by Wendy Irvine
Attempting to figure out which of the six Colonial Williamsburg hotels will best meet your family’s needs can be a head scratcher. With a moment’s explanation, however, Providence Hall Guesthouses make sense.
Quick back story: the Rockefeller couple who rescued the historical town with a mere $70 million — back when $70 million really bought you something — quickly realized they needed a high-end stay for their wealthy friends. So the couple built the lavish, four-star Williamsburg Inn in 1937. Thirty years later, the good folk who run Colonial Williamsburg decided to add to the original Williamsburg Inn property — but without so much as touching the original architecture (a major no-no in a town renowned for maintaining the past).
The powers-that-be wisely created a scenic, 3-story set of 48 guest rooms, located about a three-minute walk from the original Williamsburg Inn. The new rooms, conceived in the mid ’60s, opened as the Providence Hall Guesthouses in 1967.
So what, exactly, is the difference between the Providence Hall Guesthouses and the Williamsburg Inn? If you’re hoping for a four-star experience with opulent rooms and tubs surrounded in marble — you want the Inn. If you prefer more privacy and space without frills, you want the Providence Hall Guesthouse.
Our Editor Loves
- High-end resort amenities
- Generously sized rooms with pullout sofas
- Central location in Colonial Williamsburg
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
While the Guesthouses provide an impressive swath of privacy, the rooms are not over-the-top fancy like those at the neighboring Williamsburg Inn. At the same time, the Guesthouse rooms aren't what I'd call basic.
The spacious rooms -- most of which are 500 to 600 square feet -- offer a king bed or two full beds and a pullout queen sofa. The bathrooms are just bathrooms -- no sunken this, marble-surrounded that -- but they're kept very clean, with two vanities on hand. They also include flat-screen TV's.
Guest rooms don't come with refrigerators, but one request to the helpful front desk staff, and a fridge will appear. A substantial Kuerig coffee station is available, offering everything you need for a delicious shot of caffeine in the morning.
Note: The Providence Hall Guesthouses have three floors with wide staircases, but no elevators. Two ADA equipped rooms sit on the first floor.
The Griffin has a superb location. Rooms are clean, comfortable and quiet. We had a delightful balcony overlooking a pond and enjoyed viewing birds and turtles. We walked to everything happily abandoning our car. Checkin and checkout were efficiently managed in minutes. Lastly, our stay was an outstanding value. I can hardly wait to return.
This hotel got great reviews, but other than its proximity to Colonial Williamsburg, I can't understand why. The reception is in a separate building quite a walk away from the hotel, which makes it harder to communicate with the staff. The room was big enough, but the pull out sofa for my 14 yo was in extremely poor condition and we had to layer blankets on top of the mattress to make it usable. We called for extra linens and had to call 4 times over 4 hours to get them to bring them. The king bed for us was also terrible - mattress looked about 10 years old and was sloped downward and set in a very squeaky old bed frame. The room smelled of "fireplace" even though it was summer. The bathroom was fine, although accessed from a very narrow hallway with the only dresser, which was very difficult to open and close and the drawers were about 6 inches deep. The "included continental breakfast" was in a lounge and consisted of bottled juice, coffee, nutrigrain bars / granola bars, bags of nuts, yogurt, and cups of oatmeal you could add water to. Last time I checked, a continental breakfast includes bread, rolls, muffins, etc. We choked it down the first and second mornings, and then on the third morning there was nothing there when we went around 8:00am. It was just as well, we got a much better breakfast at the nearby Wawa gas station.
If you're visiting Colonial Williamsburg during the summer, spend your afternoons in one of the three sparkling pools available to guests of the Providence Hall Guesthouses. You'll find an indoor pool, a whirlpool, and a fantastic outdoor pool with an area for the little guys, along with a quiet, adult pool. If the kids need a snack, a surprisingly nice little snack bar sits between the adult's quiet pool and the outdoor kid's pool.
The fitness room is packed with cardio machines, free weights, disposable ear buds -- the whole nine yards. The fitness room even offers 28 classes a week, some of which include Pilates, strength conditioning, yoga, aqua cardio and more. Kids under 12 are welcome with an adult. Kids 12 and older can enjoy the fitness room on their own.
The gorgeous Spa of Williamsburg sits immediately next to the pools and fitness room and rocks, with a sizable treatment menu that ranges from skin treatments and facials to salon services and couples massages. As long as a parent or guardian is present, teens ages 15 and 16 can choose any treatment from the spa menu or choose a treatment specifically created for them, including the teen European facial, the teen Swedish or sports massage, the teen spa manicure and pedicure and a teen make-up application. Your 17-year-old just has to prove parental consent.
The whole family can play the nine-hole Spotswood golf course or tennis on the beautifully maintained tennis courts that sit immediately beside the Providence Hall Guesthouses.
Guests of the Providence Hall Guesthouses can trek the short distance to Williamsburg Inn and enjoy four dining options.
