by Wendy Irvine
Yes, Williamsburg Inn is the only four-star hotel in the Colonial Williamsburg hotel collection. Yes, it sits just across the street from the living history that is Colonial Williamsburg. Yes, the Inn offers a plethora of resort amenities for every person in your family, including a gorgeous spa, 45-hole golf course and swimming pools that will leave the kids begging for “five more minutes!”
But there’s more! Williamsburg Inn is steeped in its own special story. As you likely know, Colonial Williamsburg was nearly wiped off the map by our modern world. One smart local, aghast at what he saw disappearing before his eyes, caught the ear of a very rich man. Together, the two began the resurrection of a vital page from American history.
The wife of the wealthy man, Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr. (best known as Abby Aldrich), also fell hard for the town. The couple bought Bassett Hall, a large, 18th-Century colonial just off the beaten Historic Area path. Mrs. Rockefeller lovingly decorated Bassett Hall with treasures from their other homes so that the couple could visit their beloved Colonial Williamsburg two months out of the year and feel right at home.
The Rockefellers next step was to create a lovely retreat for friends and relatives, so they, too, could visit and fall in love with the area. In 1936, they began building Williamsburg Inn and insisted upon elegant style at every turn.
Fine furniture would sit beside vases of red roses (a symbol of the Rockefeller’s patriotism). Waterford crystal chandeliers would sparkle overhead. An impressive dining room would feature the best cuisine of the day. You get the picture. No dummies, those Rockefellers. They knew that while they were dedicated to rescuing an 18th-century town, their guests — well-heeled “Downton Abbey”-types — still expected to relax in modern-day luxury.
As he was conceiving and building the Inn, Rockefeller wrote, “I shall not be happy to go forward with the Williamsburg Inn until I feel that the most possible has been made of each room as regards comfort, convenience and charm.”
The Rockefellers’ efforts paid off. The beautiful Inn opened in April of 1937 and has coddled the likes of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Phillip, Shirley Temple, Joan Rivers, Judge Judy, John Travolta, Sir Winston Churchill and a slew of presidents and first ladies.
Our Editor Loves
- Opulent rooms with period furniture
- Luxurious resort amenities, including pools
- Easy walk to downtown Colonial Williamsburg
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The Williamsburg Inn Rooms
The 62 recently renovated Williamsburg Inn guest rooms are steeped in a pale, stately, jewel box dÃ©cor, with four-poster beds, period furnishings, beautiful artwork and lavish window treatments. Five different room configurations are yours to choose from, including The Inn Superior with a king bed, the Inn Deluxe with two queen beds, the Inn Luxury with a king bed and brick fireplace, the Inn Junior Suite with a king bed and an adjoining sitting room with a queen sleep sofa, and the Inn Resort Suite with a private bedroom with one queen or king bed. Every room affords a lovely view of either a garden or lawn, and each room comes with at least one 26-inch, flat-screen television; some suites have two. If you're visiting in the cold seasons and would like a fireplace, just ask. Some suites come with one or two fireplaces each.
If a stop to the Williamsburg Inn spa just isn't in the cards for you during your stay, fear not. The guest room bathrooms more than make up for your budget. The bathrooms all have a separate shower stall, with both a handheld shower fixture and a permanent showerhead. But if a sensual bath is what makes traveling special for you, you'll love the Williamsburg Inn tub. It's deep, surrounded by beautiful marble and is perfect for those occasions when you want to lock the kids out and have a few moments of relaxation to yourself.
Every seasoned traveler knows that being a good hotel guest means politely letting your preferences be known. The saddest thing is for hotel staff to read a poor review or hear about guest complaints long after a guest returned home. So if something isn't to your liking, speak up. Under the "just ask" category at the Williamsburg Inn lies a refrigerator, a coffee machine (if you'd rather not grab a coffee in the lobby) and possibly a microwave for your room if the few at the Inn haven't been snagged. All are complimentary, but you must ask for them.
Evening turn down service includes a piece of chocolate on your pillow, bottles of water, ice and glasses beside your bed, and a small brochure that lets you know the Inn's events and activities taking place the following day.
If you're zonked from touring Colonial Williamsburg, or simply need an afternoon to relax, plan to chill at one of the Williamsburg Inn's three impressive pools. You can choose between an indoor pool, an outdoor pool wreathed in chaise lounges and an adults-only pool. There's also a whirlpool, and a snack bar sits in the center of the fun.
If you like golf, play a game on the nine-hole Spotswood course, which is just right for families, or head to the tennis courts.
The Williamsburg Inn opened a resort-style spa in 2007, and kids as young as 8 years old can have manicures and pedicures alongside mom and dad. Teens ages 15 and 16 can choose any treatment from the spa menu, as long as a parent or guardian is present in the treatment room. 17-year-olds need only prove parental consent.
If you've dreamed of dressing to the nines and dining in old-world style, with things like jazz trios and concert pianists as your backdrop, the Williamsburg Inn's Regency Room fits the bill. Hearkening back to what the wealthy in the '20s and '30s expected of a dining experience, you, too, will find your table decked in gorgeous salmon-colored roses, plates embossed with the Inn's full name, fancy silverware and large goblets. The incredibly friendly staff wouldn't think of looking down their noses if you attempt to enter this beautiful dining room in street clothes or -- gasp! -- denim, but staff will quietly hand men a dinner jacket and suggest women slip into a little black dress if her ensemble is too casual. And, yes, the dress code is strictly enforced at all meals -- not just dinner.
