (6945 Pocahontas Trail) is a nice hotel that’s close by, and I have a special place in my heart for the more budget-minded Holiday Inn Patriot (3032 Richmond Road). It’s a little farther away, but is owned by a very nice Indian family that goes out of the way to make guests happy. Of course, there are the many hotels and inns owned by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
Friday night is our night to go to one of several restaurants. One year, we went to the Regency Room in the Williamsburg Inn (again, history.org for everything affiliated with The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation). It’s the place to go if you enjoy a large staff attending to your every need. I think we had one person who was just in charge of making sure we had enough cold butter. But, the butter—and the food is excellent.
Another favorite is a French restaurant, Le Yaca (1430 High Street). Not as fussy as the Inn, Le Yaca has some of the tastiest food in the city. I usually eat Soupe à l’Oignon (their mountain-style French onion soup), followed by Le Filet de Boeuf (with the creamy Roquefort port wine sauce) topped off by soufflé au Grand Marnier for dessert. No matter what, get that soufflé.
Saturdays, we spend the day in and around Merchants Square and the historic district. There’s a farmers market in spring and summer filled with local produce and products. But the main attraction for us is lunch at The Cheese Shop (410 W. Duke of Gloucester Street). It’s a family-owned place that serves a lot of tourists, but people watching is fun. We usually get a cheese plate with two or three cheeses, a sandwich to split (think Taste Unlimited), and a bottle of something sparkly from the wine cellar while we eat slowly as we chat, talk to locals, and watch the parade of people outside.
While at The Cheese Shop, you can check on your reservation for The Fat Canary for dinner that evening. The same family owns both establishments, and a brother, Tom, has created what is likely the best restaurant in the state. Please eat there. We have been on several trips to Williamsburg where we just ate there both nights. If they have a savory bread pudding or soufflé as a side, get it. Many people just order whatever the special is, no matter what. If you can, ask for Tink to be your waitress. She’s fun. It’s a high-end place, but not at all stuffy—just a place that celebrates the best of the culinary arts.
Between meals on Saturday, we walk the grounds of the historic district and check out the sights. You can wander the campus-like museum without a pass, but do need one to enter most of the buildings. There’s also a lot of shopping to do in Merchants Square, including candy shops, peanut shops and upscale retail. But my favorite place to linger is Mermaid Books (421 Prince George Street #A, and below). It’s a basement-level used and rare book shop where I can get lost, and if you collect old postcards, you can spend hours sifting through their offerings (just ask Stephanie—I am not sure she is as excited about old postcard shopping as I am).
We often have Sunday brunch at Blue Talon Bistro (420 Prince George Street), known for their French-style comfort food, and is also a great place for dinner or lunch. Their chicken and mushroom crepes are excellent as is their mac and cheese. The burger is one of the best I’ve had. Their drinks are wonderful, and if you’re there on a Saturday, try the short ribs. Their sister restaurant, The Trellis, is known for their Death by Chocolate, but their newer sibling Dog Street Pub (401 W. Duke of Gloucester Street) is a place I really want to go. Whenever we walk in, we can’t get a table, but we have had good drinks there.
In case you’re wondering, there are a lot of great smaller places to eat and drink, places college students frequent when their parents aren’t in town. My favorite is the Green Leafe Cafe (765 Scotland Street). Maybe I like it so much because once, years ago, I beat a dozen NASA engineers in a beer chugging contest, downing pints of Newcastle. I never knew I was good at chugging beer, until they invited me over to play.
Williamsburg has always shown me a good time. And Stephanie and I are already excited to return sometime this summer.
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