Golden Horseshoe Gold and Green Course Clubhouse Grilles
Two golf club dining spots are open to golfers and those who just love a beautiful view. The Gold Course Clubhouse Grille overlooks the gold course and the Green Course Clubhouse Grille overlooks the green course. Both grilles are open from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and serve burgers (Angus patty), hot dogs (quarter-pound, all-beef), sandwiches and salads.
Crystal chandeliers hang overhead. Gorgeous goblets adorn regal white tablecloths. A lovely bouquet of sunset-colored roses dots the center of every table. A baby grand piano rests near the enormous windows, waiting for a competent set of hands to bring it to life. This AAA 4-Diamond rated dining spot is an "extravagant experience," which is code for "pricey." The staff is down-to-earth friendly, but not above handing a gentleman a jacket and nudging a woman to change into her little black dress. Fine cuisine includes seafood, Chateaubriand and amazing desserts.
The red carpet is rolled out for children, but I encourage you to roll it back up, find a sitter and enjoy a special evening a deux. If you want to bring the kids, the Regency Room offers a full Young-Inn's menu.
Regency Room breakfasts are a thing of beauty and include two options: a lavish buffet or an a la carte menu. The buffet offers an array of treats including creme brulee croissants, eggs, Belgium waffles, pancakes, fresh fruit, pastries and more. The a la carte menu offers omelets, French toast, eggs Benedict and the like. The coffee is not to be missed.
A formal afternoon tea is served at the Inn with teas, pastries, sandwiches, fruit and champagne. Dinner and tea reservations are recommended.
The Providence Hall Guesthouses offer a full room service menu, and meals are delivered 24 hours a day.
The Terrace Room is cozy and very elegant, yet more casual than the Regency Room. The wait staff is extremely friendly and the menu of salads, pastas, crab cakes and a beef/brie hamburger received rave reviews from everyone at my table. The true highlight of my lunch at the Terrace Room was the pretzel rolls. They were warm and soft with a touch of salt and crunchy in all the right places.
Similar to the Regency Room, a Young-Inns menu is also available at the Terrace Room. It is packed with kid-oriented appetizers, soups, salads, hot dogs, chicken fingers and dishes like glazed salmon and petite filet. The Young-Inn's menu is also coded with an allergies legend so you'll know which dishes contain dairy, gluten, peanuts, shellfish, soy and eggs.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Babysitting services are available upon request.
The Providence Hall Guesthouses provide an overnight laundry service, but do not offer coin-operated machines. You'll find machines at the immediately adjacent Woodlands Hotel.
Parking, Wi-Fi, a daily newspaper, morning coffee at the Williamsburg Inn, the fitness room (and all fitness classes), pools and tennis courts are complimentary.
The Art of Smart Timing
Visit the Providence Hall Guesthouses in January and February to get a deal. November and December are, surprisingly, the busiest time to stay at Providence Hall Guesthouses.
If you want sublime weather while visiting Colonial Williamsburg, visit during the floral spring months from March to May. The fall months, from early October through Thanksgiving, are also mild and lovely, with beautiful fall foliage. Summer is a scorcher and can produce rain. If you're trekking the Historic Area in the summer, tour early and spend your afternoons submerged in the pools. Bug spray is a must. Winter months range from freezing rain to freezing snow to freezing bright-blue-sky days.
Getting There and Around
A complimentary Historic Triangle Shuttle stops at the Historic Area in Colonial Wiliamsburg, Historic Jamestown, Yorktown, the Williamsburg Lodge and Merchant's Square (fantastic shopping and dining are about an eight minute walk from the Providence Hall Guesthouses). The shuttle leaves the Visitor Center from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (every few minutes) and every 30 minutes after 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
The town of Williamsburg has two airports. Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF) is an easy 30-minute drive to the Providence Hall Guesthouses, while Norfolk International Airport (ORF) is one hour to the Guesthouses. Note: Norfolk International requires passage through an underwater commute tunnel, leaving the risk of heavy traffic. The Richmond International Airport (RIC) is a beautiful 55-minute drive to the Guesthouses.
For Mom and Dad
Consider Cry Witch!, an evening show that encourages audience members to participate and eventually determine whether the "Virginia Witch" is the genuine article or just incredibly unlucky.
If you and your significant other like golf, head to the 18-hole course behind the Williamsburg Inn.
And if a relaxing day at the spa is what you need, look no further than the Spa of Colonial Williamsburg. Built in 2007, the Colonial Williamsburg Inn spa offers a full menu of services, including massage, body treatments, skin care and full salon care. I suggest the Massage Sampler, which includes a classic Swedish, reflexology, sports and hot stone massage rolled into one awesome hour.
Arrive at least an hour or more before your treatment so you can thoroughly relax into this special time you've reserved for yourself. You'll want to sink into the steam room, the whirlpool, sauna and quiet room, where you can relax with a cup of tea and a magazine.
Later, visit the Williamburg Inn's Restoration Bar, which acts as a sort of lobby to the Terrace Room. Order the Inn's signature Mint Julep, which has been on the menu since the Rockefellers opened the Inn. The bar also offers an extensive wine and beer list.