The creative menu changes seasonally, but always includes house signature dishes like Chateaubriand, crab Randolph, queen's scallops, grilled gulf shrimp, a nightly seafood selection and impressive desserts, like hazelnut ice cream cake with marinated strawberries and Kahlua fudge sauce. Breakfasts boast omelets and cinnamon crusted French toast. A formal afternoon tea is served at the Inn, with aromatic teas paired with pastries, finger sandwiches, fruit and more.
Children are more than welcome in the Regency Room and will be handed a Young-Inns menu upon arrival, but I encourage you to indulge your inner dreamer. Find a sitter and relax in what will become a memorable evening. The Williamsburg Inn is open for high tea, breakfast, Sunday brunch, lunch and dinner. Dinner and tea reservations are recommended.
The Williamsburg Inn offers room service 24 hours a day.
I enjoyed lunch at the Terrace Room (mainly because the friendly servers were a hoot), but my hummus dish was just so-so. The pretzel rolls served before the meal? I could have scarfed down ten of them if I hadn't been with coworkers. Those rolls were perfection, with a bit of crunch, a sprinkle of salt and fluffy-soft in the all the right places. My 10-year-old son also loved those rolls, and about his three-cheese rigatoni loudly declared, "Awesome!" The two women at our table ordered beautifully presented crab cakes and ate every bite. The Terrace Room is small and elegant, but more casual than the Regency Room, and offers a menu of salads, pastas and a beef/brie hamburger (which my husband raved about).
A sweet Young-Inn's menu is perfect for kids and is better than most, offering a variety of appetizers, soups, salads, hot dogs, chicken fingers and even fancier 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.
Golden Horseshoe Gold and Green Course Grills
The Gold Course Clubhouse Grille overlooks the gold course, and the Green Course Clubhouse Grille overlooks the green course -- simple. The views themselves are breathtaking and well worth lunch at either grille.
Both grilles are open from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and serve fancy burgers (starting with seven ounces of Angus patty), fancy hot dogs (a quarter-pound all-beef), fancy sandwiches (BLT with apple wood-smoked bacon, lettuce and tomato on a warm croissant) and fancy salads. Desserts are also fancy and yummy. Proceed with caution (and several forks)!
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Babysitting services are available upon request.
The Williamsburg Inn provides overnight laundry service, but does not have coin-operated machines. Coin-operated laundry is available at the Woodlands Hotel, which sits adjacent to the Colonial Williamsburg's Visitor's Center. As a guest of the Williamsburg Inn, it's fine for you to take your clothes for a spin in the Woodland's laundry room.
Parking at the Williamsburg Inn is complimentary.
Wi-Fi, a daily newspaper, fitness room (with classes), pools and tennis courts are complimentary. You won't find coffee makers in the room, but a beautiful tea and coffee buffet is available 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. every morning, as are to-go cups.
The Art of Smart Timing
The Williamsburg Inn's busiest time is November and December. The quietest -- and best time for an outrageously good deal -- is January and February when the crowds are almost non-existent.
Getting There and Around
A complimentary Historic Triangle Shuttle stops at the Historic Area in Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Jamestown, Yorktown, the Williamsburg Lodge and Merchant's Square (a quality shopping and dining area about an eight-minute walk from Williamsburg Inn). The shuttle leaves the Visitor Center often, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., every 30 minutes after 5:00, and stops at 10:00 p.m.
Williamsburg proper has two airports. Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF) is an easy 30-minute drive to Williamsburg Inn, while Norfolk International Airport (ORF) is an hour away. Word to the Wise: The Norfolk airport requires passage through an underwater commute tunnel, so you risk being stuck in a logjam of traffic anytime of day. The Richmond International Airport (RIC) might also work, being a short and picturesque 55-minute drive to the Inn.
For Mom and Dad
If luxurious relaxation is what you long for, seasoned spa patrons and new guests alike will be dually wowed by the Spa of Colonial Williamsburg. It offers an array of treatments, including massage, body treatments, skin care and full salon services. For the sciatica that has (annoyingly) become part of my life, I booked the Massage Sampler and received a classic Swedish, reflexology, sports and hot stone massage, wrapped into an hour. It was simply awesome. My masseuse inquired about my aches (lower back and leg pain) and how they were previously addressed (not much) and gave me a thorough massage that worked out some kinks without being too firm or too soft. Her manner was professional, yet caring. I highly recommend a treatment at this spa.
To get the best bang for your buck, arrive at least an hour ahead of time -- earlier if you can make it -- to enjoy the many amenities of a resort spa. Start by hitting the Williamsburg Inn's fantastic fitness room, which is bright and loaded with rows of cardio machines, free weights, ice water and disposable ear buds. Once at the spa, enjoy the steam room, whirlpool, sauna and the quiet room where you can relax with a cup of tea and a magazine before your treatment.
Everyone over 21 will appreciate the Williamsburg Inn's Restoration Bar, which acts as a sort of fancy, club-like lobby to the Terrace Room. The Inn's signature drink since the Rockefellers opened the Inn -- the Mint Julip -- is proudly still served today. The bar also offers an extensive wine and beer list, along with trendy drinks.