TORONTO ‚ With the loonie still in recovery mode, it’s no surprise that many Canadians are choosing close-to-home vacations this year. Hoping to make its way to the top of the list of nearby travel destinations is Williamsburg, Virginia, easily accessible via a 10-hour car ride from Toronto or a quick four-hour flight from Toronto to Richmond, its closest international airport.
Corrina J. Ferguson of Visit Williamsburg recently visited Toronto to help spread the word about the destination’s many exciting offerings this year. Calling it a “family destination,” Ferguson notes that Williamsburg – which together with Jamestown and Yorktown make up Virginia’s ‘Historic Triangle’ – is mostly known for its role in American history. Linked by the scenic 23-mile Colonial Parkway, these three colonial communities will go down in the history books as the site of America’s first lasting English settlement and where the final battle of the American Revolution was won.
To breathe new life into a centuries-old past, Yorktown is set to debut the new American Revolution Museum by year’s end, a US$50 million venture that features both indoor and outdoor facilities. In addition to an expansive 4D theatre complete with rumbling seats timed to coincide with filmed cannons, the museum will also include an outdoor army encampment so that visitors can experience life in the barracks over 200 years ago.
But it’s not all about colonialism and historic battles in Williamsburg; the destination also boasts a thriving brewery scene, with the new Virginia Beer Company leading the way. Having opened just three weeks ago, the company’s brewery, taproom and beer garden offer a rotation of limited edition beers. Plus, there’s a Canadian connection: co-founder Chris Smith is Toronto-born, whose brother, Ben Smith, plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Silver Hand Meadery in Williamsburg is also creating big buzz following its grand opening at the end of 2015. Mead is one of the most historic fermented drinks found on earth, blending the creativity of craft beer with the elegance of wine. It’s created by fermenting sugars found in honey, with additional herbs, spice and fruits added to create unique flavours. Silver Hand brews meads that range from dry to sweet, and offers honey tastings throughout the week.
To complement Williamsburg’s ales and spirits, a renewed focus on farm-to-table cuisine is taking the destination by storm. Ferguson, after noting how early colonists had to build gardens from scratch after arrival, cheekily notes that Williamsburg is the “original site” of the farm-to-table movement. She says that many gardens today are fashioned the same way as those built by colonists over 400 years ago in an effort to pass along historic techniques to following generations.
When asked when is the best time to visit Williamsburg, Ferguson says late spring (to coincide with the Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival), and mid-November for the Williamsburg Harvest Celebration, now in its second year. During this time, the entire city comes to life with food truck events, chef dinners and other culinary highlights.
Also not to be missed is Christmastime in Williamsburg, which puts on an extravagant holiday spectacle at Busch Gardens Williamsburg every year. Recently recognized as a “must-see event” by the American Bus Association, Christmas Town features over eight million twinkling lights, heartwarming shows, holiday shopping, and an all-new ice show starring Canada’s own Elvis Stojko.
Other new offerings this year include the newly renovated The Williamsburg Inn, which reopened in march, new Cottages on The James by Kingsmill Resort, and a multi-million-dollar spa renovation to Williamsburg Salt Spa.
With its close proximity to Washington D.C. (three hours by car) and Virginia Beach (one hour by car), Ferguson suggests a multi-city itinerary that bookends Williamsburg with D.C.’s cosmopolitan flair and Virginia Beach’s sand and sun. A family-friendly vacation that includes big city life, history and the beach sounds like the perfect close-to-home vacation.
For more information on travel to Williamsburg go to visitwilliamsburg.com.