Updated: May 20, 2020
Williamsburg, Virginia is the charming colonial town that is home to The College of William and Mary. There is a lot to love about the town voted the South's Best Small town by Southern Living where I get to live in 9 months out of the year, which is why I am so excited to feature Williamsburg as the first post in my new Favorite Places and Spaces series. I am so excited to hopefully return back on-campus this fall after a semester of social distancing and online learning. All of the places featured below will include a link if you are interested in learning more or supporting those which have online storefronts!
My first favorite place in Williamsburg is a classic, The Cheese Shop!
Located on the Duke of Gloucester Street (DOG Street) this is a must-visit for any trip to Williamsburg. Every William and Mary tour guide steers parents and potential students here for good reason. Beyond the front of the store which offers delicious sauces, a cheese counter and dry foods store, the back sandwich counter is where the magic happens. My go-to order is turkey and provolone on French bread, with sprouts, tomatoes, and house dressing! Pro tip- order ahead online to avoid the crazy lunch rush!
My next favorite place in the 'Burg is on William and Mary's Campus- Lake Matoaka.
Tucked on one end of campus back behind the Business School, Lake Matoaka is a calm oasis away from the hustle of the library, academic buildings and dorm life. Especially in the early fall, bring a picnic blanket and snacks and a speaker to enjoy Virginia's best season. William and Mary students can also rent kayaks and paddle-boards from the school.
Of course, this list is dominated by amazing restaurants, but who is surprised? This small colonial town has grown to become a culinary destination for many- with amazing restaurants featuring fresh seafood, French fare, Italian, and more! My favorite restaurant in Williamsburg for special occasions and Hot Chocolate is the swanky Blue Talon Bistro.
Featuring free entrees on your birthday for W&M students, free hot chocolate during the first snow and the most decadent chocolate mousse, you can't go wrong with Blue Talon. The restaurant is so cozy, and features a constant loop of Julia Child videos playing above the bar. Having celebrated my birthday here two years in a row, there's no better place for a celebration!
Mermaid Books is, you guessed it, a Mermaid themed bookstore. Tucked down a staircase and behind a beautifully painted door, this shop sells new and used books along with other goods.
For me, few things bring me as much joy as wandering an independent bookstore. Regardless of whether you leave with a purchase or empty-handed, places like this nourish the soul. Please check them out- small local businesses need our support now more than ever!
Next on the list is the Williamsburg Inn (particularly at Christmas).
While I could never justify staying here overnight (it costs a pretty penny), it is a magical place with beautiful grounds. I find it the most beautiful around the holidays when the front of the Inn is decked out in Christmas lights. Grand Illumination, the annual fireworks show and celebration marking the beginning of the holiday season in Williamsburg, is an especially beautiful time to explore the Inn with a hot chocolate in hand.
The next Williamsburg spot that holds a place in my heart is the Fife and Drum Inn,. a boutique historic inn in the heart of Merchant's Square.
I first stayed here in the fall of my senior year of high school when I came up to the Burg for my admissions interview. Tucked above classic stores like the Campus Shop and Aroma's Coffeehouse, this family owned inn feels like stepping back in time. Especially for families of students visiting, this is the closest inn/hotel to campus (the view pictured above is actually a W&M freshman dorm!).
Below the Fife and Drum are the Spice and Tea Exchange (amazing hot chocolate mixes!), Aromas Coffeehouse, the Campus Shop, a Tervis store and Retros (a burger/fries joint). Across the street is Blue Talon- the amazing French bistro listed above! For any visitors, this would be my recommendation of where to stay.
A Places and Spaces for Williamsburg would not be complete without mention of another favorite restaurant and date-night spot, Culture Cafe.
What can I say about Culture Cafe, besides the fact that it is perfect? Every item on the menu is wonderful, the coffee is to-die for (lavender oat milk lattes!) and they are very accommodating to dietary and allergy needs. The interior is amazing- two levels of quirky furniture, fun art and doors hanging on the walls, and string lights everywhere. If you come here, make sure to ask what's on the Trashcan Flatbread for the day!
Colonial Parkway and the beaches that line it is one of the most beautiful outdoors spots in Williamsburg. Parkway drives at sunset are pure magic- they are one of the things I miss the most about being in the 'Burg!
All in all, Williamsburg is a really special place and I am lucky to spend my undergraduate years in this little colonial town. If you are fortunate enough to pay Williamsburg a visit, or to be a student at William and Mary, make sure to look around and experience all that the 'Burg has to offer- from colonial streets to fine dining to vibrant coffee shops. Stay tuned for more Places and Spaces posts coming soon :)